My eyelids fluttered open when Joey’s alarm went off at 7:30 a.m. It was day 24 of our road trip and we were at Joey’s mom’s house in Williamsport, PA. Still in PA at almost the first quarter mark, would you believe it? Joey’s mom, Mary, was in a golf tournament this morning so we had said our good-byes the night before but Joey and I got up early, early, to wish her luck and say farewell again. And of course, Tom said his goodbyes to Bernadette. We’ll see you in Chicago Bern!
We took our time leaving but when we did get on the road the first stop was Selinsgrove, PA, our old stomping grounds. We were headed to Susquehanna University to talk to one of our favorite philosophy professors, Dr. Coleen Zoller.
Though we were each on separate paths in college, we all managed to find Dr. Zoller and take one or more of her classes. Tom, our resident philosophy minor, had arranged to talk to the good doctor about the philosophy of travel. Joey shot video and I played the stealthy photographer snapping photos while Tom sat with the good doctor discussing this interesting topic.
A point that resonated with me particularly was when Dr. Zoller started talking about travel and how it expands your sense of yourself. She specifically mentioned her own experience studying abroad in Greece and how it forced her out of her comfort zone. She spoke mainly in terms of trying new foods which she had previously convinced herself she hated, for instance onions. In talking about travel and the expansion of personal knowledge both in terms of who you are as a person and what the culture is like that you have immersed yourself in, I thought back to an email my dad had written me before we left on the trip marking this same important duality of travel and asking me to ask myself who I am as a result of our trip as well as outside of our trip.So far, one quarter through this trip, we have learned several useful lessons about travel in general, like make sure the GPS is going to the right state, don’t leave your important stuff on top of the car and never, under any circumstance whatsoever, drive in New York City.
This trip is fairly young however, and though we may have noticed some things in ourselves we had not seen there before, I find myself hard pressed to say specifically that I have changed in some monumental way. Given its fair time this trip will prove to be one of the most important experiences any of us has in life but there are several points to a trip, and the beginning is saved for experiencing.
Dr. Zoller spoke to experiencing as well as changing in some immeasurable way when she talked about experiencing new foods, new languages, new countries and hemispheres, when she talked about getting out there and seeing and bringing back what you have found. And we do plan to do all this, America. Lucky you.
Check out the full interview below (in two parts), the good doctor is definitely worth ten minutes of your daily YouTube allotment.
After this interesting talk we drove away contemplating travel and headed toward our good friend Andy’s house in Harrisburg. We arrived in Harrisburg before Andy was done with work so we went to a little restaurant and nabbed ourselves a roof spot and a bowl of potato soup. Andy met us and took us over to one of his favorite riverside restaurants called Dukes.
We thoroughly stuffed ourselves with a meatloaf sandwich for Tom, a Mexi-salad for me, and fish and chips for Joey (except instead of chips Joey opted for veggies, Mary you must be so proud) but we were determined to get out of PA, finding it a little ridiculous that we were almost one whole quarter through with our trip and still in our home state. Thanks to Andy for the free meal!
Sometimes it’s just that hard to leave home I guess. We took off and landed a few hours later in a small motel just outside of Shenandoah National Park, where we would begin our longest journey so far the next morning.
Until next time America.
Happy Fourth of July! It's on this day that we thumb our noses at the Brits for the 234th consecutive year, and remind them that they're not the boss of us anymore. In the meanwhile, our coverage is still stuck on June 22. We're working on it.
Barreling through the Northeast at breakneck speed, as we've done throughout the trip to this point, can take a toll on even the most fearless group of intrepid travelers. That's one of the reasons (accompanied by Bernadette's visit) that I was so happy to be in Williamsport, Pa., where there is very little to do besides watch little league baseball (no thanks) and sleep in (yes please). Hence, our day started out with a fairly late awakening, just in time for a nice lunch at "It's Hoagie Time."
We drove in with Joey's mom and met with his grandmother, who was very happy to see her little grandson and to hear about all of our antics up to this point. While they were chatting, I tried my best to read the menu through the cloud of hangover that was firmly settled over my head. That "Cardinal" game from the night before really beat me up. Luckily, this place had a menu that catered somewhat to tastes like mine.
This is the Dagwood. Recommended by Joey. the menu advertised this gem as a toasted sandwich with turkey, bacon, swiss cheese and thousand island dressing (I traded the swiss for provolone). It was a difficult choice, with rival menu items featuring names like the Godfather and the Mountain Man also vying for my attention. But in the end I went with the Dagwood, and was drenched in pleasurable-eating sweat by the end of it.
I felt a little bad for my lovely Bernadette, for the fact that she was only visiting us for four days, and yet we had no energy to spend the day doing much else but lying down, catching our breath and putting up some overdue blog posts. If you haven't noticed, we're pretty steady at about ten days behind - which could be a detriment, if not for the fact that it allows us to properly reflect on the great times we're having. Besides, we're very busy having those great times, and there's only so much America in 100 Days to go around.
The afternoon was a very lazy one, the height of which was a walk of Joey's dogs over to his aunt's house for a short visit. Eventually, we managed to build up an appetite (somehow) after our glorious lunch, and got on the phone to place some orders.
Joey insisted we try two of his hometown favorites for our dinner, both of which we ordered to go. First stop was a place called Joe's, where the cheesesteaks are very different from Philly cheesesteaks in that they're served on thick bread with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and onion - or as I know it, a cheesesteak hoagie. In addition, we ordered Three Rivers salads from this lovely little eatery, the Villa, where we sat at the bar for a quick drink while our salads were completed and handed over in styrofoam boxes.
Before visiting Williamsport I was not familiar with the Three Rivers salad, so allow me to elaborate. Williamsport's (relative) proximity to Pittsburgh brings heavy influence to things like the local cuisine - in this case, this salad originated in the Iron City and takes its name from the confluence of Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela rivers therein. It features a bed of greens, with tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and onions, topped with strips of steak and an entire order of cheese fries. Really hardly a salad at all, just an excuse to eat like a pig and call it something else. But a delicious mess of food - no doubt.
This small, central Pa. town only reaches so far, and has no skyscrapers or modern art museums to speak of. But a man like Joey knows how to make lemonade out of lemons, as do his friends. So after we ate about half of our dinner, we piled into Joey's friend Freck's car and made a long, windy drive to the place in town that looked to suit our interests best - the Bullfrog Brewery
on W. 4th St.
Yeahhhhhh. This brings me back. My days working at John Harvard's Brew House back at home got me very familiar with the glory of the Beer Sampler. These are always a pain in the neck for bartenders, especially when our table orders five of them which we did). Each one was a set of seven different brews, all carefully crafted on the premises and served to us in four-ounce glasses. Selections like their El Hefe Witbier, Susquehanna Oatmeal Stout and Edgar IPA made my mouth hurt from smiling so much. They even had a Dunkelweizen on tap, which is a dark wheat beer that isn't very common in any restaurant, or even in most beer distributors. Joey's friends Freck and Seth sat in on our glorious drinking experience with us, some welcome company in this impressive establishment.
Thanks to Freck for volunteering as our D.D., so that we could wake up the next day and finally begin our southern descent. More on that very soon.
After hauling a bunch of bags out of our hotel room and hastily packing the car, our last morning in Pittsburgh started out excellently with one heck of a brunch at a Pittsburgh country club where my dad (Joe Sr.) recently became a member. Believe it or not, homeless people like us can still dress up now and then.
Sarah, Tom, and I all sampled the gazpacho soup, which we had never had before. It was served cold with two bowls: a lower bowl of ice to maintain the temperature and an upper bowl for the soup. It tasted like really fresh salsa. This was followed by a round of delicious entrees and, soon after, goodbyes to Rita and Isabella (shown here) and my dad.
Our last stop in Pittsburgh was the National Aviary, where we were treated to an excellent assortment of birds and habitats. I was surprised that we were able to walk through several of the enclosures. It was neat to be surrounded by so many birds on all sides of us. One flew from one branch to another passing only inches away from Sarah’s face, leaving her utterly terrified and the rest of us laughing at her. Here are some shots that Tom captured while we were here.
As we were finishing checking out the exhibits, a bird show was starting outside in the rose garden. This consisted of one or more of a particular species of bird flying over the crowd’s heads followed some facts about the species or history of the particular bird. Another fly by ended each presentation, and then on to the next set. This routine included a parrot, an injured bald eagle, owls, and vultures. Overall, the experience was very exciting and unique.
My sister, Jamie, was just getting into Pittsburgh, so after a quick coffee break with her it was off for a three hour drive to Williamsport to visit my mom (Mary) and my stepdad WJ. Once in Williamsport, we had Pittsburgh style steak salads (irony?) and some vino at the house, and went out for some Williamsport-cheap pitchers of beer.
If we had gone to the right bar during a special and ordered the right beer, this might have meant two dollar pitchers, but our schedule didn’t allow this, so we had to settle for moderately cheap pitchers at the Pub. Tom and Sarah got to meet and/or get reacquainted with all of my friends from home and everyone involved had a really great time. Tom was unsuccessful at becoming a Cardinal (a drinking game), while Sarah, Bern and I are all seasoned veterans. Better luck next time, Tom. If you see him, ask him if he’s a Cardinal.-Joey
Our departure from Cleveland was hastened ever so slightly by yours truly, as I hurried the group along to Pittsburgh on Friday night to meet our lovely featured guest, my girlfriend Bernadette. This is her second appearance during the trip and her first time meeting us on the road, and man was I happy to see her. The only thing that would make our trip better would be bringing Bern for the whole time.
We all stayed at the Pittsburgh SpringHill Suites courtesy of Joey’s dad, and awoke cheerily on Saturday morning with a heavy itinerary for the day. The first move was to the car, bound for the Duquesne Incline on Grandview Avenue. This thing has been through a lot, built in 1887 as probably the main source of entertainment for a pre-broadcasting society. I can imagine people standing around all day, just doing the incline over and over.
Here’s the gist. This rickety old car takes down the slope of Mt. Washington at a whopping four miles per hour or so, displaying some fantastic views of Pittsburgh and the three rivers on the way down. Upon reaching the bottom, you pay the guy for the trip down and the trip back up – assumedly because only an idiot would ride down for free and walk all the way back up to save the money. Once you’re paid up, you can hop back on and ride back up. It was probably like a roller coaster back in 1887.
All this excitement built up our appetites something fierce, so it was on to what Bern called the only reason she was visiting us – Primanti Brothers. This is as iconic a restaurant as you’ll be able to find in Pittsburgh, with a dozen locations around the city and an endless string of national television appearances on the Food Network and Travel Channel. We, of course, traveled to the original location, situated in the Strip District at Smallman and 18th. As we expected, the line stretched out the door – always a sign of good things to come. A table for the four of us took about 20 minutes to procure, but our food and beverages took far less. Our waiter, a nice guy who looked like he’d been working there since they opened, brought us four Iron City lagers and took our order, and we were eating within ten minutes.
What makes Primanti’s sandwiches so special is their abundance of ingredients. Originally intended for truckers getting lunch on the go, the sandwich includes everything a lunch should consist of – meat and cheese with a handful of French fries and a heavy helping of vinegar-based coleslaw, with a fried egg for good measure if you’d like – all sandwiched together between two thick slices of bread. As if it were necessary, the menu listed an option of extra meat for $2, which in retrospect sounds far less crazy than I thought at the time.
Now, I read some ridiculous list of the best cheesesteaks in the country, in which the Primanti cheesesteak ranked at #1. Bern went that route, which included thick cuts of steak instead of sliced or chopped steak, as we do in Philly. As it turns out, that list I read was a load of crap – a D’alessandro’s cheesesteak would destroy this one in a fight, no doubt. But it still made a terrific sandwich, and I stole more than one bite off Bern’s plate. We all ended up sharing our meals; I had corned beef, Joey had pastrami and Sarah had Capicola, and each and every one of them was off the charts. Between here and Slyman’s from yesterday, I don’t know which busted my gut better.
As we all know, the best way to work off a meal like that is inside a museum. And at this stage in our travels, we’ve done our share of museum-hopping, to the point that we’re getting tired of just your regular old art museum. We’re trying to see it all, which means we want to get a little more specialized.
Enter the Warhol. One of the four Carnegie museums is one devoted to the life and works of one Andy Warhol, the world-renowned pioneer of pop art, whose hometown was none other than Pittsburgh. A chronological rundown of the major events in his life began the museum tour on the first floor, and a quick elevator flight up to the seventh began the main exhibit space.
Photo courtesy the Warhol
My knowledge of contemporary art is only so vast as to recognize Mr. Warhol’s most famous works, like his Campbell’s Soup series and the cow wallpaper. But hundreds of works and artifacts showed me otherwise, that Warhol’s influence had reached deeper into American culture than I’d ever realized. Instances of Warhol's work pop up in places I'd never been aware of before, and spanned from wildly original to just plain unusual at times.
Photo courtesy the Warhol
After Warhol helped to bring pop art to the forefront of American culture, he attained a celebrity status like no artist before or since. His range of different media included painting, photography, writing, performance art and broadcasting, giving the museum’s curators an unbelievable array of works to draw upon (enough to fill seven floors and leave us wanting more). He was commissioned to make portraits of a slew of different celebrities, such as Liza Minelli, Aretha Franklin, Truman Capote and dozens more, and was responsible for several, very recognizable Rolling Stones album covers – all on prominent display here in the building. By his death, his estate was worth nearly a quarter billion dollars. Work hard, you starving artists, and perhaps someday you’ll have your own museum. Mine will hopefully be a lot like this one.
Next up was the Carnegie Science Center, Joey’s old stomping grounds from his childhood. He regaled us with stories about his great times here as a kid, akin to my youthful experiences back home at the Franklin Institute. Sure enough, the place was alive with kids and families zigzagging from one exhibit to the next, but with plenty of space to move around and explore. Going in, I knew that a brand new permanent exhibit had just been opened a month prior, called Roboworld. The museum spent a lot of money putting the exhibit together, and man, did it show. The entrance was manned by a real, moving, talking robot named Andy, whose appearance and motions reminded me of the antagonists in I, Robot… but much friendlier.
He seemed an impressive lead-in to the following collection of robotic models from various points in entertainment history, dating back to the early 1900’s and featuring some of the more notable specimens in my mind – this little guy included.
The space was brimming with interesting displays and mechanisms, many of which were interactive in one way or another. One machine shots basketballs into a regulation sized net with spot-on accuracy; across the room, another contraption schooled challenger after challenger on an air hockey table. We tinkered with different items and got our fill before we explored the museum.
Eventually, we found our way downstairs to the line for the museum’s Rangos Omnimax Theater, a breathtaking, stadium-seated arrangement with a screen that starts at the floor and circulates over the audience’s heads. A few different shows were playing throughout the day, and we timed our arrival to coincide with “Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk,” which explored one of our future destinations and featured music by Dave Matthews, whom we’ll be seeing twice this summer. Quite appropriate, and quite a magnificent filmgoing experience. It puts your regular ol’ Imax theater to shame.
After a walk through a retired submarine behind the museum, we saddled up and ventured over to Joey’s dad’s house for dinner. A round of hors d’oeuvres gave way to one of the better dinners of our trip thus far, highlighted by filet mignon and some of Joey’s stepmom Rita’s signature twice-baked potatoes. We toasted with a round of Manhattans, or as Joey’s dad calls them, accelerators.
The neighbors came by and played around in the backyard with Joey’s sister Isabella, and I had some time with little Clark here. Before we knew it, night had fallen and it was time to retire to the hotel.
Fun city, that Pittsburgh. More from the next day, coming as soon as we can post it.