Back in 2006, mother nature decided to make a lot of people unhappy - again. Devil's slide, the precarious cliff side stretch of hwy 1 between Half Moon Bay and Pacifica, fell into the ocean. Because there are only 2 ways to get in and out of the area by car, the event caused massive traffic between Montara and Half Moon Bay as everyone was bottle-necked into going over Hwy 92 to San Mateo. This made the drive to Half Moon Bay High from my home of El Granada absolute hell. During the months of the closure, it could take upwards of an hour just to make a 5 mile drive to school. Somehow I put up for it for a month or two. I'd get in my car, sit in traffic, listen to the same crappy morning show on the radio and burn gas. A lot of gas. Not to mention I was consistently miserable and late for class. I could never make it on time, even I didn't understand why. I remember my social studies teacher Mr Ballard asking me as I walked into his class head down - late for probably the 4th time that week: "Austin, why can't you just arrive to class on time?" To which I replied: "I don't know Mr. Ballard. Why is the sky blue?" So it went on like that, day after day. Until one day stuck in morning traffic, I looked at my speedometer which read 0 mph and I said to myself, "Fuck this, I could ride my bike faster than this." Wait a second, I probably could actually ride my bike faster than this! [caption id="attachment_67" align="alignnone" width="450"] Jesse, Chris and I checking out the slide on Devil's Slide which closed hwy 1 for months.[/caption] So the next morning I lifted my mom's old rigid mountain bike out of the rafters, pumped up the tires, lubed the chain (with wd-40) and gave it a shot. At first it sucked because I was terribly out of shape. But even on the first day I took the same route as I would drive and indeed I was passing cars - and they weren't passing me back! It was glorious! Finally I could go as fast as I wanted to! Admittedly, riding my bike to school started as an elitist kind of thing. I was beating kids to school that were leaving 10 - 15 minutes ahead of me by car. I got huge satisfaction out of buzzing by people on the highway and imagining the drivers staring at my back with envy and hate as I rode away ahead of them. A few times I even pinned cartoons and funny pictures to my backpack, as my way of showing that I knew the drivers were staring at me ride away and there was nothing they could do about it. After a few weeks the novelty of being the new fastest guy in town started to wear off. However I slowly began to notice things that at first I didn't expect. I was getting faster and stronger. Stairs became easier to climb. I started to realize that I liked runner's high, although it took me a long time to realize I was getting one. I knew I got high off adrenaline, which back at that time could be achieved easily enough by hucking off a curb or skidding around a turn. But most of all I realized that the world is beautiful in the morning when you move through it with no barriers around you and you can hear everything and you can see everything and you can breathe it in and stop to feel it if you want. I think it was the first time I ever really felt connected to the world. I stopped riding on the highway. I started waking up earlier so I could take longer and longer routes to and back from school. I started looking for dirt paths. The ride became by far the best part of my day. I took this picture one morning on my way to class which I think kind captures how I felt on those rides: Eventually the slide reopened. It was again possible to drive to school in 15 minutes or less. But I kept riding. In fact, I don't remember ever driving to that school again. I've been addicted ever since. I've found myself back in Montara again, a mere .25 mile from Devil's slide which now has a tunnel being built through it so it is unlikely to ever close again. Nowadays instead of a leisurely 5 mile ride along the coast to Half Moon Bay for school I have a 40 mile round trip ride with 4,000ft of climbing to get to my job in San Francisco (via Daly City BART) which takes me a little under 3 hours there and back combined. The route takes me up and over San Pedro Mountain Road (the route up and over Montara mountain, instead of riding on Devils Slide, no cars) which is a pleasant bonus. I was able to snap this picture on my return ride this evening: I would have thought it would have gotten old by now, but 6 years later riding my bike simply to get where I'm going is just as awesome as it always has been. Same crisp mornings, climb induced endorphins, adrenaline pumping descents and lazy evening cruises. And despite the few inconveniences, I don't plan on ever stopping. The tunnel that bypasses Devil's Slide is due to open soon. So I thought it would be and appropriate time to say my thanks. Devil's Slide, you changed my life, and in a way you will be missed.