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‘Through hellacious traffic’

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001

Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News, on coming to Tampa for the big game:

* * *

"First, make sure you've booked to the right Bay. You want Tampa Bay, not San Francisco Bay. Each is traversed by four major bridges. OK, three of Tampa Bay's "bridges' are glorified causeways connecting Pinellas County to Hillsborough County. The fourth is the awesome Sunshine Skyway bridge linking Pinellas and Bradenton (sic) counties, a watery, 21-mile ride.

"If Gertrude Stein had described Tampa and St. Petersburg instead of Oakland, she could have said, "There is no there there -- squared.'

"However . . . guests at Dick Schaap's annual Super Bowl party are advised to appoint a designated driver -- Lloyd Bridges. The bash is at Nick Bolletieri's Tennis Academy in Bradenton. Much of the 25-mile drive from Tampa or St. Pete is over water. Maybe they won't remember the Liberian ore freighter, Summit Venture, taking out 1,000 feet of the original bridge on May 9, 1980, with a loss of 35 lives.

". . . Some key points to remember: Raymond James Stadium is next to the airport. It is walking distance from Tampa's notorious lap-dancing strip, where one joint, Mons Venus, employs 300 gyrating artistes. Which, in turn, is just a short cab ride from two of the area's best steak houses . . .

"The beaches, the best seafood and many of the elite golf courses are 25 miles to the west, over the causeways, through hellacious traffic. Allow an hour for any journey over water. Prepare for anything from blue heads with Minnesota plates driving 35 in a 70-mph zone to cement mixers going 70 in a 35 zone. After a week driving in the Tampa Bay area, you'll never fear an I-95 trip through Philly again."

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