on journey: a road trip to pittsburgh, pennsylvania

A cold front blew its way into Virginia on the Friday morning in March we were due to leave for Pittsburgh, knocking out our power at 3 a.m. We showered, dressed and ate breakfast by battery-powered lantern and candlelight and then abandoned our house to the elements.

Driving through snow flurries on a slate-colored day, the wind ripped branches off tree trunks. Bare trees like tangled candelabra danced wildly along the road.  Through Virginia, whitewashed silos and barns shivered on the land, along with horses and hay bales. Black cows sat folded on the fields. Wheat fields wore sloppy crewcuts, as if a clumsy barber had hacked away at them with oversized zig-zag scissors.

My Pittsburgh Tunes playlist belted out bluesy songs about working in steel mills or on the Monongahela River, setting the stage for the hard-working, once-industrial city.  Sean McDowell sang:  “Now I’m stackin’ bricks in Pittsburgh Town / I make two bucks a week workin’ on Lime Hill.”

As we crossed the Potomac into Maryland, Irene Cara sang optimistically from the 1983 movie Flashdance, “What a Feeling:”

Take your passion
And make it happen
Pictures come alive
You can dance right through your life
What a feeling

On my phone, I opened my emails to find the Dictionary.com word of the day: phub: (slang): to ignore (a person or one’s surroundings) when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device.  I told Mike about this word I’d never heard before, and he asked, as I scrolled through my phone, “Hey, are you phubbing me?”

Prickly, urchin-like trees congregated around a red barn near Hagerstown, while Mohsin Hamid said in an online interview about his book, Exit West, “Human life is transient.”  We understood this, and lived it, moving from there to there, suspended in the middle. Life flowed like cool breath over the tired earth.

We passed Sharpsburg, Hancock, Breezewood, and Cumberland through maize-colored fields when, at last, Welcome to Pennsylvania! greeted us by billboard. Phantom Fireworks burst with promise as we sped by.


I-76, one of the highways making up the Pennsylvania Turnpike

Tarnished-silver clouds hung like heavy draperies over a drab brown landscape spiked with spiny white trees.  Horse farms dotted roller coaster hills. We drove along a mountain ledge overlooking a valley, where a brown weathered barn hunkered down in a snow sprinkled hollow. Stacked lumber settled neatly in a lumberyard near Crystal Spring, and snow blew sideways like a sandstorm.  Uplifts of snow swirled into mini-cyclones, while feathered grasses swayed to and fro in a wetlands area.

Pete Seeger sang “Pittsburgh Town is a smoky old town, Lord God, Pittsburgh… All I do is cough and choke in Pittsburgh.”

Poor Pittsburgh has such a sooty reputation.


paying tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike

We soon passed the exit for Shankstown, where the passengers brought down one of the planes on 9/11.  Brown igloo-shaped storage containers holding sand for icy roads sat in wait for snowstorms along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

At 11:19 a.m., on the other side of a mountain pass, blue skies peeked through scattering gray clouds and the snow disappeared as if it never was. Farm equipment gleamed at Rolling Rock Equipment and a glowing light spread itself fetchingly over rolling hills.  A white farm-house looked otherworldly.  A billboard for Peace Love & Little Donuts made sweet promises. Maybe there was hope for the weather after all.

As we rolled into the city, the Quebe Sisters sang:

I am a poor, wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world alone
And there’s no sickness, toil, or danger
In that bright line to which I go

It was lunchtime by the time two wayfaring strangers arrived at the University of Pittsburgh and sought out food and warmth at Fuel & Fuddle.


Fit and Fuddle

A Pittsburgh specialty, Chipotle Polka, offered itself up: mini-potato & cheese stuffed pierogies smothered with sweet onions, bacon and smoked jalapenos in adobo sauce, topped with sour cream, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses; I washed this feast down with a Hitchhiker Trial by Fire beer. For dessert, oddly, the waitress brought us fortune cookies.  Mine said: “The wheel of good fortune is finally turning in your direction!”  I hoped so!

Our waitress wore an aqua-jeweled nose ring, mismatched dangly earrings and a “Feminist Killjoy” necklace.  When Mike asked her about her necklace, she shrugged, “I guess because I’m a feminist, I’m a killjoy.”

Another server wore a black tank top that said on the back: No crap on tap.  Yet another had her hot pink hair pulled back in a ponytail. It was bustling place, with athletes tossing balls around on wall-mounted TVs. It was tough to leave such a cozy spot to go out in the cold. But. We peeled ourselves out of our seats and headed out to explore the city.


“ON JOURNEY” INVITATION: I invite you to write a 750-1,000 word (or less) post on your own blog about the journey itself for a recently visited specific destination. If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments. Include the link in the comments below by Tuesday, May 15 at 1:00 p.m. EST.  When I write my post in response to this challenge on Wednesday, May 16, I’ll include your links in that post.

If you’d like to see the original post about this invitation, check out: on the journey: taking ourselves from here to there.  I’ll be writing about a journey I’ve already taken, as I’ll be on my 25-day road trip around the Four Corners area, and I’ll only be doing scheduled posts during that time.  I’ll still add your links if you want to join in.

This will be an ongoing invitation, every third Wednesday of the month beginning in May. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂

I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!

the ~ wander.essence ~ community

I invite you all to settle in and read a few posts from our wandering community.  I promise, you’ll be inspired!

Many thanks to all of you who wrote posts about the journey. I’m inspired by all of you! 🙂