Ah, it was a struggle to get out for this run. There were lots of fits and starts in my plans. Eventually, though I found myself in Oakland running along Burrows Street towards the Hill. As usual, once I was underway, my motivation increased as well as my overall enjoyment of the evening.
Burrows Street starts on Terrace Street. As I’ve discussed an earlier blog , Terrace Village is much improved from years ago. The redevelopment continues, as Caterpillars eat away the hillside, flattening it for future development. We’ve had caterpillars in the garden, but these will take out your entire house.
Borrows curves around Terrace Village, but I made a left onto Bentley Street. Here it is empty and deserted as it swirls toward Kirkpatrick Street. Before there, though, a closed stairway descends mysteriously on the left.
Crossing Kirkpatrick, Bentley winds through modern apartment buildings. These are in rather stark comparison to the older Hill houses. Coming out of Bentley Drive, a green Conex box almost blended perfectly with the voracious vines and overhanging trees.
Now coming out into the Middle Hill, the UPMC and Mellon buildings downtown dominate the skyline on the left. This area is older, with many small streets and tiny alleys. It is a mix of newer development and older, two-three story buildings. Mostly they were all attached originally, but have become separated into islands are house after house has been demolished.
I went up Dinwiddle to Bedford, where I made my way to Kirkpatrick and back down Dinwiddle. (It was a short run, afterall). Along Centre, murals, old and new, liven the area.
At the end of Dinwiddle, I made a left onto Fifth and headed back to Oakland. I came across another colony of penguins, far from their Igloo home. I wonder if they are related to the Allentown penguins? Entering Oakland, I got a good glimpse of the historic St. Agnes Church.
That just about did it. Another run over four miles. I didn’t even have to tape my knee. Now, I can’t wait to run more!
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.
This section of Shadyside is typified by narrow Queen Anne houses squeezed together with front yard flowers. Most of these structures are not the mansions found a couple of blocks away. Additionally, there are many large, old apartment buildings and row houses, mostly well kept.
Alleys are a bit of an exception. As my Mom used to say “Queen Anne in front and Mary Ann in back”. Here is where you find the unpainted porches and a few garages in need of paint jobs.
There are also some very cute houses. The Inn at Negley, for instance, is now a luxury bed and breakfast. It also has a Little Library in front of it, for you bibliophiles.
Murals are not common here, but in a brick seating area off Walnut is the Building Bridges mural while the William Penn Tavern watering hole has some humorous ones.
This wasn’t a long run and I was happy to catch as glimpse of the Cambell’s Soup Can on Holden Street before it got too dark. I believe those are carved from a tree trunk.
That was about it. A little over three flat miles through Shadyside, dodging raindrops.
This was a loosely planned run in Homewood on a Sunday morning which took me from the flats near the East Busway to the towering hills above Frankstown Avenue. Along the way, saw lots of cats, some turkeys, some cats chasing turkeys and lot of greenery. There were steps and urban decay balanced by murals and a few cute houses.
I crossed the East Busway on the North Lang Pedestrian Bridge and started east. This area is very tight with tiny alleys between small streets. There are newer houses, older homes, a few nice places and many decrepit ones. It is the height of summer and weeds are taking over any undisturbed lot. Mulberry trees were so low along one alley, I had to duck to run under them.
Toward the end of Tioga Street, the narrow street was lined with large trucks. On one side, a large dump truck had driven onto a soft meadow months ago. On the other, big rigs were parked all over. I got as close as ever to a shiny Mack cab, while a “Fast-Unlock” dump truck body sheltered Long Haul Kitty. His orange coat looked sleek and a water dish had been even left out.
Now heading north to my real target, I climbed streets splaying out like fingers up the hills above Frankstown Avenue. At the split of Mohler Street and Willing Street a small set of steps lead you up Mohler (yes, they are documented in Bob Regan’s book, all six of them.) Willing was a long, desolate street with mattresses and garbage near a condemned house. That white house looked like it was falling off the hillside. Passing that, and coming closer to a better maintained house, I spied a turkey and three grey chicks clucking across the street. As I approached the adult turkey rushed back across the street and chicks disappeared into the undergrowth.
I wound my way down one finger, and then up the next, Wheeler Street. Pittsburgh has a penchant for alliteratively naming neighboring streets. At the corner of Wheeler and Mohler, I saw another flock of wild turkeys. Here, though, a wily, skinny, white and orange cat was creeping up on them, eye’s as big as saucers. I ruined his cover, and the turkeys went gobbling off into the woods. I’m thinking I did the kitty a favor, as those turkeys would have beaten him up.
Wheeler took me up to an impressive set of stairs at the end of Ferndale. They have several twists and turns, but were too overgrown to completely traverse. On Willing Street, I did not notice their upper landing.
Running out of Pittsburgh for a moment into Penn Hills, I came to my senses and went up Ferndale. Whew! That is certainly a steep street, making it into the “Filthy Five”. Ferndale intersects Lawndale Street at the top. On the left, Lawndale is partially blocked by Jersey barriers, but I trekked down it a bit anyway. However, once I saw an RV down the dead-end road, I figured I had gone far enough and turned around. That’s probably in Penn Hills anyway.
Lawnsdale careens straight down the hill. As it reaches Perchment Street, it spills down to Frankstown Road as a set of steps.
Back to the flatlands, I made my way back to my car. As I skittered down Durango Way, a colorful wall peeked through a slightly open steel door. I peeked in and was rewarded with a garden of murals.
I finished with six and a half miles – slightly more than a 10k. Most of the run covered new streets and I got to see turkeys and murals along the route. The steps were interesting, too. Nice run!
This headline “Hot Damn, It’s Hot in…” will be used extensively the next few days. It could possibly be superseded by “Running on the Surface of the Sun…” or “All of Pittburgh is Lava”. Three cheers for July running!
I explored another of Pittsburgh’s southern neighborhoods, Beltzhoover. If you don’t understand how Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods are cordoned off from one another, Beltzhoover is a great example. The northern border is Warrington Avenue. From Warrington Avenue, a few streets climb sharply into the heart of Beltzhoover. On the west, the T-line and South Busway separate it from Mount Washington. On the east, Beltzhoover Avenue is a less distinct border with Knoxville and Allentown. On the south, a large ravine, a park (McGinley Park) and the busy Bausman Street completely seal it off from Bon Avon. It’s an interesting name and there’s a very short paragraph in this old Post-Gazette article attributing the name to Melchior Beltzhoover.
I approached Beltzhoover from the beginning of Beltzhoover Avenue at Grandview Park. It quickly rolls off the hill and after a few blocks dissipates into small shady streets. However, at the corner of Beltzhoover and East Warrington, a few penguins were getting a suntan. I think they would have been happier staying at the zoo.
This area has wide, long streets and tiny alleys. Michigan Street crosses nearly all of Beltzhoover, as do a number of other streets, such as Sylvania Street and Climax Street.
I did not traverse all of Climax Street, but one of the climaxes of today’s run was finding the Beltzhoover Community Perennial Nursery on it. In a cursory internet search, I didn’t find much information, but there it was, on a bright hillside, a slope filled with carefully tended flowering perennials buzzing with bees. I also got a kick out of the white lions at the top of some private stairs.
There were a few other steps, too. The most significant was along Bernd Street. It’s several flights took me to a back alley where the remains of yesterday’s fireworks were strewn across the ground. A phone booth, sans handset, adorned those steps. On the other hand, the only thing adorning the Delmont Street steps were weeds. Perhaps in wintertime, I could use the crumbling steps.
In spite of the gardens and wide, brick streets, much of this area has a neglected look. The wide streets are dusty and street sweeping doesn’t seem to be a regular event.
I cut out after six miles due to the heat, primarily. Also, while my knee is better, I didn’t want to push it too much. It was the right choice. Besides, the route turned out to look like a cat in heels, as my friend Cathy commented. Ha! I couldn’t have done that if I tried.
Like the banging refrain to a bad punk song, “hot and humid” pounded into my head as I explored the streets of Larimer this afternoon. I had, honestly, been avoiding this area for a bit. It seems like a no-man’s land, squished between Negley Run Road, Washington Road and East Liberty Boulevard. But, other than the heat, there wasn’t much to worry about on a sunny mid-morning.
Not more than a mile from Google’s Pittsburgh offices in Bakery Square, deserted and overgrown Paulson Avenue whimpers to a dead end above Washington Road.
En route, I saw these oft-photographed murals across from Jeremiah’s Place on Paulson Avenue. Mac Miller, I believe?
As I ran further from the busy streets such as East Liberty Avenue and Frankstown Road, the neighborhood becomes pancake flat and very quiet. Perhaps it was the heat, but except for the occasional dog barking or child playing, there wasn’t much activity out there. Many of the smaller streets and alleys are overgrown. Many lots are empty, presumably where houses had been demolished.
For Pittsburgh, this is an incredibly flat area. I managed to find one small set of stairs off of Finley Avenue. The residents of here, as throughout Pittsburgh, seem determined to make their homes as quirky as they can.
Along one alley, old parking spaces had been transformed into an art gallery.
But overall, there is no doubt of the poverty and neglect of this neighborhood. Across from a decent playground, complete with slides and with a water wall, stand two abandoned houses stamped for demolition.
This area is pretty large, too. I covered only about a quarter of the streets here, but easily racked up the miles. As I approached five miles, I headed back to my car. I ended up with a 10k. Good run!
This was a short Saturday run in the eastern portion of Mount Washington. My hamstring is getting better, but I stopped running at the slightest twinge.
I started on Bailey Avenue, which is flat with ample street parking. While Bailey Avenue nearly runs on the crest of Mount Washington, there are a few streets closer to the bluff overlooking the city. I had missed this previously, including “Dicktom Way”.
“Did it intersect Harry Avenue?” some wise-ass friend asked.
Ha! No, it didn’t. But it did take me to Bigbee Street, with its great views of downtown buildings rising through the fog.. From there, I explored streets going down the hill toward East Warrendale Avenue.
This area is a mixed bag. There are certainly well kept houses and quirky yard art, but there are also run down houses and desolate alleys.
This orange Fletcher riding tractor caught my eye. I saw it turning the corner onto Cicero Way. While it looks a bit banged up, the tires and seat are okay and the blue tarp indicates someone cares about it. I wonder if it still works. The industrial strength salt shed was a bit of a surprise. However, looking at the map later I realized I was pretty close to the South Busway. That makes sense.
Finally, I saw this mural on a retaining wall along East Warrington Avenue. It seems this is a layered work. The original probably didn’t have the squiggles on top of the city skyline.
This was a decent run, though short. Turning onto Haberman Avenue’s big hill, I felt some twinges and called it a day.
This was a short run in the South side Flats. I’m trying out KT-Tape to help my knee and I needed something easy. Luckily, I still had a few alleys left in this, one of the flattest sections of Pittsburgh.
It was a rather warm day today, with some thundershowers off and on. The number of cases of Covid19 in Allegheny County have been dwindling, so restaurants are open and people are getting out more. Face masks are pretty much required for indoor activities, but outside, it was hit or miss.
There was the group of young men playing basketball, apparently oblivious to social distancing concerns. No masks there. There was the tall, skinny black dude delivering food. He was all business in his black t-shirt with red lettering, efficiently checking the order and his phone. He had a mask. There was the construction worker, tiredly holding his boots and opening a wooden fence gate for a woman in cheek-revealing black short shorts. No masks. There was the young skinny woman in fish-net stockings and purple strands in her black hair who could barely stay standing. A taller male companion, in blue jeans and a white tee-shirt, struggled to keep her on her feet. No masks. I, personally, have been using a blue bandana while running. I pull it up when I come upon people.
But now, some of the sights along the way. That impressive cornerstone is in the building formerly housing St. Matthew’s school. Instead of housing young kids scurrying to class with peanut butter sandwiches and chalk-dust, the building now houses $340,000 condos. (WITH ROOF ACCESS!!!) Renovation along the alleys continues unabated. In color, Harcum Way is almost as bright as Carey Way.
It is nice to see “useful” businesses in a neighborhood. When all that’s left are high-end restaurants and fru-fru boutiques, it loses some of its luster. I am happy to say the South Side Flats still has some working class businesses. I’m not sure how great “Duke’s Tire Services” is, but I’m sure it is convenient.
School buses are tucked behind the barbed-wire fence, which, unfortunately, also closes off Mary Street for a block. No wonder I hadn’t finished that section! I’m familiar with individuals ‘colonizing’ dead-end city streets, but this takes it to a whole new level.
Interspersed among the brick buildings, murals and street art abound. The painted garage door is quirky with its stylized plants and grass. Meanwhile, here’s a big lady watching over the cars in the 18th Street parking lot.
That’s about it. My knee was OK, but touchy. More rest and it should get better.
I’ve been all over this town but never to Carrick. Today I’m changing that. For today’s run, I started overlooking Downtown from Grandview Park, did a grid of streets in Allentown and then plunged south to sample Carrick.
Grandview Park is a narrow strip of greenery high above the Monongahela River. From here, you can practically open the windows on the skyscrapers downtown. There’s not much there except benches to look at the view, a viewing platform to look out over the city and a little natural amphitheater, with views over the city. And all of them are grand! I’m not sure if all cities are like this, but Pittsburghers really like to look at pictures of Pittsburgh.
Tearing myself away from the view, I embarked on the grid of streets behind the park, high in Allentown. In spite of the proximity to the views and Mount Washington, this residential area is tight with small, rather shabby houses. I saw at least five houses with the blue “condemned” sign on them. Small streets disappear into the vegetation. Of course there are steps and boats here, too.
Speaking of steps, Emerald Street drops off the hillside and becomes steps on its way to Arlington Avenue, passing Canary Way en route. Arlington intersects East Warrington, with its small business area.
East Warrington is not a large street, but is usually busy. If you are vegan, you should stop at Onion Maiden. The food is excellent and the music is rocking! No neighborhood is complete without a Little Library, and there’s one here too, a few houses from Beltzhoover Avenue. Of course, everyone needs a laundromat every now and then. Here, “Splish Splash” is incongruously nestled on the first floor of an older red and pink apartment building.
While completing several streets south of East Warrington Avenue, I came across another “Project Picket Fence” site. If you’ll recall, that was a mid-90’s project by Mayor Tom Murphy to encourage communities to brighten up vacant lots. Here, while the picket fence is down, the lot is nicely kept.
From there, I found the source of Amanda Avenue, at its intersection with Manion Way. Amanda Avenue has a few street steps as it meets Arlington Avenue. I stayed on Amanda until it merged with Brownsville Road. (Not to be confused with Browns Hill Road, which is in another part of the city.) Here, Brownsville Road also forms a border with Mount Oliver, the independent borough entirely surrounded by the City of Pittsburgh. Just to make life interesting for dispatchers, there’s also a neighborhood in the City of Pittsburgh called “Mount Oliver”. It’s adjacent to the borough, of course.
In spite of the local differences in jurisdiction between Pittsburgh and Mount Oliver, there are few visual differences on that rather dirty, dusty street. Just the street signs; Pittsburgh’s are bright blue and Mount Oliver’s are a dusty green.
I continued to Noble Lane. In spite of its name, it is not a noble place to run. Where there are sidewalks, there are cars parked. Otherwise, you just have a narrow grassy, rocky path to navigate as the cars whiz by you on their way to Saw Mill Run Boulevard. Approaching Saw Mill Run, at least you get a nice view of the South Hills T-Line near Whited Street.
Climbing out of the pit that is Saw Mill Run Boulevard, there are some more spacious residential areas. I made my way back towards Brownsville Road via Copperfield Road. At nine miles in, I was a bit disheartened to see the multi-block set of steps rise above me.
Returning to my starting spot, I ambled along Brownsville Road until I hit Knox Avenue. Knoxville, along Knox Avenue is similar to Allentown, with undulating streets lined with houses and old three story apartment buildings. Ironically enough, yesterday I was listening to Malcom Gladwell’s book “Talking to Strangers” as he discussed the Amanda Knox case. Today, I ran on Amanda Street and Knox Avenue. Coincidence?
On this morning’s run, I decided to tackle more of Homewood South and North. I do have a feel for the neighborhood, but am still intimidated by parts of it, especially the long, narrow alleys. Making it to Formosa Way, this brilliant mural jumped out. I’m not sure who did this wonderfully colorful artwork, but kudos to them. The day was sunny and warm, with a promise to get hot later.
Trundling down Formosa Way, I saw a couple of older black men chatting across a fence. One was with his large German Shepherd, who lunged at me when I passed. It was on a leash, so no harm done. However, the man said “You know, there ARE main roads”. To which I gave the “I’m running all the streets” response. But then he said, “Well, be careful, its dangerous.” I thought about that as I ran.
I came across several memorials, such as the one below. These weren’t marked with the details, but were probably where someone had died. How? Who knows? Gunshot? Car Accident? It’s hard to say. I saw at least three other memorials, mostly smaller. I suppose it is dangerous here.
Homewood South is basically flat with long alleys and streets running parallel to Hamilton Avenue. There are plans in the works for a much needed rejuvenation of Homewood. Reading that plan, I was astounded at the level of poverty here. The median household income is less than $20,000 a year. Imagine trying to live on $20,000 a year in Pittsburgh! The median income in Pittsburgh is close to $40,000/yr.
Murals adorn many buildings and several houses have Randyland-style artwork on their exterior.
There’s also a fair share of run-of-the mill graffiti.
Eventually, I made it to Upland Street, and crossed briefly into North Homewood. I meandered among some of the streets up there before taking the Monticello Street Stairs back to Brushton Avenue.
As the run grew long and my hot, tired legs didn’t want to move, I was encouraged by several residents. One woman, as she was loading a dark blue van, shouted “Go get that hill!”
A grizzled man, lazily driving his caddie across the intersection of Collier and Kelly said “Trying to make up for them cancelling the Marathon?”
And yet another man, this one man working on a dusty van looked up and asked “How many miles?”
Very often, I don’t have any interaction on my runs, so this was welcome.
I must say, when I first approached Collier and Frankstown, I avoided it because a half dozen dudes were hanging out on their Harleys. However, when I came back, the only thing left was their banner.
And that was it. A solid run in a ‘dangerous’ neighborhood which has a plan in place for improvement.
For further thought:
Now, thinking about it, how ‘dangerous’ a place actually is, is often a reflection of your own activity there. If you’re in a neighborhood for the house parties and ‘nightlife’, this could be pretty dangerous. If you’re here to buy drugs, yes, dangerous. If you’re living here and your neighbor is a dealer, that could be a problem. However, driving through at a reasonable time, running on a Saturday morning, walking your dog, it isn’t too bad.
Just for comparison, from 2018 to 2020, Homewood South and Homewood North each had less overall crime than Southside Flats or Downtown. Admittedly, they are smaller areas. They also had fewer cases of property crime than Shadyside or Squirrel Hill. The high level of poverty in the area undoubtedly influences how well kept it is and what kind of stores and restaurants there are. It is no surprise then, that there are almost none.
May 2020 was a long month. It started off cold and even had a few flurries early on. However, by the end of May, things had heated up in many ways. Cases of Covid19 are slowly lurching lower. However, we’ve gone from bad to worse in social upheaval. In early May, I did a “Run for Ahmaud” to show solidarity in the killing of a black jogger in Georgia. It was an emotional, sad, run. Then, on May 25, a black man, George Floyd, was killed by Minneapolis police officers. That has set the spotlight on racial inequity in the country and simultaneously sparked protests and called into question police tactics all over.
Against this backdrop, I’ve kept running and covering new streets. In May, I ran 130 miles, close to my goal of 135 miles a month. I completed all eight of my Strava challenges for May, including the distance challenge (210km), climbing challenge (4,229m) and the “Sufferfest Beer Challenge” which required four activities a week for four weeks. Of the 21 runs I did in May, 20 of them covered new streets. By May 31, I had completed 248 “RATS” runs in all. I’m over 45% done with the streets of Pittsburgh, according to CityStrides.
However, this sole focus on running has impacted my flexibility. I’ve cut more than one run short because of tight hamstrings. I’m hoping to put that behind me, by adding yoga and stretching into my routine.
RATS 00232 – Short and rainy in Scotch Bottom
Ah, a short run in Hazelwood. My heart wasn’t in it today, although I ended up seeing a few cool things. This church, for instance.
This church has been closed for awhile, but the Diocese of Pittsburgh still owns the building. In researching this, I found a short history of Hazelwood, taken from a 1972 issue of the Carnegie Magazine. Apparently it used to be known as “Scotch Bottom”.
Now the area is pretty run down, but still filled with people living and working among the old buildings. Wouldn’t it be cool to construct automobiles with biodegradable materials, so that once the engine fluids stop running, the whole thing decomposes?
RATS #00234 – Bloomfield
Short, chilly run in the rain. Fitting since it was dedicated to the memory of Ahmaud Arbery. Nonetheless, Bloomfield is quirky and I captured a little of it here. The immense building behind “Mend Way” is a hospital. <facepalm>
There’s a bar across from the mural. Had it been open, it would have been a pleasure to sit there and look at the bright mural.
RATS #00242 Brookline Evening
Whew, Brookline is big! This run was over six miles, with minimal duplication, yet only covered one small section of Brookline. It is a suburban style community, flat except where it falls off of ravines. Running up Whited Street was heart-pounding not only for the elevation, but also for the lack of sidewalks.
The Jacob Street Stairs were cool and tunnel to the South Busway was interesting. In broad daylight, it wasn’t too bad, but it would be creepy on a misty November night. Birchland Street also gets steep enough to warrant steps.
Viaduct to the South Busway.
RATS #00243 Hills of Westwood
This was an evening run on the hills above the Westwood Shop ‘N Save. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the streets were very steep there. This seems to be an older area than across Noblestown Road. A number of the streets dead-end at the top of ravines.
Surprisingly, there were not many sets of steps here. Guyland Street’s steps are pretty impressive, though.
RATS #00244 Another Jaunt in Mount Washington
This was a rather laborious run through Mount Washington. You know the drill, hills, steps, views. Of note was finishing West Sycamore Street.
RATS #00245 South Oakland
The last few runs had really done a number on my hamstrings. I looked up ways to alleviate the tightness and pain in my left leg. Ignoring the first suggestion, “Stop running”, I decided that the next suggestion, “Avoiding hills”, was more doable. I realized I had a few streets left in South Oakland and so headed there one Sunday afternoon.
South Oakland is a curious mix of students and a few long-term residents. At one point, three white-haired ladies, maybe even older than me, were gingerly helping each other off the three inch curb for a little walk. At the same time, less than a block away, cleverly tucked in an alley, a full scale frat party screamed with booming bass, a flashy car and beer pong.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. To get the opportunity to appear at that party, I had to face a dinosaur, run down the Romeo steps and uncover a wild strawberry.
From there, I used the Cathedral of Learning as a beacon to knowledge navigating the alleys of Oakland.
RATS #00246 South Oakland
Continuing the “no hills” mantra, I again ventured into South Oakland. As you can see, I’m getting closer to downtown.
RATS #00247 – Southside Flats – and a hill
Continuing to live up to my “Flatlander” reputation, I traversed the Southside Flats for twelve miles. It started out a bit rainy, but became beautiful. At the end I threw in one big hill and ran up South 18th Street to St. Patrick’s Street.
I did not encounter great sets of steps, but I have to say, the Wharton Street Passage is exciting. It will allow bicyclists and pedestrians to go under the Birmingham Bridge instead of going up to Carson Street. It’ll be great when it is fully opened.
While I traced five fingers up and down the Southside, I came across a mural painted to look like house fronts. That was cute. I also ran on Edward’s Way, which, honestly, could be more impressive. As it is, it is tucked against a railroad bulwark.