A downtown love story: Eat, drink and be married
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"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
Paulo Coelho, "The Alchemist"
There are no rules when it comes to falling in love.
Two people in a crowded bar. A chance meeting. A shared laugh.
For Ginny Ellsworth and Bob McCord, that first spark of romance was lit at the 77901 Wine Bar during August's Pub Crawl in downtown Victoria.
Some background is needed here before this love story continues.
The Pub Crawl included a scavenger hunt using a smartphone application that provided challenges at each bar that participants had to complete to earn points for a prize drawing, explained Sara Rodriguez, executive director of the Victoria Main Street Program, which organized the event.
"Participants also started making up challenges at each bar as the night wore on and the drinks started flowing," Rodriguez said. "At 77901 Wine Bar, someone made up a challenge called Kiss Mark Cox."
From the other side of the bar sitting with her Pub Crawl partner Judith Barefield, Ellsworth noticed McCord.
"I saw him walk from one side of the bar to the other, and I elbowed Judith and said, 'I wouldn't mind if that was Mark Cox,'" said Ellsworth, who had originally scheduled a flight home to Nashville, Tenn., that weekend before being talked into staying in Victoria to take part in the Pub Crawl.
McCord recalled the night's events.
"I was with a group of people that included Mark Cox and his fiancee," McCord, 37, said. "Even if he wasn't with her, he's not the type to take advantage of the challenge."
But McCord would.
He floated around the bar claiming to be Mark Cox and collecting a few kisses along the way.
"A couple of hours later, when he came up to me and claimed to be Mark Cox, I said to her friends, 'No! Did I just call that?'" Ellsworth, 30, said.
There was just one catch. Ellsworth didn't believe him.
"I asked to see his driver's license. His eyes got about that big," she said, moving her fingers inches apart.
The groups they were with left 77901 with their sights set on Steve-A-Reno's, the final location on the Pub Crawl list.
Ellsworth and her group first made a stop at Greek Bros.
And there was McCord again.
"I headed up to the outside bar to buy drinks, and there Bob was at the other end of the bar," she said.
McCord spied Ellsworth, too.
"I saw Ginny standing at the bar so I got up to talk to her," he said. "I spent time with her the rest of the evening. Then I walked her home."
Ellsworth had a downtown apartment for her two-month stint in Victoria working with the chamber of commerce on a publication.
After the two parted ways, Ellsworth had a decision to make.
"I had his phone number," she said. "He didn't have mine. The ball was in my court."
McCord, a Victoria native who now lives in Houston and works for Child Protective Services, was uncertain what would happen next.
"I really was sad. I didn't think I'd see her again," he said.
Ellsworth, who was regularly flying in and out of Houston, called McCord the next weekend when she was there, and the two met again for lunch.
"After that, we talked for multiple hours every day. We used FaceTime on our smartphones," Ellsworth said. "I had another month in Victoria so I was in Houston every weekend."
The day before Thanksgiving, less than three months after they met, McCord popped the question - in typical McCord style.
"We had talked about it so she knew I was ring shopping, but she didn't know I had the ring already," he said. "I flew into Nashville, but she didn't know I was there. I showed her the ring on FaceTime, which I knew would annoy her because that's a terrible way to propose.
"What she didn't know is that I was next door to her parents' house so I walked in while we were on FaceTime.
"It was exciting," McCord said.
"When I handed her the ring, I said, 'Are you sure you want to marry me? You probably can't believe a word I say,'" McCord said.
Ellsworth said, "Yes."
"I joke with him that he's out of lies," said Ellsworth, who has moved to Houston and started a job with the new Houstonian Magazine.
The wedding is scheduled for March 16 in Gulf Shores, Ala., about equal distance of travel for both families.
Barefield is thrilled for her friend.
"I watched it all unfold," she said. "I couldn't be happier for them."
Rodriguez, too, loves the fact that an event she organized resulted in a marriage proposal.
"I am just tickled pink about their engagement. I am so pleased that a downtown event brought these two together," she said.
"Talk about an additional incentive to get involved with downtown. As if the great programming and unique events weren't enough, now you could meet your future significant other. How fun is that?"