Today marks the beginning of Steelers training camp. Believe me, us Pirates fans couldn't wait for this day to get here. This is when (at least for the past 15 years) baseball season ends in the Steel City, and football season is just starting up.
Last year's camp was crazy. I've never seen anything like it. Sure, the team was coming off the emotional high of winning the Super Bowl, and the media was trying to see what Ben Roethlisberger's new fake face looked like. However, all the bandwagon fans showed up, which, unfortunately, is one of the residual effects of winning a championship. The times I went to camp last summer, it was difficult to move. There were thousands of people there to applaud Clark Haggans as he exited the john.
Aside from surviving the heat in order to see your Steeler heroes, Latrobe offers a bevy of cool hangouts that might not be an everyday stop to the casual Steelers fan. Latrobe's website tells us the obvious.
No matter where you go in the United States, the mention of the name Latrobe, Pennsylvania will likely generate a response like "that's where they make Rolling Rock Beer!"
Unquestionably, the amber beverage brewed from mountain spring water that comes in green bottles is the most recognized consumer product produced in our area. It's all made in one place, here in Latrobe, by the people of Latrobe Brewing Company, a division of Labatt's USA Inc.
Rolling Rock, which has since moved on, has been a staple in the Laurel Highlands. However, I feel ridiculously qualified to tell you about some other cool places to hang out once the 2-a-days end. I just graduated from St. Vincent College, and have had four years to brush up on everything from the local hotspots to the hole-in-the-walls.
Peter King of SI named St. Vincent the best training camp in the NFL back in 2005. Believe me, SVC milked that for all it was worth. One thing writers like Peter King don't know are the cool places in the immediate vicinity of the training camp itself.
Here's a list of awesome places you can go with family, with that special someone or just with yourself. Again, if I mention any names/people, tell them Nick from SVC recommended the place.
- Lloydsville VFD Social Hall. Very underground, this one. Also my favorite place in the area. As is the norm with VFD's/legions/etc., you need to be a member. Or, you can throw down a one-time 20 dollar initiation fee, coupled with annual 5 dollar dues, and you'll more than get it all back in one night. 60 cent beers and buck twenty tallboys are lethal combinations. Throw in the free pool table and shuffleboard table and you've got yourself a great night.
I participated in the shuffleboard league primarily because I'm an old man at heart. My buddy Fal and I were late to the registration, and were only allowed into the competition because one couple was forced to quit. Dude's name was Wayne Love, and he was the coolest. He and his wife, Debbie, formed the Lovebirds team (since their last name was Love, duh). That was the team name two college dudes inherited. We secretly called ourselves Team Seed (for whatever reason) and made it to the championship game. A series of unfortunate events caused me to miss the championship game, killing any chance of Fal carrying the team. 2nd place bites.
- Idlewild Park and Soak Zone. Diehards only know this as Idlewild. Soak Zone appeared like 6-7 years ago. This place is great for families (especially great for silvertops). Its a ten minute drive from St. Vincent, and has all the mid-range amusement park rides you can handle.
Like going 15 mph? Check out the Little Dipper. 35 more your speed? The Wild Mouse will kick your ass. Wanna puke? Spin around and around on the Caterpillar. Need your kid fix? Storybook Forest will remind you about all those Aesop's Fables-types, or you can go to Mister Roger's Neighborhood on the Trolley. Um...ok! I always cried my ass off when it got time to go to the cargo net (pictured above) in Jumpin' Jungle. Scary net...
- Mountain View Inn. I worked here. I was a banquet server. You'd rake in the dough on Mother's Day.
This place is great if you want a quaint hotel. None of the rooms are decorated alike.
Rolling Rock sponsors a bar called the 33rd Street Tavern, which is a little more pricey (by Latrobe's bottom-shelf standards) but is a place well worth checking out. Lots of neat (crappy) local bands/singers on a regular basis.
- Nopalito's. Literally like 5 minutes from campus. I'll let the website do the selling. Plus, I know like half of the toolbags pictured on the site.
- Dino's Sports Lounge. Word of advice, you can't get in if you're wearing a baseball hat. However, its worth it.
The Sweet & Hot wings are ridiculously amazing. However, if you're brave, go for the Lewis (or Super Lewis, if you dare) wings and burn your mouth off. I don't know if he works there anymore or not, but ask for Sean the Cook. He'll give you cool samples of the Super Lewis if you're a wussy (haven't used that insult in like a minute) and don't want all your wings infected.
- Rosa's. High volume beer. Everywhere. Need a 30-pack? Don't settle at any distributor. Go to Rosa's. Plus, they have an excellent humidor that's absolutely stocked with fine cigars. My buddy Joel had a Rosa's fix. He'd have like 2 new cigars every day.
- St. Vincent Gristmill. Right on campus. You won't even need to drive to get to this one. This crazy place has been run by the Benedictine monks for years. They make all kinds of flour and bread, and also have a stellar coffee shop.
Once there, you can check out the display I made in the museum regarding old Jim Beam Whiskey Decanters.
Oh, and there's a dead monk's spirit in the body of a cat. That cat freaked me out on several occasions. You should go see it.
- Lincoln Lanes. C'mon. Who doesn't love to bowl? Plus, Lincoln Lanes has a bar inside of it. They serve Stoney's cans. Can't find those bad boys anywhere. And if that's not enough, the Touchdown Club, another full bar, is attached to the LL building. You can literally watch fools bowl from a one-way mirror at the TD Club.
- Falbo's Restaurant. Tuesday spaghetti special. 99 cents. This is an SVC must-go-to bar. Ask if/when Pat's working. He'll give you the hook-up.
We celebrated one of my buddy's birthdays there. A few too many Three Wise Men rocked us to sleep (incoherency).
- Linn Run State Park. Two words. Natural. Waterslides.
The water cuts through the rocks, forming the smoothest grooves that you can sit (stand, you wussy) and slide on. They empty out into natural pools and are a great way to beat the heat. One time, this dude's raft floated like a mile down the creek, and me and a buddy went and tracked it down, successfully reuniting frantic owner and his craft.
Or you can hang out at the waterfall that's pictured on the homepage. I've been under it. There isn't much water. I think somebody poured a bucket of water down it for that picture.
- Sharkey's Cafe. In a constant struggle with Dino's for Latrobe-wing-supremacy. The winner of this epic battle? Me and you.
Sharkey's makes good Washington Apple shots. One too many birthdays here. We had my buddy MattyG's 22nd birthday at Sharkey's, and me and him ended up walking back to campus. Well, we got most of the way, before his girlfriend picked us up in front of a watchful trooper.
See the Steelers. Go exploring. Tell 'em PSaMP sent you.