On the road again: Pittsburgh, PA family reunion and a backyard roller coaster

For a family that doesn’t travel, we’ve been doing a lot of traveling this summer. Last week we left for our third trip of the summer, which started with a stop in Pittsburgh to visit Tom’s extended family.

En route to the annual Krieger family vacation, we traveled with Tom’s parents and his brother’s family (including their four kids). We met at a gorgeous park in beautiful weather. The kids ran around and played while the adults chatted and tried to convince the kids to eat something besides popcorn and cookies for dinner.

We got to see Tom’s grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins, and their kids ((ahem, second cousins and first cousins once-removed). I didn’t take any picture at all of the night. In hindsight, not having pictures is unfortunate, but it was definitely one of those “we were too busy talking and laughing and pushing kids on swings to bother with our phones” situations.

Just before the clock struck 7:30 and all eight Krieger children turned into pumpkins, we went back to the hotel.

Thomas’s very first hotel experience and he’s already a pro — sleeping diagonal in the bed.

Anna’s first hotel experience, too. She abandoned all manners and morals when she saw that breakfast buffet and Mama’s never been so proud.

We left the hotel and made a stop to visit another one of Tom’s cousins. This particular cousin happened to have a roller coaster in his backyard.

That’s right. You read that correctly.

But if you’re picturing one of those plastic toddler roller coaster that you can set up in your driveway then you’re picturing wrong.

This was the real deal.

David went first.

Then Mary, then Thomas and Tom.

After watching all of the children and family members that I love take a turn, I decided it was safe enough for me.

I laughed the entire time.

I posted a few of these videos on Instagram and then immediately went into the mountains where I had no service for a week.

When I got back and opened my phone, it was tapping its foot and checking its watch like, what took you so long?


I had notifications and emails from Facebook and Instagram that all basically said the same thing, 1) wow 2) how.

My answers are:

1) I know, right?

2) A blend of Krieger ingenuity, engineering, physics, carpentry, a lot of trial runs, the absence of a HOA, and (perhaps most important) a loving, patient, supportive [insert all the adjectives!] wife.

I do wish I could offer you a copy of the blueprint, but I’m not sure the blueprint actually exists. Plus, I’m not ready to take on that kind of liability.

If you zoom in on some of the pictures you can see some of the carpentry skills involved. It is very, very impressive and very, very fun.

Once our (my) heart rates calmed down a bit, we hopped in the car and went to lunch. Nineteen Kriegers swarmed a Burger King. We let the kids eat and play while we talked about the joys and struggles of parenting small children.

See!? People with roller coasters in their backyards are just like us!

Then we were off, all of us trying to convince our kids that the adventure had just begun.

Thomas adjusted his crown and asked, “Mommy, when do we get to Canada?”



  1. Gayle Ann August 22, 2019

    I love Pittsburgh. I always looked for jobs there and Cleveland. Next time you are there, consider this trip: https://www.gatewayclipper.com

    Burger King? I know… the playground. But, one thing that makes that area fantastic is the food. People came to escape WWII, and to work the mills, and in Akron, the rubber factories. It was really hard work, and I honestly believe people today don’t really understand how hard the work was. But, one didn’t need great English skills. They could own a home, take a vacation, and put their kids through school. And, they brought their food. Though, I admit to liking Eat and Park, and Bob Evans, that region has some of the best “ethnic” cooking. When I was in grad school, I’d make the trip on the week-end to some of the summer food festivals. But, I had relatives there growing up, and my best memories are food.

    We have to live outside NYC now, and NO WHERE has the kind of wonderful food found in that region. Food became a source of pride and identity that really wasn’t duplicated many places. Becoming American didn’t mean Sunday pot roast.

    If during school breaks, you want to do some fun time occupying things, check out books by Robert Wolke, PhD



    He is a retired chemistry professor from Pitt, and talked about the science of food while Alton Brown was in diapers. He used to do a column for the Post Gazette.

    As I remember the Gateway Cruises, they were fun.

    • amandakrieger August 27, 2019

      no judgement for burger king! It was much more that we had 11 kids, 8 adults, and not a lot of time. My husband grew up in Pittsburgh and we’ve made several trips there. This time we were mostly driving through and seeing as much family as possible 🙂


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