Walk and talk on date six
An hour-long walk with a complete stranger could have gone one of two ways on Friday night.
The sixth and final Taranaki on a Date with Stephen Hills started at the East End Reserve carpark where we began a coastal walkway stroll all the way to Port Taranaki.
It was highly likely that two strangers might run out of things to talk about over that distance, which would lead to an awkward silence and an unpleasant evening.
Lucky for Stephen and myself we can both chew the fat so there wasn't even a hint of a silence in sight.
Stephen is a real go-getter despite being paralysed on his right-hand side, which is a result of being hit by a motorcycle when he was five-years-old.
When it comes to adversity and overcoming it Stephen sums it up 100 percent and is not only living life to the fullest but has also represented New Zealand at the paralympics in the cycling team.
Stephen lives and breathes the sport and I came away from our date with a whole new respect and knowledge of cycling that until Friday I only knew a little about.
We share the role of the youngest sibling of four and our chat covered a lot about our families, our passions and why we both got on board with Taranaki on a Date.
Stephen said he was away when the project was launched and his Dad cut out the newspaper clippings and showed them to him on his return.
His brother then suggested he go for it after saying, if he was single he would definitely give it a go.
Stephen's date idea and email arrived a day before I was going to wrap up the project, which meant he is the final date in the half a dozen series.
Next stop after our stroll was New Plymouth's Bowlarama, the local ten pin bowling arena, and a pet-hate of mine.
I decided to keep it in the bag that I wasn't a fan of ten pin bowling as I'm not in the habit of being narrow-minded about anything.
Turns out ten pin bowling isn't as terrible as my over-exaggerated imagination lead me to believe and I bordered on enjoying myself.
This was heavily aided by the fact that I bet Stephen by one point in the closest sports match either of us have likely encountered.
With a win on my side we moved on to our third and final destination for the evening, India Today.
I'm a big fan of Indian food and this was a great choice. I did mention to Stephen that 99 per cent of my visits to the BYO restaurant had usually ended in memory loss so Friday's sober dinner was a new experience. It's amazing how much better the food tastes minus a bottle of wine!
Stephen didn't have a lot of answers to what could improve our provincial city's dating culture, other than to say it lacked any real entertainment hotspots, other than Bowlarama of course.
He said he had tried online dating but hadn't been terribly successful and outside of sport could think of very few places to meet potential girlfriends.
With bloated stomachs we headed off laughing that Stephen's cycle ride and my run the next morning could be a tad dodgy after filling ourselves with curry.
A follow up text message the next day revealed we both survived and with that yet another successful Taranaki on a Date was done and dusted.
Stephen's score of the date - 9.5
Jo's score of the date - 8
Taranaki Daily News