From West Liberty to Library, Road, That Is

RATS Route #00415 from West Liberty to Library

With alleys to do in West Liberty and busy streets to do on the Southern Edge of the World, I started RATS run #00415 from Moore Park in West Liberty. Moore Park is very convenient, just off of Pioneer Avenue. There are tennis courts, basketball courts, a spray park, a pool and large fields rolling down toward Moore Greenway. For my purposes though, there is a nice little parking lot.

Anyway, I started there and cut down through Our Lady of Loreto’s driveway, aka Herman Drive. Making the right onto Crysler Street, I found myself in the maze of driveways around West Liberty Elementary. I got spit out onto Elmbank Street, which falls precipitously to a green dead-end.

Speaking of green dead-ends, Fernhill Avenue has several, in spite of any map which shows that it continues in a long circuit. Inland Way took me on a ridge below Dunster. From there I headed toward Brookline.

I think it was on Lugi Way that I found a salute to veterans and recycling as well as an alley duck. This tour of the lesser known views of Brookline eventually took me to McNeilly Road. McNeilly is rather busy and not meant for pedestrians. I ducked onto McNeilly Court as it curved up the hill. It dead-ends abruptly after the curve. Returning to McNeilly Road, I then went up another curvy street, Aidan Court. It turns out that that new subdivision was pretty much built on top of the older homes on McNeilly Court.

Luckily, though, the wide shoulders and parking lots afforded places to run. I also found Black Dog Car & Dog Wash. I mused what the options could be:

  • One pass dog and car – “Just get him to sit on the hood, ma’am. He’ll be OK.”
  • Slobber wash – “We have ten golden retrievers just waiting to lick your dog and car clean.”
  • First World Wash – “Just open all your windows and let Fido sit on the front seat.”

Moving on, McNeilly narrows under a train trestle right before it hits the McNeilly T-Station. There’s a slim little sidewalk there and it takes you all the way to busy Library Road.

Library Road took me briefly out of the city into Castle Shannon. Again, it’s not very pedestrian friendly there, so I stayed up on the green embankment. My target was Belleville Street, up steep 6th Street. I was very happy that Belleville narrowed into a trail and I got a nice little shortcut back to Library Road, before any need to trespass on a power-line tower.

Circling back into the City, I braved the traffic along Saw Mill Run and Provost Road. I thought I’d need to scurry up Arcata Street, but it was just a 50 yard driveway to a washed-out bridge. No, I didn’t scale the bridge or swim the creek.

With that, I trundled up Glenbury Street, gasping for air and watching out for cars. Upon returning to Moore Park, I ran right into the cold spray, screaming like a little kid. Or a like a dog going through a car wash.

Beltzhoover and Edgebrook Avenue

Two runs in late May


Back-alleys in Beltzhoover

RATS run #00410 in Beltzhoover

Prior to this project, I did not appreciate the size of Beltzhoover. Now, I appreciate it, as I keep going back to ‘finish’ up more alleys and cul-de-sac’s. This run, run #00410, was on a beautiful Sunday morning, but my plans were immediately altered. My old nemesis, “Nonexisting Streets” was at it again; Pear Way, for example.

However, I persisted and found my way down many a country road there. Yes folks, this is a reputedly tough inner city neighborhood.

I’m often a little tense running through alleys like this because I’m not sure what I will find. I generally shouldn’t worry too much; mainly I’m dodging chipmunks, squirrels, groundhogs, the occasional cat and sometimes deer. Every once in awhile, I’ll come across someone walking their dog.

This is not to say these alleys are pristine. Often decaying garages house cars which haven’t moved in a generation. Tires and garbage are common. I do believe there is a City of Pittsburgh Ordinance about the cars, though. Oh, here it is:

The accumulation and storage of abandoned, wrecked, dismantled or inoperative vehicles, or parts thereof, on private or public property, not including highways, is found to create a condition tending to reduce the value of private property, to promote blight and deterioration, to invite plundering, to create fire hazards, to constitute an attractive nuisance creating a hazard to the health and safety of minors, to create a harborage for rodents and insects and to be injurious to the health, safety and general welfare. Therefore, the presence of an abandoned, wrecked, dismantled or inoperative vehicle, or parts thereof, on private or public property, not including highways, except expressly as hereinafter permitted, is a public nuisance which may be abated as such in accordance with the provisions of this chapter. [Ord. 664 C.S. ยงย 1, 1973.]

https://www.codepublishing.com/CA/Pittsburg/html/Pittsburg08/Pittsburg0812.html#8.12.010

If only this were enforced! Maybe it is just too much hassle and paperwork, I don’t know.

Now, at some point someone decided that a directional sign pointing to Beltzhoover’s amenities was a good idea. It sounds like a great idea to me too! However, apparently there wasn’t any money to keep the right of way mowed or stairs intact, so now the sign is rather ridiculous. The pic below on the right were steps prior to 2007, if I’m not mistaken. Of course, these days, with smartphones and maps, I don’t think we need directional signs that much.

That was about it for alleys of Beltzhoover. I’m sure I’ve missed some and will be back.


An Epic Run From McKinley Park

RATS Run #00410 from McKinley Park to Brookline and Back

This run, RATS run #00410, started pretty close to the previous run, run #00409. However, I went in an entirely different direction, down Bausman to Saw Mill Run Boulevard. My main goal was completing Edgebrook Avenue. I did that and added a few charming streets.

McKinley Park is fairly large. The main access to it is along Bausman Street, where folks park along the road and have picnics, play hoops and skateboard. However, it was a rainy Saturday morning when I went through, so the park was deserted.

At the bottom of the hill, Bausman ends at Saw Mill Run Boulevard. This is only a quarter mile from the Liberty Tubes, so it is very busy. T-tracks tower overhead and a thriving thrift store sits across the intersection. You might notice the picture with the T is bright and sunny, while the Thift store is all gray. That’s because I did this one section twice. The first time, my GPS failed, so I felt compelled to do it again. (Argh!)

Behind the thrift store, Timberland Avenue crosses a closed bridge and runs past a couple of derelict houses before disappearing in a tangle of underbrush. The stream, Saw Mill Run, still has car carcasses littering the gravel.

Now running down Saw Mill Run Boulevard, the sidewalk disappeared, so it was crappy running. How about getting sidewalks here? Anyone? Buehler? Buehler?

There were some curiosities along the way. I feel like this truck was trying to hide, parked as it was between a shipping container and a billboard. However, it was as successful as an elephant hiding behind a refrigerator. While the door below is kinda cool, in that battered-steel-door genre, I really like the retro numbering next to it. (I’m sure it is original, not really retro at all.)

I finally got to Edgebrook Avenue. It actually starts under the T and even has a couch for resting. (Apparently having indoor furniture outdoors is against city ordinances, too.) Then Edgebrook Avenue passes a small car dealership and rises into Brookline, rising along a winding, wooded valley.

Up toward Brookline, several small streets branch off of Edgebrook Avenue. Milan Street used to have steps to Whited Street. But then, a tree fell. And fallen trees can’t be removed.

As always, people decorate their places. This goose was very appropriately dressed, while the fairy garden was trying to bring magic into the day.

I magically lumbered down Brookline Avenue to Pioneer Avenue, catching Oleatha Way en route. Then I decided to cross West Liberty Avenue and check out a couple of streets rising from beneath the Norfolk and Western train trestle. One just led to a city vehicle impoundment area, but Dawn Avenue rose on cobblestoned paths up the slope to Charm Street. Charm Street, ah, well, take a look and tell me how charming it is.

I was, honestly, surprised how far Charm Street extended. But at the end, well, it was dead. Again, I’ve taken a liking for doors, so here are a couple.

Dawn Street has its own South Busway stop and apparently a T stop. Stairs on one side led across to steep stairs on the other. Before coming down, I had a good look at that Norfolk and Western line. Such an impressive bridge for just one track.

Finally, I rounded the corner and found myself at the Thrift Store on Saw Mill Run again. I slogged up Bausman, taking a small detour for Lorna Way, another Beltzhoover alley.

Lorna Way

That’s all for now. Just remember, keep your couches inside and your cars operational. And, for goodness sake, stop driving into creeks.

March 2021 Catch-Up

Summary

March 2021 was one of my most productive months in terms of mileage and streets covered. Among my 162 miles and 20,000 feet of elevation gain, I completed 192 more streets in Pittsburgh in 15 RATS runs. I even completed the “Take The Stairs 50k” course I published last year. That course, a small revision of Lamar’s original course, took me on roughly 78 sets of steps throughout the city, but, alas, did not cover any new streets.

Blogging-wise, March was less than stellar. I only published four posts and it has taken me all of April just to get this summary out, touching on three short runs in Carrick, Brookline and West Liberty.


https://www.strava.com/activities/4979989103
Route of RATS #00384 in Brookline

I had grand plans for this run, but was out-of-synch and got frustrated by small ‘streets’ just being driveways into hills. Argh! Just took one picture, before it all went downhill. I did end up with over four miles and several alleys covered.

Brookline Alley
Brookline Alley

RATS run #00386 Around South Side Cemetery
RATS run #00386 Around South Side Cemetery

In this run, I inadvertently circumnavigated South Side Cemetery. I started on Brownsville Road and took the steep West Meyers Street to Oakhurst en route to Newett Street, one of the steeper roads I’ve been on. I took Plateau Street to its dead-end above Volunteers Park, then came back to Newett, expecting to see Plateau on the other side. However, Plateau falls off of Newett so quickly that the other side looked like a driveway which disappeared over the hillside. Once upon it, though, I found my way down Plateau and was pleasantly surprised to find that Volunteers Field was an active hubbub. It looked like a fire department team was practicing on one field, while on another field, a younger group practiced base-running under the tutelage of a barking coach.

Moving on, I dodged cars on my way down Colerain to Noble Road. No sidewalks and not much of a shoulder made it tricky running. Then I peeled off and went down Denise Street. My internal map had Denise going a little way and dead-ending. It seemed to go on forever, but afforded nice views of the T tracks. Returning, I came across some steps which took me to Noble Road.

Once up on Noble, I backtracked a bit and went up Glade Street. The few streets up on that hill are tucked into a corner of the cemeteries looming above. It was a nicer area than I expected. Some kids were playing basketball in the street and others were riding bikes. Along the Montrose Steps I heard a rustling and noticed a deer in the woods. I took a picture and continued to Cloverdale Street. Only after looking at the picture more closely did I realize there were four deer there!

Cloverdale Street completed the southern border of the cemetery, bringing me back to Noble Street. This short, three mile run certainly had a lot to see.


Route of RATS #00387
Route of RATS #00387

This was an evening run in West Liberty to catch some alleys. I caught several in my alley catcher, but some were only paper alleys (here’s looking at you, Mascot Way!) Overall it was a pleasant, hilly run with over 400 feet of elevation in only three miles.


So that was it for March, 2021. I’m still chipping away at the streets. At the end of March I had a little over 800 more to complete. I’ve come a long way considering there are over 4,800 streets in Pittsburgh. I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Starting March Like a Lamb, Three Shorties

With February gladly behind me, I started into March with several short runs. The weather had moderated and I was just getting out.

RATS #00373 Overbrook

https://www.strava.com/activities/4880520786
RATS #00373

The main point of this run was the triangle of streets between Jacob Street, Groveland Street and Aaron Avenue. It was already dusk by the time I parked at Brookline Memorial Park, donned my safety vest, powered up my flashlight and took off. I shot down Brookline Boulevard to Jacob Street. Cars all have to make a left, but pedestrian runners like me have the option to make a right onto steps descend steps. At the bottom, there is a walkway to a South Busway Station, but tonight I went straight through the soggy area, lifting up on steps rising on the far side, emerging onto another section of Jacob’s Street. I apologize for the photo quality, but it does illustrate my mobile night vision, or lack thereof.

Jacob's Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder Steps

There are just a few streets down here, all going up to Aaron Avenue. The houses mostly sit on decent sized lots and over the years, residents have really made them their own.

My ambition was to finish off Aaron, crossing Glenbury, then do more alleys in the far neighborhood. However, my back twinged at the end of Aaron, and I just limped back to my car.

RATS #00374 Shadyside

https://www.strava.com/activities/4886437737
RATS #00374 – Shadyside

Cutting the previous night’s run was probably a good idea, but I was still taking it easy, so I did another easy run, in Shadyside. Shadyside is full of cul-de-sacs and this run was mainly about touching on several of them off of Ellsworth Avenue.

I did come across a spectacular mansion of modern style along an alley. One side purports to be a driveway, but it is actually a through street. This was a pleasant, short and flat run.

RATS #00375 Greenfield

https://www.strava.com/activities/4896854497
RATS #00375 in Greenfield

This was a cool run, again in the evening. I started along Greenfield Avenue and powered up Winterburn Avenue. Sun Way lived up to its name, with a grand vista of downtown bathing in pumpkin light, as river mists started rising.

Sun Way Looking Downtown from Greenfield
Sun Way Looking Downtown from Greenfield

Besides the incredible hills, Greenfield has incredible views. The Cathedral of Learning prominently punches to the sky. It was no surprise that I came across steps; these continuing Noah Avenue, from Tasso Street to Tasso Street (yes, the upper and lower sections have the same name).

On Lower Tasso, I had great views of the South Side lights and downtown framed by the last sunlight. That was about it. This run, while only 3.73 miles had a healthy 581 foot elevation gain, over 150 feet per mile.

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.

RATS #00333

https://www.strava.com/activities/4398743439
RATS #00333 – Homewood and Belmar

This run was something of a continuation of the previous run. I pushed further into North Homewood and Belmar. Right off the bat, I roused two deer from their Homewood bed under a stairwell. There’s a confusing mix of streets here, where Pittsburgh collides with Wilkinsburg. The older warehouses and buildings are mainly deserted. After crossing off a number of small streets and alleys off my list, I headed up Brushton Avenue and Stranahan Street.

After crossing several streets and alleys off my list, I headed up Brushton Avenue and Stranahan Street to a small subdivision. Water authority construction workers were busy digging and putting down pipe. Their store of fire hydrants looked like an arsenal of rockets. It was a rather chilly day and no one was playing hoops when I passed by.

Completing the loop around Tilden, I went up Oberlin Street. At the end, a ragged set of steps took me up to Somerset Street. Somerset Street was high and wide, but I was ready to find my way home again so I found the Toga Way steps. Toga Way took me down steps littered with monkey balls. What are monkey balls? Check this Incline article for the full story, but they are the fruit of “Maclura pomifera”, commonly known as the Osage orange tree.

In another confirmation of boat theory, I saw several, nestled in the woods near the steps.

RATS #00334

https://www.strava.com/activities/4409006976
RATS #00334 with Rich

My friend, Rich, came with me on this adventure. Once again, I explored North Homewood and Belmar neighborhoods. We covered lots of ground and Rich made the miles go by easily. Here’s Rich, out standing in his field. He has a good eye for photography and takes nice pics.

A surprisingly sunny day, we made our way to the entrance of the VA Hospital grounds. Unfortunately, it was blocked off with vigorous “No Trespassing Signs”. With that route blocked, though, we found our way to a rusty water tower high above the Allegheny. I convinced Rich to NOT climb it.

From the top there, you could see way up the Allegheny River Valley. There was another water tower, but with its light blue paint and the sunny skies, it was actually hard to see.

In planning this route, I was using Google Street view to verify that streets went through. I was shocked when the street view took me from a rather derelict Ferdinand Alley to a sweeping country vista. Whoops! A glitch in the Matrix.

Ferdinand Way vs Google Street View

This is not the only street in North Homewood that does this.

Nonetheless, we ran by the quickly deteriorating Negro Opera House, took in the Laporte Street Steps and just meandered. Rich is pretty friendly and by the time we were done, he had waved to the black ladies going to church, some guys fixing their cars and just about anyone who showed their face.

It was nice to run with company to end this month.

October 2020 Monthly Catch-Up

Summary

October 2020 was a pretty good month. I did not do big long runs on the weekends, but got a good fifteen runs done, with fourteen of them covering new streets. Final stats were 100 running miles with over 12,000 feet of elevation. I’ve made significant progress in north Pittsburgh, with 98% of the streets done from the Northshore to Riverview Park. I’ve also continued to cover southern neighborhoods such as Carrick and Lincoln Place. It’s been a beautiful Fall, with only a couple of cold days. Several runs swept through ‘stairy’ areas; run #319 hit at least half dozen long ones. For better or worse, there are several significant runs in this catch-up, so its rather long.

RATS #00315: Brookline, Overbrook and Carrick

https://www.strava.com/activities/4212640666
RATS #00315

Starting at Brookline Memorial Park, I ventured down Breining to Briggs in that area of long streets. But Briggs turns into Seldon, which took me directly to the Fan Street Steps down to Glenbury. I’m constantly attracted to dead-ends, tunnels and steps. This had it all. I passed through the Glenbury Viaduct to find myself at the busy intersection of Saw Mill Run Boulevard and Library Road.

I noticed a line of steps up the farther hill and waited patiently at the light wondering exactly where they would lead. Those steps turned out to be Horning Street, off of Ivyglen. Horning keeps rising, even after leaving the benefit of the steps behind. At any rate, in keeping with the spirit of the run, Horning dead-ends at a cemetery, Beth Abraham Cemetery. I kept on its perimeter, looking in briefly where Ivyglen enters.

I wandered further into Carrick, eventually getting to Brownsville Road and almost stepping into Brentwood. Thankfully, a sign alerted me, so I curved back. The curvy streets twice concluded in curvy sidewalk steps along Ivyglen, once where Lodge meets Ivyglen and again where Odette hits Ivyglen. For some reason, Odette is not in Bob Regan’s book and not on the City of Pittsburgh’s stair list even though they both include the Lodge Street steps, a block away. They also both include the Sanderson Street Steps which have been closed since at least 2007.

With that I made my way back, peeking in on Pinecastle Street in passing.

RATS #316 Brighton Heights and Marshall Shadeland

https://www.strava.com/activities/4221953319
RATS #00316

This was a five mile run on a chilly misty Autumn evening starting at Legion Memorial Park. I have mixed feelings about this memorial. While I have the utmost respect for those whose names are listed, I find the Disneyesque Mr. Universe sculpture almost ridiculous.

War Memorial Legion Park

From there, it was just down Shadeland Avenue, then up Schimmer.

RATS #00317 Just a bit of East Street

https://www.strava.com/activities/4226476207
RATS #00317

There’s a new run club in town – City of Bridges Run Club. This run was supposed to be with them, but I was running late. No worries, I just took on a small section of East Street, climbed Suffolk and got a Fineview. It was great to hang out afterwards, masks and all.

RATS #00318 Back to Carrick

https://www.strava.com/activities/4230823897
RATS #00318

Another run in Carrick, mainly along Spencer and Kirk avenues. Eventually, I stepped out of bounds, dipping my toe into Baldwin Borough for a bit. It was dark, so I can be forgiven. Speaking of dark, they could use a few lights along Custer Avenue I daresay. I skirted a couple of spooky cemeteries along the way.