The world had effectively taken in the welcome mat but this was something you could do, something different and definable.
It’s good to have purpose.
Especially in a pandemic.
Bob Ross didn’t set out to walk over each and every bridge in the Lower Mainland during the Covid lockdowns. Bob and his wife, Sandra, were waiting while their snow tires were being replaced and the Oak Street Bridge was right there and, well, you know, one thing leads to another. And another. And another. In fact, it led to walking over 32 bridges before the pandemic was a year old. Gyms were closed. Activities of every sort were severely curtailed. Walking was one of the few exercise options available.
Activities of every sort were severely curtailed. Walking was one of the few exercise options available.
There’s something about a bridge that engages people. When visiting New York, people set aside an afternoon to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. Tower Bridge in London is thronged with tourists at any time of day. People are already signing up for the October 22nd reopening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. (For inspiration, they’ve lowered the price for the climb to $198 from the usual price of $308. Shockingly expensive, isn’t it?).
Burrard Bridge isn’t quite as epic a structure as the aforementioned, but you’d have to admit, the view is mighty fine. Bob and Sandra must have thought so too, as they set out to cross it next. They traveled north over the Burrard Street bridge then returned south over the Granville Street bridge. It occurred to them that they’d crossed three of Vancouver’s bridges. It was then that it dawned on them: Why not make a point of crossing all of Vancouver’s major bridges? The world had effectively taken in the welcome mat but this was something you could do, something different and definable. Their first bridge crossing had been on April 2nd. By the middle of May, they’d walked over eight of Vancouver’s nine major bridges. They would have covered off all nine but one of the bridges isn’t pedestrian accessible. Do you know which one?
It was then that it dawned on them: Why not make a point of crossing all of Vancouver’s major bridges?
By the time Canada Day rolled around, the Rosses had crossed all of the significant bridges in the Lower Mainland. Being as nothing succeeds like excess and being as the pandemic showed no signs of letting up, they expanded their purview, setting their sights on Fraser River crossings as far away as Hope. Due to an injury, Sandra’s participation was scaled back but, by the first week of December, Bob had completed his grandiose pandemic project and had crossed his last local bridge.
So what do you do when you’ve finished a task like this one? Why, you write a book about it, of course! We’ll Cross That Bridge is a handsome compendium of these many bridges and includes surprising histories that illustrate the changes in the region. I’d grown up hearing about the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge disaster but never knew the extent of the tragedy until I read Bob’s book. I’d heard about the misery of the flood of 1948 but I didn’t know that the bridge-mounted Mission River Gauge still monitors water levels on the Fraser to provide an early warning system. Bob checked out a yellow phone box on the pedestrian railing while crossing the Alex Fraser Bridge. The bridge patrol noticed this and checked with Bob to see if he was okay; the yellow box houses a crisis line phone. Turns out lots of bridges have a crisis line phone box.
The bridge patrol noticed this and checked with Bob to see if he was okay; the yellow box houses a crisis line phone. Turns out lots of bridges have a crisis line phone box.
Before the opening of the Cambie Bridge in 1985, False Creek was traversed by a swing span bridge known as the Connaught Bridge. The replacement bridge commemorated Henry J. Cambie’s construction of the rail line through the treacherous Fraser Canyon. You may have wondered about a giant metal hoop set into a concrete base on Expo Boulevard. It’s a ring gear and all that remains of the old swing span bridge. Bob Ross knows about the giant hoop as he attended the opening ceremony of the Cambie Bridge as he happens to be Cambie’s great grandson.
Bob Ross knows about the giant hoop as he attended the opening ceremony of the Cambie Bridge as he happens to be Cambie’s great grandson.
The anecdotes and snippets of local history in We’ll Cross That Bridge make it a delightful read. And as for which of Vancouver’s bridges isn’t pedestrian accessible?
The answer is the Arthur Laing Bridge.
But do you remember what the toll was on the Lions Gate Bridge?
Bob Ross does.
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This week’s question for readers:
HOW ARE YOUR PANDEMIC PROJECTS GOING? ANYTHING TO REPORT?
Responses to last week’s question:
The intersection of life and death; do you have stories where fate was on your side, but just barely?
I was seventeen, a new driver, hauling a small loaded utility trailer to the dump. I was doing 60 mph, the speed limit. A line of cars was coming towards me and some idiot at the back pulled out and sped toward the front of the line. It was too dangerous to pull onto the gravel shoulder so I braked hard. The car fish-tailed, I almost lost control. Out of options, I quietly accepted my fate and said a quick prayer. Then the miracle happened – the car third in line braked hard, creating a gap, allowing the idiot in the passing car to quickly move back into line. He disappeared into that space a quarter second before our vehicles would have collided.Leonard F. Tenisci
On a rainy evening, I packed up my children and dog and headed to the Vancouver airport. Returning home along highway 99 and approaching the tunnel, the largest bang occurred. I held tightly onto the steering wheel, but could not brake. Approaching the concrete divider before the tunnel entrance, I felt like giving up, but I was able to maintain composure, held tight onto the wheel and safely navigated our car. I remember one woman screaming at us, “What the hell are you doing?” I had just saved my entire family’s life and that was this stranger’s reaction…?Heather Colls
During the war in Croatia, in the fall of 1991, I was living in Dubrovnik, a 3rd year student at the Maritime University. There, I lived in the attic of a house with my roommate. One day, we were in the living room, reading, when the mortar rounds from the Serbian artillery started to fall nearby. We immediately went towards the door that led to the garden, with the intention of going outside to access the door to the basement of the house where it was much safer. The door was a heavy wooden door with a big window that was covered by a light curtain. We were perhaps two meters from the door when a 120 mm mortar round landed in the garden and exploded. The explosion shook the house and broke the windows. The pungent smell of smoke enveloped us and we were showered with the glass from the window. We sustained a few cuts from the flying glass and were shaken from the explosion. We were even more shaken realizing that had we been walking just a little bit faster, we would have been outside, only a few meters from the explosion. It would have been game over for both of us.Csaba Magyar
My wife and I will have been married (to each other) for 30 years come next May but it might have been a really short marriage. We were in Spain for our honeymoon, acting like tourists and gawking at the scenery instead of watching where we were going. My wife stepped off a curb to cross the street and by fate or karma or pure luck I reached out to pull her back as a bus went swishing past, a centimetre from our noses. I felt a little weak in the knees for a moment after that (she has saved my life too, so we’re about even).Joel Nitikman
While skiing in Tignes, France at age 17, I fell about 20 metres over a cliff, hitting rocks repeatedly. My bindings and a ski boot tore off. My broken skis resembled a crumpled W, like someone had taken a sledgehammer to them. After I landed on my back, immobile, observers assumed I was dead. Airlifted to hospital, I had no broken bones, only two black eyes, a head wound, and gash on my calf. My father, a dispassionate doctor, called me on my hospital bedside phone, said, “If you’d landed on your head, you wouldn’t be here right now.”Heather Conn
Hi Jane, when I was 16 I bought a motorcycle. Much to my chagrin my parents made me take a safe driving course, I had to get up at 6am on Sunday each week to go to it. One day I was at 16th and Arbutus with a buddy on the back. I was first in line to go through the intersection. When the light went green I shoulder checked each way, as I was taught at the school to do before entering the intersection, the most dangerous place to be on a motorcycle. A car was running a late red light and ended up smashing into a car turning left. If I had not done that, well we don’t need to go there. I still shoulder check in my car when I’m the first to enter the intersection.Malcolm Beames
In 2004 I was driving with a friend on the old single lane Sea to Sky highway. A large black bear ran on to the verge to my left to cross the road and I realized I was going to hit him dead center as he crossed in front of me. Suddenly a huge truck appeared around the bend coming my way at speed and hit the bear square on before it could run in front of my car. I can still see the bear filling the front grill of that truck and then seeing its red brake lights disappearing around the bend in my rear view mirror. We still reminisce about that moment when our lives were spared by the luckiest of timing.Lane du Toit
Many years ago when going to work at a mill on a midnight shift, a co-worker and I were waiting for a train to pass. This is back in the day of cabooses on the back of trains. There was a bright light and when it passed we crossed the tracks but another train was coming in the other direction. We didn’t know this because the lights had merged as one. The train missed my bumper by just a few feet. We both sat there in absolute shock, looking at each other, then burst out laughing, knowing how close we had come to death.Kelvin Lowrie