Photograph by Brad Quartuccio
Pittsburgh is for lovers....... and cyclists, and hi5ers, and everyone....... Pittsburgh is for me. I love that place. The state of Pennsylvania is beautiful with its lush trees and the rolling hills, but I didn't know what Pittsburgh itself would look like. I've never been there before and so I knew nothing about the city other than their hockey team's owner, Mario Lemieux, was the greatest hockey player of all time when he played for the Pens. Here's where the Gretzky fan's monocles fall out of their eye and they do a spit take with a mouthful of their Chamomile tea. The traffic in was thick and I went through a long tunnel before I got there, making it so I almost passed out when I was holding my breath and making a wish. When I saw the city on the other side and all of its bridges my mind was officially blown. Their city moto might as well read: "Pittsburgh.... who knew?"
I was on my way to the editor of Urban Velo, Brad Quartuccio's house. We have known each other via internet for quite some time, but met for the 1st time at Backyard Blam's "Binary Burnout" in Portland through our mutual friend, Dan Powell of Portland Design Works. He offered to let me stay at his house, hang out with his friends, and show me his beloved city. Being a third generation Pittsburgher, Brad knew all of the ins and outs of the city and riding around with him was like being taken on a behind the scene bike tour. Instead of taking the streets, he took me on a lot of back alley paths that were filled with gravel and pot holes. Since I brought my Raliegh RXC, I preferred the route instead of that of a paved road. Pittsburgh reminded me of my home, Portland, except a lot older and just a little grittier. It spoke to me... it said "Amanda, I am like Portland except older and grittier. You think that's awesome" Pittsburgh was right, I do like that.
We pumped 90's hip hop all night long, collected people's cycling memories, their stories, and drank Pittsburgh beer well into the night. The Wheel Mill is Pittsburgh's indoor bike park. MTB, BMX, Trails, Dirty J's (Dirt Jumpers), whatever... in this 80,000sq ft. building, there is riding for everyone. What I like is there are closed off sections that just house wood and a lot of it which alludes to they are always building. You know, like those little dudes in Fraggle Rock, the Doozers.
The next day Brad took me around the city to show me some of his favorite spots. He rode me through a cemetery to the first stop, Kraynik's. It was Gerry's father's before it was his and it's 4 floors of pure madness.
Brad assures me it's more organized than it used to be, but it still looked pretty insane. To go find parts you have to go digging.... literally. To go digging you need a flashlight and he has a box of them at the counter. He has open stands and tools for people who want to want to wrench on their own bike and he's there to offer advice if you need it. Gerry is the only one who works there and it looks like it. We got a chance to hang out and talk with him for a bit. He's a friendly dude with a kind heart and takes in donated kids bikes, fixes them up, and then gives them away through an organization to kids in need at Christmas. He was telling us it was slowly becoming a full time gig. There are a lot of needy kids who need to shred out there.
On our way to our next location Brad took me to Urban Velo HQ. It is a nice office located near his house and I told him I was jealous. He told me eff off and then we started dance fighting like in that Michael Jackson video. He won so I went outside and angry danced like in that Kevin Bacon movie. A lot of dancing going on. After I fist pumped, pirouetted, and did some flips, I was ready for our next destination, Bicycle Heaven. The name says it all....
First off, Pee Wee's bike is there. In my opinion, he could have just that there and the place would be awesome, but there is so, so, so much more. He specializes in Schwinn Singrays and the first floor was filled with every kind you can imagine. Since my imagination is that of an extremely creative child, it says a lot. They have been doing a lot of work on the second floor and even Brad was amazed. I guess it used to not look so museumy. Can't say that anymore.
After Bicycle Heaven we met up with Brad's special lady, the lovely Katie Horowitz, had a couple of drinks and then rode to check out Mario Lemieux's statue. The staute had a tiny mullet and I was pleased. We rode back to his house chilled for a bit and then at night rode out to the river to something called the button, a big, round, cement platform you have to jump to, and lit things on fire.
The next day Brad and some of his pals decided to take me on a 4-5 hour gravel ride while they figured out the route for their race, The Royal Rumball. It's a wrestling themed race where you have to eat rumballs. After doing just part of the course the thought of eating a rumball made me want to puke in my mouth.
We rode on rocks by the railroad, on back gravel roads, by a pet cemetery and we climbed and climbed and climbed. Katie got a flat right after the tracks and I had a slow leak the whole ride that I kept having to pump up. My legs exploded and Katie and I brought up the back. I was thankful every time there was a downhill paved section. After the ride we stopped off to get food and then go check out some street sprints that were being held under a bridge. We missed all of heats, but made it in time for the final couple of races. I felt like I could sleep standing up so after those we headed back to Brad's. When I say Brad's, I mean Brad's.... everyone in Pittsburgh around my age owns their own house because they can get a 3 floor 3 bedroom for $50k. When the steel mills closed in the 80's tons of people left Pittsburgh. Also, the housing market never boomed so it didn't bust like it did for the rest of the country leaving affordable housing for people like Brad and his friends. If it wasn't for the winters, I would move there, but I hate winters. HATE them. I am from Fargo so I got my fill. I was so sad to leave Pittsburgh and the time I spent there was wonderful. I can't wait to get back. Who knew, Pittsburgh? Who freaking knew?