As I began planning a weekend excursion to a Pittsburgh Steelers football game, it slowly morphed into a Pittsburgh to Detroit road trip. It was fun to tell people, yes, I am going on vacation to two great American cities, Pittsburgh and Detroit. Some people gave me a surprised look, as they asked, you want to go to Pittsburgh and Detroit? Hell yea! They are my two favorite American Cities!
Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I have been going to Pittsburgh on a regular basis for sporting events and concerts for decades. We usually take in some local attraction there while in the area. To those who ask me, what the heck is there to do in Pittsburgh, I can say every time we go to "the 'Burgh" we always find something to do, and often visit something we have never seen before.
The Frick history complex
Back in March, on our way to see the Penguins play, we embraced a little geek history with a visit the Westinghouse Castle in Wilmerding. On this visit, we stopped to visit the Frick Art and Historical Center. Henry Clay Frick was a rich industrialist from the early twentieth century hanging out with the powers of his day like Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon. Walking through the Frick history complex gives you an understanding of just how rich these guys were.
The Frick complex includes the restored mansion known as Clayton, The Frick Art Museum, The Café, the Greenhouse, and The Car and Carriage Museum. The Café looked pretty nice, but we did not go into it. We arrived in the area late in the day and I wanted to check out The Car and Carriage Museum, not very large but a nice collection of very rare vehicles. Worth stopping by if you are in the Burgh.
One of the reasons I wanted to check out The Car and Carriage Museum at the Frick was to get some automotive technology photos for another new project, a geek history site focusing on automotive invention and innovation.
Love the Steelers but not Heinz field
Watching Kevin Greene get his Hall of Fame ring at half time, while rock band Styx sang Renegade in the pouring rain was pretty awesome. Having the Steelers build up a 29-0 half time lead was pretty cool as well.
I've been a 'Burgh sports fan since the days of Three Rivers Stadium and the Civic Arena (aka The Igloo). PNC Park and Consol Energy Arena were upgrades, but Heinz Field, not so much.
Maybe someone could do a study, how many restaurants per person in attendance at Heinz Field versus PNC Park or Consol Energy Arena? The Steelers store is so freaking busy before the game you can't move in it and not really shop. Football stadiums hold at least twice as much as baseball stadiums or hockey arenas, so why is there less room to move around and stand inside Heinz Field. Would it really be such a burden to allow people in more than an hour before game time to look around the store and grab a bite from one of the food stands.
PNC Park is one of the best baseball parks in the country. Likewise, we love Consol Energy Arena to visit Penguins games. We love the Steelers but just don't feel the love for Heinz Field.
The road trip to Detroit
We returned to the Henry Ford and Greenfield Village history complex. I wrote about it last year, it is an amazing place. Many places I visit I look at with the attitude of been there, done that. The Henry Ford complex is like the Smithsonian complex in Washington, no matter how much you take in, you can always return and realize what you missed on your last visit. We also toured the Ford River Rouge Complex where the F-150 pickup trucks are made.
The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit is one of the coolest automotive museums you will find, taking you back to the early twentieth century, and learning about the manufacturing of the Model T Ford. The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant is not far from many deserted buildings that were abandoned due to a declining auto industry. I did not take pictures of the deserted buildings, and dwell on the failures of the past. I was happy to take pictures inside of the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, and appreciate the volunteers who help run the museum. Our tour guide at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant was a walking encyclopedia of automotive history.
Another great place we visited, also staffed by great volunteers, was the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing, Michigan. We learned a lot about automotive pioneer Ransom Eli Olds, and his two different companies, Oldsmobile and REO. Between the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, and the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing, I learned so much more about automotive history. I'll be busy for awhile sorting through all the pictures, and my thoughts, adding to my geek history websites.
Pittsburgh and Detroit?
In recent years I have said that Pittsburgh and Detroit seem to be more alike than different. As a stats geek, it is interesting to note that the cities themselves have had very similar growth and declines over the years. Both cities were at their population peak in the 1950s, and both cities are now at less than half the size now than they were in the 1950s. But numbers like that are true of many mid-western cities, where manufacturing has left, urban areas have shrunk, and many people have moved to the suburbs.
You hear stories about all the economic issues with Michigan in general, and Detroit in particular. There are many people who post pictures of Detroit making it look like a deserted desolate city, like something from a Mad Max movie. I know these neighborhoods exist, but they do not represent all of Detroit. This is the third year we have traveled through Michigan, and the second time we have visited the Detroit area. I have not found the Detroit area to be any more frightening than many other cities on the east coast.
Over the years Pittsburgh has done a good job of going from a steel town to a more diversified city that has embraced many industries. Detroit is a bit behind, but I see the slowly happening there. Recovery isn't easy, and doesn't happen overnight. After another fun filled road trip to learn about the rich history of the Detroit area, and speaking to the many people along the way, I wish them well, and hope for their recovery.
Pittsburgh and Detroit? Hell yea! They are my two favorite American cities!
Photo by Tom Peracchio taken at Henry Ford Greenfield Village Dearborn Michigan October 2016.