Saturday, August 11, 2012

a bridge too far.

Hello Sports Fans! It’s time for my biennial bitch about the road signage in Pittsburgh. Or, as a high school classmate of mine observed, “what signage? where?” In short, Kev and I went on a road trip this past week, to visit family. We drove across the scenic Undulating Plateau that is southern New York state, into the unforgiving maw of Pittsburgh and environs, where I grew up. 

Our mission: to visit my Sainted Mother. During the days, I worked (because hallelujah, I work from home anyway, and it is easily transportable.) A few months ago, when we hatched the idea of this trip, we decided to take in a baseball game at PNC Park because hey, it’s a beautiful park, Kevin’s a baseball geek, and what’s not to love about the Pirates?

On our way from my hometown to downtown, we passed my favorite sign in all of Pittsburgh. IMG_0625

I managed to get off a crappy shot from my cell phone. Don’t worry if you can’t read it – you’ll get a chance to see it again soon enough.

I’d brought the Nikon D3100 with me, but I don’t have a telephoto lens yet (I’m too obsessed with the macro stuff), so when on the way to our seats we passed this guy, I was suitably impressed.


THAT’S a camera.


I’ve never sat so close to the field before!


We settled in to our awesome seats and took in the view.


Ahhhh, a bridge. We’re going to be talking about a lot of bridges in this post. This picture makes me feel all nostalgic for our short visit to the ‘Burgh. Because this photo was taken before I lost my enthusiasm for Pittsburgh’s many, many bridges.

I’d also brought the Panasonic Lumix – a point and shoot with more zoomy zoom zoom than the Nikon – and turned it over to Kevin. He had fun with it:


I could probably show him this picture and he’d remember the play. All I can tell you is, “it’s one of their guys”.


Ah, but even I know that this is Andrew McCutcheon, a hot shot for the Forces of Good. We all booed when the Diamondbacks’ pitcher chose to walk him when we had guys on second and third.


As evening fell, so did the Pirates’ prospects. Many so-called fans started to leave in the seventh inning, when the D’s got a home run with two guys on base, and even more in the 8th when the same guy got another home run. We stayed til the bitter end: 10 – 4, them.

Was it because we were mourning our loss that we missed the teensy sign indicating the detour/left exit that our route home called for, due to Pittsburgh’s endless construction? All we knew was, we were suddenly on side streets. I fired up the “oh shit, where am I?” app on my iPhone and we followed the bouncing blue dot (it tells you where you are on the map), until we struggled out of the surface streets and back to the Ohio River Boulevard, where we wanted to be.


Oh hey, I know where we are! And look, they light it up at night!

It was shortly after we got onto the Boulevard that I noticed – and how I wish I had a picture for you – two signs right next to each other. One was a “no left turn” sign. In a spot where there were no opportunities to turn left. Or right, for that matter. Right next to it was a sign saying “Rt 65” [which is the road we’re on] with a right-hand arrow – the universal sign for, “if you want to be on Rt 65, you should turn right now”. In a spot where a) you’re already ON 65  b) it’s not going anywhere and c) there are no opportunities to turn right.

Here’s a tip: if you have extra signs lying around, how about storing them in oh, say, a maintenance garage somewhere? Rather than out on the roads, randomly?

So that was Tuesday. On Wednesday, we hung out, nothing special, enjoying time with my mom, and watching the Olympics. A whole lot of diving, as I recall. On Thursday, we plotted our route across the state for the Poconos, where we planned to visit with Kevin’s extended family for a day.

We decided to take a route that would, in keeping with the Hypotenuse Theory of Navigation, cut a load of time off our journey. See, we needed to be on I-80, but Pittsburgh is an hour or so south of 80, and if you take the direct north-south route (which is I-79) to get to 80, you miss all kinds of interesting potential hypotenuses. So we picked the best-looking hypotenuse. It involved going down the beautiful scenic Rt 65, aka, The Boulevard, home of the Bellevue-Live-Worship-Shop sign, until the edge of the Allegheny River in almost-downtown Pittsburgh, taking a left, and going up the left bank of the Allegheny until, pretty much, I-80 itself. Piece of cake. Note: no bridges involved.

Can you guess what happened? We missed a turn. Once again, a poorly-marked left-hand exit. The next thing we knew, we were shooting over the West End bridge. And as we all know, once you go over the West End bridge, you are screwed, because if your reflexes aren’t up to the task, you’ll find yourself on some parkway going god knows where, with no opportunity to turn yourself around. Fortunately, I had actually run over the West End bridge in the 2011 Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I sorta remembered how – and the Oh Shit app filled in the details –  to get us turned around towards the South Side, which has plenty of bridges to get back towards where we started.

It took two bridges to do that: one from the South Side over the Monongahela River into downtown, and another from downtown, over the Allegheny River, to where we wanted to be. Victory! We proceeded up the hypotenuse.

That’s when my phone rang. It was my mom. I’d left my work laptop on her dining room table. We’d have to go back to pick it up.

You will recall that once you are on pretty much any Pittsburgh road, there is no getting off that road. It took a couple of miles to find an opportunity to get turned around. And you’ll never guess what that entailed…a bridge! Our fourth! Over the Allegheny, into downtown. Through the Strip District to … wait for it… bridge #5, to get back to the Ohio River Boulevard.

My consolation at this point was that I got a chance at this sign from a THIRD direction.IMG_0653

Sigh. Although hey, it’s a nice, crisp shot this time!

Got to my mom’s. Picked up the laptop. Kissy kissy bye bye. And then, done with all hypotenii, we took I-79 due north to I-80 and kept going til we got to the Poconos. We had a lovely time with Kevin’s family – too short a visit, in fact – and came back yesterday. And I’m not getting in the car all weekend. You can’t make me.


  1. This reminds me of so many youthful nights leaving the Civic Arena, trying to find my way home after a concert. All roads lead to the was just some roads were a little more enjoyable than others...

  2. Maybe they should have a series of signs NO LEFT TURN every fifteen feet or so for miles and miles and then one that says OKAY NOW NOW NOW! I'm starting to think that's what I need. I get distracted.

    1. it certainly couldn't hurt. I mean, almost anything would be an improvement.