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Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Day in Pittsburgh

Willie woke up early as usual for him. His back was feeling a little better, but was still not good. He hoped maybe getting up and moving around would help. The Steelers game wasn't until 8:30, but we wanted to spend part of the day site seeing. We had breakfast, Willie took some more ibuprofen,  and then headed out. We honestly had no clue where to go. The Steelers website suggested parking in the golden circle and riding public transportation to the stadium. I set the Google maps to The Golden Circle and we decided to see where that would lead us.

We did get downtown, but we were on the wrong side of the river and Willie wasn't comfortable with leaving the car so far away. We reset the GPS for the stadium and drove. We made some wrong turns, but made it down to the stadium area. We tried to park in a public lot, but were told we had to be out by four. That wasn't going to work. The lady suggested we park at the casino. It would be expensive, but it was within walking distance. It sounded like our best bet.

We crossed through the casino, and started walking around the downtown area. Across from the stadium was Carnegie Science Center. We decided that was a good place to spend a few hours before the game. It was only 10:00 am, we had the whole day to kill.

The day was gray and drizzly, being inside for a few hours sounded like a good idea. As gray as it was, it was supposed to clear off by game time, I wasn't going to dwell. The museum was interesting. It was geared a little more toward families, then middle aged couples. We saw some fun things though. 

I'm a bit of a science fiction fan. I'm not obsessed, I've never been to a comic con. I do love Star Trek and Star Wars though. Yes both, it is possible, lots of people do. Growing up in the '60s I also remember watching Lost in Space. Never a favorite, but I still liked the robot, so got a kick out of getting to see it. 

Then around the next corner, in the robotics wing of the museum, there they were. I couldn't believe my eyes. I had never met real celebrities before. Shut up, they are too celebrities, they just weren't active that day. CP3O and R2D2! Right there! In front of me! It was awesome! My vacation had been made. I don't know if they were just replicas, or original to the movies, but they were still fabulous! A little boy stood next to me as I looked at them. I knew I had to touch R2D2. I just had to! I looked at the boy, I waited for him to leave. I didn't want to set a bad example. He kept looking, too. Finally I looked at the boy and said, "Shhhhh, you don't see this," as I reached out and put my hand on R2's head. I couldn't resist. Besides, if they didn't want me touching them, they should have put them in a more secure display. It's their own fault you know. 

I caught back up with Willie. He wasn't nearly as impressed with R2 and 3PO as I was. We had bought tickets to see an Imax movie and it was about time for it. I looked back at my favorite robots once more before we left the room. 

The movie was fun, I always like a good Imax movie. Though, we went to see The Matrix on Imax, many many years ago. As much as I like Lawrence Fishburne, he just shouldn't be on that big a screen. He had some pox scars on his face you could drive a truck through on such a medium. It was all I could concentrate on. The movie about the ocean was much more enjoyable and beautiful. 

On the river next to the science center was the USS Requin Submarine. We still had plenty of time after the movie and decided to tour the sub. When watching movies involving subs, you really don't get the true idea how small and compact everything is. As we walked through corridors, ducking through door, I kept thinking of my 6'4" son.  It's lucky he had never had aspirations of being a naval submarine officer. He wouldn't fit. 

Even the officers' quarters were tiny. Josh would have to sleep with his knees in his ears. Luckily, he should never have to find out. 

The rest of our afternoon consisted of checking out everything around the stadium. One of my favorite things was the statue of Mister Rogers. He was born and grew up in Pennsylvania. The statue of him changing his shoes sits overlooking the Ohio River. I always loved Mister Rogers. His kindness and compassion for others are lessons this world could really use right now. 

Willie enjoyed the walk around the stadium. The sky seemed to be clearing, slowly, and gave hope for the game. There was a statue of Art Rooney, the founder of the Steelers, which interested Willie more than Mister Rogers. Mr. Rooney's statue gave you the impression he was a thoughtful man, who loved life and his cigars. I won't pretend to know anything else about him. 

After walking the circumference of the stadium, we headed back for the front. We bought sweatshirts. I talked Willie into buying a hat. He was't going to, he rarely wears a hat anymore. He used to, he has many, many baseball style hats. He just grew up and grew out of his desire to wear hats all the time. I told him he needed to get one anyway. I convinced him by telling him if it started raining again he would be glad he did. It would help keep the rain off his glasses. He relented and bought a baseball style hat. I kept hoping he wouldn't need it because of rain, the sun was peaking out more. They also had a floppy fishing hat. I joked he should get that one. He just shook his head and walked away. A little while later, it started to sprinkle a bit. I went back and bought the silly fishing hat to keep my glasses dry, maybe if I had it, I wouldn't need it...

Inexperienced Travelers

Way back in October, when the winds were still warm and the sun still made appearances on at least a weekly basis, Willie and I took a vacation. It had been in the planning for months and was finally to come to fruition. I had been looking forward to it, and yet anxious that things would happen that would make it miserable. I don't know why, but you know, "the best laid plans of mice and men" and all. I just kept myself on alert for possible last minute snafus.

I kept checking the weather. First for Pittsburgh, Pa, since we were going to a Steelers game at Heinz Field. Then for Letchworth State Park in western New York state. We would be camping there, in a tent, at the beginning of October. I kept worrying we were going to freeze. I really wanted this vacation to be fun, for both of us. The weather kept looking good for the game, which made me happy. The state park was looking iffy though. It looked like we could have rain most every day. That was disheartening. I really didn't want us both to end up sick.

Finally, the day came to leave. We packed up our car, that was a challenge. We barely got all of the camping equipment and suitcases in the car. At one point it looked like we could get all of the stuff in, as long as I ran alongside. We rearranged again, and fit me in, too. We made sure to put the suitcase for the weekend in Pittsburgh on top of the rest of the stuff. I decided that instead of dividing suitcases by my stuff and his stuff, we would divide them by Pittsburgh and state park. That way we only needed to take one suitcase out that first weekend. everything else could just stay put. It worked better than I had hoped, decreased stress exponentially.

We left about 4:00 pm on Friday, September 30. Our plan, non specific. Our goal, just to make the drive to Pittsburgh on Saturday a little shorter. Even if we just took a few hours off the drive that would be helpful. We hopped in the car, and headed out of town.

As we drove we hit some rain. I kept an eye on the weather app on my phone. Since we had no specific goal in mind. driving in the rain in the dark, just wasn't necessary. We crossed the Mississippi into Illinois, and the rain slowed down. We kept driving down the interstate. As the sun set and darkness set in we started talking about where we might stop. I checked the weather app again and it looked like there was a pretty heavy storm brewing around Chicago and east. We stopped in a town west of Chicago, called Manooka. It was dark, so I have no idea what the town was like. We found a hotel and settled in for the night. As we were settling down to bed, at about 9:30 pm, (yes, we are getting old), I kept hearing what sounded like someone bowling in a room above us. Willie had already passed out, but I laid there trying to figure out what the people above us were doing. A few minutes later, it dawned on me, we were on the TOP floor. So, what the poop was going on?

I got up and went to the window. I didn't know what I would see, because the sounds definitely sounded like they were coming from above. I peaked out the curtains, like if the world were coming to an end in a nuclear strike, the curtains would protect me. As I looked out I say a bright light. "A storm?" I thought. I opened up the curtains a bit more, and saw, FIREWORKS! I love fireworks! I decided this was a sign that our vacation was going to go well. I sat down on the footstool and watched the show out the window of our room. I tried to wake Willie, but he was down for the count.

The next morning we got up early, ok, early for me and headed out. The rain was still around making our drive gray and dull. Of course when we got to Chicago proper, it started to storm. It was hard to see, and Willie was stressed due to the traffic. Maybe the fireworks were an omen, rather than a sign of good luck. 

We powered through, following the GPS on my phone. Being rather inexperienced travelers we had much to learn about toll roads. The tolls going out of Illinois and into Indiana were manned by people, and they were very kind and let us know what to do. As we drove through Indiana the GPS took us off the interstate. We didn't know why for sure, but followed it anyway. We stopped at a rundown gas station in a rundown town to use the restroom. Being as shabby a place as it was, it was quite busy, with a line to the bathroom. A lady waiting while I was, asked me if we had been detoured off the interstate? I said we had just been following our GPS and it led us there. She said there was a big wreck on the interstate and they were directing everyone off, which explained why our GPS did the same and the number of people in line for the bathroom. We chatted a bit more, about a shared love of camping, as we all danced a bit waiting for our turn to finally pee. Willie and I left  and headed back on the road, impressed that Google Maps was able to direct us off the interstate, without delays due to the wreck. 

We finally got back on the interstate, and came to the Indiana-Ohio boarder. Another toll greeted us as we entered Ohio. This one did not have a human to help us along. We stopped and looked at the toll machine trying to figure it out. Willie pushed buttons trying to figure out what to do. The turnpike stayed down. People behind us started to get angry and a truck driver blew his horn, because, you know, that helps. I bent way over to try and see the the whole machine. It had two buttons and Willie kept pushing them. No ticket was coming out that we could see. I leaned farther over and spied it. Way up at the top of the machine, there was our ticket. Apparently, and this did make sense, the lower button was for cars, the upper button for semis. There it was, way up high. Willie climbed out the window and reached way up high for the ticket. As he stretched as far as he could his muscles spasmed right as he grabbed it out. The turnpike finally went up and we moved forward, but by then the damage had been done and Willie was in a lot of pain. Ok, so the fireworks were officially and omen. We stopped for some ibuprofen and food and finished the drive to Pittsburgh. 

The rest of the drive was uneventful, but Willie was miserable. We had tried to make plans with a friend's daughter to see her while we were there, but Willie really just wanted to just have supper and go to bed. We made our apologies, but took her recommendation for a nearby restaurant. We went to bed early and I hoped Sunday would be better. I really wanted Willie to enjoy his football game. Luckily, it looked like the weather still looked hopeful for a nice game night.