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!

August 2020 Monthly Catch-Up

Summary

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.

RATS #00279

https://www.strava.com/activities/3909687450
RATS #00279 Allentown & Beltzhoover

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.

RATS #00281

https://www.strava.com/activities/3928625534
RATS #00281 – Carrick

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.

RATS #00284

https://www.strava.com/activities/3943240703
RUN #00284

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.

RATS #00286

https://www.strava.com/activities/3955466444
RATS #00286 – Beltzhoover and Bon Air

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.

RATS #00287

https://www.strava.com/activities/3961468743
RATS #00287 – Brighton Heights

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.

RATS #00288

https://www.strava.com/activities/3966234640
RATS #00288 in Bloomfield, Friendship and Garfield

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.

RATS #00289

https://www.strava.com/activities/3983608398
RATS #00289 in West Liberty

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.

Broadcasting from Beltzhoover

RATS #00280 – Beltzhoover and Knoxville

Last Sunday, I planned to cover some of the long North-South streets in Beltzhoover, then trot over to Knoxville to catch a couple of long streets there. If I had any juice left, I thought I might venture into Bon Air as well.

It was still mid-morning when I parked along McKinley Park and was expecting silence, or at least a rather quiet morning. Maybe a few people cutting grass, some birds singing, but generally silent.

Boy was I wrong! I stepped out of the car and found myself assailed by loud sounds from every direction. It sounded like a gospel church and a hip-hop studio were competing with each other to be the Broadcaster of Beltzhoover! My first turns took me right past the hip-hop broadcasts, replete with ferociously barking dogs.

I must say, that little section at the end of Estella Street wasn’t my favorite. The blaring noise, the narrow streets and nearly impassable alleys spooked me. Unfortunately, Beltzhoover seems to have the most overgrown, long and hilly alleys in Pittsburgh. Several of them looked like they need to be mowed more than paved. Of course, those cute brick streets sometimes could use a little mowing, too.

This corner of Beltzhoover is rather isolated. There’s a T-stop not far away, but the roads don’t go anywhere. For instance, off of Taft, a small street falls down the hill and turns onto “Buffington Avenue”. “Avenue”, well that sounds grand! Eh, not so much. After only a couple of distressed houses, the road is gated off as it dives into McKinley Park.

I must say, not everything is like this. Out of the hollow, the houses are rather large, typical Pittsburgh four-square houses. Upkeep is uneven, with some being meticulously maintained and others succumbing to nature. On the far side, as streets careen off the hill towards Warrington Avenue, there are a fair number of steps. Several of these lead down to the trolley and buses on Warrington Avenue. However, the steps are in sad shape. Not structurally, but they’re just overgrown to the point of uselessness.

Sometime, someone has put effort here. In addition to the community perennial garden, which I described earlier in “Hot Damn, It’s Hot in Beltzhoover”, there are signs directing pedestrians to steps for the T. Given the thorny nature of the path, I don’t think many people are going that way.

Finally, I made my transition to Knoxville, where to cover Georgia Avenue and Grimes Avenue. Those two parallel streets start high on a hill and go straight down to Bausman Street, and beyond. Here’s where things got a bit more interesting. At the bottom of Georgia, I turned right onto Rachelle, a dead-end, to avoid people. (Yes, I do that. ) Rochelle is narrow and tightly packed with houses and cars. Approaching the end, I hoped there would be some pedestrian outlet, but, at first only saw a wall. Then, at the last moment, I noticed a few steps down into the woods below. Taking the steps, I shortly found myself in a homemade BMX track, sized just right for a kid’s first bike.

My consternation turned to elation at this little adventure. I came back around and took a short flights of steps taking to Zara Street. Along the way, I came across my second set of penguins for the day.

And now, the only thing I needed to do was to find the top of Grimes Avenue. At the end of Ibis Way, I came to the beginning of Cedarhurst Street. As many good streets do, it started as stairs. Cedarhurst is more of an alley, but leads across the top of a ridge, where you can even see some buildings on Mount Washington.

Finally making it to Grimes Avenue, I took it past Bausman and muddled around on Mathews Street. I know some folks are more religious than others, but these the residents take it to a new level; four large statues of the Virgin Mary! Okay, maybe it’s just one large statue and a nativity set.

So that was about it. I didn’t have enough juice to venture into Bon Air. Next time, maybe.

However, on my way home, I stopped by Schenley Park on the off chance I might catch Elijah in his “I Still Run with Ahmaud Abery (Day 100)”. Luckily I made it in time to catch him and some folks going out for a lap. I, too, did a lap. Elijah has put together a lot of good information about racism. Let me know if you’d like his write-up.

I still Run For Ahmad

Hot Damn, It’s Hot in Beltzhoover!

https://www.strava.com/activities/3718029970
RATS #00263 – A Cat in High Heels?

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.