In 1962 my family made the long drive from the San Francisco Bay Area to Seattle, Washington, to visit the World's Fair. It was a memorable trip, I was twelve-years-old and I still remember every minute and every mile of it. My father knew the geography of the west and my mother planned meticulously—it was the prototype road trip that I have been repeating ever since.
Late on the first day we drove north down the South Fork of the Eel River, a dramatic steep-sided canyon where redwood groves alternated with cliffs and landslides. This stretch of US Highway 101 (the Redwood Highway) has changed but little in the last 48 years. Most of the rest of the highway has been widened to four lane freeway, but the intractable landslides between Leggett and Garberville have mostly stymied the road builders.
One of the features I remember clearly was the sidehill viaducts, like bridges but clinging to the side of a cliff rather than crossing a valley or river. One by one these have been replaced by massive roadcuts and bridges, and the dramatic cliff-hugging stretches bypassed. The old concrete structures with their elegant railings remain, but unnoticed by the modern traveler and forgotten by most who once drove them.
The most dramatic of all even had its own name, a two-hundred-yard stretch south of Bridges Creek known as "The Slab". It was built in the 1920s and not abandoned until the late 1960s. It is only a-lane-and-a-half wide, and has a two-hundred-foot drop to the river. I enjoyed walking and photographing this once famous but now forgotten place.