We reached Cleveland on Friday the 10th of September, where we would be spending the next two nights. Accommodation was kindly organised by Mark and Marie Owens. Saturday, our rest day, was in fact when the Pittsburgh Irish festival was taking place two 130 miles down the road. So intrepid travllers that we are, we got up early on Saturday and drove to Pittsburgh to raise money at the festival, where a stall had been organised for us by the Pittsburgh Irish Center.
After some horrendous traffic and spectacular views of the city, we reached the festival and spent a few hours fundraising there. Thanks to organiser, Nan and the band, Scythian, we got up on the main stage to plug the cycle! Eoin gave a great speech about the cause to get people to come to our stall. We also bumped into Ruaidhrí Makem, a son of the famous Tommy Make, who Rob had also met back at the Irish Festival in Butte, Montana. A nicer fella you couldn’t meet! Unfortunately we had to leave to head back to Cleveland for the next morning’s cycling. As this was proving to be a great event for us, I volunteered to stay in Pittsburgh and keep raising money until Monday, when the guys would cycle into town. Matt and Beth Carroll of the Irish Center very kindly agreed to put me up until then, and they would also be accommodating the lads when they next arrived. After saying goodbye to the lads I stayed on at the festival and managed to raise lots of money for the Livestrong Foundation, thanks to the generosity of the public at the Pittsburgh Irish festival.
I met some great people there, such as Alisha from the Irish Center and Mary Conroy of the Burke Conroy School of Irish Dance, who really took me under their wing and made me feel welcome. Things started to wrap up around 9pm, helped by a sudden downpour, so I hightailed it over the the Harp & Fiddle for the afterparty!
The pub was packed and absolutely hopping, with a great atmosphere in the place. I met Matt Carroll there and he introduced me to the band, Corned Beef and Curry, so called because it’s composed of two Irish lads and an Indian fella (Bob, a fantastic musician!). The lads kindly invited me up on stage where I made a speech about the cycle, which seemed to go down well! Afterwards I was bombarded by people throwing tens and twenties at me, I couldn’t believe it! Altogether I raised $831 that day, which is our best result ever from a single fundraiser in the USA.
The next, Sunday, I hit the festival again, although it was very quite that day, partly due to the fact that a Steelers game was on! Mary Conroy managed to get me up on the main stage in the middle of the Irish dancing so I made a quick speech. The crowd were friendly, thankfully! After that I ran around the audience with the bucket and people contributed quite kindly.
On Monday the guys rolled into town, after some serious, ahem, detours, which included a jaunt through West Virginia, a state hitherto not technically part of the Cycle of America. They were met at the Carroll’s House by Joanne, a reporter from the local paper who interviewed us and took pictures. We had a lovely evening, entertained by Matt and Beth and their friends Larry and Posey who cooked an exceptionally tasty dinner for us. Thanks guys!
On Tuesday we headed to the Map Room Bar and Grill for our music night fundraiser. It’s a really cool bar decorated with prints of old maps on the wall. History nerds like me would love it! I also recommend it for the great food and ambience. Music was provided by Brazen Lungs, Guaranteed Irish and Michael Gallagher. Andy Stewart from band Silly Wizards also joined in. The music was really excellent, making it a thoroughly enjoyable evening. People donated generously in whip-rounds and also bought tickets for a treat-filled hamper provided by Marjie, the owner – who gave generously herself I might add, on top of everything else she did for us. She also gave all the proceeds from the sale of “Pedal Pale Ale” directly to the charity. We raised over $800 that night, bringing our Pittsburgh total up to $1776, a whopping and auspicious figure indeed!
Thanks to Matt and Beth Carroll, Gavin, Posey and Larry, Alisha, Mary Conroy, the Pittsburgh Irish Center, the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, Guaranteed Irish, Corned Beef & Curry, Mike Gallagher, Marjie at the Map Room and everyone else who helped us! Pittsburgh rocks!