As a teenager in the late 1980s, about the time some of my friends acquired driver’s licenses, I discovered that with four ways out of town we are truly at a crossroads in Sebring. Each direction represents different opportunities for adventure.
With spring here, I am reminded of one of those adventures. Locals and longtime residents will appreciate this one … and you may know just the place I am writing about.
It all started one day when we were on our way to Ft. Pierce to go surfing and one of my buddies pulled in to this place (names and location omitted to protect the innocent and to avoid encouraging a new generation to follow in our tracks). My buddy pulled in and as I gave him a questioning look, he asked, “Ever jump off a bridge?”
I was intrigued and I really didn’t need much coaxing. I only needed one of my friends to show me the way, and I was “All-in baby.” After the first jump, I was elated and wanted to do it again and again. I couldn’t get enough and it became a regular pastime. We would make regular and impromptu trips to that location for the sole purpose of jumping. We even began to act out scenarios for passing cars. We would stand on the rail with thumbs up and if they honked, we would jump. Or, we would act like we were throwing someone over the rail as a trucker went by. We were ridiculous!
We didn’t worry about alligators; we figured they had better things to do and if we saw one we would just move to other side of the bridge. Honestly, the worst part was getting back on dry land. If you have ever been swimming and you didn’t want to touch the bottom or any other unseen objects in the water then you know the feeling.
It wasn’t long before I had my own driver’s license and, yes, a car. One of my first driving missions was to visit this place that I loved, but there was trouble in paradise. Being an unplanned trip, I didn’t have shorts, so I borrowed a pair from a much larger friend; they were only about five sizes too big. I just held them on with my hand so it wasn’t a problem until we headed home. I’ll explain.
About 10 miles outside of Lorida, I passed three off-duty deputies in an unmarked car and they called one of their on-duty brethren. I had slowed down by the time I crossed the railroad tracks but a sheriff’s deputy was already waiting for me. He explained that we’d just passed some of his associates about five minutes back and would be obliged to see my license and registration. He made quite an impression as he had all five of us pile out of the Sentra. Since I was the driver I earned a special chewing out but when the officer directed me to put my hands on the roof of the car I could no longer hold up the shorts and they immediately dropped to the ground, with no underwear in sight. It was only a split-second before he barked for me to pull them up. “Yes sir” and “no sir” comes naturally in those moments. A few motorists will never forget that day.
Not too long after that, I was being lectured by Mom when she asked, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” I couldn’t resist, I said “Probably, it depends on the bridge.”