Friday, July 5, 2013

Lordy, lordy...Chris is forty! (Part One)

Chris turned 40 on June 25th. To celebrate his milestone birthday, I'd planned to take the day off and "whisk him away" to Pittsburgh for the day to visit the Zoo and PPG Aquarium. After consulting with my Pittsburgh-based friend, Brandon, and giving it some more thought, I planned instead to take Chris away for an overnight. I let him continue to believe that our grand birthday adventure was just going to be a day trip. 

On Saturday, June 22nd, Chris had to teach all day at the motorcycle range. While he was working, I packed a bag for our overnight on Monday. All I would need to add to the bag on Monday afternoon would be our toiletries. When I left for work on Monday morning, I left hidden instructions for Chris that would make him aware of my plans later in the day.

At 3:45 PM, I called Chris from my office. When he answered, I played a recording which clued him in to the hidden instructions and all that he needed to do to be prepared to be "taken" that afternoon. (Long story short here, folks...the recording was done by Mike O'Meara, host of The Mike O'Meara Show which is a daily podcast that Chris and I enjoy. Mike does a fantastic Liam Neeson imitation and was gracious enough to call my cell phone and leave a message with the message I'd scripted. In short, it was awesome!)

When I arrived home at 4:15 PM, Chris was waiting in the basement as instructed. This meant I could grab our "bug-out bag," toiletries, and cold drinks for the ride to Pittsburgh, as well as stash Chris' birthday cake in the fridge and ice cream in the freezer. I went down to claim Chris about 10 minutes later, and told him to bid farewell to Oscar...that he'd see him again the following night.

We hit the road at 4:38 PM. We stopped once in Ebensburg, PA, and arrived at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown at 7 PM. The Wyndham is the hotel where ERAPPA 2010 was held. That's how I know Brandon; he's the director of convention services there. We valeted the car and checked in. Brandon hooked us up with a great end-of-the-hall suite on the 21st floor. We dropped our stuff in the room, briefly took in the views, and then headed out to dinner. 

Chris in the living area of the suite.
This part of the room looked out over Point State Park and the North Shore.

The bedroom area of our suite.
This part of the room had a city view.

Looking at Chris from the bedroom.

Riding the elevator down to head out to dinner on Chris' last day in his 30s.

In front of the Wyndham.

The fountain was on at Point State Park!

The top floor is the 24th floor. Count down to 21 and the open windows on the front and back are the windows in our suite.
We crossed the Allegheny River on the Fort Duquesne Bridge to get to the North Shore. Chris didn't know it, but we were headed to Jerome Bettis' Grille 36 for dinner. The Grille is in the Del Monte Foods Building, in the shadow of Heinz Field.

Crossing on the pedestrian section of the Fort Duquesne Bridge.

Check out the giant pineapple at the Del Monte Foods Building!

Root Sports is also located in the Del Monte Foods Building. Alas, we did not see Dan Potash.

Our dinner destination!
We had a nice dinner at Jerome Bettis' Grille 36. We started with an appetizer of boneless buffalo wings. For dinner, Chris ordered the BBQ bacon burger, which was HUGE! I ordered the shrimp tacos and they were delicious. 

Waiting for his noms...

Feeling pretty confident that this whole birthday surprise thing is going well!

HOT boneless buffalo wings.

Ready to dig in...or stab in!

Chris' 1/2 pound BBQ bacon burger.

My shrimp tacos.

This guy - and his kilt - were at the table next to us. Chris managed to sneak this pic when he and his party left the restaurant. I guess a kilt is one way to beat the heat!
After dinner, we walked along the North Shore, stopping to admire Heinz Field. We briefly discussed wanting to attend a Steelers game in person, before deciding the best view is always at home where the climate is controlled, there's no line for the bathrooms, the cost of beers won't require a home equity loan, and so on... 

Looking at Point State Park and the fountain from the North Shore.

Looking back on what could possibly be my favorite city from the North Shore.

Approaching Heinz Field.

Hanging out with Art Rooney.

Art was the man!

Yeah, baby!!!

Chris checks out Heinz Field.

Heinz Field!

Looking into the stadium. Top right, second to last section, half-way up...
that's where I sat for the Zac Brown concert in 2011.
We continued along the North Shore past the Carnegie Science Museum (which we'll be visiting later this summer/early fall on a return trip) to our next destination - Rivers Casino! 

Riverboat in the foreground, Duquesne Incline in the background.

Carnegie Science Museum...we'll be back soon!

USS Requin

The submarine tour is included in the CSM admission.

Time for some hot casino action!
We did a lap around the casino to get a lay of the land before settling into some slot machines. We dabbled with a few different machines, including video poker (which I enjoy) and Lucky Jackpot Slots. Chris did well on the Lucky Jackpot Slots machine; he scored a Lucky Jackpot and the machine went nuts with free picks and prizes. I played the same game next to him and (eventually) scored a Lucky Jackpot of my own, but when I made my first free pick, it was a "Party Pooper" and I won a whopping $0.15. Chris cashed out a winner on the eve of his 40th birthday and we decided to walk back to the hotel.

Water feature at the entrance to Rivers Casino.

Chris plays video poker.

Redeeming his winning ticket.

Waiting for his pre-birthday payout!
The walk back to the hotel was a little humid, but the lights of the city made for a beautiful view as we made our way back along the North Shore and across the bridge to the hotel.

Beautiful Pittsburgh at night.

The fountain at night.

The Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown.

CSM at night.

Quirky light feature at CSM.

The Duquesne Incline at night.

Giant pineapple!

The view from the Fort Duquesne Bridge looking back on the North Shore.

Someone was launching Chinese lanterns from Point State Park while we were walking back.

Walking under the Fort Duquesne Bridge toward the hotel.
When we got back to the hotel, we had drinks in our room and watched the end of the Stanley Cup Finals (yay, Chicago!) before turning in for the evening. As we snuggled into our super comfy king bed for the night, I was pretty pleased with how my plans were progressing to that point. I genuinely believe Chris was surprised that I had planned an overnight and I think he was enjoying himself so far. With that, I rolled over to catch a good night's sleep - the next day was going to be a long one!

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