We drove Bev out to the airport in the morning, returning to the Urban Homestead to clean up, do a load of laundry and finally get on the road close to noontime with a short two-hour drive down to Pittsburgh. Our stay for the night was at the Courtyard Pittsburgh Airport, actually located near Coraopolis and just a 10-minute drive to the start of our bike tour the next day.
As we would be returning to the same place a week later post tour and I didn’t want to leave my laptop in the car where we would park it while gone, I asked the front desk while checking in if I could store it with them. They readily agreed to do so and we brought our stuff up to the room and then set out for Pittsburgh proper and our first stop of the day, Bicycle Heaven, a shop and museum devoted to all things bicycling and featuring a collection of nearly 4,000 two wheeled specimens.
Started in in 1996 with one discarded bike that Craig Morrow found in the junk, he has grown his collection to include the Pee-wee Herman bike from the movie Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, a Bowden Spacelander, the first fiberglass bike made, and an amazing number of Schwinn Sting Rays.
We spent in excess of an hour roaming the warren of rooms on multiple floors, stuffed to the brim with bikes, antique parts and accessories, and in a large display space on the top floor, a sound system from the 1970’s with a pair of my favorite speakers, the Bose 901’s.
We finished up touring the facility and departed as they were setting up for an annual swap meet fundraiser. A bit hungry and thirsty, we decided to head straight over to the Penn Brewery for beers and dinner. Founded by Tom Pastorius in 1986, it sits on the site of the former Eberhardt and Ober Brewery (founded in 1848). In 2003, Wexford, PA, based Birchmere Capital LP purchased a controlling stake and in January, 2009, ended beer production there laying off 8 of the 10 brewery employees, outsourcing all production to the Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Although they had agreed to keep the restaurant open for five more years, in August of that year they announced the indefinite closing of the Penn Brewery Restaurant. Rescue came in the form of a small group of local investors who acquired Penn Brewery from Birchmere, brought back Tony to restart brewing and in December, 2009, reopened both the tavern and the restaurant. Proving the power of small operations such as this, Pittsburgh Magazine named it one of the favorite breweries in Pittsburgh in 2012.
I’d been here once before with Jessica, in 2005 when we did an east coast college tour (George Washington, American University, Carnegie Mellon, and NYU) over the Labor Day weekend of her senior year in high school. It was a fine trip, mainly because she and I got to spend a lot of time together, not always the case for a father and daughter. I had a bit more to drink that night than I should have and Jessica still fondly recalls my driving over a center divider while making a left turn as the highlight of the trip.
Joanna and I settled into a booth in the main bar area and ordered our first round, a Berliner Weisse for her and a Penn Gold (a Munich Helles style, reminiscent of Augustiner) for me. For food, we split a bowl of Hungarian Goulash Soup and a Jaegerschnitzel (two pork cutlets, mushroom gravy, beer cheese smashers, and vegetable of the day), but substituting spaetzle for the smashers. All authentically German with a slight twist; the soup was thick and rich with large chunks of sirloin steak and potatoes, while the pork cutlets and the addition of the beer smashers (they ended up bringing both to us) were more than enough to fill the both of us. We ordered a second round, for Joanna a Tangerine Swirl (A citrus forward cream ale with a hint of real cream, tangerine and Madagascar vanilla) and I the Penn Dark (Münchener Dunkel) and finished the day, carbo-loading in anticipation of the start of the tour the next day with the house made Apfelstrudel and a scoop of ice cream.
Happily full, we made our way back to the Courtyard and organized our bags for the tour, separating out our tourist clothes used in the week prior to leave behind in favor of our usual outdoor gear in anticipation of a week of camping in various locations with a bunch of not so fashion conscious cyclists.
Up early the next morning, we performed our usual morning routines, loaded the car and made our way over to the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center to park the car and join up with our fellow bike tour participants. While I unloaded the car and pulled the bikes off the rack Joanna went over to the registration booth to pick up our packets which included the itinerary for the week, route slips for each day, and a number of colored plastic bands we’d place on our wrists, the bikes and our pieces of luggage to identify us as tour participants.
Locking up the car, we dropped our bikes off at the trucks to transport them to the trailhead and then rolled our gear over to a set of buses, loaded up the luggage and climbed on board for the two plus hour ride to the start of the tour. With just enough time before departure, Joanna walked over to a nearby 7-11 for a large cup of coffee to share while we drove through beautiful countryside. Let the tour begin!
Courtyard Pittsburgh Airport: http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/pitca-courtyard-pittsburgh-airport/
Bicycle Heaven: https://www.bicycleheaven.org/
Schwinn Sting Ray: http://schwinncruisers.com/bikes/stingray/
Penn Brewery: http://www.pennbrew.com/home.aspx
Robert Morris University Island Sports Center: http://www.rmuislandsports.org/