Pittsburgh, PA: Escape 51 – Mission to Mars

June 22-23, 2018 – My parents met me at my home at the end of the business day Friday and tossed their bags into my car, a 2008 Suzuki SX4.  Ready for an eight hour drive!  Though my car is comfortable, and it’s been reliable the last ten years I’ve had it, the mileage per gallon is a cringe-inducing 23 MPG.  Combined with a small gas tank, that means I need to stop for gas every 3.5 hours on a road trip.  I checked all the rental car facilities in the area but all of the prices were high, so my car was still the best option.

Friday night was pretty much one long drive.  It took a shockingly long time to get past the city of Chicago.  My GPS alerted me to an accident which caused me to seek a detour through South Holland, but upon exiting the highway I found myself in a labyrinth created by a stalled freight train parked across most of the intersections in town.  Thankfully, the roads were mostly clear by the time I got out of Chicago, and a few caffeinated beverages later, I checked into a hotel in Cranberry Township, PA at about 2:30 AM.

I got an early start the next day, hitting the road at about 8AM, right after grabbing a few Geocaches hidden near the hotel.  After checking the area online, I found an escape room that opened reasonably early and set me on the south side of Pittsburgh.  We were worried about our route straight through Pittsburgh after seeing on the news that there was a big protest in the city, but we didn’t see any signs of unrest on the way through.

Arriving near the escape room a little early, my parents had a little time to search a few local stores for Pittsburgh Steelers gear for my nephews (who like the Bears, the Packers, and Ben Roethlisberger), but with no success.

We got to the room a little early, but the folks there were ready for us and got us going quickly.  Pretty soon we were rolling in the first escape room of the weekend, Mission to Mars.

Mission to Mars was a neat concept.  Both the music and atmosphere were reminiscent of the recent Matt Damon film The Martian.  The decor and lighting were excellent, and I appreciate the extra flashlight they provide just in case any participant has trouble with the dimmer areas of the room.

The room did a good job weaving puzzles together with things that don’t seem out of place in a space station setting.  There were a few special puzzles toward the end that really felt like something out of a video game.  My dad and I started the room well, then got delayed heavily about midway.  We used a hint to get back on track and then finished with a decent cushion remaining.

We had a quick chat with one of the owners afterward, and she was happy to talk to us about the room’s different tricks and secrets.  One of my favorite stories she shared was that the room originally had a hefty supply of astronaut ice cream but the supply had been seriously depleted by her daughter’s habit of snacking on it!

The trip was off to a good start.  We got back in the car and headed for our next stop: West Virginia!

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