SEA TO SHINING SEA: Feeling the surge in Pittsburgh

A CSX train rolls through downtown Cumberland.  The engines were pulling more than 50 automobile cars, each holding 10 new vehicles. BY DENNIS FORNEY
July 31, 2013

DAY HOLDING - July 31, 2013 - Taking a few days off from pedaling for a wedding-related event in Maine. After riding a few miles into Cumberland yesterday, dropping the bikes off at Bicycle Connection for a tune-up prior to the last 400 miles of our journey, spending some time in the public library and watching trains passing through the edge of town, we boarded an Amtrak train for Pittsburgh.

Sophie joined us for dinner - Praise God - and told us about God working through her to help others.  "You are the potter, I am the clay." She sang for us during the conversation.  Sweet voice. Sophie's an evangelist.

The conductor woke us at midnight when we pulled into the steel city.  Walked a few quiet blocks to a hotel.  Crashed. Woke to a city already awake, happy for its Pirates who took two more from the Cardinals yesterday after a series-opening victory the night before.  Two more, tonight and tomorrow.

Lots of discussion the last week about Pittsburgh.  The city, like its baseball team, feels surgy.  We met two Carnegie Mellon University professors on the trail last weekend.  They said their city has replaced much of its steel manufacturing economy with a big education and medical complex.  "Eds and meds," they said.

Google, attracted by Carnegie Mellon's first-class technology graduates, has a strong and growing presence here. We heard the company just bought another block of the city for expansion.

University of Pittsburgh, Chatham, Duquesne and others also add to the educational strength of the city.

Pittsburgh constantly earns high honors in the nation's most desirable cities' rankings, has a great reputation for trails and bicycle friendliness, and enjoys a low cost of living.  One of the professors, an economist, told us that during the last boom cycle, "Pittsburgh never bellied up to the bar. And if you don't belly up to the bar, you don't get a hangover.  In other words, our property values never soared during the boom so they never sank either."

At Presbyterian cathedral, a man told us that a friend told him a house like his in Pittsburgh - which he said was valued at about $150,000 - would bring $450,000 in the DC area.

A lot to be said for this town in the mountains.

We'll start pedaling again next Monday.

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