It Can Be Paralyzing

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 212014

Many times in the past we have shared a chuckle over my fear of bridges and my open admission that I’m a wimp when it comes to crossing high bridges. Especially narrow ones. If it is a four lane bridge and I can get into the inside lane I can handle it, but when we have to cross a two lane bridge I relinquish the steering wheel and have Terry drive, while I try to keep my sniveling to a minimum. And I’m not always successful in controlling the sniveling.

Even though Terry is an excellent driver and I have full confidence in her, at times we have gone out of our way to avoid some bridges. We’ll be doing that when we leave here. The most direct route to Colonial Beach, Virginia is U.S Highway 30 to Interstate 83 in York and then south to the Baltimore area and around the west side to Interstate 97 and on to U.S. Highway 301 south to just above Colonial Beach, where local roads would take us to our campground. Microsoft Streets and Trips says that is a 177 mile trip.

However, that route includes crossing the Potomac River on the very high, very narrow, Governor Harry Nice Bridge. I’ve been across that bridge and believe me, there’s nothing nice about it.


We did that on our last trip through that area and I swore never again. The Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia River scares the hell out of me. The Mackinac Bridge between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsula gives me nightmares. But that bridge absolutely terrified me! It is very narrow, two lanes wide, very high, and the walls on the sides are not high enough. I closed my eyes while Terry drove across it, but peeked a couple of times and almost had a coronary!

This trip I plan to follow U.S. Highway 15 south to Frederick, Maryland, pick up Interstate 270 to the Washington Beltway (Interstate 495) and then south to Fredericksburg, Virginia on I-95 and east on State Route 3 to Colonial Beach. It adds about 25 miles to the trip, but it’s well worth it. Somebody said they hated driving around the Beltway, but I’ve done it before and didn’t find the traffic any worse than going around Baltimore. And there’s no scary bridge to cross!

Though I joke about it, gephyrophobia is a real anxiety disorder and thousands of people suffer with it. I guess I’m fortunate in that, with Terry’s help and understanding, it doesn’t hamper our travels too much.

I had an e-mail from a gentleman recently who saw my post in a thread about this on the Escapees forum who said that he recently attempted to drive over the bridge at Astoria, Oregon and suffered a panic attack so severe that he had to stop and could not continue. He was alone in the motorhome and traffic was piling up behind him while he sat there with his hands frozen on the steering wheel. He said a man from one of the cars stopped behind him came to his window, said he was an off duty cop, and asked if he was okay. By then the motorhome driver said he was shaking so badly that he could hardly talk. After determining that he was not suffering a medical emergency, the policeman offered to drive the RV across the bridge. The owner said that it took all he could to set the brake and let go of the steering wheel to unlock the door to let the good samaritan in, and that when he door opened the door and saw over the side of the bridge, he threw up. Once on the Washington side he was okay, except for being humiliated and traumatized. He said at that point he was ready to sell the motorhome and give up the RV lifestyle. Hopefully he will get past it and find ways to cope that will allow him to continue traveling.

While my second editor is doing her thing with my new book, Big Lake Scandal, yesterday I started the next one in the series, Big Lake Burning, and got a little over 2,000 words done.

Be sure to enter this week’s Free Drawing Free Drawing for an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. If I had to name one of my books as my favorite, it would be this one. To enter, all you have to do is click on the Free Drawings link or the Free Drawings tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.


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  18 Responses to “It Can Be Paralyzing”

  1. I’ve had the same paralyzing fear in the mountains. If there’s a sharp drop on both sides, I completely lose my ability to focus and often end up just sitting on my butt unable to move. So, I totally get the fear.


  2. Well, I find being a passenger with hubby driving (in our car) is sometimes the MAX I can endure….such as when gobs of semi trucks are always beside us….as was the case coming back to Seattle area from mid-state yesterday. I hate bridges too…and hubby is not keen on them either. I think driving miles around them makes perfectly good sense….and these days it could save your life….bridges in this country are not kept up too well in places at least…

  3. NIck we lived in the No. VA area before FTing (Stafford County). Not only is the Beltway always a tough ride (except maybe early Sunday), but they are currently doing a lot of work between Quantico, VA and Garrisonville Road (Rt. 610) in Stafford County, VA.
    I would stay on Rt. 15 south until you get to Rt. 17, just south of Opal, VA, then take Rt. 17 all the way to Fredericksburg.
    Just a thought.

  4. Nick, the beltway and 95 south are so congested nowadays you may want to consider an alternative. Look at going 15 all the way to route 29 in VA & then taking 17 south off of 29 all the way to Fredricsburg to find route 3 to colonial beach. It is a very scenic route. I know there is one small bridge on the way but no way near as scary as the Nice bridge. I lived in VA for 13 years in Bealeton (off of rte 17) and travel there frequently to visit.

  5. Now I understand Nick. Kind of like how I felt getting in that bread box and riding to the top of the St. Louis Arch. It just takes your breath away!! For me, it’s the eight lane narrow beltway with 24 directional signs posted at every exit, surrounded by cars and trucks going 70 mph while I just try to keep everything tucked in my lane!!! Gives me a migraine every time!!! I vote for the nice roundabout route, no matter how much further!!

  6. Nick, if memory serves me correctly @ the Mackinac bridge, if you ask, someone will drive your vehicle across. Maybe more should do the same? See you soon friends.

  7. Even though we chuckle at your distress I understand it is a real condition and sympathize with you. I guess we all have something that spooks us.

  8. We love to hike, but I have fear of heights and falling. Yesterday it happened. I’m not sure what I will do next time I come to a situation like I had yesterday.

  9. Yes, it is a terrible situation and we know it is real. Larry was a psychologist who specialized in anxiety and phobia disorders. It is a very difficult thing to get over.

  10. Like RJ Long says,” If it is tight just slow and stop. Let the other cars pass by you. That way if they hit you it is their fault not yours!….

  11. Nick I know I tease you about your whimpering, but like you I have a terrific fear of bridges and with me it is also tunnels, nowI have to add I almost have a panic attack when it comes to city and heavy traffic, I sweat, cry etc especially when idiots pull out in front of the MH and slow down. Mike just keep talking to me and telling me we will be fine When we get thru or over the thing causing this I laugh, I feel stupid but this is a real problem with no cure in sight. I know when we get to Louisianan, there are two very nasty high bridges we need to go over I will try bio feedback I learned years ago to see if it helps. Like you I am lucky enough to have a partner who can drive for us in these incidence.

  12. Nick Although you inject humor into your fear of driving over ling high bridges, I can certainly empathize with you. One of my worst drives in my MH was taking Rt 49 from South Lake Tahoe to Park of the Sierras. My friend told me that it was a scenic route and that tbe quicker route was still closed due to snow. What I discovered was that the scenery was generally at least 100 yds down the side of the mountain, It took me nine hours to drive 150 miles.

  13. I used to be a psychotherapist. Anxiety disorders are real disorders, often inherited. If anxiety is interfering with your daily life, you should seek help, as you would with any other debilitating disorder.

    You don’t have to continue to suffer. There are many ways to treat anxiety disorders. You can start with your family doctor or for a lot more information, go to NIMH/anxiety.

    You are not doomed to suffer this way for the rest of your life.

  14. Wanted to leave a huge “thanks” for the posts about rv travel east of the Mississippi. As a Tennessean and newly interested in the rv full timing lifestyle I’ve just recently started reading a number of rv blogs. Seems most everyone posts about the southwest, west and Pacific coast areas with very few adventures being written from back this way in my neck of the woods. Just stumbled upon your blog and I find it quite refreshing! Thanks for the assurance that folks actually travel around in my half of the country…:-). Rhonda Markham

  15. Nick,
    Here is a Virginian traffic report:
    As someone earlier said, the traffic on I-95 is pretty bad nowadays due to the construction of HOT lanes between Springfield and Fredericksburg. Where I live near Woodbridge the traffic southbound generally is backed up everyday from 4:30PM-6PM. Backups start earlier and are more extensive on Fridays. On weekends we generally don’t plan to go north or south on I-95 anytime later than 10AM. Your best bet, traffic-wise is to transit the area southbound during the mid-day Monday thru Thursday. You will still encounter some delays due to lane closures. Also an accident of any sort usually results in a backup lasting 1-3 hours. US route 1 is a possible alternative south from Woodbridge.

    Ron Johnson

  16. You might want to add this to your bucket list

    They even have a covered bridge that you could drive your motorhome across

    Your rallies were always fun.

    Joe O’Melia
    Clearfield PA
    “…traveled the same road as many..”

  17. Came across the Nice bridge on Tuesday to come from Lancaster county to Chesapeake bay resort….great park..need to cross the bridge on Wednesday. Don’t like it, and I will be thinking of you.

  18. Strange that I could hover my helicopter for hours at different altitudes during my 22 year Army career. During my real estate appraisal years, I would be terrified to get over near the edge of a roof. I am OK if I am driving my RV over a bridge, but don’t make me walk across even a low bridge.

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