Backstage At The Caldecott Tunnel

When you’re a Montclarion, the Caldecott Tunnel is an omnipresent beast.  You constantly drive over, around or through the tunnel – and know the bores quite well.

However there’s a seldom-seen backstage for tunnel operations.  Much like a theater, Supervisor Doug LaVallee and other Caltrans workers monitor the stage for air circulation and traffic.  Check out Inside Bay Area’s video and article, which are interesting.

In the video, the supervisor explains how the tunnel operations work and walks through all the backstage areas.  He opens the stage door, where the traffic is whipping along.  Plus you glimpse the barrier changes, when traffic directions are switched that day.

Caldecott Tunnel Video

History and Growth:

These tunnels have been part of the landscape for a long time.  The Caldecott’s original two bores opened in 1937 and replaced the rickety hillside tunnel built in 1909.  The third bore was added in 1964, to accommodate the growing East Bay population headed to Oakland and San Francisco.

In the intervening years, BART was constructed and these trains accommodate many commuters.  Yet auto traffic still creeps along the Rt. 24 freeway, and Caldecott’s one of the best-known traffic jams in the Bay Area.  We’re so proud to hear the radio reports weekdays!

Plans for a fourth bore have been shaping up for years, and are slated to begin during 2009.  Some $420 million of funding has been secured from a mix of agencies and bonds, at least the last we knew.  Here’s how the eastbound approach looks today and would appear with an additional bore.

Caldecott Before And After

Construction Matters:

Montclarions are rightfully concerned about the disruption underneath our proverbial feet, when drilling starts up.  There are mixed feelings about whether the State authorities have done a sufficient job with construction mitigation.

Many locals, who live north of the tunnel, organized as the Fourth Bore Coalition to file suit and push for additional environment review.  They are worried about noise pollution and its impact on local schools, among other matters.

By contrast, local press wants the construction to proceed without delay.  The Contra Costa Times called this a nuisance lawsuit.  The Oakland Tribune felt the bore should proceed as well, when the suit was filed.  We await the judge’s ruling this month.

Regardless, the fourth bore is a done deal.  Whenever the Caldecott construction finally begins, this new bore will be a mostly underground and slow-moving project.  It’s expected to take five years, and open sometime in 2014.

More info:   The California Dept of Transportation has a tunnel site devoted to all its construction plans, and you can spend hours reading here.  The Fourth Bore Coalition has filed a brief here, which seeks additional assessments.

Give And Receive Gifts From Montclair

While walking along Montclair’s streets yesterday morning, they seemed a bit empty for Black Friday.  Were villagers away, buying electronics elsewhere, or otherwise descending on the bigger mall stores?

On Thursday, December 4th, the Montclair Village Association has organized the Annual Holiday Stroll from 6pm-9pm – and made sure there’s no rain this year!  There will be plenty of Santa cheer and live musical groups sprinkled through the streets.  Several stores are throwing parties with their own refreshments and entertainment too.

Montclair Holiday Stroll 2008

As you know, the Montclair merchants would like to encourage holiday shopping in town.  You don’t have to wrestle with the huge parking headaches or interminable lines, a big plus.  Here are some tried-and-true gifts:

  • Calendars: Pick up a monthly or daily calendar from either Annie’s Hallmark (map) or A Great Good Place for Books (map, site) for finicky teens.  The bookstore offers a 20% discount on calendars now.
  • Wool Hats & Gloves: For women or girls, there are fun gloves and hats with fringes, and other nice woolens stocked at Montclair Sporting Goods (map) this time of year.
  • Kitchen Gadgets: Most people don’t indulge often, and might welcome a new item or two at Someone’s In The Kitchen (map).  Who cares if the recipients cook when the gadget looks nice?
  • Chocolates: You have no idea?  Get that difficult great-aunt some nicely packaged sweets from Le Bon Bon (map) or XOX Truffles (map, site).  Also works as an extra for your beloved chocoholics, of course.
  • Bicycle, Bicycle: This is classic gift for kids or adults, and you can’t do better in the Bay Area than Wheels of Justice Cyclery (map, site).  It’s not that intimidating to go there, either.
  • Baby Stuff: The Tulip Grove (map, site) is the new go-to spot, which opened this year.  A Little Piece of Heaven (map) has infant and kids wear.  The shopkeepers really guide you to a nice gift.
  • Toys: If you need a quick toy for a tot, then head over to Montclair Toyhouse (map).
  • Pet Obsessed: For beloved parents of dogs and cats, Glamour Paws (map, site) has fun items to pamper the beasts.  The interesting bowls and toys grab my attention every time I walk by.
  • Wine Everywhere: The perfect, last-minute gift to bring to your holiday host is vino.  Without playing favorites, head to Crown (map), Montclair Village Wines (map), or newcomer Farmstead (map, site)
  • Cameras: Maybe you should buy a digital camera this year.  You can get live advice and shop smarter at Sarber’s Camera (map, site), rather than drive directly to a big box.
  • All Else Fails: Head up the hill to McCalou’s department store (map, site).  There must be some classic item there you can check off your list.  Or check out many great shops here.

Why boost Montclair?  In these economic times, it makes sense to pursue bargains anywhere.  I’m sure you will battle lines for “just the right thing” or find other items online.  It’s easy to forget the Village options during the holiday hunt.

However, you really should take a spin around the Village and invest some shekels now.  While local businesses don’t have the clout of national chain stores, they make up the Montclair zeitgeist.  If you buy a few things, then you support the local merchants and ensure their survival too.

Yes, this season is about giving and receiving gifts.

Montclair Fifth Graders Pass Their Gym Tests

On this Thanksgiving Day, it seems like we are evolving into those gluttonous Wall-E humans who can no longer walk or propel themselves.  Yet we aren’t quite that bad, when you look at the physical fitness of our local kids.

Based on gym test results released this week, fifth graders from Montclair, Thornhill and Joaquin Miller elementary schools are performing relatively well when compared to their nearby peers.  However that’s not a very high bar, looking at the passing percentages below.

Healthy Fitness Percentages

How did we do overall?  Some 74% of Montclair and 67% of Thornhill kids passed at least five of six fitness criteria, beating county and state results.  However only 51% of Joaquin Miller kids passed five or more tests, which falls slightly below the Oakland results.

Interestingly, there’s tremendous variability by individual fitness test.  In aerobic capacity, the kids are asked to run a mile – and Montclair/Miller kids far exceeded the average results while Thornhill kids performed at average levels.  Yet Thornhill kids showed the best trunk strength and flexibility.  It’s hard to say why.

Years ago, I remember suffering through fitness tests that included long rope climbs and many pull-ups.  They seemed really hard, but I could run and bike around for hours.  While I’m sure our fifth graders are more sedentary than we all were growing up, it’s good to see they are still hanging in there.

Quick Videos Of Sibley Preserve Mazes

Forget the panoramic views.  When visitors want to record their experiences at Sibley Volcanic Preserve (map), it’s all about the mazes.  Three mazes are easy to find today, with the largest one nestled in the former quarry pit.

There are lovingly-recorded videos, uploaded to YouTube and other sites, which show the quarry maze visits.  Kids are attracted to the maze like bees to honey – and here’s an example where a young girl is having fun while her father chats with her, off-camera.

Sibley Maze Kid

Another video shows the complete maze experience for two adult visitors.  Jacob walks the maze from start to finish, and seems both proud and slightly embarrassed by the taping.  Meanwhile Dan videos the short journey and declares “that was too strange.”

Local druids revere the local mazes and believe that sensitive visitors can “feel the power, the force field, energy, or chi emanating from the dormant volcanic area, and focused within the mazes themselves.”  Here’s a New Age video which celebrates the labyrinth’s aura.

During the rainy season, Mother Nature takes over and a marshy pond develops near the quarry maze.  Check out this video featuring a deafening chorus of frogs that live there.  Or view a little boy discovering these newts swimming in the same area.

If you have never “done the maze,” then take a quick drive to Sibley.  It’s just a short uphill walk along the Volcanic Trail (trail map) – and impossible to miss.

The Turkey Has Spoken

As we head into the Thanksgiving week, a special visitor decided to make an appearance in the Montclair Hills.  According to eyewitness Rhona Lashinsky, this visitor caused quite a ruckus for everyone who encountered him… read on.

Oakland Turkeys

Eyewitness:  Rhona Lashinsky, Shepherd Canyon, November 23, 2008

I was driving down Shepherd Canyon around 9:45 this morning.  Just past the fire station, I approached a long line of cars that were stopped in the roadway.  Clearly, something was amiss.  Up ahead, I could see that a woman had exited her car and was wildly flailing her arms in all directions, apparently engaged in some kind of dispute.

Great.  It’s bad enough the sanctity of our homes has been threatened, and now we can’t even drive to the Village without being confronted with some type of drama.  Then the woman got back in her car, but we still weren’t moving.  Obviously, this confrontation wasn’t over yet.  Probably some obstinate, low-life creep causing a problem for everyone.

I could feel myself going into alert mode.  As the cars inched forward, I reminded myself to be observant – in the best tradition of an MSIC community member – in case law enforcement needed my eyewitness account.

Finally – finally!!  I was able to get an unobstructed view of the culprit: a giant, 4 ft tall wild turkey, squawking loudly and strutting around right in the middle of the lane!

If you tried to go around it by swerving into the opposing lane, it scurried over to the driver’s side of your car.  If you then tried to move forward, it lunged again to the front of your car.  It took each car easily 2 minutes to make its way past the bird.

We do see wild turkeys around here, which are rather small in stature and travel in groups.  This four-foot loner sounds like he was sent by the Turkey Deity, telling us to watch out this week.