Road trip leads to romance for Tampa woman

TAMPA — Heather McDonald really wanted to go to Costa Rica. Biking, hiking and rafting with two girlfriends from Australia would make her forget the relationship she had just ended. • But those Aussie gals outvoted her. They loaded the car with munchies, cranked up Lily Allen and buckled up for a road trip to Savannah. • Adam Richardson was charming clients in Savannah when he spotted McDonald's trio. He had been a guest speaker at an agricultural sales convention and would fly home to England the next morning. • They began a conversation on a rooftop cafe in the historic city in October 2007. It continued through three family holidays in three months. • And McDonald did get to Costa Rica. • On their honeymoon.

Richardson saw the slender redhead towering over the two blondes and steered his group in her direction.

His British accent helped break the ice. The two chatted and quickly discovered they were both sales pros, always kept a travel bag packed and owned black cats.

"He scrolled through his Blackberry to show me a picture of his black cat named Thomas," McDonald said. "And I showed him a picture of my black cat named Timothy."

The most important information they learned was that Richardson's employer, an international mineral fertilizer company, has its North American headquarters in Tampa.

McDonald, now 32 and a senior account sales rep for an industrial and consumer packaging company, had moved to Tampa a few months earlier.

"We probably would have met at Bella's or Timpano's," she said, two Hyde Park restaurants they both frequented.

Hours later, they called it a night, but only because Richardson, 30, had an early flight to catch.

No worries, he said. He was due back in Florida in a week or so for a convention at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort. McDonald picked him up for their second evening together.

She was happy to see him again, and happy to hear he'd be returning at the end of November.

"You know that's Thanksgiving," she told the Brit, explaining the shortened workweek and abundance of turkey.

Why not spend the All-American holiday with her family in New Market, Ala., outside Huntsville?

"He had never eaten pumpkin pie," she said. Her Aunt Pam peppered him with questions, but he won over his future mother-in-law with a set of Victorian silver spoons.

"I was bringing a typical gift from my home in Yorkshire," he said. "I had no idea she collected antique spoons."

Driving to the Nashville airport — she was heading back to Tampa, and he was going to a meeting in Canada — McDonald mentioned she would be spending Christmas and New Year's alone.

Why not celebrate with his family in England? By the end of the day, he had booked her first class tickets.

Now it was McDonald's turn to be introduced to a new holiday — Boxing Day — and assorted family members.

"She was the first person I ever brought to Christmas dinner,'' Richardson said.

A highlight of the visit: driving to Delph, a village in Greater Manchester, to find the house where McDonald's grandmother was born and lived until immigrating to Australia at age 5.

For New Year's Eve, the couple joined the exuberant throngs at the annual Hogmanay street party in Edinburgh. No topic was taboo on the long drive to Scotland: old relationships, having kids, religion, country living.

"We let it all out,'' she said.

They ended 2007 reveling in their third holiday in their three-month relationship. On a sales trip barely three weeks later, Richardson detoured to Tampa. Sitting at a bar on Howard Avenue after dinner, he turned to McDonald.

"I want to spend the rest of my life with you," he said.

The proposal took a minute to register.

"Yes, yes, yes," she bubbled like the champagne soon to arrive.

Richardson moved to Tampa six months later, to her apartment on Harbour Island. The airport is practically a second home for the couple.

Wedding guests from England, Australia, Canada and the United States joined them April 11 as they became Mr. and Mrs. Richardson in the tea garden at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort.

It was Easter, yet another holiday for rejoicing with family.

Then they were off to honeymoon in Costa Rica, the trip the bride is so happy she postponed.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at ascherzer@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3332.

Road trip leads to romance for Tampa woman 07/16/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 16, 2009 5:30am]

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