Lingering in St. Catharines the day after our our big Thanksgiving dinner, we decide to take a walk along the lake to Port Dalhousie. I probably don't have to say that a day like this, having some time with a family that likes each other so well, is among the greatest gifts. I don't need to be reminded to be grateful for what I have. But I'm sure glad we have a day that reminds us to say it out loud.
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.