500 Miles to Pittsburgh

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Waiting in line and traffic. Two of my least favorite things. Getting into Chicago had been a bit more of an adventure than I’d wanted, so I planned my departure to make it as boring as possible. I figured by leaving at seven on a Sunday Morning things were going to be as quiet as they ever get in the Windy City.

I spent the previous night with some great friends who lived near Lake Shore Drive. As evening approached we walked down to Lake Michigan chatting, reminiscing, and philosophizin’. We had a wonderful meal (which I did not prepare) and capped the evening off with some wine and good music.

The following morning I rose early, packed and ready to go by seven. The streets were beautifully deserted and I rode down Lake Shore with the sun rising over the waters to my left and the beautiful, sleeping city to my right. I felt almost like an unwanted houseguest as I slipped out of the city and down to the old Lincoln Highway cutting the rest of the way through Indiana and Ohio.

Like many secondary roads in the country, US Route 30 has been smoothed and polished, and where once I would have ridden down the main street of several little towns, now I found myself largely on four and six lane highways bearing down at seventy and watching the landscape ghost by.

I was thankful for the efficiency of my travel… but couldn’t help feeling as though something was lost because of it. At least the landscape was changing. It was beginning to look a lot like home, and I was drawn repeatedly into reverie.

I’ve been traveling since a month after I graduated high school and turned eighteen (on the same day). What have typically been rather long sojourns are punctuated by two to three years living in the same place. My orbits steadily grew further and further from home.

Therefore traveling east, especially in this manner as opposed to a more rapid transport by plane, felt almost like going backwards in time. I lived in Chicago around 2006. Pittsburgh, however, had been my first new home. And as I neared it I was transported to 1995 and my first real exploration of a new place.

Towards the end of Ohio, 30 finally returned to the two lane country road it was always meant to be. The Appalachians rose around me as shades of long dead family. Even though it had been a long day in the saddle already I grew excited.

I rode down and across the Ohio River, a smile breaking out on my face, and as I crossed into West Virginia I began to sing “Country Roads” at the top of my lungs. By the time the song was over, I was crossing into Pennsylvania and a sense of accomplishment settled over me.

Not too long after getting into PA I was on an interstate again for the last thirty or so, somewhat harrowing, miles into the ‘Burgh. It was a gorgeous evening. Even though I could have gone in the back way, I rode through the Fort Pitt Tubes to see the stunning view of downtown on the other side. I crossed one of Pittsburgh’s many bridges, wound my way into the Slopes, and finally found my friend, Bogacki.

We went down into the Flats. He fed me beer. It was delicious.

Above is the Monongahela Incline, which I used to take daily down to Station Square to walk to art school. In the background are the Monongahela River and the Southside Flats.