Sunday, November 5, 2017

Walk This Way

There I was, just minding my own business on Brown's Island.

But as I rounded a bridge support to access the pipeline, I saw a couple approach a trio of sweaty women coming from that direction. I could sense that the duo were visitors from 50 paces. When I got closer, all I needed to hear were the words "Potterfield" and "pipeline" to know that I needed to intervene.

Seems the visitors were looking for the Potterfield Bridge and asking the runners if they'd just come from it and the runners were trying to direct them there, despite having just come from the far-superior Pipeline. Whoa, there, sweaty ones.

Inserting myself into a group of strangers' conversation, I ascertained that the trio had just come from running the Pipeline, yet didn't hesitate to direct the tourists to a far inferior river experience. Granted, they asked for it, but what do out-of-towners know? Explaining that if they only had time for one walk, it needed to be the Pipeline and I would be happy to lead them there. The runners became my cheerleaders.

"Go with her!" they insisted, despite not knowing me from Eve. "She's right and she can show you how great it is." They followed willingly.

John and Sharon were visiting from Indianapolis and it didn't take long to see that they were my kind of tourists. Yesterday they'd begun at Lewis Ginter, moved on VMFA, shopped Carytown, gone to the Byrd to hear the mighty Wurlitzer played (and left once the ultra-violent film lost their interest) and eaten at Sen Organic across the street, which they'd loved.

Not bad for one day in RVA.

Making our way down the edges of Brown's Island, they were surprised when we came to the actual pipeline at the river's edge. "It really is a pipeline!" Sharon marveled. Yup, that's what was promised you.

With the overcast sky, the pipeline felt especially cozy today with trees and overhanging branches the dominating motifs instead of the usual sunshine. They were instantly smitten with the vibe - noisy, rushing water, faint breeze, proximity to the James - and John began taking pictures.

"Stop, you two, turn around and smile!" he instructed midway along the walkway. I'm a stranger, I reminded him, just take the photo of Sharon. "No, you're absolutely part of this experience now. Smile!"

Once we'd climbed up the ladder at the end, they wanted advice about the rest of their plans for the day: Monument Avenue and Maymont's Dooley Mansion. John said they'd hoped to do a plantation but had to get to Virginia Beach tonight. I explained that Shirley Plantation could be part of the trip to the beach and next thing you know, they're having me rewrite their itinerary.

John wanted to see the Capital, but they needed to retrieve their car, so I said I was already heading home through Capital Square, so maybe they'd see me there. I'd barely reached the top of the steps when they called my name from their car as they passed on Bank Street. Parking on Ninth Street, they caught up to me near the George Washington statue.

"Hope you don't mind, here we are again!" they called.

Not in the least. They marveled at the Gothic grandeur of Old City Hall and we walked to new City Hall in hopes of the observation deck being open, but alas, no. More questions followed - Poe Museum? Texas Beach? Chapel Island? - and finally we said goodbye.

They thanked me profusely for being their guide for the morning before I instructed them on the most scenic way to get to Maymont and they left with a backward glance.

Walking back through J-Ward, I ran into a favorite actor climbing into his red pick-up truck with a "HEDWIIG" license plate. Asking if I was out walking, he got an earful as I shared my unexpected turn at entertaining strangers.

"Lucky them! They ran into the best possible welcome committee and tour guide in Richmond" he enthused, before we moved on to all the terrific plays currently in or about to be in production.

Wait, since when do men with better shoe collections than me have red pick-up trucks?

Probably since people like me have been leading strangers to the river. A good, long while anyway.


  1. I want you to be my tour guide to the Pipeline!!!

  2. Happy to! I love sharing my favorite walk with pipeline virgins!

  3. Actually anyone who noses around the north bank of the river around Brown's Island, the old Reynolds Plants etc. can find the pipeline. it's just a big drainage pipe -- I first stumbled across it in '77. used to take my dog for a run in the area below Ethel Corp. before they cut off access. You could drive your car around the front of their property & get a good view of the river. also before it was "Potter-field Bridge it was just an industrial catwalk over the levee extending out over the James. Part of it had been washed away decades earlier but you could still walk out almost to mid-river safely. The girl I dated at that time was an adventurous sort. We'd go out as far as the catwalk extended,.. then climb down to the rocks below. A few years later the city or someone removed a section near the shore to prevent such excursions. It is nice being out in the middle of the river over the rapids on a crazy day when the water flow is wild. As you know when the river gets at a certain height the pipeline is submerged. My girlfriend then was into scuba diving so she was never deterred.

    Happy walking.


  4. I still walk right past the "No Trespassing" sign to cut through Ethyl's property!

  5. good for you!!!!!!!!!!!!