Day 9 - Pittsburgh

Greetings and sorry for the blog delay.  Some serious extended hours and miles over the last couple of days.  As promised, Pittsburgh...was epic!  And also proof of the power in going with the flow.  Apologies in advance for the long post.

We went into the Steel City with basically no plan other than (sigh) the girls wanting to visit the Abby Lee Dance Company.  For the uninitiated, this is the studio behind the Dance Mom's TV show.  Personally the show drives me batty, but the girls (all three of them) love it, so we swung by to visit.  Despite thinking they had Saturday hours, they were closed.  We took some pics outside the building and happened to see a small sign in the door saying they had their final year-end show at a venue later that evening.  Hello, Karma...nice to meet you.  We couldn't find a way to locate tickets online but figured we would swing by the show and take our chances.

In the meantime, one of our best friends on 'winging it' days has been TripAdvisor.  The first place it pointed us to was the Duquense Incline.  The Inclines are turn of the century elevator/trolley/cable car hybrids that take you up the super steep hills around town.  Butt-tingling ride for sure, relying on original 150-ish year old technology, but so worth the trip.  The views up top were unbelievable. Kim and I had no idea Pittsburgh was such a beauty.

Stop #2 was another online suggestion, Bicycle Heaven (  This bike shop/museum was tucked away in an old industrial park.  Two floors of an old warehouse and EVERY square inch was packed, packed, packed with THOUSANDS of bikes, bike parts, bike memorabilia, history, etc.  A mind boggling collection.  The owner was on site, gave us a personal tour around, took our picture for his Facebook site after learning about the trip and gave us the tip for our next stop.  Truly magical place, some pics below.

Stop #3 was lunch, another spot we saw on the Diners, Drive Ins and Dives TV show - Big Jim's.  The 'Big' may have something to do with Jim, but it really has to do with the portion sizes.  Food was solid, it was a dive, but each of us got about 3 days worth of food.  Good stop.

Next up was Randyland (  OK, stay with me here...I have called some other stops difficult to describe.  Forget about all of those.  Randyland is from another planet.  Randy is your classic creative free spirited artist, doesn't give a damn about what anyone thinks, preaches love and following your bliss.  He put all of this philosophy into about a third of a block of buildings, yards and grounds that is open to the public.  It's a kaleidoscope of hand painted stuff that you just ramble around and visit.  Randy is right out there, greeting everyone with his infectious, smiling, sincere, crazy personality.  I bought a shirt, we got pics, met folks from all over also visiting, and just soaked it all in.  As we drove away, we all asked, 'Did that really happen?'.  It did.

Last stop was the Hillman Performing Arts Center for the Abby Lee show.  We got there and the ticket situation remained unclear, but kind strangers once again came to the rescue, pointing us to an online spot where we got tickets and headed in.  The names don't mean as much to me, but we were on the sidewalk when Abby arrived (in giant pink curlers), she walked right by and said hi, we watched all the girls on the show dance many numbers, Kim, Mag and MK all got pictures with Melissa, we sat by Nia's family with Holly right in front of us.  It was basically their end of the year recital, so a long show but really good quality dancers. By the end of the show it was near 9:00.  We hit the road for a couple hours and stopped for the night.  

In the end, we loved Pittsburgh, partly because it was a beautiful city full of fun, but also because it fully proved to all of us that with a good attitude and an open mind, you can play a hand no matter what cards you are dealt.  Fingers crossed that this karma keeps following us. More tomorrow on a full travel day and a short upcoming hiatus on The Big Trip blog.   

- Jim

Reserved?!?  The BigTripMobile says 'Save the tears for your pillow!'

The Duquense Incline.  Magnificent.

Bicycle Heaven.  Room after room after room of bikes.

Need a chain guard (or any other part) for your classic Schwinn (or any other bike) in green (or any other color)?  They've got a dozen of each to choose from at Bicycle Heaven!

I know you are but what am I? Heh heh.

All roads lead to Randyland.


No caption needed.