Like arteries and veins through your heart, so runs US Highway 19 through mine. I’ve been driving on parts of this road since I learned to drive at 15. I’ve watch it grow from 2 to 8 lanes and drive it everyday in my commute to work. So many of my stories start on this road, from the first summer in Homosassa to this summer now fading, US 19 has been part of my route.
One of my first jobs was delivering tires, I’d ride down to Bradenton in an empty Ryder truck and exchange it for one filled with tires. I’d then drive north on US19 over the Sunshine Skyway bridge into Pinellas county to deliver them. That was the summer after the bridge collapse in May of 1980. Before the new bridge was built the remained span was inspected and reworked as a two lane bridge with one lane each for north and south bound. In early summer the broken pieces were still dangling from the top- Being in a huge truck gave me a bird’s eye view of the broken span. I would always get a deep feeling of dread as I approached the top. My mind would always wander back to that foggy day in May. At the top, I would keep my eyes on the road in front of me and not pay attention to the gnarled steel beside me. They didn’t remove the old bridge until the new one was complete. Even now when I hit the top, I still feel a bit odd. The Skyway is at the beginning of the northerly path of US19, a highway that doesn’t end until you’ve reached Lake Erie. I haven’t made it that far north, but I did make it up to Atlanta in the 1990’s.
As you approach Tampa Bay by plane, flying easterly over the Gulf of Mexico from Texas, you see my home like this. My entire family is within the boarders of this map. The Blue line is US19 with its northern end to the left and its stopping point in Memphis, FL on the right. The Red Stars represent my family. The biggest star in Clearwater is me, 3 family members live here. Teresa and Christine are the closest with Debbie & Mikey just a bit down the road. Cindy along with Anthony & Amanda live on the West side of Tampa. John & Ashley are over in Orlando with Kristen up in Gainesville and Bopchie off US19 near Spring Hill. What was I thinking to orient the map to this Easterly view? Changing the perspective has revealed more to me than I imagined… (to be continued)