My birthday was June 21st, and I had been having a really rough time up until that point, so I was really glad that I was able to take a trip and do some adventuring on my birthday. I turned 31, and last year I had an amazing party, but this year I just wanted to do some exploring and something more intimate. Joe and I planned a road trip to Pittsburgh, with a bunch of detours for roadside attractions on the way (look forward to an upcoming post for those!), and we stayed two nights in a hotel on a super huge, comfy bed. I ate hotel waffles in the morning and tacos named after It’s Always Sunny references at night.
I grew up with a ton of family right outside Pittsburgh, and a few years ago, I went there to visit a mail friend and the bridge I helped yarnbomb for Knit The Bridge. But I’ve never really gotten to explore the city the way I wanted to, on my own terms with ample free time and no restrictions. This was a real treat, and I got to see so many cool things. Thanks to everyone for the amazing suggestions! A lot of the things I’m going to share today overlap with roadside attractions. And if these are places you’re interested in visiting, there might be spoilers, so beware!
The coolest part of this trip was how many people I met who had spent 10-50+ years dedicating their life to their passions. The passions varied in theme so drastically, it was crazy. For example, I met an old many named Denny, who turned trailers into replicas of old diners and gas stations into a giant village on his large property (more on that later). And pretty much everything else you see below is an example of someone who has dedicated their life to a specific hobby/passion, and not only dove head first into it, but has then turned around and decided to share it with the world. They’re saying, “I love this thing so much that I want to share it with you, too”.
They attract exactly who they need to attract because they love it so deeply. And if you don’t like it, they don’t care at all. But they’re so thrilled when you do. I hope to be one of these people. It was the most inspiring part of this trip… knowing that so many people are out there living so hard, so intentionally, so wonderfully. Even if these passions aren’t your cup of tea, I think you have to agree that they go harder than anyone else you know in the area. Which is pretty fucking cool.
Randyland is probably the closest out of all the things we visited to what I would do if I had the money, resources, etc. It’s a giant outdoor lot, that’s an interactive art space. It’s full of rainbow art, spinning pinwheels, sand to dip your feet in, chairs to lounge in, mirrors to reflect in, paint, chalk, inspirational signs and messages. It’s free and wonderful.
I’m just throwing the Strip District in here because it was a lot of fun. We went on Saturday morning and got to see the hustle and bustle. I so badly wish Baltimore had an area like this where I could just go and experience the buzz of a big city like this and buy fresh flowers and produce on the same block instead of just a Farmer’s Market. There were some seriously cool shops. My favorite was a dried flower shop. I got some beautiful smelling potpourri called Luna there, and the entire shop was so colorful, it was overwhelming.
I also obviously immediately found the alpaca store with a giant alpaca out front. There was a tiny yellow alpaca in there I wanted but I couldn’t afford it. I got their card and will totally try to get it online later. I carried around my little alpaca friend, Francisco, the whole trip. And when I went in the alpaca store I was so happy and I showed the store owner whose entire business is based on alpacas and I think he even thought it was a little intense that I had an alpaca on my person, haha!
Okay, so this one is an oddities museum and it’s not for the faint of heart. If you don’t like masks, taxidermy, skeletons, etc. scroll down. Also, if you ever plan on going there, I don’t want to spoil anything for you. I tried to keep it brief for this one. There is literally so much to look at, it’s aggressive! Haha.
Trundle Manor is a house in an unassuming neighborhood that is lived in by a wonderful couple who love oddities and the bizarre (but also cupcakes!). They have turned their functioning house into an oddities museum, and give tours by appointment to the public. Every room is crammed with things they’ve collected over the years. Have something super weird and don’t know what to do with it? They will take it! Whether it’s an old gynecological tool, a ray gun, or a literal part of your human body. They want it!
They had an adorable kitty, Little Devil, who unfortunately passed away about four months before we got there. They are paying him some serious tribute all over the house, and are also getting him freeze dried to be with all the other taxidermy, etc. so they can have him forever. He was a badass cat.
The amount of details and surprises in this house were intense. The end of the tour almost gave me a heart attack. She asked if she needed to stop because I was almost hyperventilating I was so excited. I seriously can’t handle how intense this experience was. There’s literally a singing tumor. Come on.
Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff & Music Museum
Johnny Angel runs his own store and is ready inside the door waiting to greet you when you come in to look around the amazing amount of music memorabilia, trinkets, records, etc. he has to offer. He made his own music in the 60’s and started collecting a lot of memorabilia and turned it into a museum about three years before we arrived. There was so much stuff from artists I didn’t even know existed, but also things you never would have even thought to collect. There was also cool pinball and video game machines. Super cool.
Literally next door to Johnny Angel’s is Bicycle Heaven, a museum of bicycles. I’m not super into bicycles, but you clearly don’t need to be to appreciate this. We went for one specific reason, but I ended up enjoying the entire experience way more than I expected! There are so many old bikes, bike parts, and they are all organized so beautifully. Everything is so colorful, hung so uniquely. There’s a whole black light room experience!
And then, of course, there’s the main attraction: Pee Wee’s original bike from “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”. There were 14 made for the movie. Paul Reubens has one of them, one is in another bike museum, and one is right here. Joe was really excited to see the back side of the bike, because you never really get to see what’s on the other side! It’s super cool. You’re not really supposed to touch anything and it’s encased pretty well. But they have a bunch of Pee Wee dolls and the movie playing on a big screen in the background. It’s a very fun experience with multiple floors!
Okay, the last thing I’ll share for today is Color Park, which is basically Pittsburgh’s Graffiti Alley, but along a bike trail on the water. The trail is semi-enclosed with these giant cement barriers that people paint. And what’s really cool is that they’re not just painted brightly, but everyone writes extremely positive and/or silly messages on them. I took a ton of pictures here, I’ll eventually share them in other ways. But it was so cool how uplifting the messages were. We got to see people live painting, feel the breeze of the river on our faces, and the whiz of bikers riding past us. It was the last thing we did before we headed back out on the road, and I’m so glad we visited and found it!
And here is some video footage that Joe took and put together for me. On the drive up, I realized that 10 years ago, I was so excited to listen to “21 And Invincible” my Something Corporate as my birthday song all night. I couldn’t believe I was finally 21! It’s incredible it’s been an entire decade, and I decided to re-purpose this song. One of my favorite moments on the drive up was early on when I blasted this song and changed the lyrics in the chorus to “31 And Invincible”. It’s even better now.
Have you been to Pittsburgh? What’s your favorite thing to do there?