The Panhandle trail in Weirton, West Virginia welcomed me with open grassy arms on a dewy morning:
As the sun crept over the horizon, I was flying on the trail ready to make it to the first large city I had never been to before or knew anyone in. A few hours later I had made it to the West End Bridge more elated to make it to a destination than ever.
Oh. My. Shit. What a view. I spent a significant amount of time on that bridge taking pictures and admiring the bustling city that had appeared out of nowhere. This was probably a good thing because Pittsburgh served me up a series of challenging hills on the way to my host’s house in East Liberty soon after.
Now, I know I bitch about these hills constantly, but every other touring cyclist I’ve met does too; Pittsburgh being of no topographic exemption to this rule. In fact, Pittsburgh is an exceptional example of it as proved by their annual Dirty Dozen Bicycle Competition which challenges cyclists on the steepest hills in the city.
My hosts, Mike and his marathon-running, Gaelic-football-playing girlfriend Moe, along with two other impromptu cyclist guests (I will elaborate on these dudes and their cause in my next post) traveling to Sacramento laughed our asses off that night watching videos of this event on YouTube. After that, we all told “war stories” about being on the road over some free pizza and donuts the other pair had gotten hooked up with, beer, and shared homemade mead.
The next day was devoted to keeping my enormous brain boner erect throughout the day. I visited the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History and got lost in an abundance of knowledge and creativity.
The title of this work refers to a famous quote from French writer Jean Genet’s 1986 memoir where he wrote, “In White America the Blacks are the characters in which history is written. They are the ink that gives the white page a meaning.” Genet was a white man who fought alongside the Black Panther Party, and he chose these words carefully to speak on behalf of his African American comrades.
Creepy, Cathy Wilkes. Thanks for the nightmare fuel for those nights that I camp out alone.
Mr. Welfare seems relevant even now.
Can you make art through the photography of other art? I sure as hell tried.
It was at some point when a curious child walked into a dark theater in the art museum where crude animations of people fornicating in a feasting hall were strewn about the screen that my brain just got cockblocked and said, “I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE ANYMORE”, as to not experience the wrath of his parents when they discovered where he had wondered off to.
Sure enough, about fifteen seconds following my departure I hear from around the corner, “This is nothing but straight up porn!”
“I know,” I muttered to myself under my breath, “and I wanted to watch it.” Thanks for ruining my sensual brainventure, Little Johnny. Dick.
Later that evening, I accompanied my host, Mike, to a bike workshop at Free Ride, a bike recycling and education program where he gives classes on a slew of topics. People can attend the workshops and volunteer their time at the shop to fix up other bikes, teach others what they’ve learned, and earn their own bike if they can’t afford one. It’s absolutely brilliant.
Despite the Burgh being a pretty big rest stop for me, I biked a significant amount around the city the following days and tried to soak up as much of the local culture as possible. Besides the Strip District which I don’t have many pictures of, my destinations also included the following:
Besides it being free, there was also a car and carriage portion with Henry Clay Frick’s 1914 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost touring car here.
This is actually a restored Roman Catholic Church that has been turned into a restaurant/microbrewery. It’s a little touristy, but the Thunderhop IPA made me realize I didn’t give a shit real quick.
Breathtaking views of the city thanks to a short drive courtesy of Mike.
Then there was the Carnegie Science Center:
It was also here that for $5 more, I could watch Flight of the Butterflies at the Omnimax theater. For $5 more I was taken back home to the Texas Hill Country where the wildflowers bloom and butterflies feed and to the mountains of my home state in Mexico, Michoacan, where the monarchs migrate each winter from Canada. For $5 more, I was tearing up like a little bitch in the middle of a dark IMAX theater.
One of the world’s greatest migrations and one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever had the chance to experience firsthand, this phenomenon cannot be fully appreciated through pictures alone.
The best way that I can describe it to you is through sight and sound. You’d be surprised at the roar that the wings of millions of butterflies can produce, the buzz tickling your ears, their wings, your skin. Carpets of monarchs are sprawled across the ground threatened by every step you take, bursting into plumes of the insects that surround you and the trees once disturbed. To me, the most amazing sight is that of the tree branches that hang noticeably lower from the weight of all the butterflies that perch upon them.
It was then, that I knew what my next tattoo was to be. A monarch butterfly on my ass cheeks. What better way to pay tribute to such a graceful part of nature than have one that takes flight just by twerking on the dance floor?
I’m totally kidding though. That idea will just have to live vicariously through the gif above. Now, I know some of you are probably pissed that you are reading this at work or some public place, and I had the indecency to put this gif in here and make you look bad in front of your coworkers, boss, other strangers, or all three. In my defense, try having this up in a public library full of children and trying to hide it. I win.
I’ll leave you to the rest of your day to google more butterfly ass tattoo gifs. You’re welcome.