This is the fourth part of a serial travelogue entitled How I Spent My Summer Vacation, starring Artificially Sweetened (AS), Cupcake, and me, The Nittany Turkey.
This would be the day when I returned to my homeland, Western Pennsylvania, like a boomerang coming back to its hurler. I seem to never tire of visiting the land of my nativity and my formative years. Although brief, today’s tour would hit enough high points to satisfy my desire for repatriation and give Artificially Sweetened and Cupcake a good feel for where I grew up.
We had agreed upon a sleep-in for Monday morning, as I did not want to be fighting rush hour traffic in dahntahn Pittsburgh. (For those of you who are not familiar with Pittsburghese, “dahntahn” means downtown.) There really isn’t much traffic in da Burgh these days, but what little of it there is I wanted to avoid. So, we agreed to leave the hotel shortly after 9 AM. We had a pretty busy day ahead, visiting old haunts in three different Western and Central Pennsylvania cities, so we couldn’t dawdle.
Cupcake was sleepy. Having enjoyed the privacy of her own room without AS to tell her when to go to sleep, she undoubtedly spent most of the night conversing with godknowswhom on her surgically attached cell phone. She needed coffee. So did AS. Earlier, I wrote about the crankiness of a hungry AS; a coffeeless AS in the morning is an order of magnitude worse. It has to be made a certain way, too, with two packets of the eponymous substance from whence cometh her name and a dollop of half and half. With the GPS in hand, I searched for the nearest Starbuck’s and navigated the van to it. Using the drive through lane, we coffeed up. There was bound to be some calamity, but in this case it wasn’t one of us. It was the drive-through barista. As she leaned forward toward the open window, it closed and smacked her in the nose. I guess it is designed to thwart robberies, but the effect on this morning was to wake up a barista. “That thing closes too fast,” she said stoically, handing me the recycled cardboard carrier that held the three recycled paper cups. I noticed that she was quick about it this time.
As we drove away, AS complained. “I forgot that at Starbucks, ‘tall’ means small.”
“Yeah, you have to order a ‘grande’ if you want big,” I mumbled, hoping that she would make do with her small tall and I wouldn’t have to go back to Starbuck’s for a refill.
“I hate that bullshit! Oh, well,” she responded, “I guess I’ll make do.”
In a very short while, we were on West Carson Street down by the Ohio River. That was quick. As we pulled into the parking lot for the Duquesne Incline, I noticed that the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad tracks had been removed and the rail bed was now serving as a jogging trail. [Read more…]