The Bridge

Nov 10, 2018 | 2018 Articles, Maria Ruiz, Travel

by Maria Ruiz

Maria often shares stories with us about Santa Barbara history, her travel all over the world, her dogs, and life.

Bridges make crossing rivers, ravines, mountains, and crowded areas possible. We hope the bridge will last until we’re over it, but we’ve all seen pictures where it didn’t and dumped some vehicles down, down, down. bridge

It’s not just bridges in poor countries that have failed. We’ve all seen pictures of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, waving above the water until it broke apart. And we’ve all seen pictures of the Bay Bridge into San Francisco where it collapsed on cars during an earthquake. So bridges make me nervous at best.

We had gone from Mexico to San Francisco to sell our house and along the way bought a Volkswagen Golf car, a small station wagon. We had been out of the U.S. about three years and had a list of things we wanted to take back to our RV, still in the trailer park in the Yucatan. Plus, we had both our little dogs with us. Ted packed all our new purchases plus other things that we picked up from relatives and friends and stuffed the car. There was just enough room for the dogs to lie down on the top of a slab of plywood that stretched across the whole mess in the back. Ted was driving, and I was reading the map.


Maria, Ted and their dogs on the road with their motorhome

Shortly after we left the last relative or friend in Texas, we discovered the air conditioner was spilling water condensation from some unknown place, all over my feet. It got so bad that we bought rolls of toilet paper to soak up the water under my feet.

As we drove south along a two-lane road, we spotted a small sign with a hand painted sign, Veracruz, and an arrow pointing right to a dirt road. We looked at the road to the right and decided the sign must be in error. The map showed that the road we were on was the one to take to reach Vera Cruz by nightfall. We continued driving and all the time my feet were being dripped with cold water.

Suddenly, the road became a dirt road. We continued on for about ten miles when the road took a bend and we ended up crossing a small, shallow river. Slowly we drove across the river and continued along the dirt road. There were big trucks parked along the side, and we could see men working on the road. Slowly we continued when we saw a bridge under construction ahead. The sides were built, but the roadway of the bridge was missing. Only some loose boards seem laid along it but not something we could drive on. Several men motioned us on and Ted leaned out the window and asked, “Veracruz?”

“ Si, Si señor.”

“Cuantos kilometros?” he asked.

“Trenta. Mas o menos.” Thirty more or less.

Well, it seemed we were going in the right direction, but this road couldn’t be the main road. Nonetheless, we were committed, so we drove toward the bridge. Men on each side ran to lay down boards so we could drive on them. Slowly we drove onto the boards and as we passed over, the men picked the last one up, ran along our vehicle and laid it down in front.

We were moving very slowly and could see down to the ravine below. It didn’t seem that far but we didn’t want to find out. As the men laid down the boards, they called out to us and waved us forward. Trusting that they knew what they were doing, we drove on. They did this many times before we reached the other side.

Again, Ted asked “Veracruz?” Again, men pointed ahead, smiled and waved us on.

We drove slowly along the dirt road, and were doing about ten miles an hour while it was starting to get dark. The closer to the equator one is the quicker nightfall comes. There is little or no dusk in the tropics, just daylight then night, almost as if someone flipped a switch. We continued on, driving slowly until finally we saw the lights of the city before us.

We found a restaurant that was open and pulled in. While we waited for our order to be processed, I took the dogs for a walk, and then fed them dinner. One of the ladies at another table struck up a conversation. We described our trip and why we had just arrived. Her husband said, “Oh, you should have taken the cut off, the little sign with the arrow. It was only about a kilometer of dirt then a big four lane road the rest of the way, maybe ten kilometers to Veracruz. You took the long way here.”

We realized that when we asked if Veracruz was ahead of us, the men said yes. But they didn’t tell us it was the detour, or if they did, we didn’t understand.

A couple of years later, we were to be on a road in India that was one hundred percent worse, and we remembered the detour in Mexico and laughed at how scared we had been.

Maria Ruiz was born in Santa Barbara, California; her family had been there since the Spaniards first converted the Indians & created small towns. She graduated from the University of San Diego State in 1972 & taught for 8 years before starting her own business. After retiring she began a ten-year odyssey to visit and live in 57 countries around the world. She just recently relocated to California. Her book, I’ll be in the Fourth Grade Forever, can be ordered on Smashwords & Amazon. Her blog can be found at


  1. Oh my, what an adventure, Maria! I love your stories.


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