From Thursday at noon til Sunday at noon.  In that time, my son and I:  rafted the James, explored the art mural scene in Richmond on bike, climbed at the VCU climbing wall (my first experience), cycled to Jamestown (45 miles), explored Jamestown, cycled back to Richmond, ate at the fabulous 821(twice) AND mamazu’s, prepared a meal for our host family, and ate a meal prepared by our host family.  Oh, and did I mention the hurricane?  Or getting to see, from the window of the gate where I had just landed, Air Force One land and its de-planing passengers?  No?

DISCLAIMER:  This is not another swag post about my kid.  He just happens to have been the coordinator for all we did, and I can’t relate the adventures without telling that.    This trip was to have been a visit with him, and a chance to see where he lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.  If the splendor of Sam comes through, I can’t help that.

Son #2 is the assistant director of the Outdoor Program at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Back in the day (’78-’82 for me), these outdoor programs had a couple of backpacks to rent, maybe a bike to check out, and one or two trips per semester to a nearby state park.  No more.  Here’s a picture of the Center at VCU:


In the Fall 2012 semester alone, the program has taken 75 trips, has bikes (road and mountain), kayaks, paddle boards, climbing wall, backpacks, wetsuits available to students, conducts a student leadership program, has a staff of 40 students, and has its sights set on VCU Qatar , its sister campus, for a recreational trip during the 2013 school year.

Sam began this job in the fall of 2012, and I’ve been trying to get up to see him since then.  Regular readers of this blog know with my online law school, and my retired Delta-pilot-father, I take advantage of the pass travel with vigor.  When a weekend became available, I leapt at the chance to get this visit in.  With the patience and generosity of my ever-devoted partner/boyfriend to watch my high-maintenance dogs for the weekend, off I went.

When I boarded my flight in Atlanta for Richmond, an announcement was made that due to the arrival of the President in Richmond for a campaign event, there was a possibility that we might be delayed.  We arrived 7 minutes before the arrival of Air Force One, so I was able to see that occur from a great vantage point:

I missed seeing him in a hallway in a casino in Las Vegas in 2008 by seconds, so I was delighted to be seeing him, even at this distance!  Minutes later, I saw my precious boy just past the security point and off to our adventures we went.

First stop:  Sam’s “office”, the Outdoor Adventure Center at Virginia Commonwealth University.  We had time to grab a quick bite at the 821, a funky little cafe 2 blocks from work.

In my defense, we shared this monstrosity

Then it was back to the office to pack up and head out for an afternoon rafting adventure on the James.  The water was way down, which bummed out the kayakers, but suited me fine as Sam and I tackled it R2ing (riverspeak for 2 in a raft).  It was so unusual to be whitewater rafting with a city skyline as the backdrop.  I’ve got no pics, since I don’t have a waterproof case for my phone – Sam took some, and I’ll try to go back and edit after he posts those shots.

After getting the obligatory drenching (he’s still my son, after all) we changed into dry clothes and met up with Sam’s boss, and roommate couple, and dear friends Joey and Lauren for a dinner at mammazu’s, a high-funk, fabulous, Italian eatery.  We feasted upon vegetable lasagna, eggplant parmesan, rockfish, crab, bread, and wine.  The food and the conversation were delightful and memorable.

This is it. Srsly.

Moving into Friday morning, Sam and I hopped the bikes to his local coffee shop where we had our java and java talk, one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend.  From there we headed back to the center where we set out for a day of sightseeing Hollywood cemetery and Richmond’s street mural art scene.

One of two US Presidents buried here. Also, one CSA President. You’ll have to Google to find out. Ever the teacher.

Then it was back to the climbing wall where there was a combination climbing contest/halloween party.  You can be sure that the group associated with outdoor adventure is going to come through with the costumes.  I went as a cyclist (which was convenient since that’s what I had on…).


Sam went as a banjo player from Tennessee

I knew it was coming.  A test of the commitment Pledge.  When my kids were little, before they reached adolescence and I lost all credibility with them, I promised that whatever they would let me participate in with them, I would, and the Pledge raised its head again this night.  I had avoided the climbing piece for a long time, not being particularly enamored of heights, and not being overly strong in my upper body, and my weight being up a little because I haven’t been training.  No allowances, however, so up I went.  I at least had on climbing shoes, and of course my own boy at the other end of my harness.  I’m not sure where the fear comes from, because my rational mind was aware that I was secure from falling.  Maybe because I didn’t want to disappoint my son?  Maybe because I didn’t want to wimp out because I wasn’t strong enough to do it?  Ultimately it didn’t matter, because I did make it straight to the top, and what a rush that was!

Then it was home to a feast prepared by the lovely Lauren, and fashion modeling by darling Mercks.

Saturday morning saw us up early, gearing up with the 10 students who joined in for the bike ride to Chickahominy Riverfront park, near Jamestown, VA.  We had a slight mechanical situation along the way…

freaky tire tumor

…but resolved that and then headed into historic Jamestown for a very quick tour.

Sam and Pocahontas
Captain Smith. He was too high for me to be obscene with…sorry to disappoint.

After a campground cookout, we hit the tent for a night of sleep hearing Sandy’s first rainfall on the nylon.  After a campground breakfast of bacon and eggs, we set out back for Richmond, pinched between the system coming from the southwest and Sandy bearing down from the southeast.  We made it back to Richmond without getting too wet, and were glad to get off the bikes and head to Little Mexico for a little cerveza and chips before dinner.

Back home, after the lovely meal Lauren made for us, Sam and I pitched in and made salad, vegetable soup, and cornbread for our family dinner.

Then, just like that, it was Monday, and time to head back home.  Out of Richmond.  In the middle of Sandy the hurricane.  Usually there are 10 or so flights between Richmond and Atlanta; on this day, at least 6 of them were cancelled.  All the remaining were oversold.  When this happens, there’s nothing to do but try or wait it out.  We opted to try, and through some series of fortunate events, I made it to Atlanta, then on home to Nashville.

So, 96 hours with Sammy, and as always, I’m richer for it.

Thanks for reading!