Fort Pitt Museum…and the very familiar bridge

When I set off today (7/31/17) for Pittsburgh, I had plans to visit Fort Pitt and explore some of the surrounding areas.  I had forgotten (blocked?) just how much I hate cities.  Don’t get me wrong–some of the coolest things to see are inside cities, but the hassle of getting there always has me frustrated before I arrive wherever I’m going.  Fort Pitt was my normal annoyance on steroids.

To the best of my memory, I haven’t been to Pittsburgh before, and the internet analysis of traffic was truthful, but not positive.  I was relying on my GPS to locate Fort Pitt (having identified its location on a map), and it didn’t steer me wrong–sort of.  It did, in fact, identify Fort Pitt.  While I was on a bridge.  And the building was about 20 feet below me.  With no indication of a road down.  Consequently, I spent an hour and a half driving back and forth over the bridge and surrounding areas trying to figure out where to actually park to approach Fort Pitt.  I had googled Parking Garages in the vicinity, but they seemed miles from the actual building. I strongly considered calling it a day and driving back home.  I’m glad I didn’t.

Blockhouse model

To save you the hassle, I will share my wisdom, so you can do better (or at least faster) if you visit.  I chose a parking garage at the corner of Fort Duquesne and Stanwix.  It costs $20 for the day (Advertised $6.00–but after 4.  Read the fine print.)  There is another garage for $13 a day at Fort Duquesne and Sixth Street (which I was headed to when I found this one.)  It’s a better deal, but 2+ blocks farther away.   After you park, walk down Fort Duquesne until you can turn left on Commonwealth Place.  As you turn, you’ll see a park area in front of you with a circling walkway that goes under the bridge (and over a little bridge of its own).  Take the pathway, and you come out at the Fort Pitt Museum.

Barracks scene

Once I actually arrived, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the museum.  The first floor contains a model of Fort Pitt and vicinity, a gallery of paintings about the French Indian War, and many free standing scenes including traders, barracks, Native American scenes, and the model of the inside of the block house.  There is a lot of reading on panels here, but they explain a great deal about the war.


Depiction of the British articles of war

The main exhibits, however, are on the second floor.  One thing I especially appreciated was the separation of French, British, and American.  Each topic, whether it was uniforms and weapons, reasons for fighting, or responses to various circumstances, contained the views of each side.  I was struck once again with how complex war often is.  I have always presented the Civil War as a many layered event with people fighting for a variety of reasons, but it seems the French Indian War was the same.  I suppose that’s true in every conflict–people have different reasons why they do what they do.  I was also struck with how many times people made stupid and hurtful choices trying to get revenge–Like the whole congregation (96+ people) of Moravian Christian Indians who were slaughtered (after being told they’d be executed and spending the night singing hymns) simply because the soldiers wanted revenge against an entirely different group of Native Americans.  There’s also the time two soldiers decided to kill White Eyes–the spokesman of the Delaware who was known as “The Peacemaker” for his work negotiating treaties.  Of all the people you’d think to kill, the leader who was on your side shouldn’t be at the top of that list!

I also read about the commander who chose tho deliver two smallpox infested blankets and a handkerchief to the Native Americans even before his commanding officer commanded him to do just that.  It was an intentional biological attack.  The museum sites case after case where the Native Americans are stuck in the middle, trying to decide who to trust:  the British or the French, then the British or the Americans.  The choices are not great.

Exterior Blockhouse

I finished up at the Museum, getting a detailed book on the campaign during which my book is set, and headed outside.  There is a remaining block house outside of the museum, but it’s only open Wednesdays through Sunday April through October and weekends the rest of the year, so I didn’t get to go inside.  This blockhouse is one of the original 5 redoubts placed on the perimeter of Fort Pitt for added security.  It is the only remaining part of the Fort.  There is also an outline of the location where Fort Duquesne stood.

All in all, it was a very informative day, but I’m looking forward to the forts that are a little more easily accessible–and a bit more off the beaten path!



Today (3/26/15) started out early with the need to get our Chinese friends taken care of.  They had called last night with the decision to scrap the car and ride back with a friend from Alabama who had rented a car to come pick them up.  To be honest, we were a bit disappointed they would not be spending the next few days with us!

We awoke early (well aware that our late nights and early mornings were catching up to us) and headed down to the hotel to pick up our new friends to take them to arrange the details of the sale.  I had been a bit nervous when I looked up Carr’s Auto Sales and Service and a negative review came up.  However, in his “negative report,” this man mentioned how Carr’s sent someone to Florida to tow his car back to Tennessee to fix the problem.  He claimed this was to cover up shoddy workmanship, but the condition his “expert” described his transmission being in would have rendered the car impossible to drive even one day, much less 6 months.  For his one negative review, there were countless others sharing tales of how the owners had gotten out of bed to come out at midnight to help get their car out of a perilous situation or that they always stopped here for a check-up while on vacation.  It definitely restored my confidence, as did their help today.

Saying good-bye to the car--Thanks, Carr's!

Saying good-bye to the car–Thanks, Carr’s!

We collected our friends, asked if they had the paperwork, and proceeded to the shop–only to learn they had no idea what the correct paperwork was, and therefore, did NOT have it.  So, we headed back to their motel and looked through their stack of car documents to eventually find the RIGHT paperwork.  I remember a friend of mine telling me the biggest need her Mexican immigrant friends had was someone to help them know what they needed to know–to understand the process of how we do things in America.  I’m so glad we were at the right place at the right time, but what about the countless others who don’t  have someone there?  It was a wake up call for me to be more aware in my own community of those who might not know how to accomplish things.

We proceeded to complete the transaction with Carr’s.  The receptionist not only gave us the best possible scrap price for the car, but also gave her 1/3 of the money in cash up front–the rest to be sent when the title is mailed to them.  She did this simply because “this is a bad situation, and I don’t want her to have nothing to go home on.”  Additionally, one of the mechanics took time to ask her how to pronounce her Chinese name, actually say it correctly, and say, “It’s nice to meet you.  I’m so sorry it turned out like this.”  Just these little acts of kindness reminded me how often we get so stuck in our own business to be accomplished that we forget to take time for others.  If there’s anything I should have learned in my stay in Tennessee, it’s to slow down a little and enjoy the ride–hard to do for a Chicagoland resident.

Saying good-bye after making the best of a traumatic experience

Saying good-bye after making the best of a traumatic experience

We said farewell to the car, and headed back to pick up the rest of the group.  We made a side trip to our condo (to explain how a condo is different from a hotel), and headed to a Chinese restaurant for lunch where they gave us the special blessing of treating us.  One thing I had noticed the night before is that one of the ladies would always pull out a chair for my mom.  These little tokens of respect are too often lost in our culture. Throughout our time, we had the opportunity to learn so many interesting things about China.  When we were discussing family, we shared that my sister has seven children.  The lady who’s car we had just sold shared that she only had her one son–China’s one child policy.  One of the other students with them was from a family with two girls and a boy–they live in the country and were able to have more children due to family connections rather than a fine.

Rainclouds moving in

Rainclouds moving in

We also discussed the thing they missed the most from China–the food.  When  we got to the Chinese restaurant, I asked the boy if it was like the food at home.  He said Chinese food is more spicy, but they’ve made it sweeter for Americans.  We Do like our sweet things.  The hardest thing for them to get used to in America?   The culture.  One woman shared her fear of doing something wrong.  We explained that as a whole, American’s are remarkably helpful and forgiving–and we’re also incredibly diverse.  Finally, it was time for them to return to Alabama.  We were sad indeed that we were losing more time with these dear people, but after hugs, promises to keep in touch, grateful thanks, and invitations to visit China, they headed for home.  (We just got the text that they made it safely!)

We went home to catch up on our sleep.  I awoke to the rain clouds moving in over the mountains.  Since tomorrow promises to be a rainy day, we’ll see if we venture out or just enjoy a quiet last day in Tennessee at our “home away from home.”  Either way, I’m glad our plans changed to help out some dear new friends from China–we’re definitely richer for the opportunity!