Year-end list season is upon us once again. This year, I thought it would be good to start with a list of all of the things I loved about living in Los Angeles, as well as a few things that perhaps weren’t so great.
Things I Will Miss About LA
Having proximity to the ocean, beaches and good hiking without leaving the city
Amoeba and all of the other great record stores in LA
More movie theaters (especially independent art houses like Cinefamily) than I have ever seen in one place
Today was the last day of our trip and despite being a little tired of living out of a suitcase, I did not want it to end. Before we left Pittsburgh, we made one last trip to the Strip District for pancakes at Pamela’s Diner, which is apparently one of President Obama’s local favorites, and some insane donuts from Peace, Love & Little Donuts. Maple Bacon Donuts? I’ll take two dozen!
Most of today was spent traversing Pennsylvania. We did stop at Roadside America, which is kind of like a giant version of your grandfather’s musty basement, complete with an enormous interactive train set. How this place stays in business, I will never know.
After a less than inspiring diner lunch, we were back on the road and New York bound. A few hours later, we arrived at my parents’ house and after a very warm welcome, we unloaded the car one last time. We are thrilled to be back on the east coast and can’t wait to catch up with family and friends. Thank you for sharing this amazing journey with us.
Pittsburgh is officially our favorite city of the trip. Today, we experienced a wide variety of distinctly Pittsburgh things. Our first stop was Bicycle Heaven, which is one of the most insane things I have ever seen. It is a family-owned collection of bicycles that took decades to acquire and curate. Many of them are for sale, but you can spend hours here just looking around and taking photos.
For lunch, we drove over to the Shadyside neighborhood and had some awesome grilled cheese sandwiches at The Yard. Next up was the lovely Phipps Conservatory, which happens to be free on Mondays and is a great way to spend an afternoon.
No visit to Pittsburgh is complete without a trip up and down the historic Duquesne Incline. People still use it every day as part of their normal routine, but it’s the views from the top that attract tourists and travelers. Once at the top, you can also get a behind-the-scenes peek at how the technology of the incline works. It’s worth the extra couple of quarters they charge for entry.
We finished the day with a brief hike in the hills and a walk along the recently redone waterfront where the three rivers meet. Dinner was at Sharp Edge in the Cultural District, which is a fine example of why you shouldn’t necessarily judge a restaurant by its decor. Try the Belgian Burger!
Donna is a real sports fan. Me? Not so much. That being said, it is hard not to get excited about a Steelers game in this town. After sleeping in a bit, we met up with a few of Donna’s friends for some pre-game tailgating. Then it was time to face the very organized madness that is Heinz Field. We had awesome seats and were treated to a really great game on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
I consumed more than my fair share of hamburgers at the game, but there was no way I was going to let that stop me from having a nice dinner. We Uber-ed it over to Point Breeze and had some AMAZING Moules Frites at Point Brugge Cafe. It’s a small and obviously popular neighborhood place. We sat at the bar and asked for extra bread to soak up all of the brothy goodness.
Another super friendly Uber ride later, we were back at the hotel and planning our third and final day in Pittsburgh. I love this city!
We are finally north of the Mason-Dixon and the landscape is starting to look like home. We’re still about 6 hours west of New York, but we are clearly back in the northeastern United States. After spending the morning on the road, we drove through the 279 tunnel and as we emerged on the other side, Pittsburgh came into full view. It was a very dramatic reveal. You could see the entire city tucked in the hills, but also the more suburban areas around and above the downtown area. I have never been to Pittsburgh before, but I liked it immediately.
Our first stop in Pittsburgh was, of course, the Andy Warhol Museum. Although I have an enormous appreciation for his contribution to art history, other than his screen printing work, I am not overly enamored with him. It was interesting to see where he came from and how he evolved as an artist. The museum was slightly underwhelming and I was really annoyed to find out they have a “No Photography” policy. I found this to be more than a bit ironic, given that Andy Warhol made his fame and fortune by taking pictures of celebrities and appropriating other people’s work.
After we checked in to our hotel — which was filled with people who were obviously in town for Sunday’s Steelers/Niners game — we walked around the Strip District in the rain and stopped at Primanti Bros. for a Pittsburgher. Yes, that sandwich with french fries on it that you’ve always heard about. It’s ridiculous.
We would have liked to spend another day in Nashville, but I needed some downtime to help kick this cold and we didn’t want to fall behind schedule. Donna did most of the driving this morning so I could rest a bit. We stopped in Kentucky at Mammoth Cave National Park, which was fun, but Carlsbad is a tough act to follow.
By dinnertime, I was already starting to feel better. We stopped in Huntington, West Virginia and ate at Black Sheep Burrito & Brews. Huntington is a small town, but it was very apparent as soon as we walked in that we picked the right place. The food and service was awesome and we really dug the vibe. A lot of my friends bust my chops about my Yelp dependency, but I take my food very seriously and there is absolutely no reason in this day and age to subject yourself to a lousy meal, especially when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
After dinner, we drove for a couple of more hours before checking in to a hotel. Tomorrow, we head to Pittsburgh.
Despite coming down with a cold, today was yet another great day in another great city. We arrived in Nashville just in time for lunch (have you noticed a pattern yet?) and had more awesome fried chicken at Hattie B’s. Afterwards, we headed over to see the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry. I’m not a fan of country music in general, but this place is a must-see.
After the Ryman, we walked over to Hatch Show Print and Third Man Records. Dinner tonight was at Fleet Street Pub in Printer’s Alley, followed by a walking ghost tour, which was a lot of fun. I will be doing more of these in the future. In addition to the the haunted history portion, walking tours are a great way to see a city at night from a different perspective and with the benefit of local expertise.
A trip to Memphis just wouldn’t be complete without visiting Graceland. I’m not the biggest Elvis fan in the world, but I appreciate what he contributed to rock and roll history. The house and the grounds are kept in immaculate condition, but the whole experience made us feel like cattle. They move an obscene number of people through that place every day and although the audio portion of the tour is interesting, I didn’t really like wearing an iPad around my neck the whole time.
Lunch today was at Blues City Cafe, another local joint recommended by another local cab driver. It was better than Central BBQ, but still not that great.
For the record: Texas BBQ > Memphis BBQ
We had to run a few errands this afternoon, so we didn’t manage to do any more sight seeing today. For dinner, we decided on a non-BBQ option and ate at a place called Babalu Tacos and Tapas in Overton Square. Our meals were much better than the name suggests — especially the guacamole made table side. We walked back to our hotel to try and offset some of the day’s caloric intake. Tomorrow, we are heading to Nashville.
Dinner, unfortunately, was a little disappointing. Despite asking every cab and Uber driver we met where to go for the best BBQ, Central BBQ turned out to be just okay. Maybe we’ll have better luck tomorrow.
Damn. Texas is big. Lots and lots of driving today. I never thought I’d be so happy to see Arkansas.
Another eight hours and another five hundred miles and we finally reached Little Rock, just in time for dinner. We found a great little place called Flying Fish and I had some awesome crawfish chowder, hushpuppies and a crawfish po’boy. It’s the simple things in life.
On the way out, I happened to notice a cool Jaws reference hanging on the wall. Well played, Little Rock. Well played.