absinthe and good-hearted landlords


My family has a great love for road trips and the road we have traveled on the most is the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), officially known as California State Route 1. The highway is just under 656 miles long and runs from Mendocino County in Northern California down to Orange County in Southern California where it ends by merging with The 5, officially known as Interstate 5 and one of the more boring roads to ride.


There is a concrete structure just off the highway I have always wondered about. I saw it as a kid whenever we drove by and wondered what it was. Now that I’m an adult, I’m free to do stupid things and find out for myself.


I’m not the only curious one/person who makes bad decisions.



And there it is.



It is a World War II era observation site.



From Wikipedia:

Prior to the advent of radar, military personnel would use binoculars and compasses to search for ships at sea and relay their coordinates to a central post. By combining information from multiple observation posts, a ship’s precise location could be determined by triangulation.



There were six military structures at the Devil’s Slide: three concrete and steel observation pill-boxes, two concrete and earth bunkers, and a reinforced steel observation tower. The pill-boxes were used as hardened observation posts, and one of the bunkers was used as a communications and command post. The site was sold to a private owner in 1983, but some of the structures remain.
Just a closeup of the neat vein of something running through something else.


I climbed up to see if I could find a way in (of course I did).
I was too short to see inside (of course I was) and the ledge was too eroded to provide a solid platform from which to climb. You can see where someone attached ropes to the exposed rebar to help climbers inside.
I wasn’t in good enough condition to even try that out.
A tall guy and his friend followed us up and while the tall guy also could not see inside, he was able to hold his camera up and take some pictures.
The interior was covered in graffiti and I remember a drawing of an astronaut in particular. No doubt the spot is popular for a variety of… recreational activities.


Front view showing the significant wear to the base and the structure in general. Some history regarding the wear and tear courtesy of the Half Moon Bay Patch:
This unusual feature on the landscape is described by Dave Cresson in his book Half Moon Bay’s Turning Points as a “great concrete pimple.” It owes its current exposed state to an unusual episode in its recent history. Cresson writes that in the late 1960s the land had passed into private hands. The owner, thought to be from Texas, petitioned San Mateo County officials for permission to build a mansion overlooking the sea. The local planning inspectors refused to grant the permits necessary for sewage disposal and, according to Cresson, the frustrated Texan took his frustration out on the hillside, bulldozing away at the top of the hill, leaving the metal structure exposed for all to see – the “concrete pimple” that it is today.
Little graffiti dude says, “Why not die trying?” Why not, indeed. Profound.


Glorious view from front of the pillbox. (You may click to embiggen.)



In the above panorama, you can see two tunnels to the far right. Those are the Tom Lantos Tunnels, officially opened in March of 2013, built to bypass the Devil’s Slide area. Devil’s Slide is an area of the Pacific Coast Highway famous for landslides due to erosion, storms, and the occasional bit o’ seismic activity. The idea for building an inland bypass to the Devil’s Slide stretch over Montara Mountain was raised as early as 1958. The tunnel approach was proposed in 1973 and although studies were conducted to determine viability, the state dropped the idea in the late 70s.



A major landslide in 1983 revived the bypass idea. In 1985, Caltrans proposed a bypass over Martini Creek, a proposal that had come up before but had been abandoned due to environmental concerns. No real solution was reached and things proceeded on as before. Another landslide in 1995 brought attention to the issue again and it was discovered that Caltrans had intentionally overestimated the cost of tunnel in order to support the Martini Creek freeway bypass. In November of 1996, county voters approved the building of a tunnel and Caltrans agreed a few days afterwards.


Ground was broken for a new tunnel in May 2005. Drilling of the tunnels started in September 2007 and completed in 2011. The tunnels were completed and opened to traffic in 2013.
Earlier in March of this year, the Devil’s Slide section of the freeway opened as The Devil’s Slide Trail, a recreational area for hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders.


Let’s zip back to the very beginning of Devil’s Slide (thanks to Wikipedia, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Internet in general):

The Ocean Shore Railroad was intended to be built from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, California, via a route along the Pacific coastline. Construction began in 1905 at both ends, but the line was never completed due to the 1906 earthquake. They did begin service through a Devil’s Slide tunnel in 1908, but in 1915, the Coastside Boulevard was completed. Farmers began using the Coastside to move produce to San Francisco and the demand for the railway decreased. The Ocean Shore Railway ceased service in 1920.

In 1937, Caltrans completes a 5.9-mile highway extension along Devil’s Slide that follows the same path as the Ocean Shore Railway. In 1938 comes the first landslide to force a major closure of the highway. There would be many slides in years to come, including in 1942, 1951, 1952, 1977, 1982, 1983, 1995 and 2006.

By the 1950s, the road at Devil’s Slide had developed a reputation for danger for both motorists and wayward climbers. The most recent accident I found was in November of 2013.

But now, that stretch is just a pretty spot to contemplate the meaning of life (barring wayward climbers — but you KNOW there will be some, and they will need to be rescued).



Related Posts along the Pacific Coast


thanks to Wikipedia and the Internet for the fun facts
am I stalling about getting back to writing about pool
maybe a teeny tiny bit