Saturday, May 29, 2010

More Meeting and Eating

We continue our whirlwind schedule here in PA. We are still meeting with friends and, of course, dining out so much we have now eaten at over 22 restaurants this month. Some of these are old favorites from the past while others are new places we have tried with friends. We have finalized our summer plans and have ferry reservations from North Sidney, Nova Scotia to Port aux Basque, Newfoundland on June 16th. We will be there for five weeks and will return from Argentia to North Sidney on July 22nd. The return is an overnight 14 hour trip. Our next firm date is August 20th in Cleveland to attend a wedding where we will be staying in the hotel parking lot. We have made reservations to return to WashPA for two weeks near the end of August followed by the Escapade in Goshen, Indiana, then another week in WashPA before heading to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for a month. While all these places and dates are pretty firm, all the days in between are open for unscheduled exploration.
Each time we return to WashPA I have to go to Shorty's for a couple of their famous hot dogs. The sign has to be over twenty years old because they have been at the same location for over 70 years. If you want a great dog go to Shorty's and order two with everything. Another local favorite is the Union Grill, "where friends meet". This is a place where we are always guaranteed to run into many people we know. Above is owner Mickey Flynn and his friend Piccolo. One night at the "Grill" we ran into Ralph Andy, a local businessman who has followed our blog for a couple of years. Ralph again gave us some of his excellent home made wine. This batch was made in 2008 and we can't wait to give it a try.
We had several projects to complete while here. Left is a flag holder, hummingbird feeder, night light stand I put together with the help of Tom and Tim who have all the tools I needed. We have had a booster antenna for almost a year but really have not needed it. The coverage here is a little weak so I put it on a pole for temporary use in locations with poor strength and it works fine. Another big job was fixing a day/night shade. This is the second time we have repaired one and this time must have been easier as there was much less gnawing, gnashing and grumbling between the two of us. We also had the carpet professionally cleaned by Fristick's Steam Klean.
We bought a new camera as the old one has taken nearly 20,000 pictures and we did not want to be out in the wilderness and have it give out. This will also give Nanc her own camera so we will be taking even more pics. We wanted a few more pixels and better telephoto capacity and this close up of the hummer at the feeder shows we got both.
Another goal was to be sworn in at the local Elks Lodge. I had been accepted on our last visit but had left town before taking care of this last step. We will now be able to use Elks campgrounds and join the Escapees Elks BOF.
We got together with the Euchre club for an evening of cards and conversation. They were all very gracious as they let Nanc and me come in first and second so we collected the big money.
We bought new running (walking) shoes and we recommend Elite if you are serious about your feet. They go the extra mile to make sure you have a good comfortable fit.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Catching Up

We continue to meet and dine with friends to catch up with what has been going on in every ones lives since we where last here. We do miss our friends more than we miss anything else. Our bill for groceries this month has been way down but the bill for dining out has been way up. We do love eating at all our favorite local restaurants where we know the food is going to be great. We ate out so often when working that I used to tell people I hid Nanc's Christmas gifts in the oven. We are glad to see the loss of our business did not cause any layoffs. One thing we realized is that at every place we eat (Union Grill, Sam's, Angelo's, Burgh's, Mr Gyro's, Al an Ruben's, Cherry Hill Grill, Solomon's) all have one thing in common, the owner is always there making sure things are running smoothly. When you have a question or concern you are not talking to the manager you are talking to the owner. This explains why these places have been so successful for so long. Anytime you are passing through Washington, PA just Google any of these names to find a place where you can have a great meal served by great people.
One evening we had dinner with our friends Pete and Rosemary (Nanc's old work buddy) at Mr. Gyros, a local Greek restaurant. We had a great evening of food and conversation which ended with a traditional Greek salute, a shot ouzo. Pictured are Kosta, Pete, Chris, Rosemary, Nanc & Jim. Kosta and Chris are the owners of this wonderful little cafe where you can bring a bottle of your favorite beverage and enjoy real home made Greek fare.
When I worked we had a code for getting together for a Friday after work happy hour, we called it bowling. This was in the days before email when someone would have a student go around and ask who was going bowling? We decided to join my old colleagues who are still working to "bowl" a few frames at Solomon's. A grand time was had by all.
Mike has been working to restore this 1950 Ford for a long time and it is now beautifully painted and in fine running order. I got to go for a ride for the first time and Mike and Sherri drove it when we met for breakfast at the Cherry Hill Grill on Sunday morning.
Mike & Sherri's daughter Tracy and grandson Coleman, who was born since we left 18 months ago. Coleman is an avid camper who has many camping items personalized with his name.
We had a wonderful meal at Mike and Judy Campsey's. They are birders who have travelled to many birding sites around the country and are going to Alaska this summer. Mike is the person who first got me interested in birding. While there we enjoyed seeing many local birds coming to their feeder including a beautiful grosbeak that we didn't realize was common to the area.
We spent an afternoon with our old neighbor Dorothy. We lived next door to her for over 25 years and watched her granddaughters grow up. She is more like a second mom than just a great friend. Eight years ago she moved into an apartment and is still going strong at age ##.
On Mothers Day we visited the cemetery where both our parents are buried. It is both sad and interesting to visit this place. There are many other relatives and friends here who were from Burgettstown, where we grew up, so it is a real walk down memory lane every time we visit.

We did get to vote at the polls instead of using absentee ballot for the first time since being on the road. I was very glad to see the 12th Congressional District, which voted for McCain in 08, elect a Democrat to fill the term of John Murtha and to say good-bye to Arlen Specter who was not sure if he was a Democrat or a Republican.

We continue to have medical tests and doctor and dental appointments. Between the two of us we have had over twenty visits for various tests and procedures. We are really glad we are basically healthy and, other than Nanc's knee surgery, everything has been pretty routine and normal. One medical adventure was getting the shingles vaccine. The first three pharmacies I went to did not offer it but the last one, Walgreen's, told me they had it but my insurance would not cover it as a prescription. But, if I went to a Walgreen's with a Take Care Clinic it would be covered as a medical procedure not as a prescription. The difference was a $10 copay rather than $240 for the prescription. Make sure if you are getting this vaccine that you use the clinic.

We have decided to stay here until May 31 so we can get the results of all the medical tests. This will also give us a chance to spend some time with Jack and Marylou who are returning from their winter home in Florida. We celebrated our first Christmas on the road with them in 07 and have not had a chance to see much of them since then.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

America's Most Livable City

According to the latest survey in Forbes magazine, Pittsburgh is the most livable city in America. This honor has been given to the area in the past and it is truly well deserved. The city is no longer a smokey steel town but is now a city with a diverse economy that includes several outstanding institutions of higher learning, great recreation and sport's teams (excluding the Pirates), a thriving cultural district with theaters and museums and excellent employment opportunities in many fields. We have always loved the area and find the weather to be the only big down side to living here. Three of the seasons are usually great but we don't miss the winters that are cold and snowy. All that said, this is a great place to live or visit.
The view from Mount Washington of "the point" where the Monongahela and Allegheny meet to form the Ohio is one of the most spectacular urban scenes in the country. Because of the many hills and the rivers, Pittsburgh is known as the city of bridges and more than fifteen are visible from this spot.
A panorama of the downtown and, as "yunz" can see, it is a small compact area. When driving into the city from the west, the entrance through the Fort Pitt Tunnel is the only place we have ever been where the city suddenly pops into view as you exit.
The history of the area includes visits by George Washington shown here with Seneca leader, Guyasuta, who guided George to met with the French in 1853. Washington was delivering a message for the British that the French should leave the area. They did not, which resulted in the French and Indian War, known as the Seven Years War in Europe. This is the same war that lead to the expulsion of the Cajuns from Nova Scotia to Louisiana.
A typical street scene of a hilly Pittsburgh neighborhood. Because of the rivers and hills, driving here can be a real challenge, especially if you are used to cities with a grid street pattern.
DeLuca's, a Pittsburgh tradition in "the strip"is as the sign says, home of the best breakfast in town.
A great place to learn about Pittsburgh is the Senator John Heinz History Center. It is a celebration of the region. The banner is for the champions. The chair is one someone used to save their parking spot. Only a "jag off" would steal a marked space. The Racer is a roller coaster at Kennywood. Heinz and UPMC are familiar local companies. The gas pump is Gulf Oil. Bottom is an exhibit on the local glass industry and a typical lunch counter from the 50's. The stainless steel car and the covered wagon where both manufactured locally and the quilt shows many famous icons.
The center had a special exhibit on George Washington who passed through the area several times. It depicts his life from when he was a young surveyor, through his military career where he fought with the British in Southwestern Pennsylvania, to the time of his presidency.
The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the History Center has displays of high school, college and professional sports. Top are some of the famous Pirates from the team's more successful years, Arnie Palmer, and the top ten sporting events in the area. Middle are the helmets of the great high school football rivalries including Washington (where I taught) and Waynesburg, and Franco making the immaculate reception that was the turning point for the Steelers after forty years without a championship. Bottom is a mural of local athletes, a Indy race car owned by Pittsburgher Chip Ganassi, and an example of how serious Steeler fans are about their team.
The Greater Pittsburgh area really is a unique and exciting place that is very much worth a visit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Celebrating 25 Years

One of the main reasons we wanted to return to PA this early was to celebrate the 25th anniversaries of my brother and sister-in law, Rick & Denise and our friends Georgie & Tom. In 1985 we were in both weddings a week apart and there was no way we were going to miss this great event. Making a marriage work for 25 years is a really big deal that should be celebrated in a big way. AND WE DID, with dinners at two of Pittsburgh's finest restaurants and enjoyed two great evenings of friendship.
Rick and Denise with a 25th anniversary cup that had originally been given to my mom and dad forty years ago and then passed on to us for our 25th fifteen years ago.
We had a great dinner at Eleven and had a wonderful time catching up as we had not seen Rick & Denise since they flew to Scottsdale for a long weekend in February.
Georgie & Tom. We were not only in their wedding 25 years ago but we also went on their honeymoon which was a four week bicycle trip to Europe that also included Tim and Erin Jones. Tim is in the middle in the picture below and it was Erin we spent the weekend with in San Francisco last year.
The old card club (Sherri & Mike, Di & Tim, Jim & Nanc, Tom & Georgie) enjoyed a great evening at the Grand Concourse where we dined with the newlyweds on their wedding day.
We all gave a new meaning to silliness and spooning after a great meal. I wonder if they gave us a quiet corner because they knew something like this was going to happen.
Just a note to let everyone know Nanc came through the knee surgery (repair of torn cartilage) in great shape and is walking on it less than 24 hours later. This is a much better recovery than with the major knee work she had ten years ago because of a skiing accident when she missed eight weeks of work. It looks like we will be hitting the road near the end of the month as planned.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Back in WashPA

Our return to WashPA has been a whirlwind of doctors, friends, food and music. We have had so many get-togethers we have actually had to write things down to keep track of all the events and appointments. We have had dinner at several of our favorite places and at each one we have encountered old friends and acquaintances who make us feel like we have been away for 18 days not 18 months. You really can go home again when your home is on wheels. The weather has been good and it is great to be back where it is so green after spending so many months in the dry dusty west.
We got together at Palozzo's with the retirees who go out to lunch every week. All the smiling faces show they are loving their retirements.
(top) Sandy & Sandy, Georgie, Tom & John
(bottom) Dave & Pete, Lena & Linda.
On Saturday we went to Bee'z for dinner with Bill & Kim, John & Patrice, David, Dave & Jackie.
Then we all attended an Oldies Night featuring Remember When, a group that includes members of the Vogues and The Four Townsmen, a group that Pete sings with. The Townsmen are from Canonsburg the hometown of Perry Como and Bobby Vinton.
A couple of Wednesday evenings we went to Al & Reuben's to listen to jazz. The sax player, Josh Dunlevy and the guitarist, Dan Baker, are former students. They are very, very talented and play great music.
At our old favorite restaurants it was great to see our favorite bartenders still hard at work. (top) Renee at Sam's and Jen & Toni at Burgh's
(bottom) Jimmy Brown & Billy at the Union Grill.
These are great places with great food and great people that we would recommend to all.
These are the four different medical and dental offices we have been to during our first two weeks. Most of the news was good, BUT Nanc did find out that she will need to get the knee that has been bothering her scoped next week. It should be a simple out patient procedure with a very short recovery time so we are still expecting to be hitting the road in a couple weeks as we originally planned.