Afraid that today is the last time it's going to feel so gloriously summer-like this year, I took full advantage.
Conveniently, I had multiple interviews to do in Kilmarnock, leaving me mere minutes from Merroir at 1:45. Only an idiot would have high-tailed it back to Richmond without stopping by.
Driving back over the bridge, the river looked silver-gray and the sky was crowded with clouds but once on the gravel road to Merroir, I could see blue sky and bluer water beckoning.
The hostess sat me in the center-most table, the sun on my back and the river view spread out before me. Only two other tables were occupied (and only two when I left) and one was by a staff member schooling the visitors on oysters and how much more slowly the river heats and cools off than the air.
Boats were bobbing at the marina next door - one had a small pirate flag next to a small Confederate flag - and sailboats were spanning the mouth of the bay.
I began with Wimmer Gruner Veltliner and a salad of hydroponic butter lettuce with cranberries (not craisins, so decidedly tart), sunflowers, sauteed honey onions and fromage bleu. Only problem? The hearty breeze kept trying to blow my lettuce leaves off my plate. Solution? Eat faster.
The music was pretty much bluegrass, with occasional recognizable songs such as "Wagon Wheel," easy background listening on such a gorgeous day.
Next to me was a trio who weren't speaking English but the most interesting thing I noted was how one of the guys would suck the spices off the steamed shrimp before shelling it. Brilliant! How had that never occurred to me?
I could hardly enjoy such a perfect day at the river without oysters, so I got my favorite Old Saltes and sucked the briny liquor out of the shells.
When I inquired of my server if I could finish with a half glass of wine, she said they didn't do that but she'd check with her manager and ask, returning with a generous half pour which accompanied me down to an Adirondack chair by the dock.
There, I again put my back to the sun and watched as sea gulls battled it out for supremacy on posts in the water, squawking at each other as they tried to assert themselves.
One dock over, a series of tiny American flags stood out stiffly in the warm, afternoon breeze.
Summer was teasing me even as she was ripping out my heart with a day as gloriously warm and perfect as this set to the sounds of water lapping, tree tops rustling in the wind and bird calls. Is there any feeling more exquisite than sitting waterside on an 82-degree day?
Let's put it this way: if I hadn't had a date tonight, I'd have sat there until Merroir closed, returning to the restaurant only to score more food and drink.
My only regret was that now that the dock has railings, I couldn't stick my feet in the water. And I'd just heard from an oyster expert that the river is till plenty warm, so that was just too bad.
I was alone down there until a couple of employees came down to rearrange tables for an upcoming wedding on Saturday. Apparently they had their first one a couple of weeks ago and now they're hosting another. Couples get married at the end of the dock and the reception swirls in the area where I was sitting. The bride and groom-to be could only wish for a day as beautiful as today for their celebration.
I left them to their rearranging and headed back up to visit the loo and leave. On the way, I chatted with the duo who'd been seated near me, discovering that he was a visitor from Michigan who'd been to Merroir before a couple of years ago.
Like two old-timers, we immediately lapsed into a "remember when?" session, lamenting how fancy Merroir has gotten and missing its rustic elements. The old dock! The long-gone oyster shell pile! The mismatched tables!
Yet despite how uptown things have become, here we both were, back on a random gorgeous Tuesday, loving our lives because we'd spent the afternoon there.
It feels like today might be the last day of summer 2014, I told him. "Then we were exactly where we should've been for it," he agreed.
Out of the mouths of strangers straight to my sun-tinged ears. Oh, happy day.