A CONE NO MORE: Caltrans quietly closed another chapter in the Caldecott Tunnel history last month when it removed the pop-up cones that used to change travel-flow directions daily in the middle bore of the tunnel near Orinda.

That all become obsolete when the fourth bore of the tunnel opened Nov. 16.

Crews working at night took apart the underground hydraulic power systems that raised and lowered the plastic traffic markers.

Then a machine called a grabber pulled out the entire buried mechanism, including the cones and the metal rods they were attached to.

Caltrans spokeswoman Ivy Morrison said at least one of the rails and sets of cones will be kept in a safe place in case a decision is made to display it in a museum or other public place.

DON'T TRY THIS WITH YOUR KID: Speaking of the Caldecott Tunnel, Hiro Sato, of Oakland, remembers a very peculiar navigation job his dad assigned him in the 1930s while they traveled in heavy fog to Orinda before the Caldecott was built.

Just 12 years old then, Sato was put on the front left fender of the family car to be a pathfinder in heavy fog.

From his fender position, Hiro directed his father to stay on the right side of the center stripe as they drove slowly uphill on Tunnel Road to reach a narrow 1903 tunnel that preceded the Caldecott.

Once they reached the Broadway Tunnel, lights there made the child on the fender unnecessary.

"There was hardly any traffic in those days," Sato wrote to the Eye. "What a difference with the new tunnel. I didn't have to lie on the fender."

(The Eye hopes it is not necessary to remind modern parents not to drive with a youngster on the front fender.)

PARKING FAIL: The Eye thought it had some uncharacteristically good luck last week when it found a parking space in downtown Martinez right next to the county administration building.

But that didn't turn out to be the case.

The parking meter informed The Eye that it was out of service.

Adding insult to injury (and the additional two-block walk) was the digital display on the meter that read "FAIL."

A SWEET RIDE: Apparently, The Eye foresees the future. A story that appeared in the Dec. 28 edition of this newspaper described a Maserati and Bentley dealership that had set up shop in Walnut Creek.

The point of the article was to illustrate how Walnut Creek is the upcoming place for luxury brands. The beginning of the story, what in the newspaper biz is called the lede, set a scene of the dealership owner turning heads as he cruised along Ygnacio Valley Road in his quarter-of-a-million-dollar ride. Dealership President Mario Biundo said he hoped that Bentleys someday soon would be a regular sight on Walnut Creek streets.

While The Eye had never seen such a thing, less than three weeks after the story ran a white Bentley inched its way down Ygnacio Valley Road, caught in the constant backup of the busy thoroughfare. The Eye may still drive a Honda, and more of those seem to clog the road, but it's clear the future is here.

locked out: Members of a task force charged with finding the best uses for a pair of city-owned properties near the heart of downtown Lafayette are eager to take a tour of the old library, which is one of the buildings the city is hoping to repurpose.

There's just one problem: The city does not yet have the keys to the library. That bit of information -- divulged by the planning director at a recent task force meeting -- prompted a task force member to jokingly suggest that fellow task force member and Lafayette police Chief Eric Christensen break into the old library building, which the city bought from the county in November for $1.97 million.

"No," Christensen said, "but I'll surely watch and make the arrest afterwards."

Planning director Niroop Srivatsa said the city attorney is checking into the situation but thinks Lafayette should have the keys "within the next week or two."

Staff writers Denis Cuff, Paul Burgarino, Elisabeth Nardi and Jennifer Modenessi contributed to this column.