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Who needs words when Jamie Betts’ photos from Virginia Special Olympics’ Over the Edge extreme fundraiser are here?! My second time rappelling down a 24-28-storey building, depending how  you count, just about 400 feet high, was more eventful than last year’s trip because the wind was gusting 20-30 miles an hour.

Nutzy, Kate Hall and I

Nutzy isn’t the only one who is nuts, but once you’re up on the top of the SunTrust Building in Shockoe Slip, the view is so spectacular, it’s easy to forget why you’re there.  Ostensibly it’s to raise funds and awareness of Special Olympics Virginia and the good work they do year-round. I’m all for that, but let’s face it–there are some of us who like doing  something that most people wouldn’t consider doing. As we were waiting our turns, Kate Hall, of RichmondMom.com asked if we could look over the edge before we rappelled. We were of course, tethered in, but kneeling near the lip of the building and looking down was the only thing that made my innards get all wobbly. There was no ground in sight. Even Paul Woody, who went ahead of me and who wasn’t that far gone, was out of sight. I backed away right quickly. Once it was time to do the deed, I was nervous only about making a better start than I had the year before when my quads froze and I had to sit  on my rear to push off from the building. Not my finest momemt, but there was no photographer to witness it, so why am I telling you now?

All went well this time around, and I even have the photo to prove it.

Hanging out in Richmond

You would expect that the writer of Insiders\’ Guide to Richmond would bubble with enthusiasm about good ole RVA, and most days that is certainly the way I see this town–rivery, artsy, quirky, historic, architecturally interesting, and quite tasty. Walking all over town on our Real Richmond food tours, I get the chance to tout what’s going on and what’s coming up.

I’ve been high on Richmond for a while, and rarely turn down the chance to go over the top in my search for unique experiences. Hence this shot atop Monumental Church while I was writing the book–ok while I was researching the book. My hands were gripping the treads pretty tight to get much writing done up there.

Angle of repose?

So when I say something’s coming up, I really mean it. One of my favorite things coming up Oct. 20th and 21st: Over the Edge. Last October I had the distinct pleasure of rappelling down 25 stories of the SunTrust building on E. Cary St. in Shockoe Slip for Over the Edge–Special Olympics Virginia’s extreme fundraiser.

I swear I'm there

I’ll do it again Oct. 21st. People do this nutty thing to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics and all the good work they do year-round for the thousands of Special Olympians in Virginia. It’s really not much of a challenge to be pampered and outfitted and safety-checked and instructed to do something for 30 minutes that lots of people would kill to do. Poor word choice.

People with special needs handle much tougher challenges every darned day, and more often than not they don’t get cheered and acquire goodie bags and t-shirts for their trouble. Special Olympics activities–the big ones we hear about–and the smaller, more routine ones we don’t–offer the chance to exult in effort and accomplishment and cameraderie. That always feels fantastic. If you want that feeling to have staying power, please support Special Olympics. It will give you a natural high, too.

Friday at 3 I’ll be up on the roof of the SunTrust building in downtown Richmond, going over the edge for Special Olympics Virginia for good ole Richmond Magazine. It was my idea, sort of, except for the Special Olympics folks coming up with the extreme fundraiser concept and getting the SunTrust building and organizing and coordinating with expert riggers (one can only hope) and inexpert rappellers so we all work together to support Special Olympics athletes. It’s  a good thing it’s a good cause cause otherwise I’m not sure I would get my feet off the ground.

I'm getting dizzy and I'm still on solid ground

Watching the first season of MadMen, with Don Draper tumbling down the side of a skyscraper in the intro, was not necessarily the best training technique for rappeling 400 feet. I’m actually not so worried about the 400 feet, it’s my two feet that will likely be the problem. Making them move in concert with my hands, to be exact. I will not be chewing gum at the same time. As long as I land on my feet…and wear better socks, I’ll be ok.

While chatting with my friends at Webbones yesterday, Stephanie made an off-hand comment about Oct. 23rd being the drop-dead date for a project of mine. Ha Ha. Funny she should put it that way. It is true that Oct. 23rd at noon is my first book-signing/meet the author event at Fountain Bookstore and afterwards I’ll be leading the inaugural (and FREE!) Real Richmond  food tour through the highs and lows of Richmond history in Shockoe Slip, Shockoe Bottom, and the edge of Church Hill, but where’s the near-death experience in that?

Oct. 22nd is more likely my drop-dead date since that’s when, at 3 p.m., to be exact, I’m scheduled to go Over the Edge and rappel from the top of the almost 400 ft tall SunTrust building for Richmond Magazine as part of a Virginia Special Olympics extreme fundraiser. I had several good looks at the building while I lounged on various hills during the Folk Festival, and it doesn’t look so tall from that distance. Up close is another story. 

The top is there somewhere

Of course, it is the second tallest building in Richmond, but I think it’s better if I shrink it down to something more manageable. No biggie, so to speak.

So why worry about what I’m supposed to do Oct. 23rd, when it could all be a moot (and messy) point.  I would be sad to miss InLight the night of Oct. 22nd though.

I swear I thought of this topic on our last vacation, before the guy broke his ankle badly, tore the ligaments and dislocated the bejeezus out of everything. I had a whole series of articles planned–perhaps even books–Best Cities My Husband Won’t Go To, Best Art Galleries He Won’t Visit, etc. I’d write Best Sofas for Watching World Cup and the Tour de France, but there’s only one–in fact–only one spot on one sofa that rates the highest marks.

I have actual sympathy for his current state, I really do. I have absolute faith that he will return to fine bike-riding form. I also know that he will still think the following bike ride is nuts. 

I like to head west in Westover Hills and Woodland Heights along Riverside Drive to sneak into Manchester and go where it looks like no one should go–past Legend Brewing through the old warehouse and factory district on bumpy roads with the occasional old railroad track to cross and then cut across Hull Street and go north, close to Caravati\’s, the architectural salvage mecca, taking any number of  numbered streets to Maury St. where the oil storage tanks live. Go left through the desolate landscape where it looks like human beings have no business and continue up and over more railroad tracks under I-95 past the city’s sewage treatment plant and swing left into Ancarrow’s Landing and Manchester Docks. It’s exciting riding through what should be a movie set hoping you don’t get a flat tire on the torn up roads. I like a city with some grit to it. If you prefer fake stuff, go to Hilton Head, SC where the gas stations are concealed behind frippery.

Boaters and fisherfolk know Ancarrow’s Landing, and those who have done the somber and moving Richmond Slave Trail walk (which you can do 8:30 p.m. July 24th in a guided, torchlit walk led by Ralph White. Cost is $5. Call(804) 646-8911 to register), but most people never make it to this spot along the river.  It’s real Richmond. More about the Slave Trail in my next post.  At any rate, head back the way you came or take a right on Hull St. and head over the Mayo Bridge into Shockoe Slip and Bottom.  Empty on Sunday mornings.  Head west to the Manchester Bridge or further west to the Lee or Boulevard bridges–all depends if you want to be north or south for most of the return. It’s a more peaceful ride on a weekend than is necessarily good for a city that should have more people doing things downtown, but take the open road when you can get it.

I’m back!

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