Short August Runs

Here are a few short runs from August.


RATS #00438 – California-Kirkbride and Marshall-Shadeland

Here’s a little Sunday funday runday. Fivish miles in California-Kirkbride and Marshall-Shadeland. With the bulk of the streets done, it was more about going down back alleys than an expansive opening of an area. Accordingly, while starting in Allegheny West, I made my way up California Avenue. Flowers at the corner of Marshall Avenue and California Avenue were as bright as the day.

Moving up Superior Street, I took a side trip on Seiffert Way to Thelma Way. On Google Maps, it looks like Thelma Way goes through. It doesn’t. Rather it ends in a tangle of weeds and branches. Seiffert Way and Ludene Way were as advertised; short, dead-end alleys. I wonder how many times I’ve used ‘dead-end’ in this blog. At least a thousand. Next stop was Bland Street. How Bland was it?

Really Really Bland

Pushing forward through the myopic, dystopic fog, I came to a ballfield and Unit 56, waiting for orders. Unit 56 looks a little forlorn. Has the Mothership abandoned it? Did no one pick it for the team? How long has it been sitting there, with weeds growing into its brain?

It was all downhill from here, though I had an AMAZING time!


RATS #00439 into Duck Hollow

This run was even shorter than the last. I just wanted to complete a couple of streets in Duck Hollow. Rather late one Tuesday evening I made my way there via a bike trail below Summerset. Trails go off the main one into old slag heaps, although this one was apparently closed.

Duck Hollow has four streets and maybe twenty houses. It is at the confluence of Nine-Mile Run and the Monongahela River. After some research I found a nice Pitt News article about it. Surprisingly enough, I sometimes run with Mike Portogallo whom they interviewed. Small world.

I do have some news! McFarren Street has been rerouted over a new bridge. Perhaps now Duck Hollow residents can get deliveries to their door. My pictures of the Hollow, itself, came out rather fuzzy between my running and the dusky light.

I went in on the new bridge and came out on the old, open grate bridge. The railroad trestle is striking in the twilight.

Finally, I came out onto the parking lot above the Mon. Sure enough, folks of all shapes and sizes were hanging out, enjoying the evening. I enjoyed the view of the river and the Homestead High Level Bridge.

Homestead High Level Bridge

RATS #00440 in Brookline

Another short, evening run; this time in Brookline. July Way, Harex Way and Tariff Way were my goals. July and Harex I got, but Tariff Way continues to frustrate me.

There’s a street sign on Sussex Avenue at it’s intersection with Tariff. I dutifully did that little driveway section which, incidentally, doesn’t even show up on CityStrides or Google Maps. Meanwhile the other section of Tariff Way, off of Thistle Street, goes about twenty yards before arriving at a broad expanse of lawn. I suppose I need to go across the lawn and have a beer at the neighbors for CityStrides to recognize it. Argh!

At any rate, it was a decent little run on a hot summer’s evening. I even got to do the Stebbins Steps, again.


RATS #00441 in Greenfield

This is a Greenfield Re-Run. I was retracing a route which CityStrides hadn’t picked up. While that was initially a bit annoying, it turned out to be a good run with some amazing views. I love this one from the corner of Lydia and Bigelow.

From there I wrapped around a couple of alleys, some which dropped me into backyards, some of which allowed me passage. The grapevine arbor was pretty cool.

Eventually I found my way to Tasso Street, which has two distinct sections joined by the Noah Street steps and the Bud Hammer baseball field. The home team must have won, as heavenly beams of light shone down on the field.

And that was all, 4ish miles on a hot August evening. My watch recorded over 600 feet of elevation in this run. Not sure I believe that.


So, there are a few more runs in August I haven’t recorded here. I’ll get to those in the next blog. Thanks for reading along.

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.