Tag Archives: city

Road Trip: Pittsburgh 2014

It is really hard to believe that I have lived in Pennsylvania for over 45 years, traveled all over the world and have never been to the city 4.5 hours to our West. It is the place we Eastern-PA-er’s usually refer to when we hear of a PA town that we have no idea where it is. “Oh that must be out near Pittsburgh somewhere…” is the typical phrase. If you ever meet someone who is from Pittsburgh or grew up there, they have nothing but great things to say about it and there is a large sense of pride for their city. My wife has been itching to visit there recently and came to the realization that the only way she could get me out there was to find some type of endurance event to sign up for. She saw the Pittsburgh Marathon table at the last years’ Runner’s World Half Marathon race expo and made a B-Line for it. Before I knew it we were signing up for the Half Marathon in 2014.

Over the months that passed between signing up for the event and the event itself, my wifes’ knees had not cooperated with her training. She eventually came to the realization that she was not going to be able to do the race. So it was down to just me, but we were still doing a long weekend in P-Burgh.

We made the 4 1/2 hour drive west on the PA Turnpike on Friday morning after I knocked out my long swim for the week. It was a recovery week for me so it worked out pretty well with the race on Sunday. My wife had performed in-depth analysis on all the restaurants in the Pittsburgh area locating all “farm-to-table”, organic restaurants. They were also required to have at least one vegetarian or vegan option for me. Dining out for us has become much more complicated these days since my wife has changed to eating a more “cavewoman”-like diet and me being the plant-based vegan. Although I sometimes slide into more of a vegetarian while traveling just to make things a little easier.

Friday Lunch

2014-05-02 13.40.06
The big leather couches in the dining room of BRGR in the Shadyside district of Pittsburgh

Our first stop in Pittsburgh was BRGR on the Eastside of the city. They also have a couple other locations, one of which is in the PNC Park baseball complex. The place was really good and they have an extensive draught beer selection. This came in handy for my new favorite social network, Untappd! They have good selection of handcrafted burgers which you can get with the roll or lettuce for any of you carnivorous folks out there. For the veg-head, the “Santa Fe Hippy” burger is outstanding! I think this is the best veggie burger I have ever had in my life. I knew when we left here that we would be back again before we left. At least once.

We made a quick stop at the Whole Foods Market just down the street, before making our way to our hotel. One of good friends is from Pittsburgh and her dad had helped us with where we would should stay. We stayed at the Hampton Inn just north of the city which was a very nice hotel and the location made the logistics for getting in and out of the city very easy. It is a short drive to get to the “T” light rail line at the Allegheny station which is right next to Heinz Field. Two stops and you were in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. It made the whole experience very enjoyable. Especially considering all of the events that were going on downtown that weekend. Marathon of 30,000 people, Penguins playoff games, and Pirates baseball games.

Friday Dinner

We settled into our nice room at the Hampton Inn on McKnight Road and before we knew it is was time to head out for dinner. For dinner, we had made reservations at Salt of the Earth (NaCl) which was also located on the East side of the city not too far from BRGR in the Garfield neighborhood. The area looks like it had been pretty run down at some point but they were working to bring it back to life a bit. The NaCl looked to be the “seed” for doing that as it stuck out well against some of the more dingy buildings around it. Although the lime green Mexican restaurant up the street did its fair share of sticking out too. Salt of the Earth is a pretty trendy looking place, with a very high ceiling and the dining room lined with long tables providing a more communal dining experience. The bar wrapped around the perimeter of the dining room on two sides and a large chalkboard wall and a large front window took the other sides. We were seated upstairs in a loft-like area that overlooked the downstairs in the middle. It was kind of odd décor since there was nothing on the walls. It was also very warm up there since all the heat had eminated up there.

To start off I had the White Asparagus soup and my wife had the Steak Tartare(ugh!). The soup was a puree soup with some almonds on top for garnish. It was very good. My wife seemed to enjoy her raw animal flesh and said that the pickled vegetables added to the flavor. It looked like dog food to me though. For my entrée I had the Tofu Curry which was also very good. It was a mix of spice and sweet and was definitely a unique mix. My wife enjoyed the Duck entrée but said that the carrot puree that came with it didn’t really blend well with the asparagus and duck.

PA, Travel, pittsburgh

It was also Craft Beer Week in Pittsburgh so I hit it at a good time. NaCl was running a food pairing with Shawneecraft brewery this evening so I was able to sample their Double IPA along with my meal. It was pretty good. Smile After dinner, we stopped at Toast! Kitchen and Wine Bar for a nightcap. My wife was itching for a glass of wine and the wine at Salt of the Earth was a bit pricy for her taste. Toast had sampler taste size glasses of wine which was perfect for her. I enjoyed a Lagunitas IPA, which I had had in San Francisco last month and also a Breckenridge Brewery Ophelia(draught) which I didn’t care for. I am not a fan of wheat beers. I traded the Ophelia in for a Dogfish 90 minute IPA, which is always good.


After a good nights sleep we had breakfast at the hotel. The conti breakfast was one of the best ones I have seen, but there was a large group of kids in green t-shirts infiltrating it when we went down there so it was pretty hard to get what you wanted. I ended up going down an hour later and it was smooth sailing. I enjoyed a fresh Belgian Waffle which was rather delicious. While we ate in the room, we researched our logistics in the city for the day. We would do a dry run of our plan for Sunday Race morning just to familiarize ourselves with it. Park at the Carnegie Science Museum/Heinz Field, then T-rail to downtown. Piece of cake!

We then walked around the city a bit and headed over to the area called “The Strip.” A lot of outdoor markets and things along the way. It was about a mile and quarter, but seemed a bit longer. Our plan was to hit the Church Brew Works for lunch which was another 1.25 miles past the strip. On the way I decided we would catch a bus back into town. I hate how we always seem to walk all over the place the day before my races. I should be taking it easy.

Church Brew Works was really cool. It was an old church converted to a brew pub. Food was pretty good and the Thunderhead IPA was excellent. I found out later that the Thunderhead IPA was not actually brewed by the Church Brew Works. Oh well it was good.  To eat I had pizza and pierogies. Kind of lame, but I was rushed to order and kind of choked. Regardless, it was tasty.

After lunch, we then took the bus back to downtown. It worked out well because it had started raining. The bus stop had a bit of shelter so it was a good decision. We then went to the convention center for the packet-pickup and expo. It was a huge expo and there were tons of people pouring in and out. This was bigger than the San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Expo. We collected our swag and were out of there. The rain was just stopping as we left.

Next, we walked downtown a bit and ended up at Point State Park. This is the triangular-shaped park at the convergence of the three rivers. Very nice park with a fountain and nice landscaping. We ended taking a little siesta due to the insulin surge and beer buzz from lunch on the river wall that runs along the Monongahela River side. The sun had come out and it was quite nice out. The breeze had a nice coolness that balanced out the heat of the sun.

After walking around a bit, we decided to go to dinner a little earlier than planned. We had reservations at Six Penn Kitchen for 6:30pm on OpenTable, but I was into eating a little earlier with the race tomorrow. They agreed to seat us early, so we did. It was a really good meal. I think the best one we had in Pittsburgh. Service was outstanding too. We decided to split a bottle of wine, which probably wasn’t the wisest decision for me with the race tomorrow but what they hell. The wine was called the “Immortal Zin” which I though was funny since we were at the Church Brew Works for lunch. It was a whole religious, alcohol theme today. We started out with the house salad, which was a really good salad. I had the Garden Risotto and Denise had the Braised Short Ribs. Both were outstanding. Denise said the Short Ribs were amazing and she was kind of uncertain about it when she ordered. Great meal and worth a stop for sure.

Post-dinner, we made our way back out of the city and up the highway to our hotel. Early to bed since I had to get up at 4:30am for the race. I will create a separate post for the Race Report and will add a link here once I get it done.

Race Report

Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2014 Race Report


PA, Travel, pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Marathon Finish Line


After the race, we quickly made our way out of the city and back to the hotel. It was still before 10am, so I was able to get last dibs on the hotel breakfast buffet. We then showered up and headed north to the BRGR located in Cranberry Township mall. It was about 20 minutes north of the hotel. This one was quite a bit larger and they had almost double the beer selection. I had another great veggie burger and best of all was a Mojo IPA that was a NITRO tap. Yummy! It was like a creamy Boddington-style IPA. This put a damper on my trying any other types of beers and I ended up having two of them. So good!

PA, Travel, pittsburgh

We then headed over to a nearby Whole Foods. My wife had gotten some Gouda cheese at the other store and was desperately seeking more to stock up on. She was pretty psyched to find they had a bunch of it too.

We then headed back to the Hotel and I headed down to the Hotel Pool. I was going to jump in the hot tub but there was an older couple in there and the guy was massaging the lady’s shoulders, so I decided not to crash their party and jump in the pool for bit. They eventually left and I jumped in the hot tub for a bit. This was then followed up with a little nap afterwards.

For dinner we had made reservations at Spoon also through OpenTable. I am a big fan of OpenTable. Here is a list of all the Pittsburgh restaurants they serve. Spoon is the big brother restaurant of BRGR and is located right next store to the Shadyside BRGR location. Spoon is a little more fancy and expensive than BRGR. The food there is well presented, but portions are pretty small. They are also pretty lacking in vegetarian or vegan options on the menu, but most places in Pittsburgh are. I had their only option which was the Spring Vegetable Tasting, which consisted of saffron and mushroom rice “grits” , white asparagus puree, artichokes and fava beans. It was pretty good again not a lot of food for someone who just ran a half marathon.  My wife had more steak tartare (“raw meat”) for appetizer and the duck for entrée. She said it was good.

Travel, pittsburgh
The Duquesne Incline(aka Vernicular) on South Side of Pittsburgh.

After dinner we ventured over to the Duquesne Incline which is a funicular that runs up-and-down the steep hill on the South Side of the city. We parked across the street and took the steps and pedestrian bridge over the road to the station house, paid our $2.50 each and road to the top. We were the only ones in the car which was pretty cool. There is a small museum at the top and an overlook of the city. They had large wrought-iron bars around it so it was kind hard to get any pictures on the tripod. There was also a bunch of East-Asian tourists jockeying for position too. The view of the city was pretty nice though.

Travel, pittsburgh
Pittsburgh At night. Not the greatest shot, but you get the idea. Tripod mounted here but it was windy and I was trying to squeeze lens between a wrought iron gate. Really, you couldn’t ame a little room for people to take some pictures??

We took a walk down the street hoping to get some better views but it was totally blocked by either houses or restaurants. Since it was Sunday night most of them were closed. We did manage to finagle a glass of wine at La Mont Restaurant by the manager who was nice enough to serve us despite the bartender going home already. It was a really nice view from there through the large picture windows. The place seemed like it was out of the 20’s with the large glass beaded chandeliers and very ornate woodworking on the walls and ceiling. The people eating there seemed ot be out of the 20’s too, except for the one girl with the skin-tight red sequined pants. Hmmm? I hope that was his daughter?

Travel, pittsburgh
Denise excited for her ride on the “incline”.

Our ride back down was solo too. It was a great finish to a nice weekend to our city to the west. The city has a very special feel to it. It is big city with a small town feel to it. I always felt very safe here and it is so easy to get around. I think it will only get better in time. Hope to get back again soon.

Travel, pittsburgh
Last night in Pittsburgh. Glass of Wine at Le Mont overlooking the city. Great weekend in the city to our west.


We enjoyed another hotel breakfast and then packed up our stuff. We made one last stop at BRGR for lunch and then we were on our way back east on the PA Turnpike. Denise ended up getting sleepy, so I took over on the drive home. We had a pretty smooth drive with no traffic issues. It was a fun weekend, but back to reality.

San Francisco Trip-April 2014

I had the opportunity to head out to the Microsoft Build Conference in San Francisco this year. This consisted of a 3 day event so I decided to take advantage of the airfare and make a longer vacation of it. I had been itching to get to Yosemite the past couple years so now was my chance. My wife also decided to take advantage of a free place to stay and spend time in the city and visits friend who lives nearby.

We flew out on Tuesday afternoon from Newark and arrived at SFO in the evening of the same day. The flight was about 5 1/2- 6 hours and was a little delayed due to sitting on the runway for about an hour or so. There was some bad storms in San Francisco which they were going to wait out. The flight went pretty well and they had WIFI on board which I decided to try out. Good for killing some time. We took a taxi from SFO airport to the Hilton Union Square where we were staying which was about $40. Glad I wasn’t paying for that!

Since we arrived late, I didn’t meet up with any of my work mates and instead Denise and I hoofed it down to the Bay and have dinner at The Plant Organic Cafe on Pier 3. I had wanted to check this place out so no time like the present. The walk was a bit longer than I had anticipated and it was getting kind of late. It had started raining pretty heavily by the time we got to the waterfront and we were getting soaked by the time we arrived. I had the soup of the day, which was a Southwest Tortilla soup, and the Quinoa Bowl with tempeh for my main course. Both items were really good. I paired that up with a Green Flash IPA and life was good. We made the walk back to the hotel, grabbing some things for breakfast at a Walgreens on the way.

The next couple days I was pretty consumed with the conference. Typically when a group from work goes to one of these conferences we go out for at least one meal together. Not this time. I did go out for a quick pizza with a few of the guys, but it was pretty low key. Most of the meals are provided by the conference, buy the food was not that great so we usually hit the food court across the street at the Moscone Center for lunch.

I did get to meet up with our one friend, Nate, from our recent Haute Route trip in Switzerland. Nate, who actually works at Microsoft, was in town for some other business and not the conference. We enjoyed a couple pints of Murphy’s and chatted about our common interests. There is no shortage of things to talk about when you are both into travel, photography and software.

MS Build, San Francisco
Nate and I enjoying a couple pints

I Need to Run

On Thursday, I decided I needed to get out for a nice run after sitting in sessions all day. I skipped out on the last session of the day and made my way down through the city out to the Bay Trail that runs along the water. Running in a city really sucks! Dodging people and stopping at almost every light really breaks up the momentum. It makes me appreciate where I live!

Eventually, I got out to the Bay trail but I still had to dodge people most of the way. Fortunately, the scenery was pretty cool. Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Downtown San Fran and Fisherman’s Wharf where all along the way. It became more of a sight-seeing tour than a training run, so I didn’t break any speed records here.

Swim Time

On the way back from my run, I headed up Mason St. to the Club One Fitness at Union Square to see if I could reserve a lane for Friday to get my long swim in for the week. They require that you reserve the lane ahead of time which is kind of nice since you won’t have to worry about waiting around. The conference ended around 3pm on Friday so I got a lane for an hour starting at 4PM. It was $20 for a day pass which is kind of steep if you are just going for an hour, but in the grand scheme of things I need to get my swim in.


The pool consisted of 3 lanes of 25 yards long. It was a little dingy, but not real bad. They had towels and lockers which were all pretty nice. Gotta thank the Swim Radar iPhone app for hooking me up with a place to swim. It felt good to get my 2 miles of swimming in which kicks the weekend off to a good start.

I was planning to hook up with the work guys after my swim, but they blew me off so I ended up going with my wife down to Roam Artisan Burgers on Fillmore St. It is always a little difficult finding places to eat for a carnivore and herbivore, but Roam was the ticket. I had a killer veggie burger with the “French and Fries” topping selection and my wife was raving about her meat burger topped with an egg and no bun(I say “Yuk!!”). I paired my burger up with another Green Flash IPA which always makes everything taste so good.

Cycling the Paradise Loop

On Saturday, we headed up to Blazing Saddles bike rentals which was located just below the Club One Fitness on Mason St. I wanted to rent a higher performance road bike which they did not have at this location, but they hooked me up with a hybrid to ride down to their Columbus Ave location to get something a little nicer. My wife stayed with the hybrid. On the way down, we stopped at the pier and had a quick lunch at a couple of the little shops in there. Once at the other shop, they hooked me up with a Fuji road bike and put my pedals on it. The bike was a little long for me, but it was ok for the time being.

MS Build, San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge

My plan was to do the Paradise Drive Loop which was supposed to be a really nice bike ride. My wifes’ friend had recommended it to her and it looked like a good ride. It seems there are several variations on this ride and I created my own by getting mixed up several times. My wife headed straight down Tiburon Blvd to Tiburon while I headed north up to Paradise Drive in Corte Madera. We would then meet up in Tiburon and take the Ferry back to San Francisco. We had to have the bikes back by 7pm and the last ferry was at 6:30pm, so if we took that one we would not make it.

Denise kept riding along the Bay Trail to the Golden Gate Bridge while I picked up the other bike. I ended up catching her about halfway over the Golden Gate Bridge where we stopped to take a couple selfies. The bridge was pretty congested with bike traffic, so it was a relief to get off of it. Some guy almost clipped Denise while going the other way.

I had heard Sausalito was really nice, but I have to say it was very touristy as I rode through. It was also very congested with traffic and I was more than happy to get out of there. Much of the route after Sausalito to Corte Madera was on a bike path which was nice that I didn’t have to deal with traffic. Once in Corte Madera I got a bit mixed up. One bike trail I was on had no one else on it and eventually dead-ended. I then turned back and found a turn off that I missed(Lomita Drive/Alto Sutton Manor) the bike route wound through some streets and up besides Hwy 101 for a bit.

After wandering through the streets of Corte Madera for awhile I eventually figured out that I needed to cross over the Hwy 101 overpass to get to Paradise Drive. Once on Paradise Drive it was finally a nice ride winding down the coastline. Much of the ride was also shaded too which I enjoyed since it was a pretty warm day. I received a text message from my wife along the way where she found that there were no more ferries until 6:30pm in TIburon. This would complicate things a bit with the bike returns. I would figure this out in TIburon when I got there. For now I just wanted to enjoy the ride.

I eventually got to Tiburon and met up with Denise there. I called the bike shop and they said just drop bikes off at there other store on Hyde St. We had a almost an hour to kill waiting for the ferry, so I hit one on the shops for a chewy coconut macaroon. Mmm! I ended up doing around 30 miles which was pretty lame given it took 2:30 hours. Oh well, it is a rest week and at least I am still getting some training in. How often do I get to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and around the Bay area.

The ferry eventually showed up and we made our way back to the city. They had a little bar on board so I took full advantage and enjoyed a local microbrew IPA for the cruise back. We headed right past Alcatraz Island which was pretty cool. I took advantage of that by turning my Garmin on to record a “swim” from Alcatraz to the San Fran Pier to trick my coach. He had texted me the day before asking for a swim report from swimming from Alcatraz, so I had to play along! I am sure he didn’t fall for it too long when he saw the 22secs/100 yds…I wish I could swim that fast!

We headed quickly over to the Blazing Saddles shop on Hyde St. to return our bikes. It was a bit of a madhouse with everyone from the ferry returning bikes and then trying to explain to them how we rented at Mason St., then I swapped bikes on Columbus and now I am returning to Hyde St. Hmmm…oh yea no chance of this getting messed up. I will be calling Mason St. shop tomorrow to make sure they credited my account correctly.

We then walked up the street to catch a bus back to the hotel. It was a pretty long ride and by the time we showered it was getting late for dinner. Hmmm…we ended up taking a taxi back to Roam Burgers again! Hey if it is good, gotta stick with it I guess.

Tomorrow I will be running in the San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon which will be a story in itself. I continue that in a separate post. That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

Tour of Toronto…

I got up early on Friday morning and headed out for half hour run around the neighborhood near our hotel. We then got cleaned up and headed down for our complimentary hotel breakfast. I had some waffles with syrup and it ended up wiping me out. I got back to the room and had to take a nap. Definitely not used to eating that kind of crap anymore. We eventually got going and headed into Toronto for the day.

<iframe width=’465′ height=’548′ frameborder=’0′ src=’http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/219761333′></iframe>

As you can see from my Garmin track below, we put on 10 miles of walking around the city. I even forgot to start it up a couple times so it was probably more than that. We checked out a good part of the city and hit Kensington Market, Chinatown, and the Entertainment and shoppping districts. The TIFF film fest was going on and that area was quite crazy. We enjoyed lunch and dinner at the Fresh restaurant on Spadina. It was so good! Amazing how tasty healthy plant-based food can be.

<iframe width=’465′ height=’548′ frameborder=’0′ src=’http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/220354054′></iframe>

We walked around most of the day and did some shopping in a couple outdoor stores. Sometime after 4pm we headed back down to the waterfront for the Vegetarian Food Festival. The festival was pretty good with stands from the China Study, Vega Foods, and lots of delicious samples. Rich Roll was also supposed to be speaking there on Saturday and Sunday, but we had to head up to Huntsville after this. We had thoughts of eating at the food festival, but we decided to catch the bus and head back up to Fresh(on Spadina) again for dinner. I had quinoa onion rings and a “buddha” bowl which consisted of thai peanut sauce with marinated tofu cubes, tomato, cilantro,cucumber, bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, herbs & spices.  I was still pretty full from lunch so I could not even finish my meal.

[nggallery id=7]

After dinner, we headed back down to the car and made our way up to the Deerhurst Resort up in Huntsville, Ontario. It took ~2-2.5 hours to get there, so we did not get into our room until 11PM. When we pulled in they already had alot of the gates up for the transition area and the bike and run chutes.