Looking Up At Our Sky Today

This late winter weather is fascinating!  We’re weather obsessed the past couple days with the wild, mountain-like storms hitting normally weather-perfect Oakland.  Today, the winds and sky were absolutely beautiful, right before the rains arrived this afternoon.

In this view of the thunder clouds, it almost felt like we were in Kansas and awaiting some kind of funnel cloud to drop down.  The winds were very strong and the clouds were moving so quickly.

Not that we’re going to become storm-chasers, but it was [pick your superlative] to witness this intensity outside – and pretty harmless around here.

How To Check Power Outages

When will Mother Nature strike again, putting us in the dark?  It’s hard to say during this storm-laden week.  Your faithful Montclair blogger can always tell when there have been recent power outages, based on what you’re searching to get here!  We think it’s time to reveal the best official place to check:  PG&E itself.

Today all is calm in Oakland, based on the map status a few minutes ago.  In this snapshot below, you can see eight outages reported with the cause unknown.  We assume the repairs are underway, and perhaps these residents near the Laurel won’t even know it happened – save the clocks gone awry.

When you visit PG&E’s status map, you’re able to track the Utility’s entire 70,000 square mile service area.  No matter what, there are always outages scattered across such a large footprint.  You would go ahead and select a city (Oakland) and, as needed, drill down to zip code (94611) to see what’s happening right now.

Of course, an online source has some natural flaws:  when the power’s out, it may be tough to go online.  With fingers crossed, we sometimes have cell phone service and hit the interweb to check outage times, causes, homes impacted and updates.  Pretty cool!

If you don’t have online access due to the outage,  then you may still reach PG&E the old fashioned way – by land-line phones operating off the grid.  Remember to have a telephone directly plugged in,  and not all hooked up to remote handsets depending on electricity.

PG&E has two toll-free numbers available to report any outage (800-743-5002) or to ask questions about outages (800-743-5000).  Keep ’em handy, especially during this stormy week.

The Friends Of Parks Phenomenon

Especially for our nearby city parks and open spaces, the spirit of volunteerism is alive and kicking.  After months in the works, Friends Of Parks groups will be officially baptized for the Montclair Railroad Trail and Joaquin Miller Park.  These blessings should make things easier when attracting volunteers, raising funds and getting a few projects done.

Friends of Montclair RR Trail

Last year, we witnessed plenty of upset over Shepherd Canyon’s old railroad right-of-way.  This trail is well-loved by walkers, bicyclers and dogs heading back and forth to the Village.  To improve the path, a group of volunteers has been cleaning areas monthly and getting more organized about priorities.

Now these volunteers and others are invited to join the “Friends of Montclair RR Trail.”  The fledgling group will be holding their first annual meeting soon – on Saturday, April 10th, 12:30 – 2:30 pm at the Montclair Rec Center.  (More info here.)

Friends of Joaquin Miller Park

Nearly ditto for Joaquin Miller Park, after this crown jewel was left tarnished last year.  Park rangers had decamped from their office, and then were eliminated altogether.  In their place came bonfires and troubles, and then volunteers who decided what needed short and long-term attention – including projects like Joaquin Miller’s homestead restoration.

“Friends of Joaquin Miller Park” has evolved into a more structured group, which will hold their first formal meeting and all-day celebration – on Sunday, April 25th, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, at Sanborn Drive.  Come prepared to picnic and hike as well.  (More info here.)

Montclair Park Without Friends

Only kidding!  Beyond the Friends Of Parks phenomenon, we have long appreciated the volunteers who support Montclair Park, from planting flowers to leading weekly hikes.  Maintenance and clean-ups have become a problem with staff reductions, something that Park Director Mark Zinns has been trying to manage with help from all willing hands.

Teens may provide an answer, especially those invited to hang out at the park.  Besides having a place to go after school, “Teen Power Project” volunteers hope to encourage kids to participate in spring clean-ups.  By the way, there’s a kick-off for teens and families to celebrate with snacks, skateboarding and teen singers – on Wednesday, April 21st, 2:30 – 6:30 pm at the park.  (More info here.)

While there have always been volunteer efforts, it feels like neighbors are more involved than in earlier, more flush times.  There’s no question that a core group of volunteers are motivated to keep parks safe and cleaned up, to conserve remaining open parcels, and to honor the historical heritage around here.  The progress is slow and steady, but heartening.

We Visited Novella’s Farm Today

Oakland’s gaining a reputation for urban farming due to its rock star, Novella Carpenter.  She runs the Ghost Town Farm, on Martin Luther King and 28th, and also has written a popular and well-reviewed tome about farming in the ‘hood, called Farm City.

Today, Carpenter held an open house at her farm.  Some animals were introduced, though this event took place in the garden area.  We just had to see what this urban farmer had done with her own two hands – and it’s very impressive!

The Farm Footprint

You might blink and miss the farm, so we took several pictures to share with you.  Let’s start with what you see after stepping through the gates, a verdant array of plants and walks.  This mini-farm is a true oasis, and is very orderly to boot.

When you step across the street, you only notice an unbuilt and fenced corner lot.  In fact, the farm would be impossible to detect as you drive down Martin Luther King, a stone’s throw (well a block or two) from Highway 980.

Now look across the street at this marvelously blighted building, boarded up with gang graffiti above and colorful decoration for a now-vacated (we think) temple below.  Forgive the Jeep driving by, but it’s a fairly busy thoroughfare.

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Take Video Tour Through Montclair

If you ever need to show people around the Oakland and our hills, then we suggest sharing this Oakland marathon video tour.

To find local turf, fast forward through the first few minutes until you reach the trail above Lake Temescal.  And then stick around as the route heads through the Fernwood area and down Mountain Blvd.  It is all very familiar, and something you would never bother to video!

What’s a bit entertaining is the map doesn’t match the video traveler in the least.  The map indicates that you’re located at the Park Blvd exit from Highway 13, while the video shows the La Salle and Mountain intersection right in the Village.  Funny, huh?

Still we’re grateful for Oakland North’s video, not to mention the real reason this video was shot.  As reported earlier here, we’re all welcoming the brand-new Running Festival Weekend and the Marathon centerpiece this Sunday morning.

Some 1,000 marathoners are expected to race right through Montclair, arriving between 8-10 am.  They have been traipsing uphill for a while, and might be a little winded by then.  Of course, these runners would appreciate a little cheering as they trot along – and we’ll be there to witness a tradition in the making!