Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ode to a Walking Companion

Take me to the river, dip me in the water.

My new walking buddy, the one I met through my blog, had suggested another trek, this one along the North Bank Trail, which I hadn't walked in ages. We met at the O-Hill overlook like old friends and set out, talking all the way.

She told me about her business trip to New Jersey while I shared my recent ocean adventure. She's off to the Outer Banks soon and we bonded over old beach cottages with cross breezes and open windows.

Without even discussing it, we both climbed aboard Bubba's bench when we reached it, drinking in the view of the rapids and Belle Isle. Not everyone "gets" Bubba's, but she does.

Since our last walk had been the pipeline walkway and then on to Chapel Island, we hadn't done any real trail walking together yet, but we turned out to be more than compatible. Every short-cut slope I suggested, up or down, she agreed.

When we got close to Texas Beach, I was bowled over to see a new wooden trail walk where there used to be some boards and logs you had to balance yourself on to get across that muddy swath. I'd seen some family groups turn back rather than attempt the makeshift balance beam. Now it's wide, flat and safe, albeit totally without personality.

At Texas Beach, we found a couple on the rocks, a young mother and children spread out on a blanket and a girl in a bikini reading on a rock out in the water. We took off our shoes and socks and began making our way out into the James, our cooling reward after the heated slog through the riverbank's overgrowth.

The rocks underwater were slick and my friend headed down before catching herself, although wisely, she was wearing linen pants which dry quickly. We waded out into the river, immediately feeling our core temperatures dropping, and admired the peaceful serenity of the un-peopled view.

Gazing out at the river, I was disappointed to see that all the Japanese-looking piled rock sculptures that adorned the furthermost rocks last summer were gone. What a shame.

We talked as much as we walked on the way back - what a small town Richmond is (especially when it comes to online dating), the pleasures of house and dog-sitting (central A/C and two warm bodies in bed with her), Broad Appetit (we'd both gone alone) - pausing only when a passing screechy train made it impossible to hear each other.

As always, the walk back seemed far shorter than the walk there and I was soon saying goodbye to my friend as she set off to grocery shop and I headed home on Pine Street to scope out the progress of the ICA building on the corner of Broad.

Passing a guy in a hard hat by the site, I smiled and he returned it, saying, "Walk a mile for me, will you?" Explaining that I was closing in on six miles already and almost home, I said I could only do a half mile for him. He accepted my offer, I waved farewell and kept going.

As I approached the corner, from behind me I heard him calling, "I'd walk with you if I had time. I really would." And I'd take you up on that if you did, given how sincere you sound.

All I ask is that you keep up. I might even slow down just a tad just because it's such a treat to have company on my walk.

But it's most satisfying, like today, when I don't have to.

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