Deserted Berg and a Great Gate

RATS Run #00445 Bookending Carrick

This was my first big run of September, 2021. I choose to go back to Carrick. My favorite way to get to Carrick is to drive up the winding Beck’s Run Road and park along Brownsville Road not far from the Dunkin Donuts. That way, I can easily treat myself after a long run. It also has the benefits that many of Carrick’s one BILLION streets are within striking distance.

My first street was Berg Place. I have run past it several times, just tiredly looking at it as a little driveway. Today, I decided to just see how far that driveway went. It didn’t go far. I was amazed how run down it was. While I wouldn’t call this area of town “pristine”, most of the homes here are occupied and in decent shape, perhaps needing a little work. Berg Place, on the other hand was a disaster area. Several apartment buildings lined two driveways. There are at least 20 apartment units among three or four buildings and a line of garages. I imagine at one time they were all full of families. In fact, Google’s Streetview from 2007 shows neat apartment buildings. Now however, weeds grow through the asphalt and vines climb the building. Balconies without railings cascade down buildings while the dark eyes of broken windows stare on.

I did some research and it seems this level of neglect is the direct result of a bad landlord. Perhaps slumlord is a better name. According to a 2015 Post-Gazette article he did such cool things as surreptitiously running a hose from a neighboring property to supply water for his tenants, mostly Bhutanese refugees. (I personally didn’t know that Pittsburgh even had a Bhutanese community.) Can you imagine getting water on the third floor from a hose at ground level? That’s pretty bad. I’m not sure what has happened since, legally, but there were plans for the URA to take over the properties. Sigh, they seem to take forever to redevelop properties.

Moving on from Berg Place, I swept up Spencer Avenue with its classic Pittsburgh four-square houses. I hopped over to Rhoad Avenue, where the dead-end evidently continues beyond the gate. Skipping over to Novel Way, I scooted past the German Shepard at the corner and went as far down Novel as I thought feasible. Perhaps there’s an epilogue past that shady spot, but Novel Way looks finished at that point.

Jumping down Makery Way, I set out to find Gilboa Way and Wendelin Way. As alleys go, Wendelin Way is bright and open, even though its on the low end of a cemetery. There seems to be a slight misspelling on the street sign, as Maggie Ess pointed out. Maggie had been walking all the streets of Pittsburgh and finished a few weeks ago.

Calvert Street is one of those Pittsburgh streets which can only be accessed through Baldwin. It was a great neighborhood. I mean, there are CAT people there!

Coming back into Pittsburgh along Agnew Road, I cleaned up along Beck’s Run Run where the patriotic car wash was packed. Cursing the lack of sidewalks on that curvy, dangerous section of Beck’s Run Road, I eventually topped out on Brownsville Road.

I was about halfway done and resisted the urge to grab a doughnut before continuing to Parkfield Street. As I turned from Parkfield to the elusive end of Riota Way, a gardener on the corner made sure I knew Riota was a dead-end. I chatted with her briefly about my project and got motherly warnings about going down Parkfield. “It’s so steep and the cars fly up the hill! Be careful!” Pittsburghers are so nice. BTW, that’s great advice if you are ever running on Parkfield Street. Stay close to the curb and keep a sharp eye out for zooming cars. Dressing in blaze orange might help, too.

Once safely down to Saw Mill Run Boulevard, I scooted across to Ansonia Way. Ansonia Way is blocked off for cars, but is fine for pedestrians. It goes all the way the the T embankment where it becomes Midwood Street. At one end is a T Station. Returning to Saw Mill Run Blvd is easy with the Midwood Steps to cross Saw Mill Run creek.

Once up on Saw Mill Run, I made my way to Whited and the little Ballinger Street. Ballinger is another of Pittsburgh’s split personality streets. There are two disjoint sections with the same name. I suppose they connected at some point. Now, one leads you right to rail road tracks. Luckily there’s a gate, or someone might get hurt.

Safety Gate

This pretty much finished up my planned route, so I clambered up Colerain Street again, circling the playing field once for fun. Yet another steep street.

North Shore, Carrick and Belthoover Finishing June 2021

RATS #00421

RATS #00421 was a quick six miler after work. My main targets were alleys near PNC Park and Heinz Field as well as re-doing Children’s Way near Allegheny Center. As it turns out, there had been a Pirates baseball game that day, so my alley running included spectator dodging.

Once I had put some distance between me and PNC Park, I ran along Reedsdale Street, as it goes under the T, which carries hopeful gamblers to the Casino. It was rather precarious to walk along but I did see a number of “Marcher Arrant” stickers plastered on poles and guard rails. He blew through town earlier this summer and walked much of it. This section of town is not meant for pedestrians. It is meant to funnel people to the stadiums and back out.

Finishing Reedsdale, I decided to circle back to North Canal Street by way of the Children’s Museum. I always forget that West Park has a train track running through it, and, that the West Ohio Bridge is under construction. Whoops! I couldn’t get through, and had to detour via take West North Avenue. Isn’t it against some rule to put “West” and “North” in the same street name? It should be!

Anyway, upon emerging from the other end of West Park, I passed Allegheny Traditional Academy, which I believe is a charter school, before going through a section of Children’s Way. There’s some cool stuff there, including the sculpture reCARstruction. The link has a video of its creation.

Moving on, I trotted up North Canal Street. It starts as a ramp off of East Ohio Street and cars zip down it, perhaps expecting to get on the interstate. However, as it sweeps past the railroad and a high-rise building, it becomes just another way to get to Giant Eagle. I found out later that there is another section of North Canal, even more obscure. I ended near my start on Goodrich Street, a cobblestone relic of the past, interrupted by ramps.


RATS #00422 in Beltzhoover and Carrick

RATS run #00422 was all about alleys. Alleys in Beltzhoover and alleys in Carrick. Those aren’t exactly adjacent neighborhoods, so this ended up being a long run. But, let’s start with Beltzhoover Alleys. They are generally gravel and overgrown. Some are nearly footpaths.

Here along the alleys, you see garages falling down, with weeds on their falling roofs, but for the most part they are free of garbage and dumping (unlike Homewood). Heck, you see houses falling down on the main streets, so there’s no surprise the garages on the alleys would be in disrepair as well. I do have to say that Belzhoover is an active community. There’s always someone walking their dogs, riding bikes, doing lawn work or otherwise out and about.

Buffington Road, sits at the bottom of a steep hill lined with ominous houses. It was gated off. I really hate that. The maps show a public street, but the owners apparently think its a private drive.

Anyway, I shook the Beltzhoover dust off my feet and crossed over to Borough Way, forming the border of Pittsburgh and Mount Oliver. From here, I zigged and zagged my way to several alleys in lower Carrick, ending in Sinton Way. Sinton is a staircase from Dartmore (near Saw Mill Run) to Lucina, where it flattens into a paved street. The steps in the picture below, however, are just in Phillips Park. My heart rate exploded going up those.


That’s about it, both for this run and for June. I finished June with a respectable 112 miles, which included another “Take the Stairs Fatass” 50k.

Long Way to Traverse

RATS run #00414 From South Side to Traverse Field

On this bright Saturday morning, a group of friends, led by Bob and Nancy, were doing the South Side Slopes piece of the “Take the Stairs Fatass” 50k. That route draws a jagged circle around Pittsburgh, starting in Spring Garden. An unsupported event (e.g. a ‘fatass’), it uses over 70 flights of city steps to bring the participants to some of the best views highlighting the city.

Anyway, I was NOT doing it, but figured I could meet up them. Sure enough, shortly after I parked in the South Side, I ran into them huffing and puffing up Eleanor Street. It has great views, and everyone in Pittsburgh should do them.

Breaking off after a few blocks, I continued through Arlington and to Amanda Street as it cuts down to Carrick. I needed to complete Charlock Way and Dove Way.

This area of the city; Knoxville, Mount Oliver, Mount Oliver Borough and Beltzhoover, are tightly packed. In some lucky areas, trees throw some shade, while in others, it is just sun, concrete and houses. Dove Way sounds pleasant enough, like the gentle cooing of mourning doves as the sun comes up over a green yard edged by flowers. The reality is different. It goes behind narrow towering houses leaning on each other for support. Grimes Avenue, while aptly named, at least has some trees.

Continuing the bird theme, I cut down through Partridge Way and a little unnamed alley off of Hawk Way.

Finally, I went back to Brownsville Road, passing the flower vendor en route to Borough Way. Borough Way straddles the southern border of the Borough of Mt Oliver and the City of Pittsburgh. At the end of Borough Way sits Traverse Field, which has little league baseball games. I finished up a little alley there and made my way back over the big hill, back to the South Side. It was a hilly seven miler. I was beat at the end.

Post Run

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.

Short March Runs

Here are three short runs I did in mid-March. These were “squeeze-them-in-runs”, where I had only a short time and planned out a very limited route. Though perhaps not as epic as some runs, they still took me to interesting places.


https://www.strava.com/activities/4947105503
Route of RATS run #00381 in West Liberty

This run started at Moore Park along Pioneer Avenue. I had mapped out a shorter, “nearly flat”, route for my girlfriend to run while I tackled the longer hill on Dunster Street.

Dunster is pretty much suburbia up near Pioneer Avenue, with a long straight stretch rolling east. After reaching the sunrise, it drops precipitously. Large lawns spread out and the bottom cross-street, Timberland, ends in trails. (The trails, incidentally, go back up to Moore Park.)

Following Timberland away from its trail end brought me to Edgebrook Avenue. At this point, Ballinger Street ascends as a staircase. This area was a bit more junky. I did spy what must have been an elf playhouse off the stairs. Also, I garnered more evidence for “Boat Theory”, as a speedboat was right next to the stairs.

I continued all the way to Whited Street before turning back. It is a neat area, off the beaten path but literally a quarter mile to Saw Mill Run Boulevard and overlooking the South Busway.

Returning to Moore Park, I had the pleasure of running up Dunster. Turns out that is a Strava Segment (“What a Dunster Fire”) and for the moment, I’m 4th overall! I also had the pleasure of getting some feedback for the “flat” run I had planned for Naomi. Ha! Perhaps it wasn’t as flat as I remembered.


Brook Street Route
RATS #00382, Brook Street in Carrick

Nestled between South Side Cemetery and Saint Georges Cemetery, a handful of streets and an amazing number of houses cling to steep slopes. This run, #00382, was a rare morning run and I just had enough time to do a couple of miles. I parked along Brownsville Road and ran north on that dusty road to Cedricton Street. Between the houses on the left, it was a long way down.

Once at the end of Cedricton, I jigsawed my way over to Brook Street, which flowed downhill, an amazingly far way downhill. There was actually a turn-around at the bottom, where all the views were up, up along fallen vine covered trees. A brook did emerge at the bottom.


https://www.strava.com/activities/4965153998
RATS #00383 in California-Kirkbride

This was a short run I tried to squeeze in before my regular City of Bridges Wednesday night run. I managed to catch Sigel Street, which has recently been repaved then ascended the Hyena Street Steps. No pictures, I suppose I forgot my phone.

Turns out I misjudged my timing as well, for by the time I got back, the COB runners had already left. Whoops! I had the map and tracked after them. However, with a ten minute head start, I only caught up with a couple. At least Modern Cafe was open and I got to enjoy some post-run libations with them.

Downtown, Carrick and Fairywood

A fantastical journey awaits! From the snow strewn, narrow alleys of Downtown to the slick streets of Carrick to the wondrous wilds of Fairywood, I covered lots of ground the first week of February. Grab a hot chocolate, coffee or toddy and enjoy!

RATS #00365 – Downtown and Duquesne

https://www.strava.com/activities/4730557135
Route of RATS #00365

Nothing is more magical than Downtown Pittsburgh on a cold night. While pushed aside, the recent snow wasn’t giving up just yet and lined the route. This run was generally about traversing alleys I had missed, then going up to Duquesne University.

I started off by cutting through the PPG buildings along Delray Street. Delray continues as a small dumpster-lined alley to 5th Avenue Place. Crossing over Liberty took me down Cecil Place, with its lone couch.

From there, I trotted up Barkers Place, then caught McRrea Way with its large Frenchy’s billboard as it heads towards 6th Street. I hope they aren’t paying much for that sign, as it is behind a building. Crossing 6th took me into a small driveway and then out award-winning Mentor Way, which is half the width of a car. The award? “Creepiest Alley in Downtown Pittsburgh”.

Shaking that off, I headed up Third Avenue. Passing PPG was, actually, kind of magical. There was Ketchupsaurus, uniquely found in the Tomato layer of Pittsburgh Seam. (Read more about the dinos here.) Skaters were laughing as they swished along the ice at the PPG Skating Rink.

Leaving such frivolity behind, I crossed over from Third to Fourth Avenue. Now, Downtown is guarded from Duquesne by the Great Wall of Transportation. The electrified tracks of the T, the massive piers for the Crosstown Expressway, the ramps and tunnels act as a barrier between Downtown and points further uphill. The Hill District is up there, as well as Duquesne University. Duquesne occupies “The Bluff” which overlooks the Mon and stretches into Uptown. I was fortunate to find steps leading from the end of Fourth Avenue to Forbes Street.

I climbed up to the bluff along Shingiss Street, which had been closed, presumably because of the snow. The Duquense Rock patiently waited for me to take its picture while I fumbled with gloves.

Winding among the buildings of Duquense took me in and out parking garages and past dining halls. The views were great.

With this, I circled back downtown and hopped in my car, grateful for the quick warmth.

RATS #00366 – Slick Carrick

https://www.strava.com/activities/4746361457
RATS #00366 Carrick

This run took two tries. The first, on a Friday evening, I cut short because my shoes did not have enough traction to handle the ice and snow. The next attempt was done in trail shoes on a warm day; it topped out at 30 degrees.

Headstones in Snow Covered Concord Plot
Headstones in Snow Covered Concord Plot

Here’s the challenge: Myron Way. Slightly shaded and never salted, it was mostly ice. Luckily, I was able to find patches of untrammeled snow to keep going. The East Cherryhill steps were pretty tricky, too.

This was the most challenging section of the run. Afterwards, the alleys, while snow filled, had centers of deep snow, which I could easily tromp through.

I ran up and down the alleys and streets, eventually making it to the border with Mt. Oliver, the Borough, before sliding back to my car. Here are a couple of pictures of the frozen people out that day.

RATS #00367 – Fairywood

Route of RATS #00367
Route of RATS #00367

Here’s the run you all have been waiting for.

“Fairywood? Is that real? Where is that? I’ve lived in Pittsburgh all my life and have never heard of it!”

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Fairywood.”

The large, now abandoned site of Broadhead Manor looks pretty sunny in this 1945 pic on the Historic Pittsburgh site. But, things change and this 2016 blog post by Pittsburgh Orbit captures the modern Fairywood very well. Now, four and a half years later, that blog post still applies. I started my run from Ingram, a bordering neighborhood. The weather had continued to improve and it was Super Bowl Sunday, 2021. Climbing out of the Ingram Bowl, I contended with a set of steps along Creston Street then continued along West Prospect Avenue as it left Ingram and dropped into Fairywood.

Fairywood was quiet and mostly flat. There are a couple of small subdivisions and a a few abandoned properties, notably Broadhead Manor and less well known, a distribution center off of Broadhead Fording Road.

But distribution is the big business around here. In spite of this impressive driveway and gate, apparently this is NOT an actual entrance. You get here by going through the OK Grocery Gate on the other side. Over there, dozens of tractor trailers line up to pick-up and deliver. That area is not built for people, only trucks. Just down Industrial Highway is an Amazon Distribution Center and a ModCloth warehouse.

I was hesitant about running down Industrial Highway. However the alternative was just to retrace my steps or to try out the no-sidewalk, no shoulder Windgap Road. So, I put on some speed and quickly ran on the Industrial Highway shoulder. With only two cars in five minutes, it turned out to be pretty safe.

Summary

So, that was it for the first week of February, 2021. With inclement weather (read extreme cold and ice) on the way, I only ran a couple of times in the next few weeks. Which, my friends, will be the subject of the next blog.

Brought to You by the Letter ‘g’

Strava Route of Run 349
RATS #00349 – Carrick & Overbrook

Continuing the seize the day with ‘warm’ January temps, I got out and ran in the Carrick and Overbrook neigborhoods. I had planned it out fairly meticulously and was rewarded at the end.

I started out on Brownsville Road and headed for the streets south of Maytide. Here Pittsburgh borders Brentwood. You would be hard-pressed to tell the difference from the look and feel of the neighborhoods, with the biggest evidence being different colored street signs and paving lines across the road.

Once up from Maytide Avenue, the houses have decent sized yards as the streets undulate over the hills. After laboring up a steep hill, I got a kick out of seeing the houses across the street sitting far below street level. I did cross over and look. Those back porches stretching nearly the width of the house have a great view of the retaining wall.

I also saw a couple of Pittsburgh chairs, ‘working’ to keep parking spots safe from intruders. Now, when there is a heavy snowfall, and you have to shovel snow for hours, putting a chair out is a time-honored tradition to make sure no one pulls into your spot when you leave for work. Woe be unto those who steal spots! However, there was no heavy snowfall, so I think this chair was working overtime.

I came across a back-alley garage around here, emblazoned with a “g”, like on Sesame Street. Finishing the grid of streets around Stewart Avenue, I continued along Stewart as it plunged 200 feet down the hill toward Saw Mill Run Boulevard. It’s a wild road leaving behind the orderly neighborhood above and going back in time as it approaches a “cemetery zone”. The houses tell the tale.

As Stewart twists and turns before hitting Saw Mill Run, it passes Saint George Serbian Orthodox Cemetery on the right and Shaare Torah on the left and eventually Shaare Zedeck.

I touched my toes outside Pittsburgh where Stewart hits Saw Mill Run Boulevard. Then I clambered back up to Horning Avenue, where I took the Horning Steps past the St. Norbert Church building, now for sale.

Rounding out my run, I started up Overbrook Boulevard, but decided to catch just one little alley I had previously missed. Tyro Way leaves Overbrook and hits the Antenor Way Steps. In an earlier, dark run, I had stopped at the top of the Antenor Steps, warned off by a barricade. This time, starting in the middle, I was pleased to note that the steps were actually pretty good, all the way from Maytide to Antenor. Oh, there may have been a missing tread or two, but nothing horribly wrong. Strangely enough, barricades at each end had been knocked over. I’m now including Antenor Steps as a very doable section, preferably in daylight.

And that was that! “G” that was a good run!

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.