Good morning from Pittsburgh.

I’m camped in a parking lot on Forbes Avenue, across from the campus of Carnegie Mellon University. The greatest feature of this parking lot? It’s LEVEL, and so is Honey.

Beautiful morning. A great day for college soccer. The CMU men play Wash U at 1:30. The women play at 11 a.m. The CMU men (8-1-0) are ranked 11th and Wash U (7-0-3) 12th.

CMU’s only loss came last weekend at Chicago, 2-1 in double OT. It’s tough to win on the road in the UAA. The Wash U men recently tied Emory (Ranked 9th) in Atlanta.

Getting to Pittsburgh

It only took me 4 1/2 hours to drive 120 miles last night.

Pretty good for me. Everything’s more complicated when your transportation is actually a small house.

Best lesson learned yesterday: There’s an RV dump station at the service area on the Ohio Turnpike. Woohoo.

I did miss an important turn right at the end, the exit for I-79 South. Had to drive an extra 12 miles to the next exit before I could turn around. Luckily for me, that stretch of road was under construction and the shoulders were closed, so I got to hone my skills at driving 60 mph in a 7 1/2 foot wide RV in an 8 foot wide lane. Thankfully the road was incredibly curvy and hilly. Love it (As Lisa would say).

The day in Cleveland

I saw the Case Western Reserve University women beat NYU in the first match yesterday. The NYU men beat the CWRU men 2-0.

After the match, the Case women were treated to a great outdoor feast by their parents and grandparents. The previous week they lost at Brandeis.

At the other end of the field, the NYU women were taking the loss hard. Every loss is tough for kids who love to play and want to win.

It was picture perfect day at CWRU.

Early in the morning, near the football/soccer field, the football team and cheerleaders were boarding buses for a game at Oberlin. CWRU won 48-36. At the baseball diamond across the driveway, the team was practicing before a double-header with Denison. Two blocks away there was a softball game with the faculty and staff.

Dogs, parents, athletes, little kids all mixing it up amid the red brick modern gabled gothic dorms that ring the stadium. Lots of grass and trees starting to turn colors and a clear blue day. This is why I’m making this trip.

The temperature in Pittsburgh Sunday was 84, which is not normal. Record high for Oct. 10 is 82, which was set in 2007, way back when George W. Bush was president. Average high is 67.
Hot-burghers in the steel town.

Seems as if I am bringing good weather with me.

What I am not bringing is good luck for the home teams. The Carnegie Mellon men’s and women’s teams fell to Washington University. The men’s game ended in the first overtime on a goal by Cody Costakis, a 5-5, 150-pound midfielder. The Wash U women beat the Tartans 4-0 in the 11 a.m. match.

The standings after this weekend show how competitive the UAA is. Emory, NYU and Washington are tied for first with 1-0-1 records. Rochester and Carnegie Mellon are tied at the bottom at 0-2. Last year, CMU and UR won the UAA with 5-1-1 records while Emory and NYU were 2-3-2. The new polls come out Tuesday and there’s going to be some shuffling.
On the women’s side,  the University of Chicago tops the standings at 2-0, Wash U is second at 1-0-1. Four teams are tied at 1-1.

In volleyball, Emory and WUSTL (no surprise) are tied at 3-0 after the first round robin. Over the weekend, they both won non-conference matches as did Case Western Reserve and Brandeis. The next round robin is Oct. 16-17 at Brandeis, and Case Western Reserve hosts the championships Nov. 5-6.

The scene at Carnegie Mellon

Sunday’s games were played on CMU’s new soccer field, which sits just beyond the football stadium at the corner of Forbes Avenue (Remember Forbes Field, where Bill Mazerowki’s homer beat the Yankees in the 1960 World Series?) and Margaret Morrison Drive.  Margaret Morrison was Andrew Carnegie’s mother, and the women’s college founded in 1903 as part of Carnegie Tech was named for her. Several of the UAA schools were founded as male institutions but had affiliated women’s colleges.

The field is new and almost shiny. It’s Field Turf, which is top shelf these days, and is a special “soccer cut,” which means the blades of “grass” are shorter than the football cut. There is a small set of gray, aluminum bleachers on the north side, which is tree-lined and has picnic tables beside the street.

There are also several food vendors set up in small trucks, much like Honey, who cater to Carnegie Mellon students and faculty.

The stands were filled today with Carnegie Mellon fans, but also with a large contingent of Wash U parents and relatives, who make a good showing and provide great chow at every away event.

After the match they treated the girls to a picnic lunch, included two huge vats of pasta-like food. After eating, some of the players hunkered down to their homework, a staple of the UAA road trips.

Inexplicably, I was drawn to the food carts. I asked one student eating there about his favorite, his major, etc.

His name is Akshay Upadhyay, and he is senior from Rutherford, N.J. Akshayay reckons he studies 100 hours a week (no way for me to verify that) and is a triple major in Economics, Statistics and Math (100 hours seems reasonable).

His hardest class this semester is 88-365 Behavioral Economics and Public Policy, which was not offered when I attended the University of Colorado.

Akshay recommended the pad thai. It was awesome, but the cook/owner/server insisted also on giving me chicken basil, teriyaki and pork palo. She said I would need water, and she was right.


Overheard cell phone conversation: “It’s in the freakin’ ’80s. I can’t believe this is Pittsburgh.”

Coach, you are correct: Carnegie Mellon had 12 players on the field at one point, and it was discovered right when a corner kick was called. Washington coach Joe Clarke, understandably and politely, told the referee he thought it unfair that the Tartans had an extra player AND a corner kick. The ref agreed.

Carnegie Mellon mom on what to say to your daughter after a 4-0 loss: “Let’s go eat.”

Everyone pitches in: When a ball was kicked over the fence and onto Margaret Morrison Drive, it was retrieved not by a student ball boy, but by Tony Wingen, the men’s basketball coach and an associate director of athletics.

Getting here: Honey and I arrived late last night, our trip extended because I took a wrong turn. I’m camped at the Morewood parking lot, which is blessedly level.

How smart are these kids? One dad, Chip Gerfen, told me his son was a little taken aback on his first road trip with the CMU soccer team when an argument broke out in the airport about quantum mechanics. Don’t these kids have anything better to talk about?

I need help (duh)

Two questions: Can anyone tell me if there is a bike shop within walking distance of the Morewood parking lot? Need to get a flat tire fixed. And, I have a fistful of stickers from UAA schools to adorn Honey, but I can’t figure out how to stick ’em on my windows. The last time I put a decal on something was in 1959 when I built a B-17 model and soaked the decals in water before sliding them onto the plastic fuselage.

What’s on tap

Monday and Tuesday I have a round of interviews with CMU coaches and players at Skibo Gymnasium. Tuesday afternoon I leave for Rochester, N.Y., which is 288 miles and four hours and 58 minutes away. At my rate and with my sense of direction, it will be 323 miles and seven hours and 11 minutes. Just watch me.

Writer Kevin Austin and Honey, his untrusty 1984 recreation vehicle, are touring universities for Austin’s upcoming book on the University Athletic Association.  If you see him, stop and help him work on Honey, or at least wave.

Excerpted from Kevin Austin’s blog:  2010 UAA Ultimate Road Trip


Kevin Austin

Kevin Austin

Kevin S. Austin is from Poncey Highland -- and proud of it, Atlanta, GA, United States. Reporter, writer, newsman, clown. Hail fellow well met.  He recently embarked on a 45-day road trip to visit each of the eight universities in the University Athletic Association and attend soccer matches at the schools for a book he is writing.