When planning an all day adventure, it's essential to pick a partner open to following your lead to create the perfect storm.
First, I need someone willing to knock off a quick five miles walking along the river, not to mention someone eager to climb rocks, remove shoes and cool down in one of the James' many natural Jacuzzis situated between rocks and created by the rushing water fed by nearby falls.
Someone who agrees that the second a snake is spotted - even a five inch one- it's time to move on.
Second, it's essential I have someone willing to cross state lines to eat lunch, and by lunch, I mean eat crabs until we can't eat anymore.
After a brief and soul-sucking stretch on I-95, we took Route 301 up past Fort A.P. Hill, through Port Royal and Dahlgren and landed in downtown Pope's Creek, Maryland at Captain Billy's Crabhouse.
And unlike my visit there last June, this time we ate outside on the deck overlooking the Potomac River and the bridge that had brought us there. Five other tables were occupied when we arrived and we outlasted them all, including a couple who sat down after us, only to rethink their decision and move indoors.
Everything about being there was ideal - the jet skis buzzing by with rooster tails arcing behind them, the noisy birds atop almost every post on the nearby docks, the especially white clouds in the sky - including our 22-year old waitress, Brittney, who's lived in that area her entire life, making her skittish about moving to Short Pump to live with her boyfriend.
She's tempted only because then she'd have access to Olive Garden and the Cheesecake Factory. Honestly, we wanted to kidnap her and bring her back to Richmond with us, if only to show her (cue music) a whole, new world.
Instead, we ordered crabs, steamed shrimp and coleslaw and began the slow process of eating a lunch that would take a couple of hours to finish satisfactorily.
Although we differed on a few points - I don't use malt vinegar or a knife and we remove the smallest legs at different points in the process - both of us grew up being home-schooled by our elders in Advanced Crab Eating for Connoisseurs.
Few attain our level of mastery.
The afternoon passed in a haze of claw cracking, view admiring (and a bit of boat envy when a couple set out in the boat we'd been hearing bang against the dock since we sat down) and contentment, with just enough of a breeze to keep flies away.
Only the music - modern country with an occasional classic rock artist like Steve Miller or '90s throwback such as 311 - could have used some improvement, although I was having such a wonderful time I found myself somehow sucked in by a Brad Paisley song.
If she was a drink, she'd be single barrel bourbon on ice
Smooth, with a kick, a chill and a burn all at the same time
She's Sunday drive meets high speed chase
She ain't just a song, she's the whole mixtape
I can't say if I'd have even noticed the song if I hadn't been so happily eating crabs on the river on a summer's day, or perhaps southern Maryland is just a place where such a song fits.
By the time we bid Brittney farewell, the early dining crowd was beginning to arrive, our hands still reeked of crabs despite multiple washings and we knew our clothes were more than a tad ripe.
Not ashamed to admit more than a couple hunks of crab landed in my bra and on the chair next to me once my hands and mouth got going.
The drive back down 301 was relatively uneventful except for when it was highly dramatic, but my partner in crime called for reinforcements and Super Bruno not only saved the day, but teased her about her crabby breath before sending us on our way.
Third, and perhaps most importantly because it would be at this point (8 hours into our adventure) that most people would falter, I require someone who sees the value in a completely unique experience, even if it is after a long day and situated 35 miles in a different direction.
And that's after we got home, cleaned up and changed. Coincidentally, we'd both chosen flowered dresses for our rendezvous in Goochland.
Lickinghole Creek Brewery was positively packed when we drove up its dusty, red clay-covered driveway to join the throngs there for pick-your-own sunflowers. Okay, probably just as many were there for beer, given the lines.
But we were there to gather armfuls of free flowers with which to brighten up our city apartments and remind us of a fabulous day.
Walking towards the fields, we saw an artist busy at his easel capturing all the yellow flowers nodding around him and passed scores of people clutching bouquets of sunflowers.
Pegging us for new arrivals, a woman advised, "Go to the back rows!"
The sum total of my experience working in fields harvesting involved picking strawberries, which, I'm here to tell you, bears little resemblance to cutting flowers taller than me.
Unlike low-growing berries, sunflower fields are tall and dense and once you hack your way through fields of squash and melons to get to them, it's sticky hot, even just before sunset.
Which is not to say that being surrounded by so many flowers under puffy, pink-tinged clouds as dusk settled in wasn't worth every drop of sweat that rolled down the back (and front) of my sunflower-printed dress, because it was.
But so is having a partner who thinks a day that begins on the rocks, moves out of state and ends in a field is just as wonderful as I do.
Brad would say she's the whole mixtape.