The trip from Westport to Fort Bragg on California Highway 1 has become a routine drive for me. I almost wrote that with a straight face. Hah!
Think of a one car roller coaster ride with you as the only passenger, no guard rails, and a mere 3 feet of leeway between your car and the sheer drop off the cliff into the churning, slashing Pacific Ocean less than 100 feet below.
My only consolation is that I get to control the speed. Yes, even when some nutball local behind me wants to go faster and get their brakes replaced every year.
Every trip on this road, I start out ticking off the number of curves but always lose count. Usually when I am rounding a curve and almost face-plant a logging truck in the opposite lane. Thank God for “almost.”
When I first drove CA-1 back in 2007 it was, to my mind, the most bizarre, insane, Max Escher-esque experience. I felt like I had been dropped into one of his paintings.
It is a wildly undulating, curvaceous, breathtaking road which is slowly losing its land to the sea.
Unlike the Big Sur section of CA-1 which had the good sense to have a massive landslide bring worldwide attention to its plight and 18 months of intense cleanup to reopen, the most northern section of the highway has seen a collection of bandaid approaches over the years.
A first indication that something “underlying” was occuring was when a section of road kept getting cracks in the paving. So each year, faithfully, CalTrans would send out a road crew to repave the road.
The cracks….faithfully….returned each year.
So it was decided to just keep the road unpaved. So that year, all summer long, we drove through clouds of dirt and dust. During the rainy season, you got it, a slurry of mud.
Then it happened, the side closest to the ocean cliff eroded away to the point of being beyond extremely unstable. It became 10 feet lower than the hillside half of the road.
Not to be deterred, the road crew came and made the road bi-level. One high road lane and one low road lane. Until……(oh, just fill in the gap 😉
Hmm…what to do. Ah, close that side of the road, put up stop lights and make a major highway a “one way at a time road.” For years!
Now, bless their souls and the magical powers of engineering, a combination road/bridge is being built.
A massive drilling rig is planted along the cliff augering through the rock to create the space to plant steel beams on top of which will sit a partial bridge on top of which will sit the road.
The stoplight-secured one way at a time section of road still exists, the unprotected-by-guard rails crazy curves remain.
Most important, CA-1 is still with us. Hopefully, for many years to come.