Monday, September 03, 2007

Road Trip - Day 2

Day 2 began with baths, showers and a full breakfast at the Beckley, WV Fairfield Marriott. After packing the car back up, we headed back out to where the road will take us, as Rigby keeps saying.

We detoured 30 minutes into our drive to look for the New River Gorge National River. We ended up going through some old towns and looped back around to Highway 19. We crossed the New River Gorge Bridge (longest steel arch span in the western hemisphere) and found the national river visitors center. We had never been to a national river, but it is park of the national parks system.

We discovered the striking size of the gorge with one of the world's oldest rivers at the bottom. A short hiking trail took us into the gorge on a wooden boardwalk. The boardwalk has two observation decks which offered great views of the bridge and the mile-wide gorge it spans.

We soon made our way back on the road, stopped at an Old McDonalds (of course) and headed north to Morgantown, WV, home of the West Virginia University Mountaineers. We just drove through the campus area and went on our way.

After driving 260 miles, we traveled through the Pennsylvania hills and as we neared Pittsburgh, we passed through the Fort Pitt tunnel. As soon as the tunnel ended, the Steel City appeared. It was a great way to enter the city.

We drove around and got the lay of the land, driving around and through the city. We stopped into a coffee shop on the University of Pittsburg's campus for milk, coffee drinks, muffins and wi-fi access. We then settled in at the Hampton Inn & Suites downtown next to the Convention Center and across the street from the Heinz History Center.

After unpacking and throwing the kids from bed to bed, we got dressed and headed out on foot to explore the city at sundown. We walked a dimly-lit path to Point Park, the area where the three rivers meet at the point of the city. To our dismay, the large signature fountain was off and the park was closed for a $35 million renovation.

We walked away from the way we came and traveled the other side of the city looking for access back across the highway and into the city. At this point we had walked about two miles and were a little frustrated, and in the dark.

We found our way back in to the city and walked to the PPG (Pittsburgh Plate Glass) campus. This place was awesome, with its tall black glass buildings. It looked like a medieval fortress. The center of the quad had a large fountain and Rigby and Erik made sure to get a little wet.

Back on track, we took Penn Avenue back through the city and to our hotel.

Note that Rigby walked almost all three miles (at least), Lucy stayed awake in her stroller and we had nothing to eat. Being Labor Day and we were in a blue-collar city, nothing was open at 9 p.m. It was a little strange.

So we hopped in the car to look for some grub. We ended up on the University of Pittsburgh campus and found the Original Hot Dog Shop, which we discovered was ranked the fourth-best hot dog in America by Gourmet Magazine.

What great college food and atmosphere. We walked in at 10 p.m. with a hungry Rigby and completely asleep Lucy.

This place opened up in 1960. Walk inside, and we're assaulted by the sights, sounds and smells of urban Americana. Signs everywhere offering various dogs and a man behind the counter with half a head of hair, half a beard and one eyebrow - and he was very congenial.

Stacy got an Original Hot Dog with ketchup, mustard, onion and relish. Erik got the Super Dog - a hot dog with two pieces of crunchy bacon and melted cheese, plus mayo, ketchup, onion and relish. Rigby had pizza from a counter on the other side of the shop.

The fries were awesome and served in mass quantities - they're bright yellow-gold -- some twisty, some tiny, some crunchy -- and cooked tasty.

There were coolers all over the place with 12-packs of beer and 40 oz. bottles of malt liquor which you could purchase to go with the meal. We had sodas.

Bellies full, we headed back to the hotel and crashed for the night. On to Day 3.

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