"I've had some people go 200 feet and turn back," he said.
Stick with him, though, and you'll get the view of a lifetime - and some pretty good bragging rights.
Even if you are OK with heights, as I am, stepping onto the catwalk is immediately disconcerting. I hadn't accounted for the fact that the catwalk vibrates because of the traffic overhead. The vibrations are stronger in some places than others.
Heights also take on different, well, height, when you are in the open air.
The catwalk starts about 250 feet from the ground, reasonable enough. At the center of the bridge, you are standing 850 feet above the New River.
If I was unsettled, my 22-year-old daughter, Mary Margaret, was downright terrified. She intended only to watch, but Simpson persuaded her to give the catwalk a try. She made it clear she is afraid of heights, but once she told Simpson she recently parasailed, he told her he could help her along.
"Look at me," Simpson said, walking backward. "Nothing is going to happen to you. Don't look down between your feet - that really messes with your head. Look out."
Talking the whole time about the gorge and the river and the bridge, Simpson got us out to the center of the bridge. We had gone three-tenths of a mile. It seemed longer.
Once paths are completed at both ends, visitors will cross from east to west and be picked up by a shuttle. The tour is expected to take as long as two hours from beginning to end and will cost $69 a person - including a nifty certificate for completing the walk.
Simpson and his partners expected to open in the spring, but rainy weather has slowed construction. He's now hopeful the Bridge Walk will be up and running by the end of the month. Already, he has received calls from as far as Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Peru.
"That amazes me," Simpson said. "We really appreciate everybody's patience and cooperation."
The bridge can accommodate 100 visitors at a time, though Simpson said groups as small as four can book walks.
His business partners include Bruce Vest, a coal operator from Kanawha County, Simpson's son, Benjy Simpson III, two principals in Ace Adventures who separately are partnering in Bridge Walk and Adventures on the Gorge, an outdoors outfitter. Simpson will help coordinate tours.
A native of North Carolina, Simpson has an undergraduate degree in recreation and parks administration and a master's degree in physical education. He was teaching at a community college when he got an option to buy a whitewater rafting company in West Virginia in 1970.
"I've been playing all my life," he said.
For more information, visit www.bridgewalk.com or call 304-574-1037.
Contact writer Monica Orosz at mon...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4830.