Florida Travel

The Problem With Getting From Here To There

Thanks to TShearer226 at WANA Commons for the use of this image

I’ve always had a thing with bridges. As a kid, my father crossed into Canada over the Rainbow Bridge, and I held my breath and prayed.

Now each time I drive over a bridge, the kind where you can’t see the other side, I am certain the end is near. I make elaborate plans and cry.

Not too long ago, I went to Florida. I didn’t realize that in order to get to Sarasota from the Tampa airport was I was going to have to cross the Sunshine Skyway.

Doesn’t that sound lovely?

The Sunshine Skyway.

Doesn’t it sound like you will be traveling on a path to the sun? Wouldn’t you expect puffy white clouds and a unicorn escort? And rainbows? And G-d?

I anticipated the wind in my curls. And angels.

It didn’t go down like that.

The Sunshine Skyway is 4.1 miles of steel and concrete hell. And crossing that bitch transformed me into a one woman freak show.

From a distance, it looked pretty.

English: Sunshine Skyway. Tampa Bay, Florida. ...
English: Sunshine Skyway. Tampa Bay, Florida. Photo © 2004 Thomas Parker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like two white sailboats decided to drop anchor and hover in the sky. Forever.

As I approached the tollbooth and handed the attendant my $1.25, I looked for a place to pull over and mentally prepare myself for the crossing over.

Except there was no place to stop.

I just had to go.

I wanted to hold my breath, but I figured passing out at the wheel while suspended 431 feet in the air would lead to swerving, probably an accident, which would probably not be appreciated by other drivers.

If you tipped a football field on its side, I was still suspended 71 feet higher!

But GPS Jill cooed and promised me Paradise was only 47 minutes away.

I just had to get over that freaking bridge.

English: Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
English: Sunshine Skyway Bridge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I stayed on my side of the dotted white line, profoundly aware that I was surrounded by nothing but sky.

I gripped the steering wheel of my rental car white-knuckled and started making emergency escape plans.

I felt around and found the button to open my window.

I unbuckled my seatbelt.

I figured if I drove over the side of the Skyway, I would not be stupid, caught inside a sinking car that would slowly fill with water. No, I have watched too much Lifetime Television for Women to make that mistake. I was not going to drown. Assuming I survived impact, I would simply glide out my open window.

I wiggled out of my sweater. I knew it would weigh me down, and I needed to be ready to swim. Obviously. Without my sweater, the air conditioning was too cold, but I dared not fuss with it.

I think it was a gorgeous day, but I can’t say for certain. The sun was bright in my eyes, and it was too late to find my sunglasses stashed in their case at the bottom of my bag.

Refusing to blink, I stared straight ahead and kept my eyes on the road. As tears poured down my cheeks, I wondered what was wrong with me.

I drove slower.

Like old lady slow.

From out of my peripheral vision, I realized that the structures I had thought looked like pretty white sailboats were not white at all. They were, in fact, a complex series of yellow-orange cables. Cables. The whole dang bridge is suspended by skinny cables.

I knew that bridge was going down.

A man in a black pick-up truck passed me and flipped me the bird. His arm was very tan.

The moment I could see The Other Side, Roger Daltry came on the radio and started to sing “I’m free.” I swear this happened. You cannot make this stuff up.

So there I was, singing along with him and laughing like a dork because I was fine.

But I need to have a serious chat with GPS Jill. Because while I proved I can make it over the bridge – clearly, I need to find an alternate route.

Anyone else out there afraid of bridges? If bridges don’t freak you out, what does?

89 thoughts on “The Problem With Getting From Here To There

  1. I was last in New York in 1976 during the Bicentennial. We went to Ft. Hamilton which was in the process of restoration. And from that point I looked up at that Veranzano Bridge and just trembled and wasn’t even on the thing. It is so awesome and a magnificent structure , an engineering feat of Herculean proportions. I still remain so very impressed with the vision of it all.

  2. As more years pass, I get more freaked out by things. Bridges? Yup. They’re on the list. Amusement park rides that I once adored? I find myself in a panic waiting in line – that’s if I don’t leave the line altogether.

    1. I think that happens with childbirth, I swear. It must be Nature’s way to make women attempt to remain safe to raise the young. Like you, I always loved roller coasters. Now I have to sit them out. What’s up with that? 🙂

  3. I am not afraid of bridges thankfully. The bridge of all bridges around here is the Mackinac which connects lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula. Somewhere around 5 miles long I believe. I’ve been over it many times and its a pretty crazy experience but not frightening to me. They actually have people at each end who will drive your car over if you are totally freaked out by the whole thing! What does freak me out? How about my kids being teenagers… YIKES!

  4. I can totally relate. Things like that didn’t bother me until I had children. Right before we went to Florida I watched the movie Jeff, Who Lives At Home and it ends with a scene where a family crashes off a bridge into the water. NOT what I needed to see!

    1. I agree. The kids change everything! I used to love to spin on crazy rides. I loved roller coasters and all that amusement park stuff. Now, not so much. Meanwhile, there is a movie where the family crashes off a bridge into the water? Whaaaat? TELL ME THEY SURVIVED! Ack!

  5. I have to compliment you on the extremely well placed facts about the bridge – that bit really ‘took me’ there (to your terror).

    I have a theory that once people become mothers, the bridge terror begins (if it wasn’t there to begin with), and escalates to panic level over time. I’m still conducting research, but so far this theory holds water. (Like your car, fortunately, did NOT.)

    1. It’s not a lie that having kids change everything. For example, I used to stand on tables and dance, and last week I was like…Omigosh. I shouldn’t do this any more. TechSupport is glad that phase is over. 😉 But yes, new fears when the children are born. Luckily, I seem to be able to still handle snakes.

  6. 47 minutes to cross a bridge? Holy cow.

    And I like how you had your escape route all planned out. What forethought and presence of mind!

    I’m guessing you wouldn’t be a fan of driving from Miami to Key West. Pretty much nothing but bridges with an occassional island thrown in there. It’s really quite beautiful, and the bridges are pretty low. But I’m thinking you would pass on that particular experience.

    Congrats on getting across alive and only partially psychologically scathed.

    1. Okay, maybe that was not clear.

      It didn’t take 47 minutes to get across the bridge. The bridge was only 4.1 miles long. I was driving slowly, but not THAT slowly. LOL!

      My GPS promised me that Sarasota — my destination — would be 47 minutes away — once I’d crossed the Sunshine Skyline. It was the longest 4.1 miles of my life. I am going to have to do this again in December. I’ll see if it is better with Hubby as the driver.

  7. Must be a mother thing. Both “The Boss” and my mom hate going over bridges. They both will get into the left lane and try to get across as fast as possible.

    1. That is it, exactly. Hug the inside lane and look straight ahead. Through the tears. I used to hold my breath, then I tried singing the ABC song. Seriously, I think the economy could be stimulated if there were people at both sides of the bridge willing to cart some of us across. I would pay for that service.

  8. That’s exactly the same way I cross bridges. I haaaaaate them. And tunnels? The Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel in Norfolk, VA, that goes under a portion of the Chesapeake Bay nearly did me in. That baby cracks open and it’s all over….

    1. Tunnels that go under water are not natural. Now that I have seen the NYC subways fill up with water, I don’t think I’ll be able to do tunnels. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll let you know how I do when that next happens. 😉

  9. Twelve plus years in Florida and I have some advice: Aways keep a pair of sunglasses within easy reach in your car. The sun is ALWAYS shining here, somewhere along your trip. Don’t squirm into your purse while driving anywhere here, esp. on a bridge. Don’t drive to Key West. It’s a longer drive and you have the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Atlantic on the other (I think.) Anyway, they are bigger and deeper. Happy travels.

    1. This is all good advice. It’s hard to get settled in a rental car. This time I was in stuck in a Ford Flex. It was like driving a hearse. I couldn’t figure out how to make the seats move or how to adjust the mirrors or pop the trunk. Initially, I couldn’t even turn on the car; it was keyless. I didn’t know where I was going as my destination wasn’t on my GPS, so I was thrilled that I even made it to the bridge — until I had to cross it. I can’t believe I’m going to have to do this again in December.

  10. I’m with Mrs. Pitt. I was getting nervous just reading this post, imagining myself white-knuckling it over those 4.1 miles (boggles the mind. FOUR POINT ONE MILES WHO COMES UP WITH THAT IDEA??!!! Sadists, I tell you).

    Also, I loved this part: “Doesn’t it sound like you will be traveling on a path to the sun? Wouldn’t you expect puffy white clouds and a unicorn escort? And rainbows? And G-d? I anticipated the wind in my curls. And angels.”

    That is exactly what it sounds like! And just reinforces the idea that it was sadists who came up with it. 😉

    Glad you made it across!

    1. Hi Rivki! Seriously, the people who named that thing knew what they were doing. The should have named it The Sky Monster. It was soooo scary. And it swayed a little. I have to do it again in December! Hubby will be with me, so I’m banking on the idea that it will be better as a passenger. I have to have faith in something. But I will still crack the windows. 😉

    1. On a motorcycle? When it is swaying? Are you nuts? People in Florida don’t even wear helmets. What if a bug flies in your mouth and you start coughing and you crash into the side and flip over the edge into the ocean? Omigosh! So scary!

  11. So funny! I love the line “No, I have watched too much Lifetime Television for Women to make that mistake.” I hear you! I’m not particularly scared of bridges but I can feel your pain. I hate crossing railroad tracks. Weird, huh? I’m always certain the gates are malfunctioning and a train will somehow blindside me. I can’t decide whether to go quickly or really slowly over the tracks. Thankfully, crossing railroad tracks is a quick endeavor! That bridge of yours is entirely too long and too high. Ugh! Glad you’re safe and found a way to giggle!

    1. Azara! That’s what I’m saying! The sway! You could feel it. I swear. It. Was. Awful. And I get to do it again in December. Hubby will be driving this time, so it could be different as a passenger, but probably not. I’ll let you know if we should have had life jackets in the backseat. Wait, if that happens, I probably won’t be able to let you know. But you’ll probably hear about it. 😉

  12. I’m going over the Canada bridge on Friday, it’s ever so rickety. love your story about winding the window down. We are usually more scared of American border guards than the bridge lol.

    1. On Friday? Okay, well…so, it’s my understanding that there is NOT snow in the forecast at the moment, but I’m not sure where you are crossing and the weather could change at any moment. I’m pretty sure this is not reassuring you. But you are right, I usually screw up at the border, too. Last time they asked for my citizenship, and I said, “America.” I totally panicked. Stupid bridge had me all freaked out. 😉

      1. We sat by and listened to two Austrians get questioned because they were doing so much travel it looked suspicious to the guards. The poor dears, I think the guards were just jealous because they were stuck in that awful building playing badass all day 😉

    1. Nathan: I would like to see those statistics. Lots of people have killed themselves on the Sunshine Skyway — by jumping. That probably doesn’t count, right? Except I know that 43 people intentionally jumped to their death from that freakin’ bridge. They knew they would die.

      People can survive a lightning strike. It happens all the time.

      If I had to put my money on one, I’d go with the lightning strike. I think the odds for survival are in my favor.

  13. Leaving the airport when I landed in Korea, I crossed a bridge that felt eternal. It helped set the space apart as other from my life in the States. I love remembering it now, and continue to love bridges . . . provided I am over them, not under them. If I’m under one, though? Then I am absolutely, unequivocally certain that sucker’s gonna fall.

    1. I love the idea of bridges, metaphorically. But in real life: not so much. 😉 Funny how you worry more about bridges falling when you are underneath and I worry about flying off of them. I’m sure that means something. I wonder what.

      1. I feel like mine is all part of a universal payback program for how I teased my just-younger sis for her claustrophobia! Closed spaces I can’t immediately escape from now cause me to panic, although I’m getting better at managing that by the month (not so much by the day, probably). It’s totally deserved in my case. 🙂

  14. Sarasota? SARASOTA??? That’s our home away from home! We go twice a year to Siesta Key! Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could meet up sometime?

    As for the Skyway bridge? You know the backstory of it, right? If not, forget I mentioned it. Seriously. 🙂

    1. Are you going over Christmas? We will be there! Squeeeee! It would be awesome to meet up. We could walk off some of the calories from all of our feasting and blather on about blogging. Let me know when you’ll be there next! It would be fabulous to hook up.

      Ad for the backstory. I did read about it, but I’ve blocked it out. It was structurally unsound and cracked and dumped people off (or something like that, right). Yeah. I hate bridges. Feel free to tell me the truth, sistah. 😉

  15. I’ve never been a fan of bridges–or tunnels. When I was kid I used to think a whale could crush the tunnel while we were in it. 🙂

  16. Thank goodness bridges DON’T freak me out because I have to drive over the narrowest bridge you ever saw at least twice a day. But those long really, really high ones like you conquered (yes, I said CONQUERED! Sing it loud, woman!) give me a mild panic attack. Just a challenging-my-Secret-Solid panic, not to the stripper level, like you get.

  17. I have driven over that bridge many times…I think it’s worse in the daylight than at dark…..I once had a nightmare of an afternoon crossing that bridge…as I headed south over the bridge, I got off at the very next exit…wasn’t supposed to do that…or some exit or other, the only thing I could do was get back on, RE-CROSS THE BRIDGE…TURN AROUND AND GO BACK OVER IT AGAIN!!!!! What the heck did I do wrong…by the last time over, it didn’t bother me so much…I was so mad I just wanted to get it over with…sigh…

        1. I’m doing deep breathing right now just thinking about going over that bridge in the darkness. What if it is foggy? I really need to learn another route. Seriously. A route without tolls. Because all those toll roads suck, too.

          1. Yep, they’re a real pain…….I know they shut the bridge down for high winds…I would hope they would for fog…so glad we now fly in to Punta Gorda..No more Sunshine Skyway bridge..

          2. We’re lucky, we can fly direct to Punta Gorda on Allegiant airlines…Punta Gorda is a very small a result,,YOU LEAVE ON TIME!!!!!!

  18. Rene, Wow! Lots of angst about bridges in the comments, and so much of your story and the readers’ tales triggered memories: I clearly remember the moment when my young daughter and I were headed to visit my brother in Sarasota in a rental car–and I first saw the bridge. What could THAT be? When I realized what it was, I plotzed. (is that the right word?) I was terrified! So I was with you in your tale of terror! The swaying–eek! White knuckle driving…’nuff said…I hate bridges! Great post.

  19. I think of you as fearless. I have a friend that also doesn’t like bridges, she doesn’t mind driving over them so much but really doesn’t like walking over them. She didn’t tell me this when we set out on our Colorado adventure, which after a day spent wandering some of my favorite places ended at Royal Gorge at sunset. To get the full affect you must cross the bridge and hike a short distance up. The bridge is 956 ft above the ground and a quarter mile across, it is like walking on clouds.

  20. I walked across The World’s Highest Suspension Bridge which is in Colorado and Danny turned to me and said, “I always feel like jumping when I am in high places.” We were newlyweds and that freaked me out! I guess that’s why he loves jumping off cornices while skiing…

  21. Lived in Bradenton and crossed the Skyway at least once a week on the way to somewhere north. This was one of the highlights of any trip (except when it was windy). Still examining my sanity for leaving Florida for the midwest !!!!

    1. It was windy, PJB! That bridge was swaying. GPS Jill kept telling me my destination was X number of minutes away, so I had faith in her. I got off at University — just a few exits past Bradenton. I can’t imagine making that trip once a week. Is it possible to become desensitized to something like that? Or will I always cry like a baby?

      1. I was in awe of it at first – the height of it and all- but after a couple of times I actually looked forward to the view – except on really windy days (or nights). Do you live in that area? I really missi it – A LOT !!!

  22. I would love to share this bridge from my hometown. It is the Walkway over the Hudson. Here is the official photo gallery: and some fun facts.

    The fact that bothers me most is the 212 feet from the surface of the Hudson River. Compounded by the age of the bridge, multiplied by an irrational fear of heights… So naturally last February on a trip up to the Hudson Valley with my family, we decided to check it out. Of course one thing lead to another and my wife says those fateful words: Let’s walk halfway across and back. (we were on the west side at the park, so we’d be walking towards the city of Poughkeepsie.)

    Obviously, I am still here. No falling into the frigid waters of the Hudson, no collapsed spans… But I swear I heard something over the noise of the joggers, walkers, gawkers and wind. Right, it was just my knees knocking together. I admit that the views in all directions were breathtaking and the bridge amazingly stable. I scarcely noticed the height.

    In all honesty, after walking halfway across, I think I could manage the whole trip.

    Thanks for listening to my silly little bridge tale.
    BTW, Susie sent me 🙂

    1. Hi SFBell!

      Okay, you make a few good points here. My bridge is new. That sucker is old. I don’t seem to have trouble walking across suspension bridges — even a scary rope bridge in Belize didn’t freak me out. But walking a slippery bridge in February? Um, not so much. You are a survivor. You should get a medal or something. Nice to meet you! Susie always has the coolest people!

  23. Yes. Yes, yes! I’m afraid of bridges. Well, I can go over a tiny wee titchy little bridge over a stream, but any bigger and – no way! It’s called Gephyrophobia.

    That said, when I was a tiny child I enjoyed walking with my dad over the Hungerford Bridge which is a railway bridge over the Rivert Thams in London, England, with a pedestrial walkway along one side, but protected by a high mesh fence. (And at the time I also had a fear of trains!) Probably liked it because one couldn’t possibly fall over. I think they’ve since changed it – I had a look at some pics and it’s nothing like I remember. Couldn’t do it now, just couldn’t!

    1. Hi Val! I don’t seem to have trouble walking across bridges — even a scary rope bridge in Belize didn’t freak me out. There’s something about being in a car on a bridge that ruins me. I do rather like that your bridge had that tall mesh fencing. Quite a few people have committed suicide off the Sunshine Skyline. Folks have installed emergency phones along the way in case someone needs someone to talk them down, but methinks tall mesh would be better.

  24. Great post, that cracked me up. I found you via Susie’s blog. I’m a lifelong Florida resident and I’ve driven across the Skyway about a million times and I always stay on the inside lane due to my fear of heights. Once on the top, the view is quite beautiful and I’ve actually come to enjoy driving it. When I was a small child, my dad used to cross the bridge every day on his way to work in Tampa. Luckily, the day the old bridge was knocked down, my dad took US 301 instead, not sure why, but happy he did.

  25. There are a lot of bridges here, so we’re used to them. However, sitting on a bridge for a half hour in a traffic jam is not ideal. It’s definitely not healthy to do what I do and contemplate just how many tons of metal is sitting there on that bridge…

    And for some reason, this post got Amen Omen in my head. “Life is sweetest at a glance…” Up close, it can definitely go either way.

  26. I have never been afraid of bridges. And yet.

    This was so vividly recalled, I was sweating along with you. If I’d had on a sweater, I would have taken it off.

    I wanted to cheer with Roger Daltrey.
    And now I’m afraid of bridges.

    Pretty sure.

    (Miss you, lady. I’ve been busy fictioning it up over here. Hope you are fabulous. Forgive me if you haven’t been and I’ve been absent from here.)

  27. I don’t mind bridges, planes, or roller coasters. As long as my feet are planted, I am good. Logic? But if my feet dangle, like on the Super Tower of Power ride, or SEE below me, like on a mesh staircase. Or if I somehow climb on top of rock on a mountain (it’s happened). Scares the wee out of me. I heard it’s normal to be afraid of heights as you get older. Who knows? For me, it’s a balance issue and I am afraid of falling. LOL.

    1. Thanks Kim. And thanks for visiting. I read your piece at the right time. It was like a punch to the gut. I am not as honest as I would like to be in my writing. You understand. It hard to self-censor. There are so many things I’d like to say, that I KNOW other people would relate to. Some day, you know?

  28. I kept thinking, “Well, at least she was prepared in case something went down!” No pun intended. 😉

    I’m in awe of bridges. Well, at least some of them. But I can understand your fear. Riding over a bridge, whether I’m the driver or a passenger, I have found myself feeling a little scared, wondering if the bridge is going to collapse or break in half. And I’m not a good swimmer, so if that ever happens, I’m toast!

  29. That sounds like quite the harrowing experience. Let me assure you, however, that the current Sunshine Skyway is one of the most well-built and safest bridges in the country, though this is unfortunately due to a tragic accident that struck its predecessor in 1980 (I’ll let you decide whether you want to look up the details). Also, the road is only 190 some feet over the water; the top of the tower is at 471 feet.

  30. Guess this is pretty old but just came across your blog because I heard about the Sunshine Skyway and was trying to find a pic. Saw your meme with “bridges are scary” and just had to come here. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! Not afraid of heights, not tight spaces, not much, really, but when I’m driving and I find myself inexorably pulled toward one of these engineering marvels and no way out — suddenly I know how it feels to have a panic attack… Since I was a kid so it’s not just about driving. But walking is not a problem. There’s something about being in a vehicle on a bridge… And it depends a little on the bridge. Crossing the border, not really a problem. Which is why I was caught completely off-guard when I had to cross the St. Johns River in Jacksonville a few years ago. And that Virginia tunnel some time before that. YIKES!!! I do like you, grit my teeth, hug the left, and pray… Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone. 🙂 <3

  31. I LOVE bridges! I will go out of my way to drive over a suspension bridge that I have not crossed before. But I did a lot of my growing up on Long Island and the only way to get to NY City, Staten Island and mainland New York is either by one of three tunnels or one of our many bridges. The tunnel traffic is slow, exhaust fume choked and just a pain at the approach-ways. Most of us take the bridges. My fav is the Verrazzano Narrows which gives a gorgeous view of NY City and Gravesend Bay, connecting Long Island to Staten Island. My next fave, in my “other” home state is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel system. But I can relate to you. I will walk up 10 flights of stairs rather than take an elevator!

    1. Isn’t it funny how one person’s fear is another person’s pleasure! Go figure. Thanks for sharing! I wish I had you in my car when it comes to those bridges. I’d slide over & let you drive. (And I’d hold your hand as we go up the elevator.)

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