sometimes waiting is good for you

The Burlington Skyway is part of the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) highway linking Hamilton (west) and Toronto (east) with the Niagara Peninsula.  A good portion of my family lives on the Niagara Peninsula and thus, I'm quite familiar with that bridge. 

Well, not so much anymore.  Some years ago when I lived in Windsor, I visited my brother Jeff and sister in law Carol for the weekend, and on my return home, suffered a panic attack at the top of that bridge.  It was a nasty experience; it was all I could do to get me and my car to the other side, where I could pull over and stop and get out of the car drag some oxygen into my lungs.  And plan my way up the side of Hamilton Mountain – the only way that would point me to Windsor (home).

Now, those of you that live near real mountains would laugh at the thought of this being called a "mountain."  "Hamilton Mountain" is really part of the Niagara Escarpment (one of the world's Natural Biosphere Reserves), where the earth juts up in a line leading from the Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula down through to that watery wonder, Niagara Falls and into western New York. 

But my point is not to discuss what people call a mountain in southern Ontario.  My point is, that having come across that bridge once in a sweating, hyperventilating, shaking mess, the idea of then having to drive up the side of that "mountain" with the view of the city of Hamilton at the bottom of a breathtaking earth-slide below me, was terrifying.  It took about an hour's convincing, and eventually I did it, making my way home to Windsor, stopping along the way about six times (over what is usually a three and a half hour trip) to collect myself after some minor highway overpass or other.

I'm pleased to tell you that, adjacent to the Burlington Skyway, (the thought of which still causes my palms to sweat), lies the older Burlington Lift Bridge.  The Lift Bridge might only take an extra two or three minutes (getting off and back on the highway) to get onto the Peninsuala, but one does risk reaching it when a ship is coming through between Lake Ontario and Hamilton Harbour, and waiting out the "lift" of the bridge while a ship passes through.

People travelling with me might find this an inconvenient hold-up.  Me – never wanting to ever experience any sort of panic attack ever again – doesn't mind waiting at all.  Turning off the car and watching a ship pass through the narrow canal is Zen-like.  Even on those days when my family is waiting for me on the other end.  After all, we all know I'm eventually going to get there.

Christmas 2010 Ship Burlington Lift Bridge 

 (Ship passing slow under bridge: beautiful thing 28 of 101.)


  1. Reply
    mike March 27, 2011

    Hi Jennifer!!

  2. Reply
    Jennifer March 27, 2011

    Hi Michael!

  3. Reply
    mike March 27, 2011

    Thanks for sharing that personal story. Lovely as usual.

  4. Reply
    Jennifer March 27, 2011

    Thanks for reading. It means a lot. x

  5. Reply
    FutureUrban March 27, 2011

    Waiting for the ship to pass through sounds lovely – very peaceful. Great post.

  6. Reply
    Selma March 27, 2011

    I love the photo. The contours, the lines, the shadows – just all of it.
    I am sorry about the panic attack. I have had a few of those myself and often the trigger is hard to find. Inexplicable little blighters…
    Sometimes waiting can be just what we need!

  7. Reply
    Mike March 27, 2011

    Reminds me of the panic attack I had when we were in Cleveland, there was a submarine tour… after going down the hatch, about 10 feet into it and over 100 feet to the exit hatch… I turned around and bolted out of there, I had never been that claustrophobic before!

  8. Reply
    Jennifer March 27, 2011

    Thank you Alex!

  9. Reply
    Jennifer March 27, 2011

    Thanks Selma. I took the photo on Christmas day to show my father. I was taking some old photos off my phone and I thought it was nice enough to warrant a blog post – even if it is a post about a panic attack!
    Yes, they are inexplicable little blighters. I often say, it’s not so much the bridge I fear, it’s the fear of having another one!

  10. Reply
    Jennifer March 27, 2011

    Oh yikes – I don’t know if I could be in a submarine either Mike. And yes, the scariest thing about a panic attack is that you’re never expecting it – that they seemingly come out of nowhere.

  11. Reply
    SusanMarie March 27, 2011

    So sorry to hear about your panic attack, no fun at all … but it was so interesting to learn some about where your home is. And I will admit, living at the foot of the Rockies, I did chuckle a bit at your mountain! Thanks for sharing it all.

  12. Reply
    Jeff Griffiths March 27, 2011

    We just returned from the Aviary in Niagara Falls…which can mean a ride over the Skyway Bridge, it is an easier trip than years ago when it was a skinny nightmare of trucks and high winds.(before they doubled its size) I grew up in Burlington and our family business was on the lake in Hamilton, the bridge or the lift bridge were a twice daily routine. I remember sitting in traffic jams while the bridge shook each time a truck went by on the other side. I love the lift bridge and was always happy to watch the boats. I still have dreams about both bridges, usually I find myself having to walk over the Skyway…ah memories.

  13. Reply
    Jennifer March 27, 2011

    Yes Susan, my part of the world certainly doesn’t have the magnificent impact of the Rockies – but the ancient features of the escarpment are really inspiring. When I am on the Manitoulin Island and mingling with those rocks that were tumbled out of the deep earth… I’m humbled.

  14. Reply
    Jennifer March 27, 2011

    My word Jeff, I imagine that was a skinny nightmare. I’m sure mine wasn’t the only panic attack, especially before the bridge was twinned!
    Curious about your walking over the skyway dreams…

  15. Reply
    Marilyn March 27, 2011

    Why not over the lift bridge anyway, it looks like it would be a shame to miss and you say it adds very little time to your trip. I can see that the thought of having a panic attack might be enough to cause another so anything for an easy life I say, and the slower and more relaxed the better.

  16. Reply
    Jennifer March 27, 2011

    You said it, my friend.

  17. Reply
    Steve capelin March 28, 2011

    Gee jenn,
    almost sounds like something I might go out of my way to experience rather than avoid. I love old bridges and old technology (and me in the mirror??). There’s a small 6 car river barge/ferry (the ones which run along cables strung between opposite banks) on the Richmond river near my father’s birthplace. I always seek it out and so far it’s still running.
    I annoyed the crap out of my son years ago by insisting on taking the road through the main street of every country town we encountered on a two day drive to Canberra rather than take all the super fast bypass roads.
    The long way round is often termed the scenic route – for good reason.

  18. Reply
    Jennifer March 28, 2011

    Well you know Steve, I could never be accused of taking the convenient route either – my “impractical-ness” has been thought to be maddening by some. May we both continue to annoy the crap out of practical people for the rest of our lives!

  19. Reply
    Susan Tiner March 28, 2011

    Good for you, realizing what you need and taking the time to make it happen.

  20. Reply
    Jennifer March 28, 2011

    Thank you Susan! 🙂

  21. Reply
    Downith March 29, 2011

    Oh Jennifer. I’ve had two panic attacks, both while skiing (go figure) but to have one while driving? Very scary.
    I remember the Burlington skyway – no panic attacks, but a bit of trepidation. Take the scenic route!

  22. Reply
    Jennifer March 29, 2011

    Yes Downith, the worst thing about a panic attack is feeling out of control. And feeling out of control in a big hunk of steel on wheels hurtling over a bridge at highway speeds was, to say the least, terrifying! Scenic route all the way!

  23. Reply
    Susannah April 6, 2011

    You really have my sympathy about the panic attacks – a terrible thing.
    Interestingly (and slightly related) I know of quite a few ‘Earth signs’ who have a fear of heights and feel unsettled if they haven’t got their feet on terra firma. They need to feel their feet on the earth and to feel rooted. It struck me that being up in the air like that, so removed from that ‘earthing’ may have contributed somehow? Just a thought?

  24. Reply
    Jennifer April 7, 2011

    That makes perfect sense to me – my earth sign manifests itself in me in many remarkable ways.

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