Abandoned Road Trip with Brenda – Installment 4

Updated: Apr 10, 2019

Abandoned America Road Trip Days 4-6 with Brenda

August 2018

            Heading to Pittsburgh for the weekend, we took a smaller route to look for cool stuff. We got into the city and headed to a thrift shop… Brenda had made a long list of cool stuff to see, so we decided to see stuff in the same area of the city before moving to another spot. We enjoyed looking at the art at the Abandoned Pittsburgh art galleryhttps://abandonedpittsburgh.com   After talking with the artist, Chuck Beard, and making our purchases, we walked down the street for a great lunch. The last major place of the day to visit was the Phipps Conservatorybecause it stays open late on Friday nights. Last year when visiting, I’d raved about the gardens, but I would say that it was underwhelming on this occasion. They were repairing the roof, it was raining outside, therefore it was drizzly inside. They are open late on Fridays, but with the rain, it made for an okay visit. The coolest part of the gardens were the heads in the fountain area and the wind machine sculptures.


Another thing we learned when staying in a larger city, prices will strategically be higher if there are sporting events, college move in weekends (both happened the weekend we were there). Weekends are also more crowded for tourist events, so we did wait more when at the Duquesne incline, finding a place to park, at Randyland, and at the art galleries.


On Saturday, we knew we wanted to ride the Duquesne incline(one of two working inclines in the city). It’s an inexpensive ride and we saw beautiful views of the city. We ended up parking up top and walking along the path for ½ mile or so and captured beautiful photos of the bridges and city architectural vistas. My favorite part of riding the incline was viewing the old architecture and working gears at the top (behind the scenes for less than a dollar). If you go, there’s parking at the bottom or top – our GPS sent us to the top.


Next stop, Mexican War Streets. There are lots of interesting sites to see in this area. Find a good place to park and check your street sign to see how long you can stay there! At Randyland, it was a magical place that you need to see if you’re in town. It’s best to go when Randy will be there to explain his art and his story. As an autistic man who struggled through many events in childhood and adulthood, his goal with all his art and actions is to bring happiness to others. Learning how to take someone else’s trash and create beautiful new life into them was a skill he developed as a young man. In and around his home he bought, he brings joy and acceptance to all who enter. Definitely, check him out.


We walked past poetry painted on buildings along Mexican War streeton our way to The Mattress Factory– a contemporary art gallery. The exhibitions were quite diverse – some liked, some disappointments, but I’m glad we were able to go. Experiencing the expressive and reflective art of Yayoi Kusama was especially exciting and interactive.


Basically, famished by this time, we found a restaurant open a short distance away. Like most larger cities, safe travels can change within one street’s distance. Usually carrying camera gear as well as personal stuff, I have really learned to be visually aware of my surroundings when traveling in areas that might be less traveled or targeted tourist areas.

We did stop by one of the beautiful arching yellow bridges, so we could walk across it and snap some photos. The rusting nuts and bolts were as beautiful as the vistas of the city. Again, lots of people down there walking to a sporting event, so parking was limited.



We stayed at a hotel by the Hot Metal bridge, which made it easy to photograph the sunset over the water. Otherwise, we weren’t in walking distance to other food or entertainment, but there was a great walking/bike path through the city that came across the hot metal bridge which would have been great if I’d brought my bike.


We had two photo shoots on Sunday and we had to really organize ourselves to do both. We drove to WA Young & Sons Foundry(now owned and preserved by the Rivers of Steel) for a photo shoot. We drove past several small towns right on the water. If you like marina/boat/water photography, there were lots of places to stop. We made one stop to photograph the coolest building covered by colored metal pieces.


They are open on summer Sundays from 12 – 4.

https://www.riversofsteel.com/preservation/heritage-sites/machine shop


The two volunteers there showed us around, worked the machines (which were belt operated), stoked the forge and told us lots of great stories about how the foundry operated, about the women and men who worked here over the decades, how it was lovingly protected by neighbors when the doors closed, and how it was being preserved by Rivers of Steel. One gentleman even made us each a pendant at the forge. We could only stay about three hours to shoot, but I will be definitely be back. There were so many beautiful examples of equipment, old windows, doors, office stuff, and vintage toys that children used to play with while their parents were working. Rest room up the street at the park. There are two floors to this building. The aisles are tight, so I don’t know if a wheelchair could maneuver around here.


We had to quickly pack up and drive the hour to Carrie Furnacefor our next photographer’s shoot. FYI, not a lot of places to stop for food or restrooms on this trip, so if you find something close to tolerable, take it. Carrie Furnace only has a portapotty.

Carrie Furnace –https://www.riversofsteel.com/…/heritage-sites/carrie-furnaces



The Sunday photographer’s tours were ones we booked ahead of time and planned our road trip route around. This was the last steel mill in Philly and sat abandoned for a while. There’re definitely broken windows, graffiti from the years it sat empty and it’s out in the country. It’s a large space and there are many photography opportunities. A small group was there doing senior portraits. Most were into abandoned spaces. Quite a few photographers were setting up really long exposures, but it was unrealistic of them to expect the rest of us to stay out of their way for 10 + minutes….the popular buildings have very cool structures but have limited light and are tight. I did use my tripod, but Brenda did not. I didn’t have to go up too high on my ISO, but the shoot was 3-7 on an overcast afternoon. There was poison ivy and weeds through throughout the grassy areas, so boots and long pants are advisable. The locker room was my favorite space at the whole place. Your fee pays for free rein of about 60% of the property for the four hours. One thing I regret is that I didn’t network with any of the other photographers there. There were about 30 people there and I probably could have learned about other cool spots to photograph….


Found dinner at a local pizza place on our way back to the hotel and tried to repack and gather our stuff for an early morning departure Monday morning. Next installment is the last of our road trip…coming in a few days….and then begins the California Road Trip blog!

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