Northeast Baseball Road Trip. Part 6: Pirates

Mt. Davis & Pittsburgh, PA

Summer 2013.


We drove north in Virginia, following the Potomac River for a few miles, before eventually entering back into Maryland to cut westward for the next couple of hours.

This would bring us through fantastic places like Cumberland Maryland, with stunning old buildings built in a river valley lined by forested hills. I had been through here before and long for similar towns in this area, even if I eventually come to learn that Altoona, Zanesville or Parkersburg aren't exactly the same. While I'm burned out on the northeast overall, I would enjoy spending more time exploring this central PA/western MD/West Virginia area.

We'd stop near the Pennsylvania state line to stock up on food, commemorative Maryland mugs and water for the grueling trek ahead.

This is Appalachian country; as we'd now crossed onto the backside of the lengthy mountain chain, towards the cluster of highpoints for all of the nearby states. It's around here that West Virginia's Spruce Knob lines up with Maryland's Backbone Mountain and our destination for the day lie only 7mi/11km into Pennsylvania - the 3213ft Mount Davis.

Clarkman was gracious enough to drive an extra hour to amuse me.

The greatest tribulation would be worrying about Clarkman's brake calipers now that we found ourselves in rolling hills.

Pulling off the farm road onto the state park's paved driveway, we parked at the main lot while the two of us remarked on how cold we suddenly found the air. Donning sweaters for the first time on the trip outside of cool stadium nights, we then wandered all of 500 feet to the group of boulders at the summit.

I can now check off state highpoint #16! Mt. Davis had been another grueling difficulty 1 highpoint like Indiana, Iowa and Delaware before it.

I had a big grin on my face as I stood there able to get another 2013 highpoint (in addition to Hawaii).

The view from the actual highpoint where those boulders sit is of trees and connecting footpaths.

Thankfully there's an observation tower nearby, which just like Wisconsin's Timms Hill, lets one share an actually scenic view, this time along with a man who I believe was doing HAM radio.

It's a fine view, not so much spectacular, as Mount Davis is merely a protruding portion of resistant sandstone atop the modest Negro Mountain.

Returning to the car and continuing along, conveniently enough they had built a freeway connecting our destination for the day with wherever we were in southwest Pennsylvania. Mt. Davis must be a big draw.

Running a bit behind, this was a nice discovery as the GPS suddenly shed chunks from the estimated time of arrival; our bird icon flying over grasslands where highways didn't exist a few years ago.

Come late afternoon, it was exciting to be back in Pittsburgh, but it was also strange to see the landscape devoid of The Igloo, long since torn down since I was last here in January of 2010.

Pittsburgh was the first place I hadn't booked a hotel in advance & it proved to be quite the problem. As Pittsburgh's main downtown is healthy and limited by the amount of land between their three rivers, there's only expensive & lavish hotels down there. Even in trying to go to motels just outside of this downtown, they are also in on this, as their prices indicated that they know people are limited in choices.

There was a reasonably priced place called Hotel Terrace Hall, but upon driving the 2mi over to it, we found that once you leave The Igloo behind, you find rough areas in short order. Instead of risking a break-in or car theft, we went back downtown and Clarkman decided to ball out of control on one of the swankier places I've ever stayed.0

0 - I'd probably still say the swankiest place I've stayed was this hotel in St. Louis.

The Church Brew Works.

Dinner was even further away from downtown, over in the Lawrencetown neighborhood.

Knowing that we were going here played a role in the decision against the Hotel Terrace Hall, since it would have meant a cab from the hotel to downtown afterwards, to a bar maybe, then back to the Hotel Terrace Hall? That hotel's location didn't lend it any favours.

Wait, what was that building you guys ate at?

The Church Brew Works started out as St. John's the Baptist, with this building being finished in 1902. This Lawrenceville neighborhood was filled with the working class, who would eventually suffer greatly with the closure of nearby mills and the decline of Pittsburgh's industrial might. This church would hang on into 1996, before sitting vacant for a few years until said restaurateurs took control of the building & began restoration.

As for our dinner, the Church Brew Works beer was fine and although the food wasn't anything special, the atmosphere made it a worthwhile stop.

We were now cutting it close in terms of missing first pitch.

Rushing back downtown, we shuttled across the Roberto Clemente Bridge and into much revered PNC Park - at least much-revered by all of my friends. I say that because PNC Park has long been the ballpark that my friends couldn't believe I hadn't yet visited, both because of its proximity and its greatness.

Cheap seats, great atmosphere, skyline views and a fantastic setting along the Alleghany River have all been good things that I'd heard and that I was now experiencing. Clarkman had been here before and he was one of those surprised friends; the man now smiling at the good times all around us.

The funny thing was that this was the first game we saw that was actually a nail-biter and quite entertaining. In addition, where normally the mobile beer vendors are peddling awful swill like Budweiser or Coors Light, at PNC Park they peddle tall Yuenglings!

So Clarkman & I had great seats, tucked in with lots of rowdy fans, full of churchly food and with tall Yuenglings coming right to our seat. Plus my adored Gerrit Cole was on the hill and dealing fire. This all combined to mean that we didn't go much of anywhere during the game. I didn't walk the concourse and I didn't get up from my seat more than once.

After all this time hearing about PNC Park, I saw about 20% of it in the end.

Post-game fireworks closed the nearest bridges, although I think we would have stopped for the show regardless.

Going out for the night, we didn't see anything downtown near our hotel, so a cab used their judgment to bring us to this awful area of fake storefronts, Joe's Crab Shack and the feeling like we were going out for drinks at a giant suburban mall (this was apparently Station Square). Thankfully I had briefly looked up where to drink in Pittsburgh and knowing about the South Side, I then told a cabbie to bring us there instead. She hesitated and told us the area was dangerous and that she didn't like going there, which we thought was weird, but ignored her concerns.

It turned out to be like Windsor, with a ton of bars and a bunch of loud fools. Maybe if we did something dumb like throw shoulders or stand out on the street at 3 a.m. we could have found trouble, but otherwise this would be totally fine. The two of us rolled our eyes at our cabbie's concern.

Our fickle selves must've walked past 50 bars until we finally settled on a pub with a good tap selection, but after Clarkman was unimpressed with the number of ladies there, we would go to a metal bar.

Now, for the whole trip I had been awkward and not wanting to go to certain bars because of how I was dressed, especially in fancy places like New York and Washington. So for this last stop, I broke out my fanciest clothes and did myself up to the 9's...and then comically we went to a metal bar where they were playing Pantera and I meekly ordered Hoegaardens.

The good thing was that the metal bar ended up being a great time in the end. Go to the South Side instead of Station Square if you're in Pittsburgh. Heck, go there even if you're not looking for a metal bar, as it's entirely more 'Pittsburgh' than you'll find at the Station Square Joe's Crab Shack.

Foggy nights were abruptly ended by the sound of alarm clocks and the light of morning. Unfortunately today would be the day I was going home, but not before a morning walk of a few stairwells and the pulling of ballroom doors, which didn't amount to much.

We drove the relatively familiar I-79 up to the outskirts of Erie, then merged onto I-90 for a stretch I was excited about, the uncharted Erie to Buffalo chunk along Lake Erie.

The drive would end up being a little underwhelming as we ran through customs and back into Ontario. I asked Clarkman if he wanted to stop somewhere to watch the last bit of the Chiefs game while having lunch, so we ended up at a great sports bar in Port Dalhousie, where some loudmouth Cowboys fan was trying to chirp me in my Chiefs jersey; that is until Andy Reid somehow fell ass backwards into a victory.

How 'bout dem Cowboys! :D

Soon enough it would be back onto a plane, further into autumn & a return to the ruins of Newfoundland.

In the end that was a damn good time Clarkman! I look forward to whenever we get Chi-KC-StL-Dallas-Houston!


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1 - Poughkeepsie Journal - Hike of the Week, Mount Davis a very flat Pennsylvania high point

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