Sunday, July 17, 2011

The City of Bridges

Pittsburgh is known as the "City of Bridges", and for good reason; there are 446 of them just within the city limits. That isn't counting the numerous others in Allegheny County. Now, you know how I feel about bridges, and if you don't, THIS will remind you.

This weekend we attended a wedding at the John Heinz History Center in downtown Pittsburgh. What a beautiful venue for a wedding!

The beautiful bride, Lauren

The ceremony would prove to be short and sweet.

Because there were two weddings taking place Saturday evening, we weren't allowed to tour the exhibits, which was a shame. It is a wonderful exploration of the city's past as the center of steel production in this country, as well as its role in sports and arts history.

When we lived in the Pittsburgh area from 1995 to 2000, I had the opportunity to tour the museum when it first opened, and it was fascinating. I also had the opportunity to be scared out of my mind about driving in Pittsburgh. Our son Josh was attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and for some reason missed the last bus to make his connection to the neighboring county where we lived. He called me for a ride home. Having ridden with David several times into the city, I knew what I was up against...the many streets and highways and interstates that converge in a relatively small area make a bowl of spaghetti look like a bunch of straight lines. If you happen to get in the wrong lane, it's hard to tell where you might end up.

So, I plotted my driving strategy with my trusty pre-GPS city map, wrote down my directions, and headed out with only a few heart palpitations. In about 30 minutes, the palpitations turned into thudding heartbeats and sweaty palms. I'm sure you can guess that I chose the wrong lane and ended up crossing one of the dreaded bridges, which led directly to a dreaded tunnel, but I turned before the tunnel and ended up on Mt. Washington.

Though it offers a stunning view of the confluence of the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River to create the Ohio River, it was not a balm to my troubled soul, not in the least. Luckily, it was not the pre-cellphone era, and I called David at his office, which was not downtown. Crying and hiccuping, I explained to him what happened and that I was too scared to even attempt to find my way back across the river, fearing that I would end up in an even worse mess. David talked me down "off the bridge", so to speak, and said he would go pick up poor Josh, who no doubt was wondering what in the world had happened to his mother, and then he would come and lead me down off Mt. Washington.

After that experience, it was a year or more before I would even attempt to drive into the city again, but my friend Lynn finally convinced me I had to conquer my fears and went with me to help. She wasn't much better at it than I was, but at least I didn't feel all alone. We went several times to the Strip District, where we bought wonderful Italian cheeses and breads and other yummy goodies. We also had excursions to the Frick Art & Historical Museum and to the Phipps Conservatory.

Today, David and I took a walkabout downtown and to Point State Park (shown above in the MW view). This is my take on the confounding, but beautiful, bridges of Pittsburgh...a few of them anyway.

The view from our hotel room (right across the street from the History Center) looking out toward the Allegheny River.

The dreaded Fort Pitt Bridge and tunnel on the far end. Mt. Washington is above.

Mt. Washington skyline. In the right third of the picture, you can faintly see the incline.

Visible in this picture are four driving/pedestrian bridges across the Allegheny River, plus a railroad trestle. In the foreground, is the Roberto Clemente Bridge (6th St. Bridge), next is the Andy Warhol (7th St. Bridge) and the Rachel Carson (9th St. Bridge). Allegheny Landing Park has bike and walking paths along both sides of the river.

From the north side of the Allegheny, looking toward downtown.

PNC Park, which replaced the old Three Rivers Stadium, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The building in the river houses River Rescue, made famous in the movie "Striking Distance"

Loved the reflection of other buildings caught in this all-glass building.

I love the way the center of the building is open.

The architecture in Pittsburgh is interesting and diverse. This building resembles one of the many Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox churches in the city.

If you have never visited Pittsburgh, put it on your bucket list. There is much to explore and many bridges to cross.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Nel 1492, Colombo salpò l'oceano blu

If you don't speak Italian (and I don't), the above phrase says "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." I learned that in grade school and I'm sure most of you did as well.

Columbus, Ohio is the largest city in the United States bearing the name of Christopher Columbus. Growing up in my era, we learned from our history books about Columbus and thought of him as a hero. Now, of course, we know that he and his men weren't very ethical in their treatment of island natives. Nevertheless, cities that chose him as a namesake have not changed their names in protest. Columbus, Ohio even has, docked riverside on the Scioto River in Batelle Riverfront Park, the world's most authentic, museum-quality replica of Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria. It was built in 1991 by Scarano Boatbuilding Inc. of Albany, New York, to commemorate the 500-year anniversary of Columbus' voyage.

On the same day as the visit to the Deaf School Topiary Park, the grandkids and I paid a visit to the famous replica. This was also a surprise for them...they didn't know it existed. They were so excited and listened intently to every word.

The overall length of the Santa Maria is 98 feet. Its height from the keel to the top of the main mast is 89 feet. The hull planking consists of 44,000 board feet of Port Orford (Oregon) cedar. The deck planking and spars were built with 22,000 board feet of Douglas fir. The frames used 24,000 board feet of Alaskan yellow cedar. There are 2,700 feet of sails. Four thousand linear feet of line make up the rigging. Fifty-five gallons of tar was used to preserve the fixed rigging. It weighs 130 tons, including the ballast.

The main mast is 65-feet tall and is carved from a single Douglas fir. It carries the mainsail and the topsail. After construction, the ship was cut in half through the entire length and carried on two trucks. It was delivered to the opposite side of the Scioto River, where it was reassembled. The farthest it has ever sailed was across the river to its permanent mooring.
Rolled up pallets in steerage
I wasn't listening.

String of pearls

When the men on board needed to take care of any business that required squatting, they climbed over the side of the ship, held onto these ropes, and when they were finished, they....

...pulled up this handy tool, which was kept on a thin rope and was below the water. Its name is "the bitter end". And now you know where that phrase originated. Yeah. There was only one. Salt water is very cleansing and a good disinfectant. I'm glad I live in the 21st century.

All in all, it was a great day with beautiful weather. We all learned and we all had a good time.