I need nightmare fuel
February 10, 2012 11:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm writing a short story that involves a man who has panic attacks/hallucinations while driving. So, Metafilter, what bridges/roads/waterways are you scared of and why?
posted by oxfordcomma to Grab Bag (87 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not actually scared of it, but if you wanted one to freak someone out, you could do a lot worse than the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. 23 miles long; multiple bridges, tunnels, and manmade and artificial islands. Nightmare-wise, it's an endless series of bridges leading to tunnels leading to more bridges leading to more tunnels, over and over again, endless sea to either side, as winds whip by and rock your car around, no land in sight except the entrance to the next tunnel.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:25 AM on February 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


The Million Dollar Highway scares the crap out of me. Sheer cliffs and no guard rails!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:26 AM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Bayway if you're looking for sheer potential for pileups. It's a long bridge, taken at high speeds, over a shallow bay, that goes into a tunnel. Seems ripe for storytelling mayhem/panic attacks.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:27 AM on February 10, 2012


san mateo bridge. it's like 7 miles long, and i was on it once and thought--there is no way i could swim to shore if there was an earthquake and by some miracle i made it out of the car and off the bridge safely. plus then i worried about sharks.
posted by lemniskate at 11:28 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've always found driving through mountain areas at night to be unsettling. Not road condition or guard rails, but being aware of the giant shapes in the dark beside you. I-70 west of Denver is a good example; US 6 between I-70 and Price UT is a different geography, but similar effects.
posted by LonnieK at 11:28 AM on February 10, 2012


The Overseas Highway terrifies me.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:28 AM on February 10, 2012


Both the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit–Windsor Tunnel freak me out.

The bridge is kind of narrow and long, and my parents told me (made up?) stories of how it's really dangerous on windy days.

The tunnel freaks me out because going underwater in a closed off tube with no escape does not sound like a fun time to me.
posted by royalsong at 11:30 AM on February 10, 2012


The Lincoln Tunnel, if tunnels are allowed. Claustrophobic.

Also seconding the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:31 AM on February 10, 2012


seconding the chesapeake tunnel. also, anything that has a steep incline, especially if when driving upwards, i can't see the road on the other side...
posted by unlucky.lisp at 11:31 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Lake Ponchartrain Causeway is a pretty amazing experience to drive across. It's almost 24 miles long, and when you're in the middle of it, you can't see land in any direction.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:32 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I fell asleep on a bus once and woke up in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (miles past where I wanted to be, in a part of the country I knew nothing about). For about ten seconds I was convinced that I had died and gone to some kind of endless fog limbo.
posted by theodolite at 11:37 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was going to say the Tacoma Narrows bridge, due to the high winds and, you know, this.

But reading some of the other responses in this topic is making me break out into a sweat.
posted by lotus-eater at 11:37 AM on February 10, 2012




I live in upstate NY, and I can vouch for the palm-sweat-inducing nature of both the Thousand Islands Bridge and the Peace Bridge to Canada. Both rise in the middle, so you can't see what's coming at you, and both have great panoramic views of lots of water you could plunge into at any second.
posted by SeedStitch at 11:37 AM on February 10, 2012




The Mackinac Bridge is soooooo frightening they offer a service to drive people across. I'm always freaked out by the switchbacks on Skyline Drive.
posted by FatRabbit at 11:39 AM on February 10, 2012


I'm not scared of it, but I was in the car when the driver had a panic attack driving over the Golden Gate bridge. Scenic and terrifying! All at once.
posted by grapesaresour at 11:40 AM on February 10, 2012


It's no longer around, as they blew it up just a few years back, but the old Jamestown Bridge in RI was a dizzilying tall and catastrophically narrow bridge that would sway and buck in a decent crosswind wind, and would dance during storms. The best (worst?) part was that there was no pavement on the apex - you instead were driving atop a steel grate, and you could look down through it and see blue water and passing sailboats far, far below...

The grate offered very little traction in wet or icy weather, and your tires would sort of side-scrabble on it even in the dry, lurching you toward the center-line or the railing every now and again, and it sort of mooooans, moans angrily, as you drive over it.

I had a tough as nails gym teacher who would park the car, and make his wife drive over it, park the car again, and get back behind the wheel once safely on the other side. He started doing this after being caught in a thunderstorm at the top one time - the bridge was moving too much to safely drive, and he looked down and saw lighting hit the bay =beneath him= through that grate. He told us this without shame during our Driver's Ed class... and once we drove over it, none of us could blame him.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:41 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


My mother panics driving over the Tappan Zee bridge. We actually drove over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel during a storm and I have no idea how she survived. (I was 10 or so.) I assume my father drove.

I find all bridges and underpasses in Montreal somewhat nerve-wracking as I am never sure which one is going to fall on me.
posted by jeather at 11:42 AM on February 10, 2012


Baxter Street, Los Angeles. 30% grade up then 30% grade down. When you're cresting the hill, you cannot see if any thing is stopped on the road in front of you. Hell, you can't tell that there's pavement in front of you.
posted by hwyengr at 11:42 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seconding the chesapeake bay bridge; driving solo with no cars down that road, could not help focusing on how helpless I'd be if my car flipped over the rail. Nothing on the pylons supporting it to grab onto, even if you got free of the car
posted by MangyCarface at 11:44 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I actually do sometimes have panic attacks while driving, so in case it's helpful, the road or bridge or whatever doesn't have to be particularly nightmarish or something that would make the ordinary person nervous. Certain situations are just kind of inexplicably anxiety inducing for me.

The main one is bridges like this, as unlucky.lisp described!: anything that has a steep incline, especially if when driving upwards, i can't see the road on the other side...

Not that either of these are abnormally steep or would freak out most people, they've just given me that vertigo-ish "Arggg we're up really high, still going up and I can't see the other side of the bridge, don't want to look" feeling: the Verrazano Bridge and the Bay Bridge.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verrazano-Narrows_Bridge
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco_–_Oakland_Bay_Bridge

Coincidentally I actually have driven across the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway and loved it, didn't find it anxiety provoking. That makes me think you might want to think about what your character's anxieties are actually being triggered by when driving. Mine with these bridges probably has mostly to do with heights. Someone freaked out by water would maybe be fine on a shorter bridge like the Verrrazano but be really freaked out by he Lake Ponchartrain Causeway.
posted by cairdeas at 11:44 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only time I've ever been scared driving across the bridge was when I drove over the Mt. Hope Bridge in Rhode Island. It's an old, narrow, two-lane suspension bridge with minimal guardrails and (if I recall correctly) no suicide fence or sidewalks.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:48 AM on February 10, 2012


How about Highway 17, heading to Santa Cruz?

"SR 17's combination of narrow shoulders, dense traffic, sharp turns, blind curves, wandering fauna such as deer and mountain lions, and sudden changes in traffic speeds have led to driving conditions that result in a number of accidents and fatalities, leading to the reputation of SR 17 as one of the most dangerous highways in the state. In the winter months, because SR 17 crosses a high precipitation area in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the roadway can become slippery from rain, snow or ice, especially at the summit itself.

Some sections of SR 17 are so dangerous that they have been nicknamed. The first long sweeping turn North of Summit Road with its sharp angle and steep entering downhill slope is called "The Valley Surprise" for the fact that so many strike the median shortly after having entered the Santa Clara Valley. The most infamous is called "Big Moody Curve". This curve is named after Big Moody Creek below, slightly greater than a 180 degree turn, and bracketed by additional 90 degree turns. The inside surfaces of the median barriers in both of these turns are normally chipped up and black with tire rubber.

The cost of improving the treacherous expressway segment to modern freeway standards has been estimated to be at least $200 million."


Someone told me that the road to Lick Observatory and Highway 17 are 2 out of the 3 worst drives in California. I forget #2 though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:49 AM on February 10, 2012


Pretty much any overpass that has a steep enough hill that it looks like you might drive right off it into thin air. The higher up, the more scary. There's one where I35W goes over I-20 in Fort Worth that does that to me. That fucker is way up there.

Forget driving in mountains for me. Ugh.

And it's not the height per se (I'm not scared of flying or being up high) but the feeling of high-speed travel on a height that relies on your driving abilities and reflexes, alone, not to plunge to your death. At least on a flat road, you will probably just end up in a ditch, not falling through a hundred feet of air.
posted by emjaybee at 11:52 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Dizzilying? Catastrophic? I Meant dizzyingly and claustrophobic. See? That bridge messes with your brain.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:52 AM on February 10, 2012


I bet the Millau Viaduct could freak someone out pretty badly. At one point the roadbed is 270 meters above the ground beneath.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:54 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty much afraid of any bridge over water that isn't level with the road - anything that curves upward or is so long that I can't see the down slope. If I'm on a road and didn't know that a bridge was coming up, I get all sorts of panicked and try to exit so I can a) calm the f down and b)have someone else drive, or c)take another route.

What does this fear come from? I can trace it back to an incident when I was 5 and my uncle pointed out a bridge up ahead that we were about to go over. My five year old brain took it literally, that we were going over the outer part of the bridge (driving up the metal). I. FREAKED. OUT! I remember freaking out - screaming, kicking, crying....This is how it started.

Two bridges that have completely freaked me out are the Confederation Bridge in Prince Edward Island and the Claiborne Pell in Newport, RI
posted by Sal and Richard at 11:57 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


17 is so not fun. Accidentally ended up on it at night not expecting the mess.

I hate being on the SF Bay Bridge heading from SF to Oakland as you are on the bottom deck and it feels claustrophobic and makes me think of earthquakes and the fact that part of the double deck fell in the last big quake. Add the new S curve and you've got all kinds of excitement.
posted by oneear at 11:57 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oops!

Claiborne Pell Bridge in Newport, RI



Confederation Bridge


posted by Sal and Richard at 12:01 PM on February 10, 2012


I drive over this bridge every day on my way to and from work.

What really freaks me out about it is the fact that the guardrail is less than 3 ft. high, or at least that's how it looks to me. If anyone hit it they'd go sailing off. People also run across the bridge, there is no pedestrian/bike lane, so they run along the narrow strip of road on the edge. I think about a gust of wind blowing them right off.

I also loathe the tunnel under Baltimore, I don't know why that one in particular bothers me while others don't.
posted by mareli at 12:01 PM on February 10, 2012


Trail Ridge Road. Aaaaaugh.

Boston in general freaks me out a little, too. There are some funky minor tunnels and overpasses, but mostly it's the combination of traffic and how ridiculously easy it is to get off route and lost.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:04 PM on February 10, 2012


Every single bridge, ever. Especially ones that are right on the water (see: the Florida Keys) or are double-decker bridges (SF Bay Bridge, a bridge in Cincinnati that links Ohio to Kentucky).

The bridge from Louisville, KY to Clarksville, IN completely freaks me out because we drove that route a couple times a year to visit my mom's family and my dad would intentionally try to mess with me, knowing my fear of bridges.

Honestly, right now my palms are sweaty and my heart is racing just thinking about all these bridges. I hate them. I'm terrified of them. I do whatever I can to not cross them. If you want details about my bridge panic attacks (I've got a really good one involving the SF Bay Bridge, where my husband had to hold the door locking mechanism down because I tried to open the door...mid-bridge), you can memail me.
posted by cooker girl at 12:04 PM on February 10, 2012


How about Highway 17, heading to Santa Cruz?

I got stuck in the fast lane on 17 the first time I drove it, but going the other way, to San Jose, which I think is worse (everyone is taking those huge curves faster bc you're going downhill.) By the time I hit the curves and realized I really wanted to be in the slow lane, twists would keep coming up and I worried I would lose control of the car if I tried to change lanes at the wrong spot. I was stuck next to an 18 wheeler for part of this. I just had to keep going and it was like the most intense, highest stakes video game possible. I was actually sweating. At one point I realized I was holding my breath. I'm sure I pissed off a bunch of people in Ferraris behind me who I was holding up. The next time I did it I stayed in the slow lane and went like 50 mph and it was a way better experience.
posted by cairdeas at 12:04 PM on February 10, 2012


Another vote for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Gah! Not only is it panic inducing, once I was stuck (with five kids in the car) for three hours waiting to get onto it - behind a truck full of pigshit, literally, yes, pigshit. It was hot. The smell cannot - and should not - be described.

The old Cooper River Bridge in Charleston was utterly terrifying. You could see right down through it and if you took a boat underneath in the 80s it was obvious that the concrete pilings were all bashed up and eaten away, crumbling before your eyes. I finally got to the point where I wouldn't drive over it - a lot of people just refused. The "new" bridge then was two ways to accommodate people who wouldn't drive over the old one. Now there's a brand new one that's a LOT better.

The Delaware Memorial Bridge has also always freaked me out, particularly at night or, gods forbid, in the snow. That's where the drummer from Shonen Knife died.

I had no idea Wikipedia was so interested in bridges. Huh.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:05 PM on February 10, 2012


My mother loathes the Burlington Skyway and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Basically "skyway" is not a happy word for her.
posted by Dasein at 12:07 PM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


My mother always freaked out going over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Not the long bridge-tunnel, just the big bridge between Sandy Point and Kent Island. She was pretty stoic about most other things, so it was dramatic for us, and an element of dread accompanied the excitement whenever we piled into the station wagon to go to the beach. My father traveled a lot for work, and if he wasn't with us, she would pull over just beyond the tollbooth and have a state trooper drive us over the bridge. I don't think they do that anymore.

A few years after my father died in 1987, my mother decided to put her big-girl panties on and feel the fear and do it anyway. So she saw a therapist who told her to find something to focus on, music, a mantra, etc. to fill her head and not leave room for the fear. At the time, the only cassette in her car was Kenny Rogers' eponymous first album, so by default, "Lucille" became my mother's Bridge Song. She really missed the beach, so it worked.

She grew up in Queens without any general bridge issues, and she now lives in Charleston, SC, where you have to go over a bridge to get pretty much anywhere, and she doesn't need a Bridge Song to do it. It was only the Bay Bridge that spooked her. Even so, when she eventually got a car that didn't have a cassette player in it, she bought "Lucille" on CD.

As for me, I don't have any bridge/tunnel issues but after reading Stephen King's The Stand, I hope I never ever ever have to drive through the Lincoln Tunnel.
posted by headnsouth at 12:07 PM on February 10, 2012


Oh, the "why" is easy: high and long.
posted by Dasein at 12:07 PM on February 10, 2012


Sal and Richard: It's also called the Newport Bridge, and at certain spots, in certain weather, it looks like you're going to drive off into the sky.

Also, the Navy cargo pilots like to play "games" with that bridge, buzzing traffic - I've been on the bridge when they're flying gigantic military cargo jets between the towers, and doing a swooping 180-degree turnaround where it's belly will only be a few yards away from the railing...
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:08 PM on February 10, 2012


You've got a lot of examples of things in this thread that anyone might reasonably find scary, so I'm not sure that they're exactly what you're looking for in order to show a character who is having unreasonable fears. A nice mundane driving experience that I can always see as potentially giving a certain kind of person the heebie-jeebies is, for me, those long carpool lane to carpool lane flyover connectors in Southern California. You go off from the left side of the freeway and up onto a flyover that is just one lane wide. It's a sudden break from the wide open space of the freeway to a relatively confined, claustrophobic little concrete channel. Because you've got concrete walls either side of you, your forward visibility reduces very rapidly if there's any kind of curve (and, of course, there always is because you're moving from one freeway to an intersecting one). The thought is always there a little bit in the back of my mind "what if some low-slung sportscar has died in the middle of road just around the curve--there's no way room to pass it on either side."

Add to that the fact that you're way up in the air and there's plenty of food there for panic attacks in the midst of a really routine drive. A good specific example is the carpool connector from the 55 to the 5.
posted by yoink at 12:11 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was driving on a back road through the Catskills very late at night. I was going somewhat above the speed limit, but I was familiar with the roads, and it was a warm summer night. A cop came out of nowhere and pulled me over. I talked my way out of a speeding ticket: I told him I was having a panic attack, that I was terrified to be all alone on a dark winding mountain road in the middle of the night. I might not have been able to get away with it if I hadn't been old enough to be his mother.
posted by mareli at 12:18 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another vote for the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway. I feel queasy just thinking about it.
posted by LittleMy at 12:18 PM on February 10, 2012


I have virtually no fears driving in the U.S. - tunnels, bridges, mountain passes, whatever. But when driving in Ireland, the typical intercity roads were so much narrower that I was sure I was going to sideswipe every oncoming vehicle. This lasted for several days, even after I had safely passed hundreds of cars and trucks. I don't think it was related to being on the left-hand side, but that didn't help.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:22 PM on February 10, 2012


On the old Boston central artery, the exit to Storrow Drive went down at a steep angle and then had a full 90 degree right turn at the bottom. No banking to speak of, and no extra room or anything. I used to find that exit ramp unexpectedly scary almost every time I took it.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:23 PM on February 10, 2012


Come on people, the Causeway is a cakewalk compared to the The Huey P. Long. It's got to be one of the worst in the world, and I'm not even scared of bridges. Each span is 18 feet wide with with two 9 foot wide lanes. That's it. No room to maneuver on either side, no shoulder. Measure out nine feet with a tape measure and imagine being in that much space, in your car, next to an 18 wheeler, 13 stories above the Mississippi. Throw in a thunderstorm if you like, pouring rain, lightning. Oh and maybe a train screaming by on your other side just for some extra excitement. I can't believe it hasn't been mentioned yet. They're working on widening it right now but if you hurry you can still experience the original.
posted by CheeseLouise at 12:24 PM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I got stuck on top of Harry Nice Potomac river bridge during a thunderstorm and it was not at all pleasant. It's a two lane bridge that has a fairly high elevation and no shoulder, and it sways a lot.
posted by empath at 12:29 PM on February 10, 2012


I started having anxiety driving on an icy road that crossed a river - at the bottom of a hill - (you had to cross the bridge when you might also be sliding out of control on an icy hill) when I had a second child and I had to rehearse in my head how I would save BOTH of them. With one kid it's easy - grab the kid, break the window, start swimming. With two kids you have to start thinking - unbuckle the first kid (which one?) then grab him, start to unbuckle the second kid (what if the buckle jams??) then put him under your second arm then - oh wow how do you swim with a kid under each arm? Etc.
posted by cda at 12:30 PM on February 10, 2012


Nthing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. It has been decades since I've driven across it, but at that time, the bridge sections were very narrow, and the railing on the sides looked to be about knee high - in other words, I felt I was in imminent danger of either hitting the car to my left on the narrow lanes, or swerving to avoid hitting them and instead flipping right over the railing. I did not drive in the left hand lane, because my fear meant I was driving about 20 miles below the speed limit, so as to avoid suddenly losing control of the car for some as yet unknown reason. Also, the low railing meant you could look to your right and see MILES AND MILES OF EMPTY OCEAN IN WHICH TO DROWN, OH MY GOD, AND IT'S JUST RIGHT THERE ONLY 4 FEET AWAY!

Seriously, I used to hang on to the steering wheel in a death grip, break out in a cold sweat, and have a sick feeling in my stomach whenever I had to cross it. Even now, thinking about it, my stomach is not happy.
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:30 PM on February 10, 2012


Not a specific roadway (maybe the 401 here in Ontario, in its empty stretches)... But what scares me is black ice and hitting it at highway speeds. It's happened to me twice and I've nearly lost control both times because of it.
If I see a black sheen on a roadway in the winter...
posted by smitt at 12:34 PM on February 10, 2012


A friend of mine does everything she can to not have to drive over the Zilwaukee Bridge in Saginaw County, Michigan.
posted by stampsgal at 12:40 PM on February 10, 2012


The Houston Ship Channel Bridge scares the beegees out of me.
posted by tamitang at 12:44 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Baxter Street, Los Angeles. 30% grade up then 30% grade down. When you're cresting the hill, you cannot see if any thing is stopped on the road in front of you. Hell, you can't tell that there's pavement in front of you.

Man, is this ever true. Nearly nothing can freak me out while driving and I actually got out of the car on that road to make sure the pavement kept going. I never knew the name of it until this thread, but I just google mapped it and sure enough, that's where I was. As a bonus, Silverlake is right at the bottom of the extremely steep hill, so if your brakes go out on the way down you are completely fucked.
posted by something something at 12:44 PM on February 10, 2012


The Helena bridge over the Mississippi River. It's long, only two lanes, heavily patched, and the huge river seems so close you can touch it. I'm not at all afraid of any other bridge, but this one freaks me totally out.
posted by raisingsand at 12:48 PM on February 10, 2012


The street that always leaves my heart in my throat is Divisidero, going through Pacific Heights in San Francisco. It's so steep that you can't see over the hill until your car's nose has already gone over. Alternatively, free roller coaster!

Check out the google street view at Pacific Avenue. Note all the scrapes on the street where cars haven't cleared the apex of the hill!
posted by chatongriffes at 12:58 PM on February 10, 2012


I remember being stuck in a traffic jam on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. That freaked me out for sure.
posted by mmascolino at 1:06 PM on February 10, 2012


I grew up navigating twisty, steep, one-lane, pitch-black, coal-truck covered mountain roads in West Virginia, so I don't get too terrified of driving things in general. But I will say that the first time I drove on the DC Beltway, I sobbed.
posted by kerning at 1:06 PM on February 10, 2012


How about a ferry to a remote island in Maine?
posted by unreasonable at 1:21 PM on February 10, 2012


Highway 1 in California--particularly the Devil's Slide section that washes out seemingly yearly. Local legend says it got its name from gangsters dumping bodies down the slope:

A portion of Route 1 midway between Pacifica and Montara in San Mateo County is named the Devil's Slide. The origin of name is not confirmed but believed to come from the practice of prohibition days gangsters using the once-deserted area to dispose of their enemies into the sea at this precipitous location."

(http://www.cahighways.org/001-008.html)
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:28 PM on February 10, 2012


The roads in Acapulco, especially the Carretera Escenica between the airport and downtown Acapulco. Narrow twisty roads and steep mountains...yikes!
posted by SisterHavana at 1:32 PM on February 10, 2012


The most anonymous stretch of interstate I've ever driven -- so anonymous that I couldn't even tell you what state it was in. I don't want to know. Perfectly flat, perfectly straight for hours. There were rest stops every few miles, identical rest stops, each one offering false hope of something new. It felt like being frozen in place at highway speed. It was like some circle of hell.

I was afraid of falling asleep and getting myself killed.

I was more afraid of remaining eternally awake.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:38 PM on February 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Cajon Pass on a windy day.
posted by luckynerd at 1:39 PM on February 10, 2012


The Huey P. Long bridge in New Orleans, because, duh.
posted by Sara C. at 1:41 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're interested in a more quotidian road but with, I think, serious scare potential, the underpass under Battery Park that essentially continues West St. in lower Manhattan around to the South Street Viaduct and connects to the FDR. People drive it fast, it goes down and curves sharply, and you see traffic going the other way through concrete columns. It's ordinary road to literally millions of people but it has that Princess Di kind of atmosphere and a lot of stimuli.

You could also think about seemingly innocuous roads that would be scary if you were obsessive, like country roads with trees planted right alongside, or neighborhood streets that have "traffic abatement" like speed bumps and sudden dead ends.
posted by Mngo at 1:52 PM on February 10, 2012


Oh my lord the Herbert C. Bonner bridge spanning Oregon Inlet and connecting Hatteras Island in North Carolina to points north. Long and scary and sway-ey. It got even scarier when I learned that it isn't actually connected to its foundations at this point, tho I think there are plans to replace it soon.
posted by Cocodrillo at 1:58 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow, I-94 in North Dakota?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:58 PM on February 10, 2012


Driving from Tijuana to Tecate, Mexico, there's a section of the toll road where you are hugging one side of what feels like a verticle cliff. There are a few fences dotted along the downhill side because sometimes a freak gust of wind will come down the mountain and knock you off the road completely. When you look down, you see the carcasses of buses and cars below. I was told there's no way to rescue the people in the vehicles that fall because it's too steep...not that they would have survived anyway.

Also I used to drive the 17 between Santa Cruz and the Bay Area regularly and never found it stressful -- but I learned to drive in New Zealand and the South Island's State Highway 1 around Kaikoura is way, way scarier. It's two lanes wide but gets very narrow in the mountains and along the coast, there are often steep drops or raging ocean directly beside you, slips wash out chunks of road every couple of winters and the locals drive it at insane speeds, tailgating you if you go too slow for them.
posted by tracicle at 2:35 PM on February 10, 2012


I lied: here's the stretch of road in Mexico I think: it's east of Tecate.
posted by tracicle at 2:36 PM on February 10, 2012


You could also think about seemingly innocuous roads that would be scary if you were obsessive, like country roads with trees planted right alongside

I've always been squicked by narrow country roads that curve right at an old country church with an adjoining cemetery. Something about the prospect of missing the curve and landing right in the middle of a bunch of long-dead corpses, splintered wood coffins, the churned earth opening some ghastly hell-maw... *shivers*
posted by Sara C. at 2:40 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


T.S. Eliot that you can use: "Fear death by water."
posted by steinsaltz at 3:33 PM on February 10, 2012


My vote is for the Coronado Bridge in San Diego because of the height over the water. The drive's not bad with someone who's a confident driver, but I'll happily avoid the West Coast the rest of my life if it means a certain driver I know who hates heights never takes me over this bridge.
posted by dragonplayer at 3:46 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not a fan of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, either. I hate the fact that it's split and psychologically, one can't turn around if there is trouble ahead.
posted by ladygypsy at 4:27 PM on February 10, 2012


The Saw Mill Parkway in bad weather is truly terrifying to me at times: tight, winding, fast, no shoulder...
posted by lakersfan1222 at 4:36 PM on February 10, 2012


Nthing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. I'm not afraid of tunnels, and I'm not afraid of bridges. HOWEVER! That bridge will trip me up ever. single. time. It's just freaky.
posted by patheral at 5:27 PM on February 10, 2012


Speaking to what yoink was saying.... I dislike driving on I-80. It's not an insanely terrifying road, but when it goes through Pennsylvania, I go white-knuckled around the curves, probably irrationally so. ...Ug, I have to drive through them next week and I'm getting anxious just thinking about it.

In the other direction everything is flat and the speed limit is so high, it makes me terrified of hitting something, or a truck hitting me in my small car. Also, very few roadside rest stops/houses along the way makes me worry about what would happen if there were an accident/I needed help.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 5:30 PM on February 10, 2012


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow, I-94 in North Dakota?

I think it might have been somewhere in upstate New York. Possibly Ohio. It could have been anywhere.

I'm not saying all featureless roads are frightening. I find endless fields of Saskatchewan wheat rather soothing.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:30 PM on February 10, 2012


Response by poster: Thanks guys! These are all fantastic answers. I find it interesting that some people have mentioned some of the bridges I originally had in mind. It's good to know that I'm not the only one terrified of them :)
posted by oxfordcomma at 7:48 PM on February 10, 2012


I had an 18+ hour helldrive from Ontario-ish to Calgary, started climbing the mountains about midnight and into Calgary in the middle of the small hours.

I actually had the opposite feeling to fear, kinda; I was afraid that I would give in to my desire to swerve off the winding highway and down the side of the Rockies.

Of my visual hallucinations, some of the more vibrant that I remember are regularly driving under multiple bridges like giant Asian carved ivory structures (I still have no idea what they actually were) and a man-sized teddy bear sitting in the passenger's seat criticizing my driving.

Hauling butt through the prairies in the middle of the night? It wasn't bad but during some stretches I started wishing that a car would drive down the other side of TransCan with their highbeams on and blinding me... just so I could get a feel for company.

Wasn't driving-induced hallucination, but trying to make time because mapquest (do they even still exist?) gave me directions for a "scenic route" which diverted me from Western Ontario to Manitoba through Michigan (?) (yeah, I had never done it before and I was young and stupid and clueless and had never driven from one city to another prior to this trip - I remember this because I had to re-enter Canada in Manitoba) or something and it was all windey roads with lots of elevation changes through a dense forest with a heavy fog and high/strange winds (Thanksgiving break in college). I totally sympathize with people in the past who believed in banshees and wraiths and whatnot. Shifting shadows and light (and screaming of the wind) and physically feeling my car being tossed around and not being able to see anything beyond a dozen/to/score of meters/to/centimeters, as conditions changed.
posted by porpoise at 8:18 PM on February 10, 2012


I think the single creepiest drive I've ever done was to drive south on the Kootenay Highway (AKA Canada route 95) in British Columbia about 35 years ago. It ran through the middle of forest which had completely burned, recently enough so that nothing had started regrowing.

Mile after mile of standing dead trees, and black ground because of ash everywhere. It's one of the ugliest things I've ever seen.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:03 PM on February 10, 2012


Once I was almost in a head-on collision, coming around a bend, and for maybe a year after that I couldn't go around a bend in the road without being pretty terrified. So, all roads everywhere, because physics is a bitch. I had the nigh-uncontrollable urge to honk going around bends, just so "the oncoming car" would know I was coming. Driving at night was strangely a lot easier for me, because cars' headlights made it easy to see if someone was coming around a bend or not. Also, cresting hills. I lived in an area with mostly two-lane roads and few highways, so people had to pass a lot, sometimes rather rashly, which fueled this fear of mine.

Add to that, every year when I was a kid my family would drive up into the Appalachians to visit relatives, and every year pretty much without fail, we'd have to stop and wait for hours while they cleared out a head on collision. Those roads are narrow and twisty, and it's easy to end up on the wrong side of the line.

The most terrifying road I have ever driven (other than the bends/hills thing) was CA 121. It was night, raining heavily, and the only other road leading home was flooded and closed. One of my co-workers told me I could get home on CA 121, but that it was winding and twisty and not a fun drive. I am from the Appalachians so I figured it would be no problem, but never have I felt closer to losing control of my car and careening off into a valley, only to be found days later. And I drive like an old woman. I actually had to cross an ancient, one-lane bridge, and that was (I thought) a pretty populous part of California...
posted by Arethusa at 12:54 AM on February 11, 2012


porpoise: "I was afraid that I would give in to my desire to swerve off the winding highway and down the side of the Rockies."

You're writing a story, so the way your character encounters the bridge, road, etc., is in some ways more important than the actual piece of highway. Porpoise's comment is a pretty common feeling among folks with acrophobia; I feel this sometimes, and then I'm battling another problem in addition to the initial fear of the bridge.

That started when I took a trip from the heartland to the East Coast some years back. I was (IIRC) on Interstate 90 heading east. It was hillier than I was used to, but I was fine. I came around a curve and saw the Hudson River ... and a rusty old railroad bridge. Fear flashed through me: "That can't be the bridge I have to use!" Well, no, it wasn't. I drove just a little farther and there was the bridge I had to cross: workmen swarmed all over it. It was a four-lane bridge turned into a two-lane bridge with the westbound deck missing, to be replaced later. Cue panic and a near-religious repetition of the f-word. (Much good that would have done me at the Pearly Gates.) My passenger insisted that I not stop at midpoint and talked me across.

I continue to hate every bridge I come to since that day. And the disaster on the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis has only fueled my fears.
posted by bryon at 10:19 AM on February 11, 2012


porpoise: "I was afraid that I would give in to my desire to swerve off the winding highway and down the side of the Rockies."

Poe called that "the imp of the perverse".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:52 AM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


My vote is for the Coronado Bridge in San Diego because of the height over the water.

No, no. The Coronado is surely the most beautiful bridge ever built a a lovely wide stable wide ride, to boot! Witness.

For fear and beauty together you need Hwy1 on the coast north of SanFrancisco.
posted by SLC Mom at 5:10 PM on February 11, 2012


And thanks to all of you I have spent the better part of my day looking at these amazing bridges and tunnels. And hills.
posted by SLC Mom at 5:13 PM on February 11, 2012


Not a specific place, but I always freak out a little going under a bridge just as a train is going over.
posted by Mchelly at 5:15 PM on February 11, 2012


I didn't know what terror was until I crossed the Bong Bridge in Duluth during a blinding sleetstorm. The road was ice covered, it was night, the bridge is a hundred feet over ice-cold water, it curves, it's steep, and people drive it like they're on the fucking Rainbow Road level of Super Mario Cart.
posted by Elly Vortex at 3:37 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I regularly have bridge driving nightmares, but I am able to drive with little anxiety over the Sunshine Skyway in south Florida. Four miles of continuous prestressed concrete cable-stayed bridge that rises over 400 feet into the air. The view is awesome. But it was built because back in 1980, a freighter smashed into a support column of the old Skyway, causing 1200 feet of the old bridge to collapse into the water. A Greyhound bus and ten cars couldn't stop fast enough. There was one survivor. THAT's nightmare fuel.
posted by Jezebella at 9:47 PM on February 13, 2012


For those reading this who curtail their travels, and who might not need to do that:

From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge's Safe Travel Tips page:
Driveover Service
The MDTA no longer provides a drive-over service. Please contact the vendor listed below to make arrangements. The cost of a drive-over will be $25 per trip ($30 for bicycles). The vendor listed has been approved for drive-over services:

Kent Island Shuttle Service: 410-726-3990

Please Note: This business is not affiliated with the MDTA and cannot accommodate motorcycles, rental vehicles or commercial vehicles.
From Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel's FAQ page:
Does the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel offer assistance to customers who have a phobia of driving across the facility?

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel District offers a driver's assistance program whereby the Police Department arranges for a District employee to drive a customer's personal vehicle across the Bridge-Tunnel whenever a customer has a phobia of heights, bridges, tunnels, etc. This service is provided to hopefully pre-empt an unsafe incident involving a customer from occurring due to any phobia which may present itself when driving across the facility.

This service is offered to customers traveling in either an automobile, van, SUV, or pickup truck at no additional cost to the customer.

We request that customers make arrangements in advance for this service. The District utilizes personnel who have other specific duties that they are responsible for besides providing this service. A customer can expect to wait for this service depending on the time of day, day of the week, and calendar season.

Please contact the Police Department at (757) 331.2960 to arrange for an escort.
One day, I woke up at oh-dark-crazy, and had a yen to go walk along the beach, so I got up and decided to drive to Ocean City, MD. I discovered, after a panic-attack-riddled, white-knuckled drive across the bridge, that I really didn't like said bridge. I proceeded to the beach, since I was already over the bridge and because it would've been a stupid idea to drive as far as I had and not continue on. For the trip back, I was panicking as I was heading to Kent Island, just anticipating the bridge. I stopped by a fast food place on Kent Island, in a blubbering, panicking mess, and asked one of the employees (I don't even remember exactly what I asked, but I guess they were used to this sort of thing, and gave me the number for the state police or bridge police, who advised me to wait a bit while they checked out the info that I give them before they could drive me over the bridge. It was a Dogsend. A private company now does this, and the fee is well worth it.
posted by SillyShepherd at 6:40 AM on February 26, 2012


« Older Tilt and turn or double hung   |   Bonus points if you can help me avoid looking like... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.