A slight detour and no easy path to the Swindell Bridge. Boo!
And that, my friends, was this run in a nutshell. Starting out near work, I made it to the same area I had run; Perry Hilltop. This time, I hit a few small streets, University and Langley, from the Perrysville Avenue side of the hilltop. Turning onto University, these neat mosaics jumped out at me, hidden though they were, on the back side of nondescript brick building.
University is a short dead-end and my next street was Langley. It goes steeply half a block and then says “Oh shit, this is too steep” becoming steps to the next, flatter section. These weren’t the only steps I encountered. One wooden set of steps, named either McKee’s Lane (according to the city’s step website) or Cheese Street (according to Google Maps) took me from Perrysville Avenue to Burgess Street. Burgess Street, itself, has sidewalk steps as you power your way up to Osgood Street.
From here, high on the hill overlooking I-279, I made a fateful decision. If I turned now, I could finish off Brightside Avenue and have a nice 5-6 mile run. If I took Suffolk Street, I could hopefully take the Swindell Bridge back and have perhaps a 7-8 mile run. It was sunny, cool and I was feeling good, so I decided on the later and turned onto Hazelton Street.
Hazelton Street is a curious pocket of houses. As I started down it, a traffic jam was emerging. The large white truck was having a hard time making the sharp left turn as the smaller cars zipped around it. Eventually, the driver got it right and made its way down Suffolk Street. It took me a little longer, as I went to the end of Hazelton, where the TV tower pricks the sky.
I did make it to Suffolk, which is notable because from I-279 coming into Pittsburgh, you can see it on your right; steps rising into the hillside.
Running, and more generally exploring on foot, changes the scale. At my pace, I got to examine the steel beams of the highway as they slowly came into view. Very impressive, I must say. At any rate, Suffolk plopped me onto East Street. This is the point in the run where my planning stops and I’m exploring, with only general goals in mind. At this point, I was looking for a street or steps to take me up the hill to the Swindell Bridge, high above.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see anything. So I just continued up East Street and came down Perrysville Avenue. It is familiar to me now that I’ve run all these streets here. But there’s always something to see.
I did get to do Brightside after all, but finished with ten miles, roughly double my original plan.
September 2020 was a pretty busy month with 124.8 miles run and 12,500 feet of elevation gain, the most since May. I ran often, 23 days with 17 of these covering new streets. I crossed over the 300 run threshold. With any luck, I’ll be done before I hit 400 runs, but that remains to be seen. I can see a flicker of light at the end of this project tunnel!
Unfortunately, my blogging hasn’t kept up with my running, so this catch-up blog will be a veritable book. Oh well, here goes!
This was a short run to cover a few errant streets in Squirrel Hill and Schenley Park. I cut through Frick Park, using Iron Gate Trail to vault me over the big hill separating Swisshelm Park and Squirrel Hill. By the time I came back, it was too dark to gallop through the park without a flashlight.
This was roughly a 10K to Perry Hilltop from West Park. It got started off with a sparkling sculpture, a yellow-eyed cat and a colorful backyard.
Then, I explored Irwin Avenue, which rises out of Central Northside. Surprisingly, it is blocked off for a few hundred yards and then jumps up to the top of Perry Hilltop on steps.
I zigged-zagged up here a bit, eventually finding my way to North Charles Street. Just before crossing the Swindell Bridge, I cut off to the left on Hazelton, to clear up that dead-end. Further along, up on the hilltop, I got a good view of the Swindell Bridge over I-279 and then wandered down into Fineview. That’s not something you hear much… “DOWN” into Fineview. Everything is steep over here. On one side, you have the ravine down to I-279, on the other the streets fall steeply towards Perrysville Avenue. Tall houses stare down from their perches like vultures.
This was a run cut short by tired knees and mistaken maps. Nonetheless, I made some progress on a few Shadyside alleys and small streets near Ellis School. By the time I got to East Liberty, though, I was done.
This was a gut check run. It was late and I didn’t go far, but I got out there. I did finish off Flatbush Avenue in Brookline, but it was too dark to do much exploring and I didn’t stop long enough to take crisp pictures.
Another evening run in Brookline. This time, I made a beeline for streets on the left of Whited Street, as you go towards Saw Mill Run Boulevard. I really wasn’t sure what I would find, but found very residential, suburban streets perched on a plateau. There were tweens goofing off in the street, a couple walking their golden retriever and a mom walking up and down the street with a stroller and a chatty three year old; “Mom, why is he running THAT way?”
Coming back along Whited Street is NOT something I would recommend, especially in the darkness. At least, I could see headlights in time to huddle off the road.
This was a short run in the South Side Flats. Like a vampire, this neighborhood keeps coming back with some little street or alley I’ve missed. I’m really trying to drive a stake through the heart and get this area done. In spite of the short run, there was lots to see. Perhaps my favorite were the pierogie signs around Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church. Downtown Pittsburgh is just across the Monongahela River and the skyscrapers caught the evening sun nicely.
This was quite an adventure. I checked out one of the lesser known neighborhoods, New Homestead. It is west of West Homestead/Munhall, east of the Glenwood Bridge interchange and south of Sandcastle yet north of Mifflin Road. Looking at the map below, you might notice that there are three disconnected areas of New Homestead. I ran most of the northeast section.
Also looking at the map, you might notice a lack of streets. Okay, a lack of anything. Your observations would be pretty much correct. There’s just a number of long streets dotted with houses and large areas of woods. Deer were everywhere and seemed offended by me disturbing them. I actually parked in West Homestead, above a baseball diamond.
Run number 302 saw me back in Carrick and Overbrook. Unlike New Homestead, this area is dense with houses and people. Hills, steps, alleys, this run had it all. I don’t remember seeing many deer, though. I was amused by the war memorial in front of Carrick High School. Most memorials of this age have howitzers or bronze soldiers. This one had a bronzed shell. Many lawns were covered in political signs; often with neighbors cheering opposite sides. Just think how fun that block party would be! That cat, however, wasn’t the least ruffled as I run past it, huffing and puffing up the hill.
The Englert Street steps conveniently took me from Saw Mill Run Boulevard up the hill again, while the Dartmore Steps were just a convenience. Unfortunately, the Antenor Way Steps were blocked off, even though they didn’t look too bad.
Speaking of neighborhoods which keep coming back with uncovered alleys and streets, Lawrenceville takes the cake. This five mile run just went round and round dim back alleys. Interestingly enough, it was busy enough, between restaurants and residents that I felt more comfortable here than in New Homestead.
This was a nine mile run (not to be confused with the stream of the same name) through Manchester. With this run, I’ve covered all the streets between the railroad and Chateau Street. This is a large, flat area. Mexican War Streets, with their 1890’s row houses gradually transform into sprawling mixed housing, newer three bedroom split levels interspersed with magnificent mansions. Some of the ‘mansions’ have seen better days.
Alleys are where you see the underside of a neighborhood. These show the old warehouse nature of the area. There’s also a major railroad line, below grade, which dominates the eastern fringe of this area.
But there’s a lot going on here. New construction isn’t too surprising given the great location and flat land. People have gardens and little libraries and seem to generally be active. I didn’t expect to see that huge rooster mural or a booming market along Juniata Street, but there it is.
Once again, I returned to Carrick and Overbrook in the evening. At this point in the month, I was really trying to complete a Strava Challenge (200km), so after doing Yale Street, I just went exploring.
Yale Street is in the same are as RATS #00302. One section has extensive steps leading up into Phillips Park, then it drops precipitously to Dartmore Street. Clawing my way back to Brownsville Road, I needed a couple more miles, so trotted along Carrick Avenue. It was fully dark and I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going. Nontheless, I ‘just needed to bear right’ a couple of times to take me back to Brownsville Road and into Pittsburgh again.
Must say, I’m proud of this run. I planned it pretty well and stuck to the plan. It was a little over seven miles in Banksville where it borders Greentree and Mount Lebanon. It is a nice area with long winding streets. However, there weren’t many distinctive things to see. At the start, I did pass a soccer field off of Hillsdale Avenue, where a girl’s soccer game was in progress under the lights. They have a powerful PA system, and for the rest of the run, I could hear the announcers.
That’s All Folks!
So, there you have it. September 2020 in the books. I think this is the longest “Catch-Up” blog I’ve had and I might change things up a bit to avoid this in the future. Maybe a weekly blog?
At any rate, I want to run a bit farther in October and continue to efficiently cover streets. I’ll try to get into Lincoln Place, another outlying neighborhood, as well as continue to finish out the Hill District, Marshall-Shadeland and Carrick.
A six mile run, with a few ‘targeted’ streets to begin and some exploration to end. Another Carrick evening run, which, in my humble opinion, traced a route which could be a dog drawn in Picaso’s style. Do you see it?
But first things first. My ‘targeted area’ was a small set of streets wedged between Brownsville Road and Becks Run Road. Athena Street was the entry-way and I was pleased to find some classical yard decorations right off the bat. Athena Street itself, was more of a country lane.
Athena Street took me to a small enclave of two and three bedroom brick homes nestled below it. Beyond the unexpected interruption of Nuzum Avenue, there wasn’t too much to see here. Once done circling the block, I popped out on Brownsville Road and hopped over to Parkfield Street. The drive behind Carrick High School is actually listed as a street, and, luckily was still open and had a nice view of the residential valley below.
Coming up Santron, I saw three or four tweens grass-sledding and giggling while moms watched for cars. “Grass-sledding” is a high form of sport wherein you take a large cardboard box, place it on the edge of a grassy slope, and whizz down gripping the sides, trying to stay on. It is summer practice for the winter sledding season.
Eventually I came down Westmont Avenue, meeting the Mother and Child sculpture, with its greenish patina as Westmont met Ravilla. Ravilla, which I’ve already traversed, does have a set of stairs smack next to a rather active house. I missed the steps my first time through, but today took them down to Almont. I encountered another lending library, very emphatic in its instructions to NOT BRING THE BOOKS BACK!
From here, I wound my way to Maytide Street and followed it to Saw Mill Run Boulevard. Maytide starts promising, with decent sidewalks, but as it descends, it deteriorates into broken sidewalks and then no sidewalk. There were a couple of step flights reaching up into the hillsides, but they had the “Thou Shalt Not Pass” bar across them. Saw Mill Run is not runner friendly. At least there are so many parking lots and businesses you don’t have to run in the street. This area has the prototypical used-car lots, with shiny streamers and lights. An older dealership had this mural, replete with the Pittsburgh skyline, traffic, houses and greenery.
Now my dilemma was finding my way back. I spied some steps and made my way to them. The first set was confusing. They looked like bona fide city steps, but after going up, I felt like I was on someone’s front porch. That didn’t feel comfortable, arriving unexpectedly on someone’s porch in Carrick in the dusk without even a six-pack or bottle of wine to share. So, I went down and checked out the next set of stairs, Sinton Avenue. These even had a street sign so they must be legit.
Sinton Avenue went up several flights, finally dropping me off near the high-school. There was one, minor detour, but except for that missing block, they went straight up the hill. Love the street sign of Marland Way and Sinton Avenue where steps meet alley. It was all the more incongruous in that the alley had run out of pavement at this point and was just a grassy space between yards. Got to love the sign department.
That brought me back to Brownsville Road and the civilization of Dunkin Donuts. Another section of Carrick explored, another doughnut devoured.
This August was hot with fifteen days of highs above 85; and busy, with a move. While I love this project, sometimes it is a chore. So in August, I’ve been slightly more relaxed about running with friends or just for an adventure, without regard to the streets I’ve covered. I’m keeping my knee problems at bay with a combination of new pair of shoes and using KT tape. (I’m back in a new pair of Altra Escalante 1.5’s.)
I’ve made large strides of progress in the South Hills, including Beltzhoover and Carrick, and continue to fill in the gaps in the North and West sections of Pittsburgh. August’s 97 miles was considerably more than July, and doubled my elevation, increasing it to 11,189 feet. Of the seventeen runs I recorded in August, fifteen covered new streets.
Without further ado, here are the rest of the August runs.
Just a short evening run to cover some streets before it got too dark. Looking at the pictures, maybe it was already too dark. Long dim streets filled with kids playing and adults coming home from work.
Another evening run, this one in Carrick with its busy streets and close houses. Georgia Avenue dead-ends into a ghostly cemetery, especially at dusk.
Hammering it out with the evening runs in Carrick. This one took me down Overbrook Avenue to Saw Mill Run Boulevard. The uphill slog was epic. Nighttime phone pics + running = streaks.
Finally, a daytime run! This Sunday run was intended to clean up a few streets Erin and I had missed the previous day. Turns out, one of the alleys in Bon Air which I had ‘missed’ doesn’t exist anymore. No worries, there were plenty more alleys, with more cars rolling down them than you might expect! If it sounds like a broken record, it is… at least you can still hear “Tubby the Tuba” on Youtube. Between this run and the previous, I covered 95% of Bon Air.
For a change, I headed north to Brighton Heights and traversed the small streets ending high above Route 65. These small streets are quite the mix and you can see the smokestacks of Brunot Island from several. Davis Avenue ends in steps down to Rt 65 and one house on Verner Avenue sported a manatee guarding its mailbox. That’s a first.
This was short run to catch some alleys in Bloomfield. Within the first mile, I had most of the target streets done, including all of Jordan Way in Garfield. I was surprised to find the painted doors along the alley. Not only were there dozens of bird houses in that tree, there’s also a “Little (Bird House) Library” in front of it.
This last run, on the last Saturday of August, hit another section of alleys and streets in West Liberty. I think the auto artifacts along an alley’s garage and the yard decorations were the most surprising finds of this run. I get a kick out the various little libraries I see.
Finally, there were several sets of steps; long ones like Ray Avenue and Belle Isle Avenue. There was also a shorter set of steps, Templeton Street, but the lower section was too overgrown to use. Ironically, the City of Pittsburgh’s steps webpage give these a fairly high score. Here’s the Belle Isle set.
Here’s the Templeton set.
And finally, here’s Ray Avenue.
On to September
So, that’s all for August. I’m looking forward to cooler temps and a reprieve from moving boxes.
Another evening run in Carrick. This time, I chose to stay south of East Agnew Avenue. I’m slowing warming up to this area, though should warn all potential runners that once you leave Brownsville Road, it quickly goes downhill, elevation-wise. The neighborhood is mixed, with broad streets and large houses followed by steep streets with small houses. There’s also a some suburban decay – a few residences are condemned to voracious vines.
But the real surprise of this run was how quickly I went from those residential scenes above to the water filtration plant along Madeline Street. These geodesic half-domes are part of Pennsylvania American Water’s system. American Water is a much larger company than I expected, supplying water to communities in 46 states. Alcosan, servicing much of Pittsburgh, seems to be the bigger water player around here while another water company, Penn-Wilkinsburg Joint Water Authority, services suburbs east of the Pittsburgh, like Wilkinsburg and Penn Hills.
I wandered between East Agnew and Madeline for most of my run. Redrose Avenue dead-ends but has a flight stairs coming down to Madeline. Later in the run, I found a curious set of sidewalk steps along East Woodford Avenue. They were sunken alongside a retaining wall instead of above the street.
At the end of Hornaday Road, I found an interesting collection of neighborhood delights. I could be wrong, but it looked like a garden, a playground and a Little Library all in one! That sounds like a fun place. I also came across a hedgehog shrine.
I also encountered my share of house guardians. A few just stood stone-like, scared of me, I suppose, while many more voiced their disapproval that I was running by, or running by without petting them and giving them treats.
Crossing over Brownville Road, I discovered the streets on the far side to be steeper than the ones I had just left. West Woodford Avenue, for example, drops nearly 170 feet in two-tenths of a mile. Climbing back out of that well, I ran to my car and finished with five miles.
This was a short run to cover some streets I had inexplicably missed in Shadyside. I think my original reason for not covering them in a solo run was to cover them in running with friends. That was clearly a pre-Covid plan.
At any rate, I was tired and sluggish, but the thought of crossing these off my list provided enough motivation to get out and run. It was a a summery evening. Thunderstorms had just passed through and there were lingering displays of lightning and sprinkles. Walnut Street was empty, courtesy of Covid19. Usually it would be packed with people shopping, walking dogs and spilling out of bars.