The adventures of Pioneer Girl travelling with enthusiastic Camper Barn Owl Guy

Started as a blog about my trip from Pittsburgh to California in a Ford Pickup, hauling a 30' refurbed trailer/camper. Ah, California Dreaming, 'n all that. Found that adventures can be long distance or in your own neighborhood... I look for my own twist on local sites, don't take the known for granted...and always find something new. It's easy, just open your eyes..

Monday, December 20, 2010

Beyond the Bottoms, there are Ferris Wheels??

McKees Rocks Bridge Ramps
Good afternoon, Pioneers! Saturday December 10, 2010

This morning, yours truly reported from The Bottoms in McKees Rocks, and Brunot Island in particular. Contrary to what the photo says...we did not STOP at all.   Further along in the day, GPS coordinates tracked us heading along West Carson Street,  crossing the West End Bridge, through  Allegheny West and into the North Side area of Pittsburgh located to the north of the Allegheny River and the Ohio River.  The North Side used to be known as the City of Allegheny and was annexed  by Pittsburgh in 1907 and became known as North Side. It is made up of a collection of neighborhoods and has seven hills, (Troy, Spring, Observatory, Monument, Seminary, Fineview, Mount Troy).   I never realized that before, and I had lived on Spring Hill for quite some time...just never counted.

Bethesda Church of God, North Charles St.
First stop  on this gloomy day was an errand to pick up some fresh rolls from Pittsburgh’s own, Breadworks, snuggled between North Charles and Brighton Road.  Breadworks fresh crusty breads and rolls can be found in many local stores and restaurants, but getting them fresh from the bakery is great.  Best to get there early before they sell out.  

But as I was exiting the bakery, fresh whole wheat raisin rolls on board, I spotted the Bethesda Church of God on North Charles Street, and jumped on this photo.  Quite an intriguing, somber-looking structure adjacent to the Charles Street Rowhouse Historic District (a small 25-house area that used to be known as Pleasant Valley.)

Buena Vista Street, North Side
The historic Mexican War Streets are located in central North Side.  I head down Buena Vista Street to see the beautifully preserved Victorian rowhouses.  The Mexican War Streets were named by General William Robinson, Jr. upon his return from the Mexican-American War in 1848 which annexed Texas and California.  I read that he was the first “non-indian” child born in the City of Allegheny. Feeling excited and patriotic, he named four streets after the war’s battles, and three streets after military leaders during the war.  Robinson later became mayor.   

Adjacent to the Mexican War Street area is Allegheny Commons, Pittsburgh’s oldest park, dating to 1867.  It was originally created to provide a “breathing” space in the City of Allegheny, which was dirty and sooty.   It’s a beautiful park, also known as West Park.  Today Lake Elizabeth, only three feet deep, offers kayaking with great views of Pittsburgh.  Hey, and no sooner did I start kayaking at North Park Lake, they closed it and drained the lake, so this year, I promise to kayak at Lake Elizabeth...and possibly hit the river.

Quite a few important and famous individuals lived on our North Side, including artist, Mary Cassatt , writers Willa Cather (a personal favorite) and Gertrude Stein.  Stephen Foster was born and raised here, where he wrote “My Old Kentucky Home."   And I was very excited to discover a connection to my previous blog about Brunot’s Island.  I discovered that Felix Brunot, the French doctor who owned Brunot’s Island, lived in a mansion on the North Side on Stockton Avenue and is said to have once been a station on the Underground Railroad, where fugitive slaves from the South stopped for food and shelter. 

And, heck, if it hadn't been for North Sider,  George Washington Gale Ferris who invented the, what else?....Ferris Wheel, poor Dan Weaver here would not have been impaled by an 8 ft, 3/4 inch thick iron bar which was dangling off of his ferris wheel in Ohio in 1978.  It exited his back just missing his spine, pinning him to the metal base like a butterfly on a board.  He looked over at his fellow workers and said "Hey, boys, time to get me outta here."  

They had to use a circular saw to release him and had to leave the iron bar in until they could get him into surgery at the hospital.  No mention of what childhood nightmares the children on board still suffer.

Yikes, this blog sure went somewhere I hadn't intended, but then again, I never know what Pioneer Girl will discover in her travels.  I try not to get too detail oriented, so there are probably significant details missing in the historic element,as I prefer skimming over a ton of information..  But in PG,  I try to keep my segments short and simple and try to wrap things up neatly.  

Keep the pioneer spirit, and peace on the highway...PGxoxo

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pioneer Girl: Bottoms Up, McKees Rocks...Saturday, December 11, ...

Bottoms Up, McKees Rocks...Correction: Sorry! Correction. As I was lying in bed last night, for some reason it popped into my head that I posted the McKees Rocks, Brunot's Island photo and said it was a pic of Pittsburgh skyline in the background...duh, I was so excited I guess. It's not the Pittsburgh skyline in the background at all. From the angle of where I shot the photo, the skyline in the background is Mt. Washington which overlooks Pittsburgh. Brunot's Island is blocking the view of Pittsburgh, but hey, the spot was not about Pittsburgh, right?! Sorry for the mistake, folks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pioneer Girl: Bottoms Up, McKees Rocks...Saturday, December 11, ...

Pioneer Girl: Bottoms Up, McKees Rocks...Saturday, December 11, ...: "photo 12/11/2010 @ The Mounds Good morning, Pioneers… Today GPS coordinates tracked me down in McKees Rocks, PA, in a section calle..."

Bottoms Up, McKees Rocks...Saturday, December 11, 2010

photo 12/11/2010 @ The Mounds

Good morning, Pioneers…  Today GPS coordinates tracked me down in McKees Rocks, PA, in a section called The Bottoms on this beautiful early winter morning.  Although my mission is not clear, I leave that to fate, see what I see, and learn what I learn.  And I was not disappointed. Sometimes what I think is my mission, in the end is completely different, it unfolds as I go.

Pioneer spirit  drove me to explore The Bottoms as a historical site and, in particular the McKees Rocks Mounds.     Crossing the McKees Rocks Bridge, and exiting on Helen Street, we enter into an interesting mix of industry, row houses, tattoo shops, abandoned asphalt lots, and beautiful churches. This is quite a beautiful area.  Passing the “Bottoms Up” saloon, which has gone bottoms up, by the way, I find my way down Sproul Street to an area where the Chartiers Creek meets up with the Ohio River.  The Historical Marker tells the story in a nutshell, and I finally found it inside a playground and softball field called Roger’s Field.  But was this really today’s mission?

As I was following River Road, I could see  mysterious Brunot’s Island with a beautiful Pittsburgh skyline in the distance and I had to pull over to take this moody shot.  This 129 acre island is formed where the Ohio River splits briefly  before making it’s way back to join the Ohio again. It is owned by Reliant Electric now and home to some sort of power plant generating station and that is it.  There is only a railroad bridge and a walkway across the bridge for workers’ access to the island, there is no plumbing or drinking water.  That’s why it seems to mysterious, one can only view it from a distance unless you are a kayaker or boater.   But, I don’t know, maybe it’s better that way.  Herr’s Island is now home to condominiums and boat launches  tennis courts and walkways, maybe leaving this natural and mysterious is nicer instead of fully harnassing it.  There are actually deer and various other wildlife on the island.  People have said they have seen deer actually swimming (?), crossing the channel to the island. 

 I learned that In the early 1900’s there was a one-mile dirt oval race track on the island, wealthy industrial types raced horses there, and eventually cars but it was demolished in 1914..those were the days when there was a ferry that took people back and forth on the island.  It is named for Dr. Felix Brunot a French surgeon who practices in Pittsburgh during the American Revolution.  He bought the island for $2,800 in 1787.  Actually Meriwether Lewis of Lewis  and Clark famed, stopped at the island  (and that turned into a fiasco too long to indulge in) first on his way to St. Louis to pick up “Clark” to begin their frontier journey.   Ahh, so this is how I tie into my pioneer theme today, I knew it would work it’s way out.

This past summer, a fisherman came upon a badly decomposed woman’s body  at Brunot’s Island floating in the Ohio River.  She had no id on her, but was wearing a zippered sweater with the word “Freedom” on it, a “Citizens for Humanity”  jeans, and (among others) 2 tattoos with the words “God’s Child” on them.  She was later identified by her tattoos, a young 24-year old girl named Sidney from the North Side.  They never released what the cause of death was that I could find.  Rest in Peace, Sidney, I feel I passed your spirit today…  You could have been at the exact spot where I stopped for the moody lonely photo….your messages left behind on your corpse fascinate, for I too am a Freedom lover, a Citizen for Humanity, and Gods child, sister.
Well, that wraps up this pioneer segment….scout and I had a few other interesting sitings today, and as usual, I will have some fun reporting them.   This little trip definitely unfolded a little differently than I had anticipated, but this PG is always open to change and what the universe opens up..

More about McKees Rocks to come, but until then, peace on the highway, friends… Pioneer Girl xoxo