Erie, PA – May 2017 – An Erie Evening

A weekend trip for strange and unusual sites has landed us in Erie, Pennsylvania for a few hours on a Friday evening. It seems everywhere has something to offer to come up with interesting photographs.

Car Art

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Miss Liber-Frog in front of a school.

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Brig Niagara at the Maritime Museum

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Russian Church

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Tourist Boat in the Bay

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Commodore Perry Monument

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Harbor Front Housing

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Erie Land Lighthouse – Oldest on Lake Erie

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Vineyards outside of town – Lake Erie in the background

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New York City – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 2

ew YorAn early Sunday morning start allowed our 5 hour drive from Greensburg to Jersey City to be completed shortly after noon. After dropping the car off with the Courtyard Hotel valet, and the bags in the room we caught the Path train for Manhattan, specifically the new World Trade Center.

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As we came up the escalator we entered the Oculus, the transportation and retail center designed by a Spanish architect Santiano Calatrava. Designed to resemble a bird being released from a child’s hand, the roof was originally designed to mechanically open to increase light and ventilation to the enclosed space. Due to budget restraints, a 355 foot operable skylight was built with 224 pieces of glass in 40 panels that can be cantilevered from the surrounding steel skeleton. When the skylight is opened, its panels retract into pockets in the roof.

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Each September 11th, the skylight will be opened to the elements for 102 minutes. That is how long the 2001 terrorist attack lasted, from the time the first jetliner hit the trade center at 8:46 a.m. until the collapse of the second tower at 10:28 a.m. “In all weather conditions, the public will experience a subtle sense of man’s vulnerability, while maintaining a link to a higher order,” as said by Santiago.

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The project was grossly over budgeted and critics complain of the narrow halls to handle the mass of commuters. Some describe the “Oculus” as a stegosaurus or white elephant monstrosity rather than a bird. I thought the building was very modern in appearance with the spiny ribbed ceiling and white interior and it suited New York to match the chic style of the city providing a real statement in architecture.

We went out into the streets and found the Fulton Street Cafe for something to eat, followed by a walk uptown to the  J. P. Morgan Library. The company I work for supports the arts in New York, and as a result, we have access to most of the New York museums without charge, a great perk. The Morgan Library is a personal collection of books and items of Mr. John Pierpont Morgan. The collection was so dear to him that he had a building added on to his home to store his books and historical documents, drawings and prints. The library was built in the Italian-Renaissance-style with three magnificent rooms.

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After Pierpont’s death, his son J.P. Morgan, Jr. fulfilled his father’s wishes by transforming the library and its treasures as a public institution. Late in the 1920’s the Library and Museum expanded replacing the Morgan home. Although a staircase which led from the Morgan home to the library remains hidden behind two bookshelves, the staircase can still be seen if looking through the screen and behind the books on the shelf. In 1988, the Library and Museum annexed the brownstone home of J.P. Morgan, Jr. so that a garden courtyard now connects all the various buildings of the campus.

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Our tour of the Morgan Library began at the entrance into the rotunda. The rotunda had a vaulted ceiling and the room was made of marble surfaces, mosaic panels, and columns of lapis lazuli. We toured the original reading room that also served as Morgan’s office with the fresco painting on the ceiling and antique artifacts and items on display. Morgan’s office also served as an important point in history where the most influential bankers met to design a plan to pull the United States out of debt and save the economy. Art and books filled the room. In fact, books scaled the height of the walls so that a ladder was installed to reach the upper shelves. We saw the first ever electric light which hung from the ceiling and Rembrandt’s first masterpiece painting in the same room.

The Library also has a rare collection of illustrated manuscripts decorated with silver or gold. The Crusader Bible, also called the Morgan Bible, is probably the most famous manuscript in the world because this picture book, which was likely made in Paris about 1250, has long been associated with the court of Louis IX. The book originally had no text, but along the way, inscriptions indicative of changing owners were added in Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian. The illuminations represent one of the greatest visualizations of Old Testament events ever made. Other items included great works of artists—Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rubens, Gainsborough, and Picasso; early printed Bibles, among them three Gutenberg Bibles. There were also Bob Dylan’s scraps of paper where he jotted down his song “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

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We walked from the Morgan Library and picked up the High Line, once a railroad track, but now an elevated walking trail lined with shrubs and natural flora. The old tracks were hidden along side the paved path where we walked until we reached the Chelsea District for a beer. A great walkway, it has been discovered by tourists (like us) as a result it is very busy.

2016 08 28 79 New York.JPGEventually we dropped off, had a beer, and continued south on the streets past the meat packing district, Greenwich Village, and SoHo until we reached the World Trade Center about dusk, which was great timing for photographing the Oculus exterior.

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The PATH train took us to Hoboken, New Jersey for us to have dinner at Del Frescoes, where we had sole with crab and filet mignon. The food was not as tasty as expected but the views from the restaurant were spectacular. The restaurant was located on the bank of the river with the best view of New York City. The entire New York City skyline was lit and shimmered onto the river as we walked the short trip back to our hotel in the Newport area.

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Latrobe, PA – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 1 – Going Bananas

The weekend before Labor Day we took off for yet another road trip, this one with plans to go up the east coast as far as Newfoundland, but first we had to stop in Greensburg, Pennsylvania for a wedding. But there is no sense in going somewhere without finding something unusual to see or do, and this day was no different. Before the wedding we stopped in Latrobe to visit the Banana Split Festival.

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The city of Latrobe celebrated the 100th anniversary of the invention of the banana split in 2004 and, in the same year, the National Ice Cream Retailers Association certified Latrobe as its birthplace.  It is the place of an annual Great American Banana Split Celebration and a keeper of the original soda fountain where the first confection was made by David Strickler, an apprentice pharmacist at Tassel Pharmacy.  The downtown area was filled with vendors selling various items.  The festival t-shirt sported the slogan “you had me at bananas” referring to the Jerry Maguire movie quote “you had me at hello.”. It seemed everything, and everyone had gone bananas.

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We stayed long enough to see the pie eating contest.  A table with 48 pies proudly warming up in the morning sun waiting on the contestants, who were lined up on a very long table set up along a sidewalk. Most appeared to have entered from challenges from friends, approximately 20 people in all (many pies were left unchallenged). With looks ranging from concern to amusement the contest began. Almost immediately one of the contested reached over and rammed her friends face into his pie!

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90 Second late it was over…the champion from last year won again this year by eating a complete banana cream pie loaded with whip cream topping and the crust in less than 90 seconds. Most of the other people had barely started on theirs. By doing this he received a decorated belt with a silver metal engraved buckle presented to him by the designer of the belt that would put most big time wrestling belts to shame. In addition the winner won $100 and the honor of posing with a giant cookie from the sponsor and provider of the pies, Eat N Park.

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Oh yes – the guy who had his contested messed up by the pie push got his revenge.

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The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent at the wedding and reception, held at Lakeview in Greensburg, where they have a replica Statue of Liberty. At the end of the reception there were fireworks, where with the right angle it looked like the real thing.

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Pittsburgh- June 2016 – Weekend in the ‘Burgh

A quick weekend road trip to Pittsburgh was in store in late June, primarily to go to a Pittsburgh Pirates game. But first up was a stop at the University of Pittsburgh, specifically taking a self guided tour of the Cathedral of Learning. Built in the late 1920s, and finished in 1934, it is the tallest educational building in the Western hemisphere at 535 feet high, built in a gothic style.

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As you enter the building you come into the lobby, a massive 3 story high room. Around the perimeter of the first floor, and third floor are 30 Nationality Rooms designed by the various ethnic groups (mostly European) from throughout Pittsburgh.

When we arrived we immediately went to the 42nd floor, where we could look out small windows to the north, south and east, providing vistas across much of Pittsburgh, but unfortunately not a complete downtown view. Prior to the construction of Three Rivers Stadium on the north side in 1970 the Pirates played at Forbes Field, which was just to the south of the campus. A very famous photo shows fans watching the 1960 World Series from this vantage point.

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Returning back to the ground level we received a key from the attendant and wandered in and out of the various Nationality rooms for about an hour. Most of the rooms had a religious feel to them, but the furniture and artwork was very interesting, and dramatically different from room to room.

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We left Pitt to head downtown to park the car at our hotel, a Hilton Garden Inn near Market Square. Once downtown we found that numerous streets were closed or re-routed, or had changed course since I regularly drove them. Eventually we did make it to the hotel and into the garage. The Hilton Garden Inn had recently opened, and our room on the 10th floor had a decent view of the surrounding buildings.

We dropped the bags off and headed out on foot to find a couple of the Roadside America attractions previously missed. The one I really wanted to find most was the Lawrence Welk bubble making machine supposedly at the William Penn Hotel, a classic old hotel. The difference in the look and feel of the new, contemporary hotel we were staying and the William Penn were striking, but all we wanted was a bubble machine. After asking a couple of the workers we finally found a maintenance man who was familiar with it. He took us to an area that had a small museum of the hotel, and we look, and looked again, still not finding it. Finally I  went back upstairs where I found a display underneath a stairway that contained the famous bubble making machine.

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After a lengthy walk out to the Strip District and back down Penn Avenue through a jazz festival we headed to the game. A full house, beautiful weather and an exciting Pittsburgh Pirates game made for a great evening. The return trip the next day was uneventful with no interesting side trips.

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Western Pennsylvania – March 2016 – Chainsaws and Groundhogs

The second full weekend in March was very warm and snow free so we decided to make a run to Western Pennsylvania for a few sights. But first we made a stop in Warren, Ohio to check out Dave Grohl Alley. Dave was born in Warren, but moved to Washington DC at a young age. Still Warren is proud he was born there and have a Dave Grohl Alley in downtown Warren, next door to a Burger King. The display is pretty cool, and since he specialized in Grunge rock being in a grungy alley somehow seems appropriate.

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We continued our drive until we reached Clarion, Pennsylvania where we spent the night. Early the next morning we were on our way to Ridgway, our destination, for the annual Chainsaw Carvers Rendevous. This event draws artists from all over North America and Europe, well over 100 different artists. We arrived to the sound of chainsaw and the smell of wood, nothing like chainsaws in the morning.

The festival had been going on for a couple of days so there were already a number of completed carvings, with each artist displaying their work in their own booth. The booths lined 3 streets for about 10 blocks. If they weren’t blasting away with a chainsaw they were more than happy to talk about their works, and their story on how they got into chainsaw carvings. Amazingly everyone I shook hands with had all of their fingers.

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We spent a long time talking with a couple of the competitors who had come down from Ontario. They said it is easier to get chainsaws into America than it is to get guns into Canada, which makes total sense to me.

While there were plenty of bears and eagles, the collections didn’t stop there. In the first block alone we saw two squirrels fighting with light swords, a horned/winged female with two giant serrated knives (which I can’t even begin to give a name to what she represented but I know I wouldn’t want to meet her live), a Sasquatch,  a knight and a crab.

There are two primary objectives to the festival; win the competition and sell their work. They start with a large block off wood, carve the basics with the chainsaw and then do the finish work with Dremel tools. Depending on the intricacy it takes them anywhere from 1 to 4 hours, or more.

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The contestants were all very happy about the March weather in North Central Pennsylvania, as it is usually brutally cold, earning the town the nickname of Fridgway. After spending a few hours wandering the streets we headed on, but very satisfied we made the long drive to Pennsylvania for a bunch of chainsaw people.

Our next stop, about an hour away, was Punxsutawney,  home (of course) of Phil, the prognosticating groundhog. The town clearly plays it up to the hilt, with fiberglass Phil’s decorated as different characters displayed around town. The real Phil has a home in the local library, where you can go see him anytime, which we did. Having lived in Pennsylvania previously we knew that the Groundhog Day movie itself wasn’t filmed there (it was filmed in Illinois), but it still a nice little town and well worth a visit. Someday I will go freeze my tushie off and get up at 4 AM to see a rodent pulled out of a tree stump, but that will have to wait until another year.

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Our day ended in Latrobe, home of Arnold Palmer,Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, Mister Rogers and the Banana Split. Having lived there it is always interesting to stop by when we can. We went to the highest rated restaurant on Tripadvisor, only to discover someone in Pennsylvania is doing a poor job of rating, because it wasn’t good, but at least before we went we stopped at the Four Seasons Microbrewery, which was excellent.  Our hotel in Latrobe had a nice little Arnold Palmer display of old golf equipment.

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The next day we drove into Pittsburgh for a couple of Roadside America sights, starting with a McDonald’s in Irwin that was the birthplace of the Big Mac, complete with a mini McDonald’s museum. From there we went down to the South Side to see Fredasaurus Rex, a fiberglass dinosaur decked out like Fred Rogers. Also in Pittsburgh was a collection of quirky looking musicians sculptures, a growing vertical garden up the side of a skyscraper, and a randomly place 10′ pole at a 60 degree angle with little people glued to the top of it at Carnegie Mellon University. With all of those engineers you think they could get it level.

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The highlight of our morning in Pittsburgh was a stop at Bicycle Heaven. Founded in 1996 by someone who found a bike in a junk pile, he started selling used bikes and collecting vintage ones, ending up with over 3000 bike scattered in a number of garages. In 2011 he took over an old industrial building on Pittsburgh’s northside, and now it is one of the largest bicycle museums in the world.

We roamed the multiple levels of bikes stuffed absolutely everywhere. Interspersed with the bikes were various collections or art works made out of bike parts, including a chain of gear shifters. One room was full of tires and inner tubes, the walls covered in forks and seats. They even had a day glo room where all of the bikes and parts were painted in day glo paint lit up by black light.

The collection featured a number of bikes with advertising from various companies; Oreo Cookie Bikes, Volkswagen, Rolling Rock, and a Pittsburgh Steelers bike. The latter was in a large display of Pittsburgh sport memorabilia including nearly 100 bobble heads, statues and photos. A stop at Bicycle Heaven is very highly recommended.

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Not far from Bicycle Heaven is Randyland, in the Mexican War Streets area of the northside. Randyland is an explosion of color in a courtyard and sides of some old row houses. He purchased a number of the abandoned buildings in 1996 to start Randyland. According to an article on Randy, he is sort of like Mister Rogers on speed. Unfortunately Randy was out the day we were there, but a volunteer was hanging around and let us in.

One complete wall is a 40 foot high mural with dinosaurs, butterflies, giant ladybugs, waterfalls, mountains, two moons, a castle, and birds. There are planters made from sewer pipes; plastic pink flamingos and parrots amid the banana trees; old metal lawn chairs hang from a fire escape, and mannequins just hanging around.

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The entire place is painted in bright colors, as though a giant PPG can puked over the entire place. Having seen this neighborhood in the old days, it has taken a bright turn for the better with Randyland.

Before we left town though we stopped by Jerry’s Records in Squirrel Hill. If you are a music fan, and have any appreciation at all of records you must go to Jerry’s at least once. Jerry, who used to bear an amazing resemblence to Jerry Garcia, has the upper floor of a strip of businesses. The building must be strong because there are nearly a million records in stacks and stacks of shelves. We were lucky on this day as Jerry was in the house, even posing for a picture. But alas it is time to leave the Burgh.

A scenic route home took us through Steubenville to find a Dean Martin mural, amazingly (and sadly) painted on the side of a Kroger store. How can you paint a mural of arguably the coolest person ever from Ohio on the side of a damn grocery  store? We moved on to another ‘cool Ohioan’ landmark, Clark Gable’s childhood home in Cadiz, but it was closed.

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Our last stop home was in the tiny little town of Peoli, home of Cy Young’s eternal resting spot. His grave is adorned with old baseballs people leave as a tribute. We stood in the drizzle admiring this as the Amish buggies would roll by. I could only wonder what those people think of some crazy people standing in a cemetery looking at a headstone full of baseballs.

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Favorite Photos 2004-2014

Trier, Germany – February 27, 2006 – Imperial Baths

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Cleveland – December 27, 2010 – Frozen Pier on Lake Erie

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Louisville – October 27, 2013 – Foggy Ohio River Bridge

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Pittsburgh – June 28, 2008 – PNC Park

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Cleveland – June 15, 2009 – Progressive Field

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Columbus, Indiana – October 25, 2013 – Cummins Engines Corporate Office

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Scottsbluff, Nebraska – July 9, 2012 – Scotts Bluff National Monument

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Clermont, Kentucky – October 26, 2013 – Jim Beam Factory Tour

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Marblehead, Ohio – August 09, 2014 – Sandusky Bay & Cedar Point

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Cleveland – August 2, 2007 – Jacobs Field Restaurant

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Arapahoe Basin, Colorado – June 20, 2010

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Augusta, Georgia – April 10, 2013 – The Masters

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Pittsburgh – January 28, 2012 – Bill Mazeroski Statue

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Mansfield, Ohio – June 2, 2012 – Shawshank Redemption Prison Tour (Ohio Reformatory)

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Fayette County, Pennsylvania – October 9, 2011 – Kentuck Knob

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Pittsburgh – August 2004 – Kennywood Park

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Cambridge, Massachusetts – June 22, 2012 – Charles River

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Outside of Barstow, California – March 14, 2012 – Route 66

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Pittsburgh -July 2012 – Schenley Park Vintage Grand Prix

Each July the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is held in Schenley Park. Now the longest running, and one of the hightest attended vintage grand prix in the world, they have been racing since 1983.

The Schenley Park races culminate a day 10 automotive festival held throughout Pittsburgh. The race winds through the park, along stone walls, with many one of a kind and priceless cars racing dangerously close to those walls.

At the same time as the races a car show is held on the grounds of the Schenley Park Golf Course. The entire event is held to raise money and awareness for the Allegheny Valley School and The Autism Society of Pittsburgh.

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