2 Weeks in the Northeast – Day 5

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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

Baby Jack had to get a closer view – look at how the different layers of paint have dripped down and built off each other!

We found a squirrel that was looking quite content.

We also found a bird that looked quite content…with a worm that looked less so.

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.

Fittingly, the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research (now Carnegie Mellon University) was one such building.

This is Roslyn Place, a quaint but generally unassuming street that’s just 250 feet long. So why did we stop by?

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.

Pittsburgh seems to be a haven for companies that are testing driverless cars. We saw vehicles from Argo, Uber, and Waymo…and made sure to give them plenty of room.

Magneto does his best to fight off the mighty RT. This mural took Jeremy Raymer just 60 hours and 60 spray cans.

A little Pittsburgh slang for you.

After a long morning of exploring Pittsburgh, Baby Jack was ready for a nap.

Hopefully some day other states will allow lane splitting as California does.

The neighborhood of Beechview in Pittsburgh is home to the steepest street in the continental United States: Canton Avenue. The grade is 37 degrees!

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.

Outside of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is “(re)CARstruction) by Keny Marshall.

It started as a ’84 Jeep Grand Wagoneer and was then chopped up and put back together into a sphere (sort of).

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.

Eat’n Park’s mascot is Smiley, which reflected my mood after seeing the Drifter. We grabbed a Smiley cookie and continued on to the next state of the trip…


I was very excited about the prospect of seeing a buggy, but it wasn’t meant to be.

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.

My toiletries bag when I’m on a motorcycle trip is a deposit bag from the now-defunct bank in my hometown, so I felt obligated to take this photo even though it won’t mean anything to anyone else.

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”.

15 minutes east is the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation – normally a state DOT office wouldn’t merit a stop, but Pennsylvania has a sculpture garden made out of old road signs.

It lasts for almost a quarter of a mile.

I know I’m about to share too many of these photos, but I thought they were wonderful!

Wrapping it up with a bit of wildlife.

Then we saw some actual wildlife at Wooden Nickel Buffalo Farm.

The RT did its best buffalo impression as we watched the sun go down. 30 minutes later we were in Erie to call it a night.

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