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Assault on Devil's Slide: A 150-Year Tale of Man Versus Mountain 

Wednesday, May 1 2013
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Page 5 of 5

The car is idling by the sign:

DANGEROUS FOR AUTOMOBILES

TAKE ROAD VIA SAN MATEO

The drive changes from this point on. They say the northbound road is impassable, a haven for terrible wrecks. More than 250 curves, they say, many of them hairpin turns and backward turns and turns with angles never meant for automobiles. There are ski-slope inclines and over-eager boulders and potholes inside potholes. The road plays hell on even this brand-new Model B. One magazine has said, "Even with a thoroughly reliable driver and trustworthy car, Pedro Mountain road is in such poor condition that anyone going this way is simply inviting disaster." (Luckily, an army of men starving for work and New Deal money has started constuction on the coastal highway that will one day render this broken road obsolete.)

But those who have made it through speak of dazzling views and air that smells like what Eden probably smelled like.

The car accelerates ...


... And glides up the bridge, coasting into the tunnel. The portal comes out of nowhere, blended into the mountainside with its green and brown walls, artificially textured to match the environment around it. Those walls were designed by the same guy who crafted the rocks for the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. This tunnel sure feels like a ride, an amusement now, tamed but pretending at peril — adventure as ornament.

The amusement cost around $450 million, and just opened, in March 2013 — $175 million and two-and-a-half years past projections. But the Devil's Slide problem has finally been solved, to huge fanfare. "The People's Tunnel," many call it. But the GPS on the dash lists it as the "Tom Lantos Tunnels." Whatever its name, it's a smooth drive and a straight shot for nearly a mile. This mountain must have been a hell of an obstacle for them to pump this much money into punching a hole through it. Man's cold-blooded efficiency over time supplanting the adventure, the peril. Certainly, there must be a history of struggles here, all forg— Oh, this is a good song, turn it up.

Boys tell stories 'bout the man / Say I never struggled, wasn't hungry, yeah I doubt it ...

About The Author

Albert Samaha

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