Five Trips in One

Just got back from an overnight business trip to Pittsburgh, home of many fond memories for me. Though I was only gone for one night, the trip packed in five separate blogworthy segments, which I will cover in turn below.

1. How Many Modes Does it Take to Get from Door to Door
Monday morning starts off just like it always does, at least this time of the year. Pray, bike to NFL games, shower, get kids breakfast, and walk them to school. From there, I go mode-wild. Bus to Wawa to get cash, trolley to train station, Regional Rail to airport, US Airways to Pittsburgh, and taxi to Hampton Inn.

2. How to Do Pittsburgh in Three Free Hours
The plane ride to Pittsburgh was far shorter than I thought, and since I took the first possible flight while still being able to drop off the kids at school, I get to the hotel before noon. My first meeting isn't until later that afternoon, so I shed my suit, throw on my running gear, and head out for a brisk four-mile run through downtown, to Point State Park, across one bridge to North Side right to the doorstep of PNC Park, and back across another bridge back to downtown. Need I state that street running is a great way to see a city? Back at the hotel, I shower, eat the lunch I packed for the plane (again, it's a really short flight!), and then head across the street from the hotel to the Heinz History Center, which is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. Even at a brisk pace, I barely cover all six (!) floors of exhibits in my remaining two hours, leaving just enough time to buy an official Terrible Towel for my friend who is a huge Steelers fan.

3. Vibing with the Young Pittsburgheans
My colleague at 10,000 Friends graciously offered to assemble a bunch of like-minded young guns for my time in town, so I could talk to the group about relevant studies we've done in Philly that might be applicable in Pittsburgh. Though I had much to share, I also had much to learn, and was glad that the group was talkative, thoughtful, and passionate. It bodes well for Pittsburgh that such a group exists and is hard at work. I'm buying stock in the city right quick.

4. A Mini-Vacation
I walk past the hotel and towards the Strip District, which has an Italian Market feel to it. I have something specific in mind, which is the original Primanti Brothers. My cab driver on the ride in from the airport suggested I get my sandwich with a fried egg, so I comply. I bring that bad boy home, check work and personal email at the business center in the hotel lobby, and then pound the sandwich (and free chocolate chip cookies, compliments of the hotel) in my room while watching ESPN, working on a Ken Ken puzzle, and reviewing my notes for my presentation. Compared with my usual fire drill of rushing out of Center City, picking up the kids, dragging them home, and getting them through dinner and bedtime, this is positively decadent. I luxuriate in the quietness of my hotel room, putting my nose in a business magazine and reading uninterruptedly for over an hour, before falling happily asleep at the wee hour of 9 pm. Eight hours later, I arise, without kids to deal with, and pray and pack before hitting the hotel gym and then the complimentary hotel breakfast. I return to my room, brush my teeth, pack up, and head out to the convention center, lamenting that my mini-vacation was so short but glad for the opportunity to have at least had that sliver of time to myself.

5. Smart Growth is Smart Business
A fantastic 11th annual Smart Growth conference put on by Sustainable Pittsburgh. I am honored to have been asked to speak on our firm's work on vacant land. The honor increases as I share the speaker's table with Henry Cisneros, former HUD secretary under President Clinton. He keynoted the event and got us off to a rip-roaring start, and the quality and insights of the speakers just kept going from there. My block was shared with Kathleen McGinty, former DEP secretary under Governor Rendell, and Liz Hersh of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, who is one of our clients. The fact that our Q&A was replete with thoughtful questions about land use policy at the end of a very long day of content tells you committed the audience members are to these issues and to their city. Again, I am bullish on the 'Burgh. I'm glad for the time I've had to vibe with this group, and to contribute my parts, but now I have to run off to catch a flight home, so I can be home just in time to kiss my sleepy kids while they're already in bed.

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