Two Sundays in the skies over Route 88: 9/10/17 and 9/17/17

I think I’ve never used a drone shot in one of my shows till now. Doing a program about a highway like Route 88 however seems to be a perfect opportunity to make use of a drone and its high flying abilities.

And my friend Matt “Superman” Conrad has a drone. He’s worked on all of my local and national programs since around the year 2000. He’s been an assistant editor, a production assistant, a technical wizard, and he’s wiggled his way up to being a sound mixer, a video colorist, an editor (on many shows since SOMETHING ABOUT OAKLAND) and an associate producer (on both A FEW GOOD PIE PLACES and A FEW GREAT BAKERIES.) He is truly part of our team. He works full-time now with a group called PictureThisMedia, but he still occasionally finds time to help us out, and I asked if he could convince me to start using drone technology in my shows.

He agreed. We decided Sundays would be the best times for both of us.

We did our first test shots on Sunday September 10th in Overbrook just across Route 51 from where Route 88 starts.

The not-so-loved intersection of Saw Mill Run Boulevard (51) with Library Road (88) has been improved in recent years, but it’s still a point where traffic can back up.

After several shots in Overbrook, we drove to Bethel Park to get a shot of the major intersection at the entrance to South Park. Route 88 meets Baptist Road, Corrigan Drive and South Park Road at that point, and it can be confusing, but 88 veers off to the right and continues south toward the town of Library.

We might have called it a day at that point, but I mentioned how close we were to the house where I grew up, and we decided to try to get a shot there. And I’m glad we did.

I got to meet Lance who now owns our old house (he was working in the front yard) and I got to talk with several old neighbors whom I hadn’t seen in a while, and Matt got a wonderful shot that I believe will be the first shot in our show.


The next Sunday, September 17, we started by zipping down the Mon-Fayette Expressway, PA Turnpike 43, to Finleyville, where I wanted to follow up on a tip that there was a bit of “Old Route 88” just past the Giant Eagle. We found it and were grateful to the social media friend who called to tell me about it. There’s even a beautiful old brick section.

Then we headed for the Mingo Creek Presbyterian Church just south of Finleyville.

We scurried from Mingo to Point Marion, following 88 the whole way,  considering various other shots along the way. I had been to Point Marion 2 or 3 times at this point, but it wasn’t till I saw Matt’s drone shots that I saw how beautiful the little town is. The drone also took this still picture:

That’s the Cheat River on the left and the Monongahela River coming North from Fairmont WV on the right. We took drone images from the parking lot of a small company beside the Monongahela, then went down by the blue bridge where 88 ends and got more shots from there.

Then we were hungry. I knew the nearby restaurant at the Two Rivers Marina (named for the Cheat and the Mon) was good because I drove down there one night for dinner with Sam Silberman who used to be our Program Director at WQED, and I suggested we head there for lunch.

It’s an unassuming bar and restaurant, and it was open. Matt got a steak and cheese sandwich which looked great.

And I got the Sunday special: osso bucco! I didn’t expect osso bucco, but it was very tasty, nicely prepared, and I brought half of it home for another dinner.

Then we headed north on 88. We got some shots at Engle’s Holiday Marina where the Ten Mile Creek flows under an old railroad bridge and into Monongahela.

Here the Monongahela is on the left, and the Ten Mile Creek is on the right.

Then we continued north but stopped again in Fredericktown when we saw a huge barge going by.

I also noticed for the first time the Fredericktown Public Library there (on the far right in the photo) beside the river, and I thought, Hmm. if we had more time, that’s probably another good story.

We continued north, stopping briefly near the college town of California, PA,  where the High Point Restaurant on 88 used to give patrons a fantastic view of the Greenfield Bend in the Monongahela River below!

Today, with the restaurant out of business, you get just a partial view, unless you happen to have a drone that can go high enough to give you a wider view of the town of Newell and the river all around it.

(If you look closely, you can see Route 88 going left to right just below the middle of the above photo. If you look more closely, you can see the closed High Point Restaurant on 88 near the right edge of the photo, and beside it, my blue Honda Element with Matt and me standing nearby!)

As the sun got lower in the sky, Matt and I continued North to the discombobulating spot where the Joe Montana Bridges on the 43 Expressway soar above Route 88.

Matt flew the drone (see it just right of center in the photo) up to the level of the Expressway and then brought it back down to see how earthbound and modest and reliable old 88 looked from where we were standing.

Then we left Mingo, heading for home. After our two Sundays of droning, I’m hooked. I think I may want drone shots in all of my shows from now on. Big thanks to Matt.



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