Published July 6, 2019 in Warp & Woof


Nice to See Yinz Agin’
William Sundwick
Pittsburgh used to feel so familiar. Countless trips from the time I first met my wife, a native of McKeesport in southeastern Allegheny County. Then, after her mother died, and father moved to Florida, the trips stopped. But when both our kids went to school in the ‘burgh, nine consecutive years ensued of schlepping around Oakland, Squirrel Hill and Shadyside. One went to Carnegie Mellon four years, then his brother to Pitt for five years. The city became very familiar.
After the Pitt School of Education Masters ceremony in 2012, however, there were no longer kids there. We visited again in 2014, anticipating a final goodbye to the city.  That visit came as we circled home from our great midwestern road trip to Michigan and Chicago. We stayed at the Priory, enjoyed cocktails on its veranda, walked to a game at PNC Park, and across the Andy Warhol bridge to his museum.
It would have made a spectacular adieu to the city of rivers.
Five years later, though, another opportunity arose. My wife, the Pittsburgh native, had a milestone birthday! For my 70th  she had treated me to a Baltimore overnight, exploring parts of Charm City I had never seen. Now, it was my turn to reciprocate.
In addition to the celebratory occasion of my wife’s birthday, this would also likely be the last road trip for our old reliable 2007 Toyota Highlander. The old girl continued to impress us with her stamina, after 88,000 miles, but was due for replacement – probably sooner than our next ambitious  

highway trip. The car had performed yeoman’s service on the much longer 2014 trip, but she was five years younger, then. Her maintenance schedule had been (fairly) religiously followed since, and I was confident she could make it.

I even had the car washed, the “Manager’s Special” at my local car wash. She was cleaner than I’d seen her for years! Her metallic grey/green finish glistened in the sunlight (my wife always hated that color – we had bought the car used off a dealer’s lot). Tire pressure checked out. We were ready to go.
I can only hope that some future worthy owner, who relies on the vehicle for livelihood and family, will cherish her as much as we have,  for at least a little longer (we plan to donate the car to “Vehicles for Change,” as we have the last two cars we’ve replaced).
Our destination was a historic downtown hotel, the 103-year-old Omni William Penn. Historic hotels are a thing with us on vacations – we’ve stayed at the Palmer House in Chicago (in 2014) and the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville (2008) on previous excursions. We like the gilded age elegance evoked by these grande dame hotels. Our “Deluxe Suite” at the William Penn was no exception. A massive sitting room was even larger than the bedroom. It was located on the sixth floor, the next floor down was, mysteriously, the fourth floor. We never asked about the missing fifth floor.

The hotel lies directly across the street from Mellon Square, a picturesque be-fountained park on multiple terraced levels. Market Square is also nearby with its live music and vendor stalls. But downtown doesn’t have quite the panache of the cultural district or Oakland to the northeast, or Squirrel Hill with its dignified air of Pittsburgh urban upper middle class. Those neighborhoods had become our stomping grounds a decade earlier during the college years. The hotel was an easy walk

across Roberto Clemente Bridge to PNC Park for the baseball game on Sunday against the San Diego Padres.

First, however, we did take the car out of the garage for our Saturday night dinner reservations in Mt. Washington. LeMont restaurant is noted for its view of the Point, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet. Our table, by a large picture window, provided ample photo ops. But, for us amateur photographers, the restaurant is just three doors down from the Duquesne Incline, an even better photo op of the same scene. The food was good, but not extraordinary like the view. We both had fillet mignon and a California merlot.

The Pittsburgh Parking Authority mandates all garages charge the same rate, $6/day on weekends. Hence, we paid $6 when we took the car out to go to dinner, and another $6 the next day when we left for home. $12 total for a full weekend in downtown Pittsburgh seems like a parking bargain to me. We had to pay $10 for just two hours in a lot at Mt. Washington.
We indulged ourselves Sunday morning at the hotel’s “breakfast buffet,” an all-you-can eat orgy containing everything on their menu. We ate too much. My FitBit calorie count was inestimable, but I took a guess at somewhere in the 800-calorie range. I don’t eat out much. The Bob Evans in Breezewood on Saturday was kind enough (ha!) to provide calories on its lunch menu. I hate that.
It was a very warm – and sunny – Sunday for the game. Dressing lightly was certainly appropriate, but uncovered seats presented a new problem, not encountered by me before. Wife was cautious enough to pack sunscreen, but she never spends time outdoors. I was well-acquainted with walking year-round, and yard work into the summer. I could tough it out. Wrong. Sitting in one place for the duration of a long (very slow moving, it turned out) baseball game – fully exposed to the sun – leads to sunburn! 

It’s not like moving around or walking. I’ve never been a beach person, so didn’t know this. I’m still recovering two weeks later.
Ultimately, it was an exciting game – Pirates came back from a three-run deficit in the ninth to send it into extra innings. Then, again, in the 11th inning, not only overcame another three-run deficit, but walked in the game-winning run. Fireworks, as always, when home team wins!
The four-hour drive home to Virginia was relatively painless at night. Traffic was light and we had no problem alternating driving stretches in the same manner we had done during the many daylight trips we made over the that Parkway (376) –> Turnpike (76) –> I-70 –> I-270 –> Beltway (495) route as always. The birthday weekend in the ‘burgh had come to an end. We showered, ate midnight snacks and watched a pre-recorded half-hour sitcom from our DVR. Then to bed. Next morning, wife got herself to work for another week. I felt like I had given her something, then proceeded into my Monday routines of breakfast, doing my laundry, going for a walk — before it got too hot – then the gym. And, so it goes.

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