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 Bing.com, 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.