Day 5 – June 26th, 2019 – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Erie, Pennsylvania: ~150 miles
Vy and I witness an epic battle between geese and carp over bread.
Missed Day 4? – June 25th, 2019 – Washington, DC to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: ~145 miles
Today’s plan was to explore a bit of Pittsburgh and then head north. Our first stop was the campus of Carnegie Mellon, because they’ve got an odd campus tradition that I wanted to check out. Meet “The Fence“, which owes its existence to a frat party. From this Carnegie Mellon blog:
“In 1923, a bridge stood over a valley that served as the divider, and the meeting point, between Carnegie Tech buildings and the Margaret Morrison women’s school. However, once the valley filled in to become the infamous Cut, a wooden fence stood in its spot. Needless to say, the Fence did not have the same appeal as the bridge and officials nearly tore it down. Luckily, a fraternity used it to advertise an upcoming party, which was an astounding success.
A tradition was born.
In 1993, the old wooden fence collapsed under its own weight. At the time it had 6 inches of paint surrounding it, and held the record for the most painted object in the world. A new steel fence now stands in its place and it currently has 4 inches of paint surrounding it. Students are actively trying to break their own record, and it is only a matter of time before they succeed.”
That site also mentions that there are “certain rules when it comes to painting and seizing” the fence:
“It can only be painted between midnight and sunrise.
It must be painted by hand with brushes; otherwise it is considered vandalism.
There must be two people from the organization guarding the fence for the day portion at all times; otherwise a different organization may come and steal it.
It is common for organizations to set up a tent and sleep in it while they are holding the fence.”
This is “Walking to the Sky”, a sculpture by Jonathan Borofsky. It’s actually a copy – the original work is in Dallas, Texas. It weighs seven tons and the pole is at a 75 degree angle from the ground. Borofsky says that it is “a celebration of the human potential for discovering who we are and where we need to go.”
The copy at Carnegie Mellon debuted in May of 2006, though it was far from universally appreciated. It was a gift from a trustee/alumnus and many members of the community were upset about it. I like it, but I also don’t have to walk by it every day.
We soon ended up at another academic campus: the University of Pittsburgh. They have a building called the Cathedral of Learning, which is notable for having “nationality classrooms” – a series of classrooms themed to reflect the cultures of different countries. I made a break for the Indian room to get in touch with my roots.
Admittedly, I’m a very bad Indian who doesn’t know enough history. That didn’t stop me from giving Vy a brief lecture about why I’m awesome. Apparently I’m also a bad teacher, as she wasn’t convinced.
Also on Pitt’s campus is Dippy the Dinosaur as it’s a Diplodocus carnegii – named after Andrew Carnegie, of course. Students dress it up throughout the year, and for some reason it has a Twitter account.
Back in the heyday of coal and steel, factories in Pittsburgh were putting out so much soot that it stained buildings all across the city. Throughout the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, the city cleaned up both its industries and its facades, though some facilities intentionally left some soot as a reminder about why air quality standards are important.
Because it’s made of wood! Approximately 26,000 wooden blocks, in fact. Pennsylvania experimented with different road surfaces as residents complained about how loud horse hooves were on cobblestone. The wood did a great job minimizing the volume – unfortunately it also did a great job soaking up horse piss and would thus smell horrible. Most wooden streets were quickly replaced. Roslyn Place was originally built in 1914, renovated in 1985, and it’s the sole surviving wooden street in the city.
Magneto does his best to fight off the mighty RT. This mural took Jeremy Raymer just 60 hours and 60 spray cans.
The view from the top. I used it as a test of the RT’s Hill Start Control, which works whether you’re going up or down. If you’re stopped on an incline of more than 5 degrees, you can squeeze the brake lever tightly and the bike will hold itself in place. BMW offers this as an automatic function if you wish, as well.
We had a great time in Pittsburgh, but it was time to head north. In Hermitage we found the Avenue of 444 Flags. It was started by Thomas Flynn, who created it in honor of the Americans that were captured in the Iran hostage crisis.
He originally started by placing an American flag surrounded by fifty state flags on his property of Hillcrest Memorial Park. But as the crisis kept going, he wanted to do more. Eventually he ended up placing a flag a day as long as the hostages were still in captivity. When the hostages were freed on January 20th, 1981, Flynn put down the 444th and final flag.
Vy and I were told to check out a regional restaurant called Eat’n Park. We found a random location en route – it may have been calling to me as there was a Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter in the parking lot. It’s a very interesting model that came out of a project bike that Kawasaki used on the show circuit in the early ’90s. It was initially supposed to be a limited production bike (1-2 per dealer), but Kawi decided to make it a full production model soon after and it became a cult bike because many riders found it to be the perfect compromise of ’40s looks with modern technology.
On top of that, it had an impressive 72,434 miles on the odometer! That’s one of the few drawbacks to the beautiful TFT screens that have taken over in motorcycling – you can’t see how many miles a bike has done when it’s off.
We actually went into Ohio just to visit a nearby town called Andover. I grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, so I always like to stop by at other towns with the same name.
We spent all of 8 miles in Ohio before cutting back to Pennsylvania to see the Linesville Spillway. Feeding wildlife was a popular activity back in the 1930s, so roadside vendors figured they could make a few bucks by selling bread for tourists to give to the local carp that were already feasting on plants, bugs, and small invertebrates in the area.
Feeding the wildlife now is banned, but there’s an exception for the Spillway within Pennsylvania State Parks. Nowadays over 300,000 people visit the site each year, nearly all of whom have bread or fish pellets with them. Gross.
It gets so crowded that the Spillway’s motto is “where the ducks walk on the fish”.
Then we saw some actual wildlife at Wooden Nickel Buffalo Farm.