Babushkas and hard hats tour

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
34 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

As regular readers know, RoadTrip loves to get far away. But we also appreciate the charms right here at home.

That's what we like about the "Babushkas and Hard Hats Tour."

The folks who run the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area periodically run this tour, including this Saturday.

The bus leaves at 9 a.m. from Station Square, after a lesson in Pittsburghese, and heads up to take in the view from the West End Overlook. On the way to the "Steel Valley," you get a taste of the traditional "cookie table" and stop at ethnic A & B bakery. "People love to hear the family stories," says Jan Dofner, who puts on an apron and tells them some of her own as she leads the outings.

You also tour Homestead's Bost Building, the national historic landmark and a one-time nerve center of the 1892 Battle of Homestead and now Rivers of Steel's visitor center, where you can try on steelworker's gear.

Then you hit the historic Pump House and Water Tower, where the battle was waged, to learn how iron and steel are made -- a process that continues at the last stop, the Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock.

Tickets for the 3 1/2-hour tours are $17 and can be purchased at the group's Web site, (click on "shop"), or by calling 412-464-4020. Upcoming tours include Aug. 5, Aug. 19 and Sept. 2.

In September (16 and 30) and October (14 and 28) they'll start offering "Hard Hat" tours of the Carrie Furnaces, which the group wants to make part of an urban and industrial national park. As Ms. Dofner notes, "This'll be the first time Carrie Furnaces is open to the public."

If you can't make one of the tours, you can lead your own using one of the group's Routes to Roots driving guides ($20) at the Bost Building (at 623 E. Eighth Ave.). You can even rent a "History to Go" DVD (for $15, or buy one for $25) at the Bost Building and use it to go on a walking tour of that neighborhood.

The rental fee includes a portable DVD player.


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