“What IS that?’ I asked my husband. He was driving. I was gazing ahead slightly east.
I said it like you would when you see something grotesque or disturbing like a cat flattened in the road. You know what you’re seeing but you hope your eyes and brain are processing it all wrong.
“Was there a sign?” I asked still hoping but getting nervous. I would have expected to see an enormous sign, similar to those last chance signs informing travelers “last exit before toll” or “next gas station in 50 miles.”
I’d seen no warning of the danger ahead. Then again maybe we weren’t going in that direction although it appeared it was the only way to go.
I could blame my husband for this. I could blame him for the route we were on and sudden pit in my stomach and the “oh my God, oh my God, oh my God” mantra that was looping in my head, but the blame would be misplaced. We were on our way from Tampa International Airport and heading south using the route calculated by the rental car’s GPS. Looming ahead was the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
When you approach the bridge, it starts by looking smallish but begins to loom. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Water everywhere. It looks every bit as long as the 4 miles that it is and the scenery around it is vast and wide. As you get to the incline to the peak, it looks like you are heading straight up a gargantuan skateboard ramp. You can’t see over the apex and to me it looked like we might be heading for a sail through the air to land on a down ramp that must be waiting on the other side.
“It feels like a ride in an amusement park, especially when you go up,” Maja M described the ride on TripAdvisor. I have, not surprisingly, limited amusement park ride experience, but I’d say Maja’s right.
As we travelled about 75 MPH other cars easily passed us. Were they insane? I don’t know whether speeding faster over a bridge is better because when you fly off the side you’re going to fly faster and further to into what I heard later were shark infested waters.
When I got home and looked at the photos online of the bridge from other angles, the ramp up to the apex and down do not appear as steep as when you actually take the ride. Looking at my picture now of the descent, makes me feel the same nervousness I did a few months ago.
Once off the bridge I relaxed but later reading about the bridge I learned I failed to see the surrounding beauty others did. I didn’t enjoy the expansive views of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, I didn’t see birds, kitesurfers, windsurfers or fisherman, I didn’t admire the bridge itself, and if there was a cruise ship passing beneath us, I missed it.
After a few days of R&R it was time to head home. There were two roads heading back to Tampa and we took the slightly longer route without the bridge, and that made all the difference…in my mental state.