I ha’ent writ much about the BikePGH forum’s Tag-o-Rama game since my first tag pickup two years ago. I’ve meant to get caught up and share the tags I’ve found and set, but figured I’d wait and post an end-of-year summary.
To review the rules: the person who is “It” sets a “tag” by biking somewhere interesting, taking a photo of the location with their bike in it, and posting the picture on the forum. Then the other players race to figure out where that location is, get there by bike, take a similar picture with their bike in it, and post that. Whoever posts first becomes “It” and can set the next tag location.
It might be easier to explain by seeing it in action, so here’s a link to the start of the 2017 Tag-o-Rama thread.
I started out slowly back in 2016, only chasing down four tags. This year I’ve paid more attention, collecting 13 more, for a total of 17. That puts me in the Top 20 out of more than 120 players!
So here (on the left) are the 17 tags that I picked up, and (on the right) the 17 tags that I subsequently set. As with nearly everything I post, you can click through the thumbnails to get to larger original photos.
Although I knew about the game before I moved to Pittsburgh in December 2015, it took me until March 2016 to claim my first tag. Part of that was unfamiliarity with the area (both in terms of recognizing tag locations as well as good routes to bike there), and part was trepidation about riding in the worst of winter. This is a sculptural playground structure across the Allegheny in Aspinwall. It took me just 97 minutes to claim this tag after it was initially posted to the forum. I wedged my rear tire in between the character's fingers to make it look like he was grasping the bike.
For my first placed tag, I picked something I thought might be a little obscure: this abandoned "Home Improvement" storefront on Centre Ave in the Hill District. Apparently it wasn't obscure enough, because it was claimed just two and a half hours later. The "bicycle rampant" is a favorite position.
Two months later, my second tag was this "MAGNETOM" sign located in the back of Allegheny General Hospital, also on the north side.
Although technically outside the suggested rectangle that we keep our tags within, I couldn't resist dropping a tag in a neighborhood in Mifflin where Arctic Way connected to Antarctic Way via Flight Way (also near Official Way). I hinted at the location by saying: "Although there are several ways to get from the south pole to the north pole, there’s only one official way. But by thinking a mile and a half outside of the box, I didn’t have to use the airport to find the shortest flight from pole to pole."
At the end of a 60-mile expedition to Export PA, I returned to town via the towns of Trafford (where I took a digger and incurred some road rash) and Wilmerding, where I got this tag at the Westinghouse Air Brake Company General Office Building (aka Westinghouse Castle).
Fifth Avenue isn't a good place to bike, but as a major commuter route I figured someone would recognize the PVBLIC BATHS building, which now houses a convict assistance office. But even I was surprised that it was claimed just 71 minutes after I posted it! Note that I was using my old bike (the Plastic Bullet) when I claimed (above) and set this tag (here).
My fourth and final tag pickup of 2016 was at the Arsenal Terminal in the Strip, the location of Pittsburgh's Art All Night festival.
And my final drop of 2016 was at this church in Wilkinsburg, at the corner of Rebecca and Coal. My hint was a black and white still of a napkin monogrammed "R de W". That's for Rebecca de Winter, a plot element in Hitchcock’s 1940 film "Rebecca".
After five months in Maine, it took me about a month to claim my first tag of 2017: this "Welcome to East Pittsburgh" mural on a railroad abutment down in Braddock.
As stated in my hint, my first 2017 tag set "has a flavor!" This cafe in Garfield named "Flavors". I wish I'd been more patient, because later in the year the tarp would come off and reveal a locomotive-shaped smoker hidden underneath.
By now my Google and Steetview skills were paying off. This church on Herron Ave in the Hill District is heated geothermally using the runoff water from an underground coal mine!
Although the Little Library is in the foreground, the thing that intrigued me about this location in Mt. Oliver were the WW1 sniper pillboxes (although they're actually hardened "cornhole" games).
Five days later someone posted a tag at a place I recognized: the former Animal Rescue League office near Point Breeze.
I'm always looking for interesting architectural features, and sometimes use them as tagdrops. This Cupack entryway near Woods Run is on a common route for group rides.
My third tag pickup in the month of May was at this National Negro Opera Company historic marker at an abandoned house in Homewood off Lincoln Ave.
This is one of my all-time favorite tag drops. First, it plays on one of my favorite themes: places with strange names; in this case "Bigger Street" in Knoxville. Second, I came up with a really good hint. Playing off the Roy Scheider quote in "Jaws", I simply said, "You’re gonna need a bigger street." Finally, even though the answer was right there in plain sight, it absolutely confounded the veteran Tag-o-Rama players. I consider it one of my best.
This tag was just too easy to let go. Temple Sinai is on a main road less than half a mile from my apartment. Moreover, I walk over there every week for my Wednesday evening meditation group! It would have been shameful if I'd missed that one! And this was a bonus as the first photo I took with a brand new cellphone.
My penchant for odd placenames continued with The Knob, a street in Ben Avon Heights which was a bit too far outside the suggested box. But it was priceless!
This one -- my tenth tag! -- was a strange pickup. The original photo was a bizarrely distorted shot underneath a bridge. But somehow I instantly recognized it as a railroad trestle on Highland Drive by the bike track. I sorta tried to "iron out" the original by exploding it into a flat panorama.
I carried the tag all the way across town to Sheraden and dropped it on this convenient red dot in middle of Brevet Way. Why Brevet Way? Well, endurance cyclists know that randonneuring events are called "brevets". So I played off that in my clue, saying that "this is the only street in the city where you could ride an entire randonneuring event on a single public way."
By now I was snagging one or two tags per month. The clues made it clear that this house was near corner of Hazelwood and Bigelow, a mile or two from the apartment, so it was an easy pickup.
Having ridden by this building in Doughboy Square, I thought its industrial vibe was kind of interesting, especially with the opaque door with "True Believer" spray-painted on.
Another tag that was easy because it was here in the East End was this one, at Tree Pittsburgh Seedling Nursery.
There are some people who try to deduce location by triangulating on landmarks along the skyline. So here I tried to give those people something to do, as well as highlight the memorial to the USS Maine in the foreground.
This was another interesting one. I knew the area, because of a hint naming Jacob McCrea, who runs the Every Neighborhood Ride. But when I rode around that neighborhood, I couldn't find the right place. When I got home, Streetview told me it was on a side street rather than the main drag, and I'd ridden right past it three times! The next day I went back to Allentown and claimed the Black Forge Coffee House.
I dropped this tag at an interesting building I'd seen in Homestead: the abandoned Charles Schwab Industrial School. For a hint, I quoted an old newspaper article about the building's dedication that had been very poorly OCR'ed, saying that the founder was: "STEEL TRUST’S PRESIDENT. WHO IS SOMETHING OF A PI H LANTH ROPIST."
This one doesn't look like much. That's because I didn't care to include the "TRUMP TRAIN" sign that was the basis for this tag, which was positioned a little higher up the wall. Fuck 'em.
Then, for my tag drop, I said, "Let’s erase the Specter of the Trump Train with some Good Old Honesty." This warehouse is the former Morr Craft building on Old Honesty Street off Spring Garden, presumably the birthplace of the Formica Sunrise color line.
I returned to Doughboy Square to pick up this rock garden behind a Family Dollar store.
Here's another favorite tag. Same reasoning as Bigger Street: (1) it's a cool placename: "The Boulevard" in Carrick; (2) I picked a cool clue: in this case, a link to Jackson Browne's song "Boulevard"; and (3) it stumped the veterans for quite a while.
Someone dropped this at a playground behind some of the dorms at CMU. Fairly close to home, so an easy pick. My twentieth tag pickup!
I've ridden by this house with a lighthouse on Linden Street many times. Unfortunately, after I tag dropped it, I learned that it had been used before, and thus was immediately familiar to some of the veterans. Can't win 'em all...
Statues are usually pretty easy to track down using Google Images. This one, called "The Circle of Care" is in the entrance to the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center down in Oakland. This one finally put me into the Top 20 Tag-o-Rama players.
My penchant for unique architecture spurred this tag drop, also in Oakland, off Morewood.