Thursday, January 5, 2017

All About the View Ahead

They should just make me walking ambassador for the city because I know how to dazzle.

It's one thing to take a date's conversational temperature when you're sitting at a restaurant or waiting for a movie to start, and quite another when they're hoofing it next to or behind you for five or six miles.

And, honey, never more so than on the first excursion out.

I don't gravitate to the huffing and puffing type. More than once, I've been told that their primary concern is whether they'll be able to keep up - which shouldn't be a concern if you're half a foot taller than me - and I hate to break it to them, but it's my main concern, too.

My companion on this morning's cold and gray walk was a long-time daily runner and regular exerciser, so I felt comfortable taking him through his paces to see what he could do (besides compliment my posture, which is always a fine start).

Naturally we had to begin in Jackson Ward (where he admitted he knew little about my neighborhood), wind our way down to the river and give him his first T Pot Bridge experience.

"I've got a salacious story, but I'm not sure if I should tell you," he says as we approach the new bridge. Come on, I adore salacious. He had me laughing almost immediately, showing me the spot on the bridge where he and a girlfriend once took liberties with each other in full view of some fishermen.

We agree, at least, that such activities are the provenance of the under-40 set.

I'm pleased that he's as taken with the high volume of the water rushing over the dam remnants under us as I am every time I walk it. To not appreciate the sheer noise of the experience is to miss much.

After climbing to the overlook where he rhapsodizes about a view he's never seen, we re-cross the bridge and I lead him down under the Manchester Bridge.

"Where are you taking me?" he wonders aloud, dropping behind me to navigate the rocky trail. Trust me, I assure him.

Although we have to hop rocks to get on because the river is high, we barely make it ten feet before he tells me he has no idea where he is. When I tell him we're walking on a pipeline approaching the pipeline walkway, he's amazed.

"How have I never been down here? How did I not know this existed?" he asks from behind.

I point out that he's having a singular experience on the pipeline because the water is so high it's almost even with the pipeline, a river rarity that makes walking on a rounded, uneven surface feel like an even greater adventure.

It's also a return to major volume as we pass a couple of Class IV rapids that look like they could spit out a kayaker without notice, the water rushing so furiously that even the birds have stationed themselves on high rocks out of harm's way.

Climbing up the ladder off the pipeline, we pass a couple of guys who ask if we were the ones they'd just seen from the overlook walking the pipeline. They want to do what we did. My date, the newly-minted expert, points out the steps to take them there.

A good sign - I've already converted him to the pleasures of the pipeline.

We walk back along the Canal Walk, across a mostly empty Brown's Island (where he tells me about the view from the top floor of the Federal Reserve where he once attended a party) and climb the hill behind Ethyl to the muddy, straw-covered Gary Gerloff Trail still in recovery mode after the soggy Folk Fest in October. This, too, is a new path for him.

It's somewhere on the hill coming up Second Street that he makes a joke about his aching legs. I raise an eyebrow. Are you looking to be disqualified? He's joking, he claims.

True or not, the key thing - his legs will recover, after all - is that he's held up his end of the conversational walk every step of the way. We've covered nuggets of personal history, Richmond anecdotes, uncovered shared friends and agreed what a true gentleman one of my exes - whom he knew well - was. For the record, he wants to be colored interested and intrigued.

Best of all, the only time he lagged behind was to enjoy the view. Some walkers are made, not born.

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