Part 3: Mega Trip Report – Vegas to Philly

This is part 3 of 3. The first part is posted here and the second part is posted here.

Day 5 – Sun, August 14th: Cleveland, OH to Pittsburgh, PA

My plan for Day 5 was to go to Cedar Point for most of the day and then drive down to Pittsburgh at night. This necessitated driving one hour out of my way (i.e., back to the west) to get to Sandusky, OH and then repeating the same hour on my way down to Pittsburgh. Oh well, not a big deal given that I’ve wanted to go to Cedar Point for a very long time and it’s not all that close to Philadelphia. For those of you who haven’t heard of Cedar Point, many people consider it to be the best amusement park in the world. It has a number of the best, tallest and fastest rides in the world. I’m a ride junkie so it’s the mecca. I got out of Cleveland around 9 AM and headed to Cedar Point for their 10 AM opening. I knew it was going to be a problematic day as soon as I stepped outside in Cleveland and saw wet streets. In addition, it was unseasonably cool outside and it was a Sunday during the summer. In other words, it was a recipe for disaster because either rain was going to close the rides or there were going to be overwhelming crowds due to the cooler weather.

As I pulled into the park, I actually managed to get a pretty good spot and it didn’t look too bad crowd-wise. I went inside and immediately headed to the coaster known as Raptor. The sign said it was just a 15 minute wait so that was promising. It wasn’t 15 minutes. That sign must’ve not been updated because it was more like 45 minutes. The good news is that the ride was great. The skies were still overcast but no rain so I headed over to Millennium Force which is considered by many to be the best traditional steel roller coaster in the world. It has a huge 300 foot drop and goes over 90 mph at its fastest. I was really excited to ride it and it didn’t disappoint — the first drop was amazing. I wish I could have gone again but unfortunately the line was about an hour and the skies were threatening to rain so I needed to move on. At this point I was debating Maverick or Top Thrill Dragster — I went with Maverick.

When I got to Maverick the time estimate was 1 hr outside the ride entrance. I was more interested in making sure I got to ride Top Thrill Dragster so I went over there instead of getting in line at Maverick. One problem: Top Thrill Dragster appeared to be paused. I had seen it running earlier but by the time I got over there it was just a bunch of people waiting for them to open it up. The line estimate was 1 hour also but I really doubt that because it hadn’t been running for at least 15 minutes and tons of people were still getting into line. This is what the scene looked like, although I didn’t take a picture of the line:

Then drops of rain started to come down. I checked the weather forecast on my phone and it looked like rain pretty much all day. Sigh. I made the executive decision to just leave even though I’d only been on two rides. Good thing because about 10 seconds after I got into my car, it started to downpour. I am going to have to go back to Cedar Point next season so I can get the full experience. Just Raptor and Millennium Force really whet my appetite. Sadly, this is what it looked like as I was driving out of Cedar Point:

I ended up just driving straight to Pittsburgh. It was a pretty hellish drive most of the way because of the weather. For about 90 minutes of the drive (not a continuous 90 minutes), we were in a torrential downpour. The entire highway was going about 30 mph with their blinkers on. I couldn’t see more than the car ahead of me. But one interesting thing I noted was how polite the drivers were in Ohio. Before the rain really started, there was one spot where there was a lot of traffic due to a lane closure. Every single person moved over into the open lane a full mile or two before the lane actually closed. Not a single person cheated. It was so unbelievable, I had to take a picture. This is what my rearview mirror looked like:

Not a single person in the left lane the whole time. It was really amazing. I am not sure what’s more efficient from a civil engineering perspective (ie, using both lanes up to the merge point or doing what is pictured above) but it was something I’d never seen before. I probably can’t convey this in writing and all of you are probably just sitting there going “big deal, no one cheated” so I’ll move on.

The rain finally let up for good around 30 minutes outside of Pittsburgh so I made a stop at a gas station to fill up and grab a quick bite to eat (I hadn’t eaten since my early breakfast in Cleveland). The stop was smooth except for one note: the gas pump overflowed on me. That is the first time that’s ever happened in my life. And it wasn’t like it happened at some random shady gas station with old equipment. This was a brand new modern Exxon gas station. But yet the autostop mechanism didn’t work. This necessitated a bit of cleanup because I didn’t want to leave the gas on the car as I’ve heard that gas can be bad for car paint. Luckily the station attendant was nice about it and gave me a towel to help clean up the gas. Overall everything seems to be fine with the paint so it’s not a big deal.

I got into Pittsburgh without any issues and checked into my hotel. I was staying right in downtown Pittsburgh by the point where the famous three rivers meet. But after a bit of catching up online, it was time for dinner so I headed out to an area known as Market Square. Unfortunately not much was open. This was pretty similar to walking around the downtown district of Cleveland on a Saturday afternoon. I guess I was just in the wrong areas. I ended up getting Chipotle in Market Square and then I headed back to the hotel for the night.

Day 6 – Mon, August 15th: Pittsburgh, PA

Day 6 was the first day of the trip with zero driving. Because of the baseball game times and my desire to visit Cedar Point, Day 6 was a somewhat forced “see a bit of Pittsburgh”-day because I needed to wait around for the game in the evening. So I started by getting “breakfast” around 11 AM at the Primanti Bros place in Market Square. I got the corned beef and it was good. Although I don’t think it’s quite as good as people say. I’ve seen Primanti Bros featured on Monday Night Football and so on for years so I had to try it. Here’s a picture of Market Square and a picture of the Primanti Bros sandwich:

I then did a little shopping for a Pirates fitted hat and I also picked up an umbrella because it was threatening to rain at the game that night and I didn’t have one with me. After that I went back to the hotel and dropped off some of the gear before heading back out with my umbrella (rain was threatening all day) and camera to do some walking around. I was debating two options: one was to go see the Batman movie set (yes, another movie set on my trip!) and the other was to walk around the area near the hotel and do more traditional touristy stuff.

I ended up walking over to Point State Park to see where the Ohio River is formed. Unfortunately the point itself appeared to be closed for some renovations so I wasn’t able to get all the way out to the point. But I got the general idea. Then I decided to walk across the Fort Pitt Bridge so I could visit the Duquesne Incline. I’d never heard of the incline before doing a little reading on things to do in Pittsburgh but it instantly struck me as a cool way to see the city. For those who don’t know what an incline is (I didn’t until the day before going to this one), it was a way to get up a large hill in Pittsburgh before powerful cars and high quality roads were commonplace. Back in the day, you either rode the incline or walked. It’s a big steep hill so I would imagine that walking it over and over, especially in bad conditions, would be quite unpleasant. So the incline was the way up. At one point there were a number of inclines running on this hill (and I presume, hills around the world) but only two are left. The ride up the incline was spectacular. And the view at the top was even better. The viewing platform has an amazing panorama view of downtown Pittsburgh. If you’re visiting Pittsburgh, go up the incline. Here’s a panorama image that I took at the top using the iPhone app Photosynth (you need to click on it to see the high res image):

Here are some other pictures from the top:

heinz field

pittsburgh view

duquesne incline

After the incline I walked back to my hotel and walked over to PNC Park for the Cardinals at Pirates game. I was pretty excited about it because I was sitting right on the first baseline (very similar seats to my Indians tickets) and I was going to get to see Albert Pujols up close. It’s not too often that you get to see arguably the best hitter of all-time play right in front of you. He is a big guy. Even standing next to big guys, he’s a big guy. I managed to get a few pictures of his swing but none of them really do it justice. That’s what happens when you use a point-and-shoot from 150-200 feet away at night (even under lights). Too bad I didn’t have a better camera with me. Although, yes, I did get another panorama from my seat (once again, click for high res):

Albert Pujols:

albert pujols

Matt Holliday:

matt holliday

The game itself was fun. The Pirates won. The stadium is an amazing park overall and I can see why it gets rave reviews around the majors. The view of downtown Pittsburgh was fantastic and the park itself is just really nice. I had yet another Primanti Bros sandwich at the game — this time a Pittsburgher. I know I said I wasn’t thrilled with the first one but I guess I wanted to try a different one and see how it was. It was similar to the one I had earlier in the day — good but nothing special. I kinda wish they would offer a toasted version, I think it might be more to my liking. Who am I to argue with tradition though? I did manage to get a cool picture of the PNC Park sign on the way out:

That was it for me that evening. At least this would be my final night in a hotel for the trip. Even though hotels can be nice, I usually can’t wait to get out of them by the time I leave. Between going to the CrossFit games, going to Dallas for a few nights and this road trip, I’d had enough of hotels by this point. I was most definitely looking forward to getting home to my parents’ house.

Day 7 – Tue, August 16th: Pittsburgh, PA to Philadelphia, PA

The final day! For a week-long road trip involving some 45+ hours on the road, this trip went amazingly quickly and easily. No problems whatsoever. The only part that sucked about it was the rain on Day 5 but I guess some inclement weather is inevitable. For my final day, the original plan was to wake up early and get on the road by 7:30 or so and get across Pennsylvania. But at the last minute, I decided to make a detour and visit Fallingwater — the famous Frank Lloyd Wright house in western Pennsylvania. I booked a tour appointment online for 11:30am which was the earliest that they had available. I made it there by about 10:30am partly due to waking up early and partly due to wanting to make sure I made it there on time (it was about 90 minutes from Pittsburgh and ended up being a really smooth drive). As luck would have it, they were able to immediately get me into the next tour group (without me even asking!) because I was a lone traveler and as they said “you can always fit one more person.”

The tour itself was really a contrast for myself. From afar, Fallingwater is incredibly impressive. And I mean that even in the sense of standing inside of it and just taking a general look around. It’s really cool. The house is built right over a waterfall and the water and view are deeply integrated into the design of the house. But, despite the impressive nature of the house, up close it’s pretty grungy and even kind of falling apart. Put it this way: I would not want to live there. And for a house that is worth millions and millions of dollars, that’s sad. But despite all of that, I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and I’m really glad that I got a chance to see it in person. It’s not the easiest place to get to so if you get a chance, see it when you can. Here are some pictures:

fallingwater

fallingwater

fallingwater

fallingwater

After Fallingwater, I got on the road for the final time and made my way across the rest of Pennsylvania. The rest of the drive was pretty smooth although there were a few ironic things towards the end. First, just as I was about to get off of the PA Turnpike, I saw my first Nevada license plate since Utah. That can’t be too common in eastern PA. Second, I hit my first bumper to bumper traffic of the entire trip when I was within 10 miles of my parents’ house. I guess this makes sense given the time of day I was driving and the area but it is kind of funny to get across the country and driving through a bunch of major cities and then hit traffic right at the end. Here are some pics of that:

Luckily, the traffic ended up being pretty tame and I made it home safe and sound by around 5 pm. Overall, the trip was a great experience and I’m really glad I did it. It made me want to do more road trips, particularly around areas I haven’t really been to. I haven’t really been to most of the south (except Atlanta) outside of brief visits so that would be a good trip or two to do sometime soon. Anyway, thanks for reading my mega trip report! Here’s a map of my whole trip, including the tourist stops in Le Claire, IA and Fallingwater (click for larger image):

One thought on “Part 3: Mega Trip Report – Vegas to Philly

  1. Jac

    (1) I’ll volunteer for Cedar Point next year if you need a roller coaster buddy!
    (2) As someone who has to merge into one lane from three after the Bristol Bridge as you get onto the Jersey Turnpike, I was really interested in the “no cheating” story! That’s impressive!
    (3) My gas pump overfilled for the first time ever a week or two ago. What a mess.
    (4) BLBP. :)

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