Last week I was in the car headed westbound to go pick Jess and her friend up from Pitt and bring them home. My best friend from High School was in Pittsburgh for a conference, and he told me I should come out early and we should have some fun visiting and seeing the city.
We did just that.
Friday it took me forever to get there. I left at 6:15 in the morning, missed all the major traffic, and thought I'd be to Pitt by about 4pm. Not so. I got there around 5pm, picked Jess up to go to dinner with Rob (and her friend and the friend's boyfriend jumped in the car too). We went and got Rob and I got onto a highway heading out of town, not the road I wanted to be on. We reversed direction and went back to Pitt to eat dinner and then show Rob the campus.
Rob was impressed with the campus and had a lot of questions about the school's history. None of which I knew the answers to. But we left Jess off and headed back to Rob's hotel so I could drop him off.
I ended up on the same wrong highway headed out of town, so instead of going up the highway to the exit I took earlier when everyone was in the car, I took the first exit off the highway, rte 28 towards a little town called Etna.
There were signs that said rte 28 was under construction, but I honestly had NO idea what I was driving into. Navigator Rob had the GPS and told me to take the 31st Street Bridge. That was closed... and the same with the 40th street bridge. we were in a tunnel of sorts, close in on us, made of Jersey Barriers. And we were almost out of gas. I thought to myself, Jeeeesh... If I run out of gas here, we are totally dead.
Luckily, the next bridge was open and we got off of rte 28, and headed back along the other side of the river through Lawrenceville. We found a gas station at literally the Eleventh Hour, and I rode him back to his hotel. We didn't pull in the lot or anything, I dropped him off and we said goodnight. I really wanted my own hotel (his was too expensive) and a shower.
I pulled back into the street, knew that I had to turn left, turn right, go straight and look for the sign to the Ft. Pitt Tunnel.
Well hell on wheels if I didn't turn left and then turn right ... right into Light Up Night celebrations in Dahntahn Pittsburgh. Sweet merciful crap.
The story goes that initially it was a couple thousand people in my way, then a half a million, then a bazillion million, and then the entire western hemisphere, depending on who I told the tale to afterward. Suffice to say, there was a buttload of people in the middle of the street and in my way. My GPS was urging me to "turn left" but the roads were blocked off. "At next opportunity, reverse direction."
I saw Santa. That's all that mattered. Eventually, I found the ramp up to the Ft. Pitt tunnel and like a screaming bat out of bloody hell accelerated out of town. I got up to Robinson Township and stayed at a little Holiday Inn Express where the kid took pity on me and gave me the $109 a night room for $90.
Rob called me and said "I am looking at fireworks outside my hotel window... it's beautiful" and I was happy for him. But I got to see Santa, in the middle of Liberty Avenue.
The following morning I was up bright and early and found Rob easily. I was getting kind of okay good at driving around the city, and discovered that when there is no one on the road forcing me onto roads I do not wish to be on, it goes rather smoothly. We headed over to Station Square to park and then to ride up the Monongahela Incline. But upon arrival we found out the Incline was broken. So we got back in the car to head over to the Duquesne Incline, and I opted instead to drive up to the top of Mt. Washington. I remembered a few years ago Doug drove me up there and I almost had a heart attack, but the way was easy and Rob was excited about the houses being built into the side of the hill and wondered if people were ever worried about them sliding down.
We got to the top and parked, and enjoyed the absolutely perfect and glorious view of the city. So lovely. So beautiful... we talked about history and manufacturing in America and how cities like Pittsburgh have died, some managing to reinvent themselves and rise from the ashes and others that are not having as easy a time.
There were a few people looking down, straight down, so I followed their gaze. A buck was walking along the hillside, looking up at people. This is not something you see every day in a major metropolitan city. He was beautiful, with lovely antlers and a big black nose, and gorgeous white tail. There was an older gentleman there who said that over the summer he watched a doe give birth, and then leave. The fawn was there by itself... for about 10 days. He said people would come and check on her from above, but she just laid there. He dropped apples down to her, and someone ate the apples daily, because they were always gone. On the eleventh day, he came to check on her and she was gone so he didn't know if she got the strength up to go or if someone came and "got her." By which he meant a coyote or a human... either or. She was gone.
We drove down the hill and went over to Pitt and got Jess. We had a little time to kill, and the day was beautiful so we went back through the campus area. I scored a great parking spot and we went to Heinz Chapel to look inside. The organist was practicing, and the sweet little chapel was just ringing with beauty, with light, with sound... so lovely.
I once again missed the exit I wanted, and was on the wrong road... so we immediately fixed that over by Duquesne University and I got back on the road I wanted. I'm tellin' ya... all these years of being Doug's passenger you would think I knew what I was doing.
Rob's flight was at like 1:30, so we got him to the airport to get groped and fondled on time. Jess and I headed up to my in-laws, and we spent the afternoon talking with them. We ate a late lunch/early dinner at their favorite spot. I was slated to sleep at my sister in law's, and Jess came with me instead of me taking her back to Pittsburgh. We had a lovely visit with the cousins, sat around talking, wonderful Sunday dinner and lots of reading and battle hamsters and car races. We went out to eat with Doug's cousin Andy and his wife, they're expecting their first child and it was so nice to see them and have a little time with them.
Monday found me with only myself to entertain. I had reached out to friends in Cleveland and met them for lunch. I wanted to try the Great Lakes Brewery restaurant, so Bill and Stacey of Nothing But Love/Golf Blogger fame. We've been reading each other for like 10 years now, and who better to show me around Cleveland than them! We had a lovely lunch, they took me to The Christmas Story house on Clark, showed me the church from The Deer Hunter, and then we had mocha and pumpkin whoopie pies at their gorgeous downtown loft apartment and talked for hours.
I got back to my sister in law's close to 11pm. Slept like the dead, thinking that living in a loft in Cleveland would be pretty sweet.
The following morning my father in law and I went out to see his mom at her home. She has always been sharp as a tack but seems to be slipping a little bit. Doug's dad is often stressed by her, and he was glad to have me there as another person for her to talk to and for an excuse to leave because I had a deadline. Jess' class would be over at 3:45 and I had to get her.
It was a good visit, I made her laugh like her head was going to fall off her body at one point. I kind of love doing that to her. My poor father in law is long suffering and he even had a laugh at it.
Getting down to Pittsburgh was no fun. There was an accident outside the tunnel, and it took me forever to get to Jess. Of course her professor released class early, and I wasn't right there to meet her. The area of Forbes and Fifth was a disaster, thousands of people and buses and all kinds of road hogs all up in my grill. I got to Jess and her friend and by about 4:30pm we were on the road. On it but not moving.
We eventually got up to speed east of Monroeville, but it was pouring down rain at this point. Absolutely pouring. So hard to see and drive. I took a different route than normal - usually we go up 79 to 80 and buzz 80 across the state. This time I thought I'd try the turnpike to 99 to 80. It seemed to take longer. We got to Scranton where our friends Chris and Chrissy live, where we were staying for the night, at about 11pm. Much later than I thought we would. I don't know that I'm going to go that way again... We visited with Chrissy for a while, and that was so nice. So sweet of her to stay up and wait for us and then chat. The girls slept on the couch with the kitties and I slept in the bed that I slept in last year when Doug and I went to get Jess. I couldn't fall asleep because I felt like I was still moving. The morning came too soon, and I got to visit with Chris, who while I was story telling told me I needed an editor. He's right.
We hit the road at 9 and got home at 3, after a brief stop at a Krispy Kreme and running into traffic on the Masspike.
I was so happy to get home.