The last few days of the trip have seen a slight departure in approach. Somewhere in the middle we eased up our schedule and lost a day or so. Now we’re making it up on the highways, bypassing the small town serendipity for a more destination-based type of touring. I’m a little bummed to miss the chance to drive through the Pennsylvania countryside, which I’ve heard is beautiful. So it goes. We’re a little pooped, and ready to get home, so it’s a trade-off we’re willing to make. There’ll be plenty of time to explore small-town Pennsylvania on the next trip.
Fittingly, to accompany our transition into conventional touristing, our recent itinerary has focused on some conventional destinations. Friday morning, we woke up early in Altoona and drove the two hours to Mill Run for a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Neither of us would admit to being connoisseurs of architecture, but Fallingwater is in the pantheon of Americana, and we both know how to appreciate a fine cantilever when we see it. I had a few misgivings about touring the place; something feels odd to me about a home being turned into a museum only 30 years after it was built. It’s already been a museum for longer than that. But I got over it. The place is a marvel. When the tour guide asked who among us would like to have been invited by the Kaufmanns to party here, ours were the first hands up. Then she asked who’d want to own it, and we hesitated. From the stories we heard and the pictures we saw (or didn’t see — there was maybe one of the Kaufmanns shown actually living there), it probably works better as a piece of art than it ever did as an abode.
The rest of that day was Pittsburgh, which wins the Oscar for City Most Demanding of Navigational Unit. We had just a few hours, so we hit a couple of highlights. First, a coronary of a Corned Beef sandwich at Primanti’s, where they put the fries inside the sandwich. I had just a half of a sandwich and it was enough to make me want to lay down and die. In a good way. After that we trusted our TomTom to deliver us to the Mattress Factory, an adorable modern art museum that’s located on a street the size of an alley. Highlight: Pleiades, by James Turell, an a absolutely pitch black room. You’re told to sit, wait and stare for 15 minutes, after which the work becomes visible. It plays on the properties of light and the physiology of vision. I really dug it.
Then a relaxing evening with Brett and Lisa and their two bundles of cuteness, Nate and June, the latter of whom’s Cinderella-themed (and -attended!) birthday party we were going to miss by just a few hours. There was going to be a inflatable bouncy castle and everything.
Before leaving Pittsburgh the next day, we followed up on a tip from Jack and visited the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, a showcase and road race featuring some really sexy antique race cars. We only got to see some practice runs, but it was cool enough that, for the second time this trip, it made me wish I was the kind of guy who knew how to take apart and reassemble an engine. (A third opportunity may present itself shortly: I’m writing this as we drive toward the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.)
From Pittsburgh we drove non-stop to Sandusky, Ohio, home of what everyone claims is the best amusement park around, Cedar Point. It definitely did not disappoint. I realized only as we walked in that it’d been many years since I’d ridden a real roller coaster, and I was slightly fearful that I’d lost my capacity to be viscerally thrilled by it. Strangely, between the two of us, Sarah’s the bigger roller coaster fanatic, and it was she who insisted we find the loop-da-loopiest one and make a beeline for it. Even the soul-suckingly long lines didn’t diminish from the two minutes of terror/joy we got from every ride. Favorites: Maverick and Millennium Force.
We left the park at 8pm in an effort to make it to a nearby drive-in to see The Dark Knight. (Oh man oh man oh man. Details to come.) It may not a touristy thing to do to see a movie on vacation, but we’re winding down and it was perfect for this last Saturday night. One and a half more days to go, and then, incredibly, inconceivably, unimaginably, we will be home.