Salt Lake City, Utah to The River City

I’m determined to finish writing about my trip – I’ve got many photos and links to share and it may take me awhile but I’m going to keep updating this blog about the trip. Day 3 of the trip was one of the highlights – it was a day to hang out on the train, chat with my fellow passengers and just enjoy the scenery of heading through the Rocky Mountains

Amtrak's California Zephyr Route from Salt Lake City to Denver

Amtrak’s California Zephyr Route from Salt Lake City to Denver

Salt Lake City, Utah to Grand Junction, Colorado

The train departed Salt Lake City around 3:30am.  I wanted to wake up and take a peek at the Salt Lake City train station but, after the trip to get to San Francisco and all of the excitement of the first few days, I slept right through the stop and woke up around 8 am somewhere in Utah.  According to the train timetable I probably woke up near Green River, Utah.

view from the Millennial Train of Utah

Good Morning Utah

The rest of the day was just filled with incredible scenery and sparkling conversation.  We didn’t have much access to photo/data reception during this part of the trip. Here is some of the scenery between Utah and Grand Junction, Colorado…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The River City

Grand Junction Amtrak Station

Grand Junction Amtrak Station (Photo credit: J. Stephen Conn)

One of the nice things about coming back and writing about my trip is that I get to go back and look up all of the historical questions that I asked and wasn’t able to find an answer to while we were on the train.  One of the things I looked up en-route was the origins of the name “Grand Junction” – here is the story from Wikipedia:

The city is located along the Colorado River, where it receives the Gunnison River from the south. The name “Grand” refers to the historical Grand River, which was renamed the upper Colorado River in 1921, and the word “Junction” is from the joining of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers. Hence, Grand Junction has been given the nickname “River City”.

I am amused that Grand Junction has the nickname River City, compared to the three rivers that run through the city of Pittsburgh, the Colorado River near Grand Junction looks like, what some Pittsburghers might call – a creek.

Blue Skies over A Vintage Train Car

Spending a day in a dome car of a vintage train gives you a different perspective on lots of things.  But one of the things that struck me most – is the sky.  Maybe it is because most of the time, I’m in a building and not looking right up at the clouds passing by, maybe the sky is just more blue over Colorado.  I hope that everyone has the opportunity to take a train between Salt Lake City and Devner and spend some time looking at the sky over the rocky mountains. I continued to be captivated by the sky over Denver – I do think that the sky over Colorado has its own shade of blue. And even now that I’m back in Pittsburgh and it isn’t overcast and grey – I find myself noticing the sky more often that I did before. Here are two of my favorite photos from the day because they capture the train and the sky in one frame.

First Night on the Train & Salt Lake City Links

Do to the limited internet access on a moving train and the busy schedule of the trip – I feel behind on the blog post.  I’m back in Pittsburgh now, and much more rested.  I am going to keep blogging about the trip – I’ve got lots of photos, stories and links to share.

It takes about 18 hours to get from Emeryville, CA to Salt Lake City, UT.


Here is a great photo of the sun starting to set that was taken by Shawn Kolodziej, who is from Minnesota.  His project is about financial literacy across the US.  You can read about Shawn’s project here.

Photo Credit: Shawn Kolodziej

Train Tracks Photo Credit: Shawn Kolodziej

Friday, August 9th was out first night spent on the train – and it was totally fine.  The beds fold down from the walls and were more than comfortable (and I was more than tired and happy to see a bed).

Here is a photo that my fellow passenger, Cameron, took from her bed.   (I tried to take a few of my cabin but it is hard to photograph a small space).


For some more great photos of the train – check out this post from the HotelTonight blog.  HotelTonight was a sponsor of the trip and sent a representative to join us for a few days on the train.

Salt Lake City

MTP-salt-flats-utahOur itinerary was supposed to include a stop in Salt Lake City, but due to some train logistics, the train was not able to stay in the rail-yard.  Some of my fellow passengers got off the train in Salt Lake City during the stop to spend the day in Salt Lake City working on their projects and then they took a flight to Denver to meet up with the train later in the day.

My fellow passengers made some interesting stops in Salt Lake City and I wanted to share the some links:

You can read and see lots more photos from Day 2 and Salt Lake City on the Millennial Trains Project blog here.

I spent Saturday, August 10th on the train enjoying the incredible scenery from Salt Lake City to Denver – my next post will have a lot of photos of the scenery from the train ride.

Day 2 - On The Train with Mentors Eric Kessler and Mike Zuckerman

We left the Emeryville station just after 9 am and headed east towards Denver.  After some breakfast and checking out the train we had presentations from some of the mentors who boarded with us in San Francisco. 

Eric Kessler of Arabella Advisors

Eric spoke to us about his experiences traveling through Russia, working for the Clinton administration, and now in running his consulting firm Arabella Advisors which advises philanthropists on how to best invest their dollars in non-profts.

Some highlights from Eric’s presentation:

  • for any project – define outcomes and measure
  • understand the difference between outputs and outcomes – especially for non-profits
  • learn how to be mentored (which made me think of this blog post Mentor/Investor Whiplash which I read before the trip)
  • lead from the front and from behind

It was great to hear Eric talk about the book, The Lean Startup, and applying “lean” principals to philanthropy.  If you are interested in entrepreneurship or growing a nonprofit – I highly recommend the book.

Mike Zuckerman

Mike Zuckerman is one of the minds behind [free space] in San Francisco.  He joined us mike-on-trainon the train and during our stop in Denver.

I’m really glad Mike joined us for the trip – he has been a part of some incredible projects, including [free space] that focus on building communities – including the National Day of Civic Hacking which occurred earlier this summer.

Mike talked about the some of the folks who have influenced him – Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia and Ray Oldenburg who authored the book about the third place.

Mike talked about the importance of leading with culture to engage others in a cause.  He also discussed some examples of civic hacking, one example that he used and that we have participated in Pittsburgh is (Park)ing Day – an annual event where citizens and businesses convert parking spaces into parks.

Mike also talked about the importance of having spaces where people can come together to share ideas, innovate and be creative.

Mike’s talk made me think of some spaces and organizations that are working on bringing people together in creative ways in Pittsburgh:

  • WaffleShop - the WaffleShop is no longer open but there are tons of video on the site and this was a great example of a community space in Pittsburgh
  • Conflict Kitchen
  • City of Play
  • Free Ride

Another organization that Mike mentioned that I think might be of interest to some Pittsburghers is Architecture for Humanity.

About Architecture for Humanity in A Minute:30 from Architecture for Humanity on Vimeo.

You can read more about Mike’s presentation on the Millennial Trains blog here.

Follow on Twitter

Enhanced by Zemanta

Day 2 - Meeting the Train

Due to some security issues we were not able to spend Thursday night on the train so we spent Thursday night at the Marin Headlands hostel Marin Headlands Hostel.

We left the hostel by 7 am and everyone was eager to head to the train.
But first a stop for another view of the Golden Gate bridge…
…then headed over to Emeryville Station to board the train.
At 9 am the Amtrak train pulled into the station with our cars attached to the back!
IMG-20130809-00148 IMG-20130809-00149

The MTP Train

Our group is housed in three privately owned rail cars that are hitched to the back of the Amtrak train.  The train cars are owned by
Doug, one of the owners of the rail cars gives us a safety briefing from the dome car.

Doug, one of the owners of the rail cars, gives us a safety briefing from the dome car.

Enhanced by Zemanta

[free space] - San Francisco, CA

IMG_0020Our city hub for the day on Thursday was a community space called [free space] – [free space] is an incredible example of community collaboration and its a concept that is kind of hard to explain.

One of the orgaziners of [free space], Mike Zuckerman, has joined us on the train and I learned a lot more about the project.

The idea of [free space] is inspired by the idea of the Third Place and the National Day of Civic Hacking.

From Wikipedia:

The third place (also known as third space) is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace. In his influential book The Great Good PlaceRay Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil societydemocracycivic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place.

[free space] set out to create a free public space where people can come together and collaborate.  [free space] started as a 30 day project and stayed open for the month of June and July.

Check out some of the projects from [free space] here.  Here is an article from the San Francisco NPR affiliate KALW about [free space] –  [freespace]: a temporary space for lasting change.

It was great to see a community space like this in San Francisco.  I think Pittsburgh has had some great success with community projects – spaces like the Union Project and the Waffle Shop have helped me to appreciate the power of public spaces.

I’ll write more about [free space] and the third place in a latter post but here are some of my photos of the location.

Follow on Twitter:


Enhanced by Zemanta

Pittsburgh Stop #2 - Francesca's and South Bay Steelers in Mountain View, CA

francesca's steeler bar silicon valleyThanks to a former Pittsburgh resident, who I met many years ago when I was working on the Kerry presidential campaign, I learned about Francesca’s in Mountain View, CA.  I grabbed a ZipCar and headed south of San Francisco.

I was a few minutes late but my Pittsburgh friend Faisal had already ordered an Iron City for me.  We had a lovely chat about the difference of living in Pittsburgh and Silicon Valley.  Faisal mentioned that in Pittsburgh – he really had a chance to know his neighbors, and he has been in Mountain View for 5 years but doesn’t feel that sense of neighborhood community that Pittsburgh has.

Francesca’s isn’t owned by a Pittsburgher but this is the home of the Steeler Nation in the South Bay.  Our bartender was from New Jersey but was a serious Steelers fan.  It must have been clear that I was talking Pittsburgh – with in 30 minutes – Chris, the head of the South Bay Steeler Nation came over to talk Steelers.

Chris is from Connecticut but has been a lifelong Steelers fan.  He started gathering with a few fans, who are now friends, at a bar called the Sports Page.  The group has grown and moved to larger space at Francesca’s.

The South Bay Steelers can be found online at which leads to their meet up page.

They now have over 100 members and gather for every game at Francesca’s.  Before I left I spoke with some other Pittsburgh folks who were in the bar and Chris insisted I see their banner – the photo doesn’t due it justice – but this banner would cover the size of a small building.



Enhanced by Zemanta

Pittsburgh Stop #1 - Giordano Brothers, San Francisco, CA

On Thursday afternoon – we had time to work on our individual projects.  I headed over to the Mission district to check out Giordano Brothers.  This place was recommended several times as THE Steelers bar in San Francisco.

From the outside – this place looks like a neighborhood bar in Anytown, USA…


Inside, its is very clear this place is all Pittsburgh…


And yes, this is a Pittsburgh style sandwich.  Duncan is the roommate of Tim Livingston, who writes for IheartPGH. He kindly agreed to join me on this mission of finding Pittsburgh people.


Our server, Ryan, was wearing a Pittsburgh t-shirt and hat and happened to be from Western, PA.  I handed him one of the IheartPGH stickers I brought along for the trip.  The stickers were printed by Pittsburgh print shop Commonwealth Press and Ryan happened to be wearing a Commonwealth Press t-shirt.  Ryan is also working on opening a sauerkraut and pickle company, Sivertsen Pickle Company. (You can buy this t-shirt from CommonWealth Press here).


The owner of Giordano Brothers, Adam DeMezza, is from Greensburg and has been in San Francisco for almost a decade.  I was assured the place is packed on game day – and yes they do serve Iron City beer.

Giordano Bros. on Urbanspoon

Enhanced by Zemanta

Day 1 - Crissy Field, UN Foundation, [free space]

After a bit of a scramble and a bit of good luck that I got the last seat on the only flight from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles (I did have to sit next to a woman with chihuahua name Lupe who escaped from his carrier midflight).
I arrived in San Francisco and the MTP folks had arranged a shuttle to take me to the hotel.
We spent Wednesday night at some hotels that were provided for the MTP trip by the company HotelsTonight.
Early Thursday morning we headed over to the Golden Gate National recreation area to start the trip at the Crissy Field Center.
This was the view from the parking lot of the Crissy Field Center when I arrived.
IMG_0010[1]This was the view from Crissy Field Center after the fog lifted.
Thursday morning speakers were:
elizabeth-goreElizabeth had lots to share about:
  • the idea of innovation in the non-profit sector
  • partnerships are key to success and it is important to have good communication in building partnership
  • engagement and authenticity – social media is making it cheaper to reach more people, authenticity is key to engagement
  • Nothing but Nets – a global, grassroots campaign to raise awareness and funding to fight malaria, a leading cause of death among children in Africa.
  • MyWorld2015 – a global survey by the UN asking for people to vote on what issues are important for the future
kamran-global-catalyst-partnersKamran spoke about
  • his experience as an entrepreneur and business person.
  • knowing about problems before they become big problems
  • the importance of building a team and some key characteristics of teammates – honesty, persistance, team work and a sense of humor.


I also had some time to speak with Johnny Price of KivaZip is a program that is just rolling out  to provide microlending in the US.  You can learn more about microlending in Pittsburgh from KivaZip here.

Pioneers Training

Another element of the Millenial Trains trip is the leadership training.  Dr. Max Klau is the Vice President of Leadership Development at City Year, Inc., a national service program headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts.  Dr. Klau has adapted the City Year leadership training for the train trip.

We then headed over to [free space] which would serve as the hub for the MTP group for the rest of the day.  I’ve got a bunch of photos to share about [free space] in another post.
I grabbed a ZipCar and headed out to visit some of the Steelers bars in the bay area.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Why a cross-country train trip and what does that have to do with Pittsburgh

A United Airlines Boeing 757, very early in th...

An update from the plane portion of the trip. I’m going to do my best to post regular updates about this trip here on the blog.  I started writing this post on my plane ride to California.  I thought a good first post might be to explain why I want to participate in a cross-country train trip. I’ll be posting updates about the trip here on this blog and on the United States of Pittsburgh Facebook Page and on Twitter @USofPGH.

If you are a regular reader of the IheartPGH twitter feed you know that I often post about transit in Western PA.
I think my interest in train travel is two-fold:
  • a fascination of the history of travel around this country before the car and
  • the need to find ways to move around this country that don’t involve putting more cars on the road.
Here is what I’m going to be looking at during this trip:
  • transit and trains – how do people get from here to there
  • Pittsburgh People around the United States – I’ll be stopping in each of the cities and visiting businesses owned by Pittsbughers
  • community places and spaces – in each of the cities where the train stops we will be working out of a hub.
A month ago I was driving back from Buffalo, NY to Pittsburgh.  And I was thinking how nice it would be to be able to take a train from Pittsburgh to Erie, spend the day at the beach and take a train back later that evening.
Last week the Urban Hike group took a walking tour of West View.  West View had a large amusement park and was located on a trolley line.  The trolley line is gone and the amusement park is now a stripmall and a k-mart.
I think transit in the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny county is important and we need to spend more time talking about transit and sharing ideas.  We have had some success and are seeing more transit oriented development.  (we’ve still got to work on a better way to get to the Pittsburgh airport).  I am also really interested in transit, both planes and trains, to and from Pittsburgh. I am interested in what can be learned from the past and what can we learn from other cities about transportation.