I was so glad that it wasn’t actually Judgment Day because it totally would have ruined my Guys' Weekend in Pittsburgh. OK, actually, it was more like Two and a Half Men.
My old buddy Rik is a huge Detroit Tigers fan, so when the Tigers were scheduled to play the Pirates this year in Pittsburgh, we made plans to meet out there for the game. He came in from Toledo and brought his 11-year-old son Jake with him. We were staying at a Marriott Springhill Suites, directly across the street from PNC Park. Jake was most happy to have some “dude-time,” far away from motherly and sisterly yapping.
As always, I’m a bit nervous whenever I have to drive in Pittsburgh. It is not an easy town in which to navigate when you’re not intimately familiar with the local terrain. I was loaded for bear this time though. Not only did I have my Google Maps and directions, I finally had a GPS to use. Unfortunately it did not have the voice of Myron Cope, which I still think would have been a huge seller, if you ask me.
OK, huge in Pittsburgh.
I set out early, hoping to hit our hotel by noon. It was clear sailing; there were not many other cars on the road at all. I got to use the cruise control most of the way, and contentedly jammed to all the 70s and 80s rock I could stuff into one thumb drive. There’s nothing like tooling through the mountains on a clear morning, singing along with Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page.” That was always a “Barn” staple.
Everything went off without a hitch until I hit Pittsburgh. Despite all my preparations, I missed seeing a key direction point and was tooling along the highway along the river, looking for a road that didn’t actually intersect the road I was on. Naturally, I ended up sailing across a bridge I didn’t want to cross and had to go back the way I came. My Google directions were no longer of any use. I’d have to trust my GPS, which I’d only brought as “backup.” I wanted to see how it did before actually trusting it.
In theory, it was fine. It brought me right to the spot I wanted to be; the only problem was that the bridge I needed to cross by the stadium was closed for gameday traffic. No panic though… I proceeded to the next bridge down… which was also closed.
PANIC! PANIC! MAYDAY! LOST IN PITTSBURGH! SEND HELP! SEND A TERRIBLE TOWEL!
During my earlier circuit through the city, I noticed a parking garage near the bridge that said $5.00 Flat Rate. I decided to forget about going straight to the hotel… I couldn’t park there anyway because Rik was already there and they only allow one car per room. So I parked at the garage and hoofed it over the Roberto Clemente Bridge with my rolly suitcase in tow and a soft-pack cooler of beer over my shoulder.
A couple of minutes later, I was there at the hotel. Unfortunately, my buddy wasn’t. He and the boy were over at the PNC Park gift shop. I probably walked right by them. They got back to the hotel before I could even sit down to wait.
After cracking a beer or two, we went to go take a walkabout. I was eager to show them the city I enjoyed so much last September during Podcamp. We circled the ballpark and went down along the Allegheny River before walking back across the Clemente Bridge.
The Roberto Clemente Bridge with the Renaissance Hotel at the other end. I've stayed there before, but not this time.
Your host pays tribute to his boyhood idol, The Great One, Roberto Clemente.
A different look at the Clemente Bridge.
Jake and Rik on the Clemente Bridge, in front of PNC Park.
We continued on to Market Square, where we had lunch at Primanti’s. I mentioned going to the Oyster House for some huge fish sandwiches, but Rik had seen Primanti’s featured on the Food Network and wanted to try one of their meat/fries/slaw sandwiches.
My sandwich, sans coleslaw.
They wouldn’t make me a sandwich without the slaw, because there were too busy for special orders. Can’t fault them… There were all kinds of Tigers fans running around Pittsburgh last weekend. Most of them were at Primanti’s. I was able to pick off the slaw, but it made my fingers smell like cabbage. Bleah… My kingdom for a wetnap!
After lunch, we had to cruise through PPG Plaza. I just love that place. The design of those buildings amazes me. I said this in my Podcamp post, but it bears repeating. If they had built the Emerald City in “The Wizard of Oz” out of black onyx glass, it would have looked like this.
I wanted to go down to the very tip of Point State Park, where the Three Rivers come together, but alas, there was some kind of construction going on. Looked like they were working on the fountain. So this was as close as we got.
Off the end of the land there is the Point, where the Allegheny (R) and Monongahela (L) Rivers form the Ohio.
For the rest of his life, when the Steelers are on national TV and they show the blimp shots, I wanted Jake to be able to say to whomever he was with, “I was right there!”
Heinz Field was directly across the river from where we were standing.
We were getting pretty warm by that time, so we cruised back to the room, walking back by PNC Park again.
Willie “Pops” Stargell stands eternally ready to pounce on a fastball.
This was how close we were to the ballpark. The shot is from our hotel room window.
Rik and Jake decided to take a dip in the hotel pool and spa. No, I wasn’t the dip.
There was one thing that cracked me up. They had this sign on the wall with instructions on how to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
My question was, “What if the person that needs reviving isn’t over by the sign?” Does one then have to drag the person over to the sign? Or post someone by the sign to call out instructions? Weird.
We showered up and watched the Preakness in the room, then headed over to the ballpark. (Kudos to Bluz Brother for bagging $1100 on the Exacta!) For this game, we had seats in section 115, in the lower bowl just to the right of home plate. I wanted to make sure that for one of the games, we got to enjoy that spectacular view of the city.
I know the crowd looks sparse here but it filled up. This game was actually a sellout, a rarity for the Buccos.
Here, you can see actual people filling up the seats.
I also took a number of “action” shots, most of which I will spare you. But I liked this one:
Tigers' Miguel Cabrerra takes a ball, inside.
Day Two of our adventures will continue with the next post.