Gaslights and a Wooden Street

Ah, take me back to the days of gaslights and wooden streets! Eh, not really. These curious and nostalgic scenes are delightful yet do not reflect the dismal quality of life in Pittsburgh in the early 1900’s. I much prefer the current cleaner Pittsburgh. As they say “The good ‘ole days weren’t so good.”


https://www.strava.com/activities/5243296842
Route of RATS run #00403 in Shadyside and Point Breeze

I started this run, number 403, in Frick Park even though the object of the run was the curious winding avenues of Chatham University. But first, a photo of the elusive groundhog, cousin to Phil. I’ve seen groundhogs everywhere in the city, from Uptown parking lots to Lincoln Place. They scurry into holes under porches. They dive into garden bunkers. There’s one that lives in my neighbor’s yard. It must have an agreement with their dog, as it boldly traipses across their yard and into my garden. It loves to sample tomatoes, preferable almost ripe and generously leaves the half eaten fruits for birds to gorge on.

Groundhog
Grr, a groundhog

Nonetheless, back to the roads through Chatham University. These ‘private’ roads are often used by pedestrians and patient short-cut seekers to cross from Fifth Avenue to Wilkins Avenue. They are also some of the most gorgeous streets in Pittsburgh, with large mansions (now college buildings) on small winding lanes flanked by flowering dogwoods and towering oaks.

After wandering the winding lanes of Chatham, I traveled up Shady Avenue as the evening became drizzly. There are many small dead-ends off of Shady, as well as a few private drives. I ended up by following Mellon Park Road from Shady to Beechwood. I’m not sure what’s going on with the green lights, but I can assure you they are not from photo-editing.

I simply ran up and down and up and down Beechwood to my starting point. No groundhog out now.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5248910773
Strava route of RATS run #00404

This run was in Shadyside as well, though in the busier sections near Walnut Street and Ellsworth Avenue. I was on a mission to snag a number of dead-ends and alley-ways I had previously overlooked. The south side of the busway is quite residential, though crowded. A large percentage of the huge ostentatious houses have been carved into apartments, condos and town homes. There are still a few mansions along Fifth Avenue, though. The north side of the busway is more inner-city urban, with six-story apartment buildings and parking garages.

Getting there, though, I ran to Canterbury Lane, a dead-end; Aiken Place, another dead-end and Roslyn Place, an historic street off of Ellsworth. What makes Roslyn so historic? Well, the street is ‘paved’ with wood. And it isn’t wooden planks, it is more like the ends of 4×8’s. Very odd, but here, take a look.

As I say, very odd. How do they plow in the winter? Anyway, from here, I scurried down the alleys off of South Graham Street. One side goes to a Boys and Girls Club and the other dead-ends into a beautiful wall of ivy.

Crossing over the busway on the Graham Street walkway took me to Centre Avenue. It is a hopping place, with a Whole Foods, a Giant Eagle and lots of construction. Commerce Street, little more than an alley, parallels Centre and yet is much quieter. I made my way to Motor Square Garden and came back on Dapper Way.

So, I must say, my GPS wasn’t super accurate on this run. Sections of the GPS’ route are ‘translated’ off my actual route by 75 yards or so. Unfortunately, this misses the ‘nodes’ on CityStrides and doesn’t ‘complete’ the street. Argh. I’m uncertain as to whether I’ll run them again, which is easy enough, or just mark them as complete. Hmm, decisions, decisions.

Summer Hill For 400, Alex

Here is a run from the first week of May, RATS run #00400 in Summer Hill.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5223940511
Summer Hill and the Livin is Easy – RATS run #00400

On this bright sunny Saturday a group of friends were doing their Virtual Pittsburgh Marathon. With Covid-19 still lingering, the in-person event had been cancelled, but Cathy, Avi, and Danielle were determined to do their first marathon while Dennis and Mark came along and added another marathon to their long list. ( I apologize if I’ve missed anyone.) So, while waiting to cheer on these folks at their 20 mile mark, I popped up to Summer Hill for a run, keeping a close eye on my phone for word that the runners were approaching 20 miles.

Today’s run was about clearing Dewey Street, the northernmost section of Evergreen Road and Golf Way in Summer Hill. Additionally, if the bat phone didn’t ring, I’d sneak in a few side streets off of Colby.

Dewey Street is a short thoroughfare squished between a steep hill and I-279. A long flight of stairs, Gribble Street, lands at its beginning and only a half-dozen houses are scattered along the tree lined street.

From there, I followed the pedestrian walkways under a rocky moonscape created by the I-279/Evergreen Street interchange. With limited visibility, I waited patiently for the lights to change and made sure no car was whizzing by when I did eventually cross, periodically checking the bat phone. Ironically enough, that led me up the long curving hill of Evergreen Road with no sidewalks, so I was still anxious about getting hit by a car zipping down the blind curve. Guess what? I made it.

Halpern Road led me to Colby Road and hence to Gold Way. It is just a little alley, ending in a nice green pathway. The neighbors should really get together and make a putting green there. It’s not like any cars are coming.

The bat phone still didn’t ring, so I got a chance to run out of the city on Faber Street. It was all lush and green suburbia.

Faber Road

The bat phone still wasn’t ringing, so I checked off Husk Street, little more than a driveway. But then, I looked up in the sky and saw a tiny plane high spelling out words…

G-E-T..Y-O-U-R.. A-S-S.. T-O.. H-I-G-H-L-A-N-D.. P-A-R-K

Whoops! I guess we weren’t using the bat phone today after all.

(I made it back in time to see Cathy’s group storm in, snack up and speed off.)

Short March Runs

Here are three short runs I did in mid-March. These were “squeeze-them-in-runs”, where I had only a short time and planned out a very limited route. Though perhaps not as epic as some runs, they still took me to interesting places.


https://www.strava.com/activities/4947105503
Route of RATS run #00381 in West Liberty

This run started at Moore Park along Pioneer Avenue. I had mapped out a shorter, “nearly flat”, route for my girlfriend to run while I tackled the longer hill on Dunster Street.

Dunster is pretty much suburbia up near Pioneer Avenue, with a long straight stretch rolling east. After reaching the sunrise, it drops precipitously. Large lawns spread out and the bottom cross-street, Timberland, ends in trails. (The trails, incidentally, go back up to Moore Park.)

Following Timberland away from its trail end brought me to Edgebrook Avenue. At this point, Ballinger Street ascends as a staircase. This area was a bit more junky. I did spy what must have been an elf playhouse off the stairs. Also, I garnered more evidence for “Boat Theory”, as a speedboat was right next to the stairs.

I continued all the way to Whited Street before turning back. It is a neat area, off the beaten path but literally a quarter mile to Saw Mill Run Boulevard and overlooking the South Busway.

Returning to Moore Park, I had the pleasure of running up Dunster. Turns out that is a Strava Segment (“What a Dunster Fire”) and for the moment, I’m 4th overall! I also had the pleasure of getting some feedback for the “flat” run I had planned for Naomi. Ha! Perhaps it wasn’t as flat as I remembered.


Brook Street Route
RATS #00382, Brook Street in Carrick

Nestled between South Side Cemetery and Saint Georges Cemetery, a handful of streets and an amazing number of houses cling to steep slopes. This run, #00382, was a rare morning run and I just had enough time to do a couple of miles. I parked along Brownsville Road and ran north on that dusty road to Cedricton Street. Between the houses on the left, it was a long way down.

Once at the end of Cedricton, I jigsawed my way over to Brook Street, which flowed downhill, an amazingly far way downhill. There was actually a turn-around at the bottom, where all the views were up, up along fallen vine covered trees. A brook did emerge at the bottom.


https://www.strava.com/activities/4965153998
RATS #00383 in California-Kirkbride

This was a short run I tried to squeeze in before my regular City of Bridges Wednesday night run. I managed to catch Sigel Street, which has recently been repaved then ascended the Hyena Street Steps. No pictures, I suppose I forgot my phone.

Turns out I misjudged my timing as well, for by the time I got back, the COB runners had already left. Whoops! I had the map and tracked after them. However, with a ten minute head start, I only caught up with a couple. At least Modern Cafe was open and I got to enjoy some post-run libations with them.

What’s Next to Your Steps?

https://www.strava.com/activities/4338392163
RATS #00327

In this long journey to cover all of Pittsburgh’s streets, I have found it very difficult to completely search out every nook and cranny of a neighborhood on just one run; sometimes it takes two, or three, or even more runs. In the older neighborhoods, especially, there are often small streets, alleys and steps which somehow eluded my attention on the first go rounds. Eventually, however, I have to go back and do them. This was one of those “go-back” runs. I’m also going back in time for this run which happened three weeks ago.

I got started down in Bloomfield, not far from Sonny’s. I like those cats. Before long, I was scaling the Cedarville steps next to Sanchioli’s Bakery.

This first stage, which finished Bloomfield, took me down Juniper Street, while the next stage required me to go over the Bloomfield Bridge. Luckily, the Ella Street steps provided the necessary lift. I’ve done these steps before, but only now did I notice the “Try” messages on the way up. Up there, perched on a corner of the concrete, a tiny chair set took in the afternoon sun.

Crossing over to Polish Hill, I came to the Apollo Street Steps, incongruously placed next to an auto repair shop. I wonder how much business that shop gets, perched as it is underneath a bridge on a small street well off the main road.

Now I was in the midst of Polish Hill. I needed to get to Hancock Street and made my way through this warren of houses built on top of each other, small streets and dead-ends, while avoiding drunk pumpkins and admiring Little Libraries

Eventually, I found it, Hancock Street. I also got more “Boat Theory” evidence along the way (see this blog). Hancock Street steps took me up to busy Bigelow Boulevard and Bethoven Way, a small alley. Now Polish Hill was complete, too.

As you approach Bigelow from the streets all fall away steeply. Bigelow is a busy, rather ugly roadway, but there is a pedestrian walkway under it, decorated with old-school graffiti. Not a place to linger on a dark night.

Continuing up into the Upper Hill, I came across another incarnation of Hancock Street, still going uphill. The corner lot with the flag is also strewn with “Polish Only” parking signs.

As much as I had climbed from Herron Avenue, I still had a way to go to get to stage three, the Upper Hill. I took the Orion Street Steps. It’s a fairly impressive set of steps with a great view on top.

View from Orion Street Steps
Orion Street Steps

I continued around the Upper Hill, surprised to see a cemetery there, “Minersville Cemetery”. It actually has a Facebook page these days and was the subject of an article by Diana Nelson Jones back in 2017. Diana interviewed me for an article earlier this year. On the backside of the cemetery, Shawnee Street comes down in a nice set of sidewalk steps.

I found the World’s Greatest Candy Bar! Across Herron Avenue, Granite Street falls off of Orbin as steps. You can see Pitt’s athletic bubble on the hill rising in the background.

From here, I found my way back to Bloomfield. A solid ten miles done. Bloomfield and Polish Hill completed.

You Can See Forever From Lincoln Place

https://www.strava.com/activities/4273084037
RATS #00322 – in Lincoln Place

This run took me back to Lincoln Place – that southernmost of all Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. I had prepared for a cold, wet run but was treated to a stunningly beautiful Fall day.

Starting at the Shop ‘n Save down by Brown’s Mobile Home Park, I quickly made it to quiet suburban streets off of Mifflin Road. The trees were in their full glory.

Here and there were small shops, like Velma’s Place. I did run into a group of ultra runners, discussing their latest 500 mile run.

Overall, though, there wasn’t a whole lot to see here. However, Muldowney Road rises high off of Mifflin Road and affords views of the UPMC Building and the Oxford Building, over six miles away as the crow flies.

High-voltage power lines were a constant presence along the route. Also came across a huge Penn-American water tower.

That was about it. I had struggled to get myself out the door, but was truly rewarded with fine, sunny weather and neat views.

Let It Be, Brookline

https://www.strava.com/activities/3442124900
RATS #00237 – Brookline

PLAN “BROOKLINE EVENING B”

  • Insure I was covered by the local artillery
  • Circumnavigate S Scroll Way via Starkamp and Glenarm
  • At 18:23 storm the Repeal Way barricade
  • Perform reconnaissance and establish elevation gradients
  • Avoid vicious dogs and those aggressive small humans on bikes

That was the plan, as texted to me in a secure message by the Mothership. I had no choice but to execute the plan. I parked my vehicle, disguised as a dusty Honda and made it to the first checkpoint: A triangular park containing a “Canon de 155 C Modele 1917 Schneider”. I verified the serial number.

Brookline’s 155mm Schneider Howitzer in their Memorial Park

Now covered by the local artillery, I trotted over to Starkamp Street and around Eathan Avenue and Glenarm Avenue. I was a bit early for stair storming, so I took a couple of pics while I waited. At 18:23 on the dot, I raced up the Repeal Way Steps. Squirrels scurried and sparrows screeched as sparks flew from my heels.

Heart pounding, but no enemy in sight, I was free to scout the area. Clearly the local population was devious; giving steep, hilly, cobblestone streets, monikers such as “Flatbush”.

Flatbush – anything but flat

Continuing my scouting and keeping an eye out for those ferocious canines, I came on a street so steep, so rugged, I nearly lost it. Drawing upon my extensive training, I pushed up the hill, perspiration and expletives exploding from me at every step. Running out of breath, I finally shouted “Holy Mary, Mother of God!!” and looked up. There she was.

….Let it be, let it be…

I swore I heard a Beetle’s song in the background. Humbled and blessed, I relaxed and took in the area. Wide streets and alleys rumbled across the green lawns and flowing gardens. Steps took me though meadows of freshly cut grass. Free lending libraries opened my mind.

I reported to the Mothership that there were no enemies here, only playful pooches and energetic families. With that, I rambled some more, eventually getting back to that dusty Honda.

19:15 Signing Off

Hightide in Beechview

RATS #00216 – Beechview

Happy Easter! Normally, I would be finishing up a brunch with family and friends this morning. However, in the current state of things, I figured I’d blog a little and later try to find a chocolate egg around the house. Happy to have all the good in my life as it is.

So, I ran this route last week on a brilliant evening in Beechview. If you’ve followed my blog for anytime, you’ll know that Beechview is a friendly neighborhood with broad streets and booming hills. What you may not have known, is that in the last ice-age, Beechview was actually beachfront property. (How do you think they got the name?) In those days, everyone got around by boat, paddling from hilltop to hilltop. I came across a relic of the old days here, not far from a spanking new gas grill.

Continuing the fiction, it then happened that the seas began to recede. In those days, it wasn’t too convenient to lug your boat up to the house, so everyone made steps to get down to the water. You can see these steps all over.

Security was a concern, so residents bred vicious animals which required pets before passing. Most of them are pretty quick and shy these days, but every now and then an alpha guardian still stands his ground.

Beechview Guardian

But the seas indeed, have receded, leaving Beechview high and dry. The only waves you see are the undulating hills frothed with houses.

Nautical Miles

RATS #00204 Crossing the Equator – South Pacific to North Pacific

For this excursion, I did a few nautical miles, going from South Pacific to North Pacific, crossing over a land bridge and coming back down the North Atlantic and South Atlantic.

Along the way I saw what I took to be the Customs House, in its official red.

I had to walk the plank up these North Pacific Stairs.

North Pacific becomes steps

Slithered past a great green sea monster.

Sea Serpent Mural along North Pacific

Made it to island houses perched on the mountain top.

And finally came to the lighthouse, doubling as a water tower.

(It kinda looks like a spaceship frozen in place during take-off. )

The return trip was swathed in misty, swirling clouds and intermittent rain, as the North Atlantic often is. Approaching my car Captain John Parker hailed me in Friendship and I saluted back. Social distancing even on the oceans.