Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bridges Freak Me Out. A little.

My morning commute over the St. Johns River via the Shands Bridge was gorgeous this morning.  See the photo below.  Yes, I took it while driving, but I didn’t look at what I was snapping.  Basically, I held up the phone and just clicked about 5 photos, hoping that some of them would be focused and not show too much of my car door, etc. 

Shands Bridge, morning of 12/10/2015.

That said, I drive over this bridge twice a day, and as pretty as it is, it always freaks me out a bit.  See the barrier wall in the pic above? It’s only about 4-feet high.  And where I took this pic, you’re only a few feet above the water, but there’s a spot where the bridge goes up (to allow taller boats to pass beneath – there’s no drawbridge) and at that point, you’re a wee bit “up there”.  And people have died when their vehicles went over the side. 

I remember one incident a few years ago when a woman in an SUV was on the phone with her daughter and I guess a ladder had fallen off a vehicle in front of her, so she had to screech to a stop (a bad thing on this bridge – it’s only two lanes – one in each direction).  They say her last words to her daughter were “Oh my God, he’s going to hit me!” And she was slammed into from behind by a dump truck and her SUV flew over the side and unfortunately, she didn’t survive. Gulp. That goes through my mind when I drive over this thing. Especially in the evening when it’s already dark when I’m headed home. It’s winter, mind you. In the summer it’s still daylight when I’m commuting home.

The St. Johns River in Florida is a big boy, as you can tell from the photo.  What you’re seeing is only about half the width of the river at this point. It’s really wide. It flows from south to north, with its headwaters being WAY down south near Vero Beach and its discharge into the Atlantic Ocean up in Jacksonville.

In the aerial image below, you can see just how wide the St. Johns gets up here in NE Florida.  And since Jacksonville is a big city (biggest in land area in the United States), we have 8-ish bridges.  Technically the Shands Bridge – the one I drive every day, is south of Jacksonville proper, but I’m counting it here because it is close.

The Buckman is another bridge that has vehicles going over the side every once in a while.  It’s one of those LOOOONNGGG bridges.  And an interstate bridge, so there’s a LOT of traffic.

Buckman Bridge.  It's long!

Also the Buckman. I'm pretty sure I'd crap my pants if that was my car and I lived through whatever caused this.  Luckily, they're near the shore, so at least it's probably pretty shallow in this area!
The Matthews Bridge, which is downtown, had an incident in which a woman and her son were in a jeep and when they had an accident, she was ejected from the vehicle and flew over the side.  Wear your seatbelts, people!!

Matthews Bridge.  Yes, it's kind of ugly.  As is the shoreline around it.  It's a port, not a recreation area.
But the big-boy here in Jacksonville is the Dames Point Bridge.  It’s the closest to the ocean and because Jacksonville is a major port, it has LOTS of big ships (cruise ships, container ships, tankers, etc) coming in, so this bridge is tall. It’s also really pretty.  And even though I don’t recall any stories of people going over the side, it does freak me out some, just because of it’s height. 

Dames Point Bridge.  Pretty, right??

Dames Point. Up, up, up.  
Of course, the Queen Mother of bridges here in Florida is the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, over in Tampa (on the gulf coast, for those of you who are geographically challenged).  This photo doesn’t make it seem all that freaky, but I swear you feel like you’re being launched into space when you drive up its fairly serious incline.

Sunshine Skyway.  I know it may not look that high in this photo, but I swear when you're driving it, you feel like you're going to launch when you reach the top!
And of course, there's the Seven-Mile Bridge, which connects Miami to the Florida Keys.  I've heard about it, but never driven this one.  It's on my list to take the kids for vaycay one of these days, though.

Seven Mile Bridge. Makes the Buckman look crazy short.  According to, it's one of the longest bridges in the world.

I don’t feel like I have a debilitating phobia about bridges.  I guess I’d call it a “healthy concern”.  Fact is, there are a lot of idiot drivers out there, and even if you’re driving safe, bad things can happen.  Even a blow-out could be catastrophic on one of these bridges.  So whenever I drive over, I kind of hold my breath until the other side.  Well, I guess I wouldn't do that on the Seven-Mile Bridge - too long!!

Though I admit, now that I’m driving the Shands twice a day, it doesn’t scare me as much as it used to.  Except when there’s a massive thunderstorm or something J.  

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Crappy Last Few Weeks and Other Recent Goings On . . .

Yes, I haven’t blogged in a while.  To be honest, the last several weeks have been fairly sucky and I just wasn't in the mood to put it out here for all the world to read (or at least the 20 people who stumble across my corner of the internet). 

The week after my daughter’s hamster died - in mid-November, our dog took a bad turn and we were told we’d have to put her to sleep.  For those not in the know, she’s always had a bad foot.  We adopted her in July 2014 (Just a year ago! She was only 3!), and were told by the shelter folks that she had been in a fire when she was a baby, so her right front paw was kind of weird and misshapen and had no fur.  Well, just this past August, I noticed a swelled up spot on that paw, which had shown up quickly and out of the blue.  The vet said it was possibly cancer, and they amputated her toe.  Well, fast forward to one week before Thanksgiving and my oldest noticed when he got home from school that she wasn’t putting any weight on the bad leg. Even though we’d been through the amputation a few months ago, I still wasn’t really thinking it would be something terrible.  I guess I thought if her previous problem was cancer and it came back or spread then she would gradually get sick and we’d have time to come to terms with it.

Well, I was wrong. 

I took her to the vet the next morning, and after the x-ray, they confirmed that the cancer had spread to her elbow joint and had apparently made the bones soft (??? - I didn't know this was a thing!), and she had apparently suffered a hairline fracture.  She wasn’t a candidate for amputation for several reasons, and frankly, the fact that the cancer had already spread just meant we would be postponing the inevitable.  Still, it was shocking and traumatic for our family.  Even for me, to my surprise.  You see, I’ve always considered myself a cat person. Don’t get me wrong, I like dogs just fine, but Sky was supposed to be my kids’ dog.  Well, turns out I was wrong, there, too, because Sky ended up as my dog. I fed her. I was the only one she really wanted to walk her – when the kids tried to walk her, she wouldn’t want to go unless I was along. She usually slept in my bedroom. So of course I got attached. And she was the first pet I’ve ever personally had to make the decision to put to sleep.  Which we did on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.  Very sad day for us, and my kids are still struggling with it.

Sky having some fun in the outback.  Frolicking in the weeds.
Well, as much as a seriously overweight dog with cancer can frolic.
Actually, I think this was during a needed rest-break.

The kids and I with Sky.
Other than the trauma of losing a member of our family, my running is also not good.  Basically, it’s at a standstill.  You recall my right foot was giving me grief???  Well, after resting it for the better part of two weeks, I tried to run the day after Thanksgiving (same day we were taking Sky into the vet for our last good-byes). My foot hurt, same as before and with equal discomfort.  Yep, the rest didn’t seem to have done much good. And afterward, the foot was sore (just a little - just enough to notice it) for the rest of the weekend - and still is, frankly.  So after much reading and researching, I'm now actually thinking it’s a stress fracture. The injury (whatever it is) appears to be in the 2nd metatarsal (bone) on the right foot. At work I typically wear low-heeled sandals and even that amount of pressure on the ball of my foot seemed to exacerbate the soreness. I know I may need to see a doctor, but due to insurance stuff, I’d really rather wait until after New Years. (BTW, thank you sucky American medical insurance system – I WISH we had a single payer system like Canada and every other civilized country in the world – but don’t get me started on how the insurance industry and their lobbyists have duped so many Americans into thinking a single-payer system is communist or something!!!!).

Ahem.  Now, where was I? Oh yes, possible stress fracture. Since it’s been bothering me for weeks, I've done a LOT of reading and according to every single website I looked at (WebMD, Mayo Clinic, American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society etc), the treatment for a minor stress fracture is the same as for a plantar plate injury and many other foot injuries: immobilize the foot and do RICE (rest, ice, elevation) and basically stay off it (no running) for about 6 weeks. So, that’s what I’m doing. I decided to be proactive and obtained a boot and have been wearing it most of the time since last Thursday. From what I’ve read, most runners who have stress fractures screw up - they don’t realize it’s something serious because it doesn’t hurt too much at first, so they keep running with it, and then it gets way worse. I'm going to totally stop running until after New Years, and if it's still not healed at that point, then I'll see a doctor. I could get lucky and the foot will heal itself by New Years (that’s a month away, and I’ve already been resting the foot for a while, other than the attempted run on Black Friday). 

To not be a complete Debbie Downer, I just joined the gym at work and will be doing the noon yoga class 3 times a week – starting tomorrow (making sure to take care of the bum foot).  Otherwise, I've decided to not freak out about things.  It’s the holiday season, and my primary goal is just to not lose control and gain back the 10 pounds I lost a few months ago.

Hope everyone else is doing well.  I’m just contenting myself to tread water until New Years, when hopefully I’ll be back and ready to rumble again!  And with that, here are some photos of other stuff that's been going on . . .

Connor's very first band concert.  Go flutes!!
After Thanksgiving, we had a sleepover with the grandkids and a neighbor friend.  These are the boys: Colin (mine - 7 - almost 8), Connor (mine - 11), Caleb (my grandson  - 11), and Will (neighbor friend 10)
Girl portion of the sleepover, after our bedroom dance party to Katy Perry and the Weekend. Jaylyn (12 - granddaughter), Cailyn (mine - 10), and Abby (8 - almost 9 - granddaughter).  Unfortunately, Jaylyn thinks my music taste is lame because I mostly like bubble-gum pop.  She's way more street.  At least I don't think they consider me an old fart.  
My kids finally reached the age where they put up the tree without much help from me.  I'd post a pic of the finished tree, but I just realized I didn't take one yet. Christmas fail!!
Last night Cailyn & I assisted Colin in doing his visual aids for his Winter Story Presentation at school.
"Fuzzy Rabbit Saves Christmas".  A classic, apparently.
We have to finish Cailyn's before Friday - she's doing How the Grinch Stole Christmas (easy peasy).