Saturday, May 26, 2012

See you in June!

And, I'm off!

See you in June, with my usual recap of the month I've left behind.

Plus some good stories from the trail.

(P.S. This post by Kate on Yinzpiration is awesome. Go get unstuck!)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bike's in the Shop: My Walk to Work

In order to better the odds that I am actually able to make it to Washington D.C. by bike, I had to do something I really really hate doing: giving it up. Red had to go into the shop for some MAJOR work before the trip. I was going to be without a bike for both a morning and an evening commute. The worst possible thing. For no particular reason, I haven't been able to wake up very early lately. I've started taking cereal and instant coffee into work because there is nothing I can do to get up and have breakfast at home. Simply put: I don't wake up early.

However, take away my bike and force me to face the brutal reality of the bus? I will wake up early and walk. (Disclaimer: I believe the bus is a very important and vital tool to our city. I use it from time to time and it is something that really allows me to live without a car in Pittsburgh. I just like to use my own two feet to get around.)

Ultimately, walking to Downtown takes a bit longer than busing to Downtown. So I really would save time and sleep longer if I rode the bus. But it had been a while since I walked to work. I used to walk to work all the time in Boston before I got a bike. I'm never one to turn down a long walk, so I forced myself awake by treating me to a nice coffee for the way in.

And I took some photos along the way.

Flowers in Bloomfield

Looking over Lawrenceville into Millvale from Penn Ave.

I see this every morning coming down Penn. But I'm normally on wheels and not feet, so it was considerably easier to take a picture.

This place on Penn does great business in the mornings around 8:20 a.m.

If there were an award for most colorful building in Pittsburgh, Salem's would have to be a contender.

Troy Hill in the distance. Love that colored wall.

So, a few weeks ago, I started to see this mural slowly going up on the wall of Altar Bar. It's PRETTY incredible. We've got New Found Glory (which I initially thought was Meatloaf, cause it kinda makes more sense in my head that it would be Meatloaf), Hank Williams III (I think?), Snoop Dogg (because of course; he loves Pittsburgh, at least the Pens and Steelers), Leon Russell (???), and the Misfits. I almost hope they rotate new celebs up there seasonally. 

And I got to work *right* at 8:30; I couldn't have timed it better if I tried.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Idea of Vacation: The Great Allegheny Passage and The C&O Canal

Right now I am sitting on my couch, eating a caprese salad, watching the Vampire Diaries (don't judge; it's perfectly mindless, and work has been crazy, so this is just necessary right now). In 76 hours, I will have hopefully already have set up camp and made a fire and started cooking up some noodles. I'm leaving Saturday for Washington D.C., but I won't get there til the following Friday. Some people fly, some people take trains, some people drive. I'm going to bike.

For six days, this will be my home.

This is my idea of vacation: ride my bike all day, camp, ride my bike all day, camp, ride my bike all day, camp, and so on. Granted, I've been on some pretty strange vacations; not many people choose to spend Memorial Day weekend in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and Moose Mountain Provincial Park. But, I'm excited for my sojourn into the woods. To be disconnected for a little bit is what I really need.

So! What exactly is it that I'll be doing? One of those surprising little treats about moving back is the bike trail that starts right in Pittsburgh's backyard and goes ALL THE WAY to Washington, D.C. From Homestead, PA, to Cumberland, MD, you ride The Great Allegheny Passage. Then the trail switches over to The C&O Canal, which takes you to the Visitor's Center in Georgetown. Last year I rode The GAP from Boston, PA, (yeah, I know) to Cumberland, so I already know a little of what to expect. But once I leave Cumberland behind, I'm back into some unknown territory.

When I get back, I'll have plenty to share about the trip and the trail. If you want to give yourself an informative preview, find out more on The Great Allegheny Passage and The C&O Canal.

"See you" in a couple weeks. That is, if I am not eaten by a bear or struck by lightening or something like that.

Monday, May 21, 2012

EverythingBetterPGH - Instagram May 2012

So, yeah. Here's the thing. My life feels completely out of control right now. I've had several action-packed weekends and work has somewhat exploded and my brain feels like it is in a million places at once. I take off for DC on bike in...just a little more then FOUR days. Like last year, I feel totally unprepared, but at least I have half the trail already under my belt, so I'm less nervous this go-around. Still though, I need to do the following before Friday night: go to REI for last-minute camping supplies, go to grocery store for initial foodstuffs, get Red all nice and tuned up, and figure out what exactly I'm packing. I know I'm going to leave Pittsburgh (okay, Homestead) by bike and turn up in DC a week later. But I still have no idea how I'm actually going to execute such a plan.

What I'm saying: I don't want to abandon EverythingBetterPGH this week, because I doubt I'll be posting much from the trail (though if I am, find me on twitter or instagram (username: everythingbetterpgh)). So here's a sorry excuse for a post. Some instagram photos I've taken over the past few weeks. Enjoy.

This is Mae. She is a dog. She is a pretty awesome dog. She is owned by Sarah.

Slowly, I am making my way through Fallingwater Rising. It's intimidating, but informatively juicy.

This is a perfect sky, in honor of the perfect weather we had all weekend.

Here I am on the South Side. I am a sucker for powerlines.

You may not be surprised to find out that I am currently working on a PGH puzzle. Here we have the top of the PPG Building.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Why I Bike Pittsburgh

If you asked me to pinpoint the moment when the switch flipped and I became one of those "bike" people, I couldn't figure it out. I bought my bike in Boston before I moved, and used it fairly often while I had it the last few months I lived there. I didn't have a car in Boston either, but their public transportation system far, far, far surpassed the ever-shrinking Port Authority in Pittsburgh. If I couldn't walk there, I could probably get there on a very simple train system that ran on a pretty frequent schedule. I wasn't among any kind of minority by not owning a car in Boston.

Moving back here, I quickly entered that minority by vowing not to get a car. See, here's the thing: I'm a horrible, horrible driver. I have no idea why. I just suck at it. So. Pittsburgh. No car. For the first few months I relied on walking and the bus for most of my getting around. I started working downtown and took the 87 every morning and every evening. I really only rode my bike for fun, never for commuting or getting from here to there and back. Then, a few months in, I got TIRED of waiting forever for a bus that was already packed to pull up. I got TIRED of paying almost double what I paid for a monthly pass in Boston for a waaaaaay better system.

So I started riding. One morning I threw a change of clothes in my crappy old bookbag I got from winning a scholarship to Pitt, wore something that pretty much resembled my pajamas, and hopped on my bike, thinking about all the things that could possibly go wrong in this new situation. But! Nothing went wrong! Sure, there are at least a dozen things I do differently now that make that same ride (I've only deviated from my route maybe 3 or 4 times in the solid year and a half I've been bike commuting) to make it a little more pleasant and fun. But I really enjoyed it.

Once I had my commute down, I started using my bike for tons of other things. The smartest thing I did was buy a couple sturdy panniers. Once I could transport stuff easily, I got the crazy idea to ride my bike to Maryland. I did and wound up loving the experience so much that I'm going to DC by bike in a week and a half! Riding around Pittsburgh has been such a great way for me to get exercise, enjoy being outside, and give myself a way to release a lot of stress. No matter where I'm going or why I am riding, I always feel a bit of a connection to the city in a way I don't think is possible by car. My feet are pushing the pedals and that's turning the wheels that are taking me up and down and around and back all over the goddamn place.

In my opinion, there is no better way to make your way through Pittsburgh. Biking has saved me so much time and money. It has challenged me and made me stronger. It's given me something to care about in the city, and something I truly hopes catches on with more and more of my friends and their friends and their friends. I bike Pittsburgh because I've kinda fallen in love with it, and now I just don't know any other way.

Hey! I like biking so much that I'm doing this thing called Pedal for Pennies. Check it out!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bike to Work Day is TOMORROW

Hey you. Yeah, you!

Tomorrow is Bike to Work Day! Which means, you should give biking to work a shot. Give it a try; you may end up loving the freedom, the exercise, the money savings, and the fun it brings into your life.

For information about Bike to Work Day and a list of BikePGH-sponsored "hydration stations" (that are promised to offer free breakfast, coffee, a bag of cool swag, and a passport card for savings for a bunch of local establishments throughout the week) check out the BikePGH site.

And look! The weather is going to be AWESOME tomorrow:

BikePGH offers a Bike to Work Guide for anyone still a little nervous about the whole riding a bike to work thing.

And! You can read over my own musing on Starting to Bike to Work that I posted over at the Pedal for Pennies site eariler in the year.

Make sure to swing back to EverythingBetterPGH tomorrow for a special post in the spirit of National Bike Month. Until then: stay safe! And have fun. It's supposed to be fun.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"LIVE" Blogging Sebak: Things That Aren't There Anymore

((I was recently approached by a producer at WQED to do an on-camera interview for a special they are airing about Rick Sebak in the fall, celebrating his 25 years with the station. The interview took place last week, but the special won't air until the fall. Hopefully I don't land completely on the cutting room floor. To even be in this thing for a minute or two will be such an honor, and something of a dream for a Pittsburgh-loving kid like me. It'll surely be a surreal moment to catch myself on WQED now and then for years to come.))

It's currently Sunday afternoon. It's a little rainy and kinda cool. Most people are off with their moms today, but I'm here, keeping myself company with a little black cat curled up in my lap and a new Rick Sebak DVD to watch. I've decided to "live" blog it, or write this post as it goes a long. Enjoy...Things That Aren't There Anymore:

- This starts out in South Park at the Allegheny County Fair, and Sebak notes that he lived only a mile away, off of 88. He doesn't say it outwardly, but he lived in Bethel Park. Where I spent the first eighteen years of my life.

- South Park had the THIRD drive-in in the world?! Speaking of watching movies outside: Movies in the Park 2012!

- Pittsburgh word! "Nickelodeon" I am so proud right now!

- "The perfect movie generation. We believed everything we saw."

- Isaly's s something I always heard my mom talk about, but never got to experience for myself. And now that I'm watching this, I am so upset I never did.

- KLONDIKES. I might need to get some of those to share with friends tonight.

- Chipped ham. Oh, to relocate to New England and realize that not everyone in the world gets their deli meat chipped. That was a strange moment for me. "Thank God for the man that invented the chipper." Adorable.

- We're back on the county fair. Is there still a county fair? I don't think there is, which is a shame because I always had fun at the Topsfield Fair in Boston.

- ROLLING. PIN. THROWING. COMPETITION. Ok. New idea: We have our own East End Pittsburgh Fair. We can definitely come up with some excellent competitions of our own. Proximity Brick anyone?!

- "At one time there was more rollercoaster track in Western Pennsylvania than any other place in the world." (Sometimes I learn things about Pittsburgh and go, yup - that's where I must get it from.)

- I don't think I can think of a sadder thing than this man explaining where everything in Westview Park used to be where there is now a strip mall with a Kmart and a Dunkin Donuts.

- Burlesque clubs and nightclubs. Here. We. Go. Pittsburgh at its finest.

[[Ruh....roh.... Something terrible happened to this DVD. Moment for technical difficulty...]]

[[OK. We are back!]]

- I want to appreciate baseball more. I really do. But I can't watch it and enjoy it. I have to play it. And that is why I'm joining a softball team this summer.

- Bill Mazeroski :)

- Watching this footage of people on the last day of Forbes Field is incredibly sad. And I'm not ashamed to say I'm tearing up.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Walking from Lawrenceville to Target: What We Saw

Since becoming friends with Allie, I've been pleased to be going on more meandering walks on the weekends. We tend to meet up at Espresso a Mano on Butler and aimlessly wander. I stop to take a lot of pictures along the way. Here are some things we saw last Saturday morning while we made our way from Lawrenceville to Target.

Espresso a Mano
Cute poster that's sprung up in my neighborhood for a new book.
New on the building on Penn after Matilda or Millvale.
Warhol flowers on that same building.
More of that building. I love all the color it adds to my day.

I'm very excited to introduce you to the wonder that is the Community Preschool & Nursery mural/sign that I can't believe I hadn't looked at closely yet. When you get right up in front of the sign, these are the wonderful things you'll see:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sitting in the Splash Zone: A Saturday Night on the South Side

A couple weeks ago, my brother texted me. Here is the conversation we had (with some unnecessary information removed):

Jeff: Musical of the dead tickets for 22 on groupon. May 4th and 5th. Wanna go Saturday?
Allison: What is that exactly?
Jeff: I would assume a musical about zombies.
Allison: Haha ok. Let's go Saturday.
Jeff: My treat.
Allison: Woooooo hooooooo!
Jeff: It's about time right?

Our plans were set: Jeff would pick me up in Bloomfield with my bike. We'd drive to Allentown, where he lives, and hang out at his place before walking down to East Carson for dinner, a musical about zombies, and beverages at assorted places. I don't spend many nights down on the South Side, so I was prepared for a raucous night out with my little brother.

After giving me the tour of his place, we started our descent down Mount Washington. It was so beautiful out and the city looked pretty great popping out from behind the trees during out walk. The farther we walked, the more jealous I got of my brother's oft-taken path to food and beer: two things us Rowlands love. I would come to find out, much much later into the night, that I wouldn't be so jealous of the path back.

My stomach was audibly growling, but our destination was Winghart's. I hadn't been to the South Side location yet, and I was beyond pleased with my experience. Having become a little bit of a regular at the Market Square location, I was worried that the luster that comes along with that designation would be lost in the new place. But, we walked in and Ruth Ann, arguably the family's favorite server, welcomed and took care of us. We watched the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby. Jeff and I picked horses. I picked based on outfit; Jeff picked based on name. And of course, because my brother has some pretty insane dumb luck sometimes, he won. After the race we watched the beginning of Jurassic Park III. I could not have asked for a better environment in which to eat the most delicious burger and fries.

And then! It was time for ZOMBIE MUSICAL. Because Jeff orded the tickets through Groupon, our tickets came with a copy of the soundtrack, a beer coozy, AND A PONCHO. To wear in the SPLASH ZONE. The show was totally awesome. It was funny, ridiculous, gross, and inappropriate. I spent a lot of time with my jaw-dropped. Big, huge, gigantic thank you to my brother for making this happen. I truly loved it.

Post-zombie musical, the only appropriate thing to do would be drinks at Jekyl and Hyde. I hadn't been to this place in forever, but I used to love to go with my friend J.P. in college. It's a Halloween bar, and I wish it were closer to home, because I'd be there all the time. We drank, and I tried to get Jeff to dance, but he wouldn't. He still a bit of blood splatter from head to toe, so I don't think he was too into the idea of standing out any further. I texted J.P. just to say "Hey! Guess where I am!" and he - not too oddly enough - was just turning onto Carson, so he ended up meeting us for some drinks.

There was talk of Primanti's, but around 1 a.m., we started our way up the hill toward Allentown. The hill was brutal, but, like a T-Rex, I just kept falling forward. Jeff tried unsuccessfully to hitch a ride to the top, but we made it on our own two sets of feet.

I crashed on my brother's couch and woke up with the sun the next morning. I gathered my things and hopped on my bike and very wobbily made it down Arlington to East Carson and then along the trail back to the East End.