Richmond, November 2017

In the last two days, I had already accomplished three of the states in my five state journey to finish up the east coast. The next stop was Richmond to acquire my Virginia tattoo. I woke up in Washington, D.C., and had an early morning Amtrak to Richmond. I slept well on the train ride over and having a couple of hours before my appointment, I decided to walk to the tattoo shop. I did not have a hotel room for that night because I had an overnight bus ride to my next stop so I had a rather heavy backpack to carry around, but that did not deter me.

There was a direct path to the tattoo shop from the station, but it did not go through anything interesting, and I was a tourist. I decided to take a long detour and walk along the river and through some of the parks that I saw on the map. I first walked over to Browns Island, which had some rather inappropriate looking signs indicating where “The Slave Trail” was. As historically accurate as that may have been, using a casual Comic Sans font was a rather distasteful choice, I thought. I saw some old war cannons and crossed the T Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, which was full of quotes from the civil war.

While crossing the Potterfield bridge, I looked over to my right and saw an amazing suspension bridge hanging over the river. And it really was suspended, from the highway above. It looked kind of challenging, in a slightly risky way, and I knew I needed to cross that next. I finished crossed the Potterfield bridge and came to an odd patch of land near some railroad tracks and a sketchy little trail that I hoped would take me to the suspended bridge. I could see the highway that it was suspended from, but saw no way to get to the bridge from it. The trail took me into some brush along James River and under the highway, and I was very relieved to come upon a sign to get to Belle Isle, which looked to be the way to get to the bridge. Considering I was alone and walking through parks and underpasses, I have to say that I never once saw any homeless people or felt unsafe.

I climbed a staircase and crossed a short bridge to get onto Belle Isle. There were a number of families out playing on the rocks in the park and taking hikes throughout the little island. I was determined to get to the bridge and take a rest as my backpack was feeling extremely heavy after all that walking. I finally located the walkway leading up to it and watched as a little girl came down the walkway in tears. Apparently she was afraid of heights, but her family forced her to cross it. Seeing someone so scared made me even more excited to see what all the fuss was about. As I started walking on the bridge, which was the footbridge to Belle Isle suspended from the Robert E Lee bridge, I marveled at its construction. It was suspended by mere wires from the highway above and was built in a series of arches.There was not much edge to it at all, and someone could easily fall into the river below. I loved it.

After crossing the footbridge, I found a place to rest and ate some of the trail mix that the Washington, D.C. hotel had given me. After a short break, I walked through Gambies Hill Park and saw the Virginia War Memorial and then made my way to Carytown to my appointment at Heroes & Ghosts Tattoo. I did not have any real connection to Virginia or Richmond, but I wanted to finish my spine of traditional tattoos. Because Virginia is a state of tall ships, I thought a tall ship or a ship in a bottle done in a traditional style would be an appropriate Virginia tattoo. I had sent my chosen artist, Jess Versus, a photo of the awkward spot she would be filling and some images of tattooed ships that I liked. I also photo-shopped a couple of the tattooed images into the spot on my back so she could see what I imagined could be possible placements.

When I met Jess at the shop, she showed me her design, which ended up being a ship in a bottle, and it was perfect. First of all, it was an elegant-looking bottle, which looked like a bottle, and not just a square frame with a cork on top. And not only did it contain a beautiful, full ship inside, but an entire scene with waves, clouds and a sun. For a piece that small, she was able to include so much detail. Plus, it fit into my back spot with minimal overlap. I had to wait quite a while for her to set up and did not know what was taking so long, but I found out later that she had spilled coffee all over her station and had to clean up before she could call me over. I didn’t mind having the extra time to rest my feet and stop sweating.

As the tattoo was another spine piece, Jess had to lift up and cut away the extra covering from the Delaware leopard tattoo, so she could get to the space. It was less painful than the leopard, mainly because I was not hungover, but also because it was lower on my back, which is a little meatier. We did not talk much during the session, and it was over quickly. The colors she used were bright and beautiful, and it came out better than I imagined or expected.

Carytown was a super cute, busy little part of Richmond, full of hip places to eat and drink. I went across the street to Mellow Mushroom pizza and ordered beers and an enormous calzone, which I nearly even finished. Afterwards, I did not have much else to do and I was tired from my two hour walk that afternoon, but I walked another mile and a half over to the Greyhound bus station and waited for my bus to Charleston, West Virginia to complete the east coast states. I actually really liked Richmond. It was clean and safe, and the footbridge was amazing. My Virginia tattoo is one of my favorites so far as well. It is feminine and pretty, and healed bright and crisp. The piece is an adventure in a bottle and as tiring as traveling can be, I am always ready for more.

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