Alleys in Oakland

https://www.strava.com/activities/4915176085
Route of run #00378 in Oakland

As I’ve covered more and more of Pittsburgh, my runs are increasingly on smaller streets and alleys. This early March run into Oakland definitely fits that description. I started in Dinosaur Playground, as my kids used to call it. It’s a great little playground and field at the tip of Schenley Park. Pre-Covid, parking in Oakland was so expensive and scarce that many people would park here and walk to Pitt on a daily basis.

But let’s get things started with shoes and sunsets. Shoes on the wires and a nice sunset across the “Charles Anderson Memorial Bridge” carrying Panther Hollow Road out of the Park, where it mysteriously renames itself to Boulevard of the Allies.

Continuing into Oakland I made my way down Coltart Street to Iroquois Way. For some reason, it isn’t on most visitors’ “must-see” list! Coltart Street is very typical of Central Oakland. Low houses, duplexes and apartments struggle for space under the rising tide of Pitt development.

Students and medical professionals flow through Oakland, going to work, going home, going to classes, laundromats, restaurants, and bars. I think the colorful mural is along Bates Street, but Gene’s Place is harder to find, well hidden off of Atwood Street. It does not serve food, so with the strange restaurant laws in Pennsylvania, it still allows indoor smoking.

Rounding out the neighborhood tour, I came back to Dinosaur Playground via the Panther Hollow Bridge passing in front of Phipps. A short run, a short blog!

February Roundup

February was a bit of a slowdown. I only ran 75 miles strewn across eleven runs. Only eight of them earned the coveted RATS badge. However, February was pretty cold, snowy and icy, so any miles were good miles. I’m up to about 80% of the Pittsburgh streets done. Here are this month’s last three routes.

RATS #00370 in Garfield

https://www.strava.com/activities/4850441556
RATS #00370 in Garfield

This was on the periphery of Garfield along Mossfield Street, with a foray onto Brown Way as the sun set. It is a surprisingly rural route, given the dense housing all around.

I made my way to Mora Way. It looks a lot better now that Dumpbusters got a whack at it last year, carting away truckloads of trash and tires. We didn’t get rid of the hill, though!

Once up on Schenley Avenue (which is totally out of place from all the other “Schenley” named parts of the city), I circled back towards the Garfield Hill. I found steps at the end of Breesport. They go up to Fort Pitt playground, though they were crumbling, snow covered and fenced off at the top. Further down North Mathilda, there are some steps falling off the hill near Reno Way. Those seem to be the remnants of a house, as there are no handrails, posts or map evidence of a street there.

I cruised down Brown Way, taking in the evening views.

This neighborhood in undergoing a rapid transformation. Old houses are falling down next to new ones and construction proliferates.

And that was it, three and a half miles done, with a friendly reminder to “Call Your Mom!”, if you are fortunate enough to have her still around.

RATS #00371 – East Liberty, Garfield, Larimer

https://www.strava.com/activities/4861319000
RATS #00371 in Garfield, East Liberty and Larimer

As the weather improved, my runs lengthened. I also have an upcoming 50K, so I need to get more miles in. Today’s run was mainly about East Liberty, although I ventured briefly into Shadyside, Garfield and Larimer to cross off more streets.

East Liberty is also going through construction and destruction. At the site of former housing project, a Whole Foods is going up. On the back streets, you can still see hand-painted business signs.

This jaunt was over eleven miles.

RATS #00372 Beltzhoover

https://www.strava.com/activities/4868729046
RATS #00372 Beltzhoover

This was my fifth run in a row, so I was a bit tired and unmotivated. Nonetheless, it turned out well. Now Beltzhoover is less than pristine. Nearly every street has several “eyesore” houses. The steps are typically crumbling. However, it is a busy area, full of people walking their dogs, going to the store and working on their houses. It is also rather big.

I started along Eat Warrington Avenue, passing the metal vegan place and turning at the wild cat-snake mural next to the beer store. Of course the mural has a Steelers logo on it!

Then it was up and down alleys.

Finishing up, I caught a glimpse of South Hills Junction, where the T-Line goes into the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel.

And that’s it! Looking forward to a warmer and sunnier month!

January 2021 Catch-Up

Summary

January 2021 was a good month for running, by and large. I got seventeen runs in covering new streets. The weather wasn’t too bad and I explored Ridgemont, nearly completed Westwood, as well as continued to make progress around the city, exploring its nooks and crannies. The only setback was a fall one evening resulting in a few scrapes and bruises, but more tragically, a crushed phone. It took me a few days to get back on track after that. Unfortunately, the pics from that run remain on the old phone, with its ruined screen.

RATS #00354 – Point Breeze

https://www.strava.com/activities/4617306198
RATS #00354

A short evening run with a surprising number of steps, RATS #00354 was a night run on the edge of Point Breeze and Squirrel Hill. Solidly dark, the pics are not great. Thank goodness for a strong flashlight.

As I did crop-circles among the cul-de-sacs in Point Breeze, my flashlight illuminated several little libraries.

And that was it, 4.35 miles done.

RATS #00357 – Downtown and the Hill

https://www.strava.com/activities/4637917031
RATS #00357

This was a pretty long Sunday run. I explored a few downtown alleys and then climbed into the Middle Hill. I was chipping away at the portions of the Hill I had not yet done and covered covered eight good miles when it was all said and done.

Trekking up to through the Hill Distrist is old hat now. Lower Hill has seen a good bit of renovations and is dense with townhomes. If you’ve read along, you’ll know that I’m pretty much done with the Upper Hill. That area has some sketchy parts, but also has a number of renovated houses and the pressure of Pitt pushing down onto it. The Middle Hill, in my estimation, is the worst of the three sections, but still with bright spots. It’s cliff high above the Allegheny is dotted with housing projects. Bedford Square is in much better condition than I expected. At the edge of the cliff are several viewing areas with benches. From one such overlook on Memory Lane, you can see out over the Strip District and down the Allegheny River.

The next cul-de-sac of housing, Somers Drive, is rather utilitarian. At the far end, steps flow up to housing at the end of Chauncy Drive. The UPMC building downtown rose ghost like from the trees.

Now in the middle of the Middle Hill, vacant lots and boarded up buildings dominate the scene. I did run through a rather nice area off of Bently. The street has a nice curve in it, so folks wishing to do a Strava heart art route often run it. Downtown buildings are usually visible, not so far away.

Shortly after Bently Drive, I made my way back downtown. A few more things caught my eye, like this mural and the restaurant which bills itself as Pittsburgh’s Chinatown.

Finally back to Cherry Way, I had to take a pic of the 100+ year old Smithfield Street Bridge.

Smithfield Street Bridge

RATS #00359 – Splat!

https://www.strava.com/activities/4659644088
RATS #00359

Running down Bigelow Boulevard in the dark along a narrow sidewalk, I got some GREAT pictures of the downtown skylights. Unfortunately, they are locked in a cracked phone. For, as I turned away from the Sixth Street ramp, deeming it too dangerous, I tripped and fell flat on my face. My gloves and tights were torn while my hand and chin throbbed. However, there was nothing to be done but to keep moving. So, I did a slow jog and walk for the two miles back to my car. Damn that dry, empty sidewalk!!

RATS #00360 – Spring Hill and City View

https://www.strava.com/activities/4676034699
RATS #00360 in Springhill, Spring Garden and Cityview

After the run-in with the dry sidewalk, I took three days off. I must admit, I’m writing this a month later. It seemed like a cold day, and the Strava data claims it was 24 degrees with an 18 degree wind-chill. That sounds right. Nonetheless, before heading out, I verified that the streets would be wet and the route hilly. No flat, dry sidewalks to trip me up THIS day!

My target area was a squiggley section of Springhill, Cityview and Spring Garden off of East Street. A few months ago, I had come down a closed Gershon Street in the dusk and this was in the same area. It was going to be interesting to see it in daylight. My exploring friend, “Maggie Ess”, is walking all of Pittsburgh (see her blog here) and was in this exact neighborhood the day of my Splat event. I should have run here instead, perhaps? I have to say, between Maggie, Laura, Sherpes Hasher, Alyssa and me, we’ll have Pittsburgh thoroughly documented and vivisected in no time. Then, in ten years, someone will have to do it again to see what has changed.

Anyhoo, I parked over in a public lot near Allegheny City Brewery and trotted over I-279 on my favorite pedestrian walkway, Gerst Way. A short leg along East Street took me to Mt Royal Avenue where a large church building, St. Boniface, claims a swath of flat land. I had thought it semi-abandoned, but a little research shows that it is actually part of Christ Our Savior Parish. Besides the historic nature of the building, the current parish is interesting. Monthly, there’s a Mass in Vietnamese. I didn’t realize Pittsburgh had that large of a Vietnamese population. Many years ago, in a city far away, I visited the church of my baptism and got there early for 10 AM Mass. I patiently waited as the crowded church finished up the Rosary in a foreign language. I naively thought that, once Mass began, it would be in English. I was wrong. It was entirely in Vietnamese. But Mass is Mass and I could follow along.

St. Boniface Church Building
St. Boniface Church

But today, I wasn’t there for Mass. I was there to run streets and explore. Just past St. Boniface was a set of steps on the right. They were blocked off from the bottom, but not seriously. I ventured up them till the treads were largely missing.

Next on the explorers’ bingo card was Bly Street. This little dead-end shoots straight up the hill from Mt. Royal. It quickly ends in the hillside, and comes with those ever popular sidewalk steps.

Squiggling down at from the top of Mt. Royal is Luella Street. Below is a screen-shot of a map I found of Luella in Pitt’s archive. That’s a great resource.

The bottom of Luella intersects Gershon, which is sliding off the hill. Steps conveniently take you up into the neighborhood again.

An abandoned house sits at the end of Heim. It still has a chandelier-ceiling fan combo and skylights, but broken windows and shifting ground has doomed this one.

Further on, a step-alleyway bisects the little rectangular neighborhood.

Now that I’d climbed high on the street and steps, I was rewarded with wide-open spaces and sweeping views.

I spent a good bit of time wandering in and out these roads. Some became private roads before the end. Some took me up to a radio tower.

With this, I headed back to Allegheny City Brewery. In pre-Covid times, I would have stopped and had a beer, but not today.

RATS #00361 – Banksville

A short night run in the Banksville area. It is very suburban. Between that and the darkness, I didn’t have many pictures.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4687028631
RATS #00361

I started in Banksville Park and wound my way along the dark suburban streets. I had to pop out onto Greentree Road for a bit, where the ACE is located.

RATS #00364 – East Liberty & Homewood

https://www.strava.com/activities/4713197236
RATS #00364

Another Sunday morning run, this time in East Liberty. Passing East End Brewery was probably the most interesting thing that happened.

Much of the run was along streets dead-ending into the tracks along the East Busway.

Three December Runs

I had a pretty good December this year. So good, in fact, that I’m STILL blogging about it, a week into the new year! I had many significant runs towards the end of the month, so that whole “catch-up” thing will have to wait. My running tends to be done when the opportunity arrives, while my writing is more of a record than an instantaneous news feed.

RATS #00337

RATS #00337

It was a dark and stormy night…

Actually, it wasn’t stormy, just cold. I’m pretty comfortable running through the alleys of the Strip District and Lawrenceville at night. While they look creepy, they are typically deserted. Darkness and narrow streets are harmless without people. OK, upon recent news (fork-lift getting caught in a sinkhole), I guess I should be more worried about sinkholes. Those would, indeed, be a problem in the dark.

This run covered some alleys and streets I had missed in my previous jaunts. Outside of the quickly gentrifying areas marked by condos and bars, old Lawrenceville still exists. It’s an area of warehouses filled with products that people need. Above is a picture of A.R. Chambers, a construction supply company. There are tire stores, wholesale food warehouses and many more. The wide streets and flat land are rare in Pittsburgh and are perfect for these businesses.

RATS #00342 – With South Park Trail Runners:

Filthy Five Plus One Minus One

Filthy Five with SPTR
Filthy Five with SPTR – RATS #00342

The South Park Trail Runners is a local, down to earth, trail running group in Pittsburgh. Friendly and energetic, they run all over the area. For this day, they, meaning Suzanne, organized a run on the “Filthy Five” course – five of the steepest and toughest hills in Pittsburgh. Actually one of them was in Wilkinsburg, but it was really, really close to being in Pittsburgh.

At any rate, I joined this lively group of runners as we made our way from Frick Park to the East Hills, where most of these hills were.

Most of these roads I had already done, but taking a detour on Cassina Way made it a RATS run. Narcissus used to have a better place, I think; more like that Point Breeze mansion.

As is often the case on group runs, I got separated from the pack. I had raced several runners up the wrong hill and then completed the street. By the time I got back, the other runners were off on their merry way, voices echoing across the empty, snowy East Hills landscape. Luckily one of the residents told me “those marathoners went down the hill”. I pulled out the phone, found the maps and navigated to Ferndale Street, Dornbush Street and then to Hill Street, now in Wilkinsburg.

At this point I had finished Hill Four, and made my way back my car in Frick Park. I had forgotten all about the Fifth Hill, in the park itself. Oh well, counting the wrong hill, I ended up with five hills after all.

Big snowfall still hanging around

RATS #00343 – Arlington

RATS #00343

The day after the Filthy Five Plus One Minus One, I embarked on an efficient RATS run in Arlington. I had carefully mapped out the route and was pretty happy how it turned out. I saw the Cathedral of Learning from the high hills, as well as Santa nestled between two cattywampus houses. Were they wishing for a level lot?

Arlington is on the “back-side” of the South Side Slopes. It undulates wildly, with streets dead-ending at a steep ravine. It has it’s share of steps. The Dengler Steps are set back from the street and, it was only after seeing the boat that I thought, “there MUST be steps nearby”!

Speaking of dead-ends, I’m always disappointed when they are blocked off. However, I can read and don’t really want to see any dogs up close.

So that’s it for these three runs. I still have more of December 2020 to write about, but it’s almost done.

Missed Chance and Second Chance

Two Runs in Hazelwood

First Chance

https://www.strava.com/activities/4460056146
RATS #00338 in the dark, missing Chance Way

It was a chilly and wet Friday night. I hadn’t run since Tuesday. I had to get out and cover some streets if I was ever going to finish this project. So, I decided on a short jaunt in Hazelwood. There’s convenient parking, it isn’t too far away and super runner Alyssa’s recent posts about Chance Way motivated me to find it. Actually, I “knew” where it was, a little alley off of Tulleymet Street, but somehow kept missing it. I swear there are micro “Bermuda Triangles” all over Pittsburgh. Small areas which keep obfuscating themselves whenever I try to find them. Chance Way is in one of them.

I started at Hazelwood Green, formerly a coke plant and now undergoing a transformation into a research manufacturing facility. The plan was to go up to Sylvan Street, skip down the Tullymet steps and run Chance Way. Alas, there is another set of steps, Berwick Street, which I mistook for Tulleymet. I was confused not to see Chance Way, but figured it was just too dark. Along Irvine Street, I caught a glimpse of interesting flowers made of glass and rebar. Osprey Way and Finn Way were rather creepy, but music playing from one building gave some semblance of normalcy. It wasn’t until further on, looking down Chaplain Way was that I got the heebie-jeebies and called it a night.

Second Chance

https://www.strava.com/activities/4463550140
RATS #00339 – Second Chance

After Friday’s missed attempt at running Chance Way, I enlisted Naomi’s help and took another shot at finding Chance Way. It’s amazing what running in the daylight, with a friend, will do. We passed a veritable garden of flowers made from glass and rebar. I also espied a real garden, all buttoned up for the winter.

Further on, we went up Berwick Street and found the bottom end of Chance Way. It is actually blocked off by jersey barriers, but was passable. That brought us to Tulleymet and the lower section of its three tiers of steps.

From there, we went down Sylvan Avenue, passing the Berwick steps and this old church structure. It looks to be in use as a church or community center, now accepting mask donations.

Continuing on to Tecumseh Street, Champlain Street didn’t look as bad in the noon daylight. It’s still not an area you might go to for a picnic, but it is filled with small houses now broadcasting Christmas music through the streets.

So, while running, I had noticed the mural for Tonee Turner, and took the picture, but didn’t think too much more about it. Only now, as I’m writing, did I realize that she has been missing only since December 30, 2019. Just a week earlier, her sister and friends had had a walk to remind Pittsburgh she has never been found. This news story on KDKA tells more about it. It is worth noting that, while the mural was here in ragged Hazelwood, she was last seen in splendid Squirrel Hill. It is rather disconcerting that this happened at all, much less in places I’m very familiar with.

Moving on from the flats, we charged up the West Elizabeth Street railroad overpass. Need any tires? This wooden warehouse is full of them. At least they haven’t been dumped on a hillside yet. On the horizon were hillier parts of Hazelwood, past St. Stephen’s.

Up the hills we went. Found the sun on Rose Way and chatted with the owner of this overwhelmingly decorated house. Shortly afterwards, we made it to the top of Ashton Avenue, where it meets Mansion Street. Mansion Street has a nice set of steps down to Johnston Avenue.

Now we made our way down Johnston Avenue to Second Avenue. There are a couple of interesting places along Second Avenue, such as the French bakery, La Gourmandine and the Hungarian restaurant, Jozsa Corner.

Finally, we made it back to Hazelwood Green. I stopped to read about its future while Naomi rounded out her mileage. In spite of the 550′ of elevation she was still smiling.

Finally! A Monthly Wrap-Up for November 2020

Summary

This November, I kept up my streak of 100 mile months and 10k+ elevation gains. I did hit some road blocks. While totally predictable, early darkness wreaked havoc on my running habits. Not so predictable was a week of quarantining due to Covid-19 exposure. Either way, I had sixteen runs in November, of which thirteen of them covered new streets. I am closing in on completing 70% of Pittsburgh’s streets. I wasn’t too good at blogging, though.

RATS #00328

https://www.strava.com/activities/4348197882
RATS #00328 in Brookline

This was a short run starting at Brookline Memorial Park covering Oakridge and Freedom Streets. The brilliant sunset gave way to just the slightest sliver of the moon. I caught the hippo in dusk, but the flag was still up when I returned in the dark. Aren’t flags supposed to be taken down or lit at night?

RATS #00329

https://www.strava.com/activities/4362738815
RATS #00329 in East Liberty

This four mile run also embraced the dark. I started with a few Shadyside streets and then ventured into East Liberty and Larimer. Missing my turn, I went up Lincoln Avenue instead of Lowell Street, seriously disrupting my planned route. Yet, with only 88 feet of elevation, I enjoyed this, the flattest run I had done in awhile. Eventually though, beyond the stores and street lights of East Liberty, the poorly lit streets and unfamiliar area got to me and I skedaddled back to my car, using the steps down to Ellsworth Avenue as a shortcut. It turns out, even those steps are “official” city steps.

RATS #00330

https://www.strava.com/activities/4370938579
RATS #00330 in the West End

Ah, the West End. The overlook has my favorite view of downtown. It also has a little parking lot, so it’s a great place to start. Balloons and candles remained for “KMB”, whomever that is.

I had visited this area several times already, but had missed some streets. The West End is unrelenting in its hills. Streets going toward the river are extremely steep, but even the cross streets bounce up and down. I ran up to St. Martin Cemetery crisscrossing the neighborhood on little streets and alleys. These unofficial steps on Navajo Way were a lucky break. Otherwise I would have had to run around those blocks again.

I headed downhill and ventured out Chartiers Avenue a bit; going up Litchfield Street. This “street” consists of several impressive flights of stairs. The streets are less impressive, generally winding up hills to arrive in someone’s garage. None of those streets are thruways.

RATS #00331

https://www.strava.com/activities/4377247944
RATS #00331 in Highland Park and East Liberty

A portrait of alleys in Highland Park. I amazed that it took nine miles to wander up and down all those alleys. Some were brick, some were asphalt. Mostly they were straight, while a few zigzagged.

Along the alleys were some immense houses and a few apartment buildings.

And, of course, I can’t resist a Little Library.

RATS #00332

https://www.strava.com/activities/4395003449
RATS #00332 – Homewood

This was a Thanksgiving Day run. I started in Swisshelm Park and went up Braddock Avenue to find its northern terminus, passing one of my favorite stores, 3 Rivers Outdoors. It is a small business specializing in outdoor gear. They also sponsor a trail running group and fun community activities. Going south, Braddock Avenue goes to Braddock, of course. ( Actually it veers east, trails past steel mills and winds up in Turtle Creek, if you must know.) On the northern end, it just stops unceremoniously in Homewood at a playground.

My previous run in Highland Park was mainly in alleys. Homewood has its alleys too, a bunch of “f”ing alleys; Formosa Way, Fleury Way, Finance Way, Forrest Way, Fuschia Way, and Fielding Way to name a few. I did a couple of these alleys, then climbed Calway Street. Calway Street struggles up a steep hill for a few houses and then is blocked off as it wanders into the woods. Turning around, I got a neat view of Homewood, its bowl filled with homes as downtown buildings peeked over the ridge. Returning down toward Braddock Avenue, I came across another Little Library, this one in purple. By the time I returned to Swisshelm Park through Frick Park, I had run ten miles.