Butterfly to Bridge

https://www.strava.com/activities/4169627708
RATS #00310 – All over northern Pittsburgh

Run after work! Yay!

Well mapped to start! Yay!

Steps here, steps there! Yay!

A slight detour and no easy path to the Swindell Bridge. Boo!

And that, my friends, was this run in a nutshell. Starting out near work, I made it to the same area I had run; Perry Hilltop. This time, I hit a few small streets, University and Langley, from the Perrysville Avenue side of the hilltop. Turning onto University, these neat mosaics jumped out at me, hidden though they were, on the back side of nondescript brick building.

University is a short dead-end and my next street was Langley. It goes steeply half a block and then says “Oh shit, this is too steep” becoming steps to the next, flatter section. These weren’t the only steps I encountered. One wooden set of steps, named either McKee’s Lane (according to the city’s step website) or Cheese Street (according to Google Maps) took me from Perrysville Avenue to Burgess Street. Burgess Street, itself, has sidewalk steps as you power your way up to Osgood Street.

From here, high on the hill overlooking I-279, I made a fateful decision. If I turned now, I could finish off Brightside Avenue and have a nice 5-6 mile run. If I took Suffolk Street, I could hopefully take the Swindell Bridge back and have perhaps a 7-8 mile run. It was sunny, cool and I was feeling good, so I decided on the later and turned onto Hazelton Street.

Hazelton Street is a curious pocket of houses. As I started down it, a traffic jam was emerging. The large white truck was having a hard time making the sharp left turn as the smaller cars zipped around it. Eventually, the driver got it right and made its way down Suffolk Street. It took me a little longer, as I went to the end of Hazelton, where the TV tower pricks the sky.

I did make it to Suffolk, which is notable because from I-279 coming into Pittsburgh, you can see it on your right; steps rising into the hillside.

Running, and more generally exploring on foot, changes the scale. At my pace, I got to examine the steel beams of the highway as they slowly came into view. Very impressive, I must say. At any rate, Suffolk plopped me onto East Street. This is the point in the run where my planning stops and I’m exploring, with only general goals in mind. At this point, I was looking for a street or steps to take me up the hill to the Swindell Bridge, high above.

Swindell Bridge

Unfortunately, I didn’t see anything. So I just continued up East Street and came down Perrysville Avenue. It is familiar to me now that I’ve run all these streets here. But there’s always something to see.

Little Free Library

I did get to do Brightside after all, but finished with ten miles, roughly double my original plan.

September 2020 Catch-Up

Summary

September 2020 was a pretty busy month with 124.8 miles run and 12,500 feet of elevation gain, the most since May. I ran often, 23 days with 17 of these covering new streets. I crossed over the 300 run threshold. With any luck, I’ll be done before I hit 400 runs, but that remains to be seen. I can see a flicker of light at the end of this project tunnel!

Unfortunately, my blogging hasn’t kept up with my running, so this catch-up blog will be a veritable book. Oh well, here goes!

RATS #00292

https://www.strava.com/activities/4012388510
RATS #00292 in Squirrel Hill

This was a short run to cover a few errant streets in Squirrel Hill and Schenley Park. I cut through Frick Park, using Iron Gate Trail to vault me over the big hill separating Swisshelm Park and Squirrel Hill. By the time I came back, it was too dark to gallop through the park without a flashlight.

RATS #00293

https://www.strava.com/activities/4016390122
RATS #00293 in Perry Hilltop

This was roughly a 10K to Perry Hilltop from West Park. It got started off with a sparkling sculpture, a yellow-eyed cat and a colorful backyard.

Then, I explored Irwin Avenue, which rises out of Central Northside. Surprisingly, it is blocked off for a few hundred yards and then jumps up to the top of Perry Hilltop on steps.

I zigged-zagged up here a bit, eventually finding my way to North Charles Street. Just before crossing the Swindell Bridge, I cut off to the left on Hazelton, to clear up that dead-end. Further along, up on the hilltop, I got a good view of the Swindell Bridge over I-279 and then wandered down into Fineview. That’s not something you hear much… “DOWN” into Fineview. Everything is steep over here. On one side, you have the ravine down to I-279, on the other the streets fall steeply towards Perrysville Avenue. Tall houses stare down from their perches like vultures.

RATS #00295

https://www.strava.com/activities/4025090610

This was a run cut short by tired knees and mistaken maps. Nonetheless, I made some progress on a few Shadyside alleys and small streets near Ellis School. By the time I got to East Liberty, though, I was done.

RATS #00297

https://www.strava.com/activities/4071163546
RATS #00297 West Liberty and Brookline

This was a gut check run. It was late and I didn’t go far, but I got out there. I did finish off Flatbush Avenue in Brookline, but it was too dark to do much exploring and I didn’t stop long enough to take crisp pictures.

RATS #00298

https://www.strava.com/activities/4075550982
RATS #00298 – Brookline

Another evening run in Brookline. This time, I made a beeline for streets on the left of Whited Street, as you go towards Saw Mill Run Boulevard. I really wasn’t sure what I would find, but found very residential, suburban streets perched on a plateau. There were tweens goofing off in the street, a couple walking their golden retriever and a mom walking up and down the street with a stroller and a chatty three year old; “Mom, why is he running THAT way?”

Coming back along Whited Street is NOT something I would recommend, especially in the darkness. At least, I could see headlights in time to huddle off the road.

RATS #00299

https://www.strava.com/activities/4079580634
RATS #00299

This was a short run in the South Side Flats. Like a vampire, this neighborhood keeps coming back with some little street or alley I’ve missed. I’m really trying to drive a stake through the heart and get this area done. In spite of the short run, there was lots to see. Perhaps my favorite were the pierogie signs around Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church. Downtown Pittsburgh is just across the Monongahela River and the skyscrapers caught the evening sun nicely.

RATS #00301

https://www.strava.com/activities/4094305425
RATS #00301

This was quite an adventure. I checked out one of the lesser known neighborhoods, New Homestead. It is west of West Homestead/Munhall, east of the Glenwood Bridge interchange and south of Sandcastle yet north of Mifflin Road. Looking at the map below, you might notice that there are three disconnected areas of New Homestead. I ran most of the northeast section.

New Homestead

Also looking at the map, you might notice a lack of streets. Okay, a lack of anything. Your observations would be pretty much correct. There’s just a number of long streets dotted with houses and large areas of woods. Deer were everywhere and seemed offended by me disturbing them. I actually parked in West Homestead, above a baseball diamond.

RATS #00302

https://www.strava.com/activities/4103987670
RATS #00302 – Carrick & Overbrook

Run number 302 saw me back in Carrick and Overbrook. Unlike New Homestead, this area is dense with houses and people. Hills, steps, alleys, this run had it all. I don’t remember seeing many deer, though. I was amused by the war memorial in front of Carrick High School. Most memorials of this age have howitzers or bronze soldiers. This one had a bronzed shell. Many lawns were covered in political signs; often with neighbors cheering opposite sides. Just think how fun that block party would be! That cat, however, wasn’t the least ruffled as I run past it, huffing and puffing up the hill.

The Englert Street steps conveniently took me from Saw Mill Run Boulevard up the hill again, while the Dartmore Steps were just a convenience. Unfortunately, the Antenor Way Steps were blocked off, even though they didn’t look too bad.

RATS #00303

https://www.strava.com/activities/4108586048
RATS #00303 – Lawrenceville

Speaking of neighborhoods which keep coming back with uncovered alleys and streets, Lawrenceville takes the cake. This five mile run just went round and round dim back alleys. Interestingly enough, it was busy enough, between restaurants and residents that I felt more comfortable here than in New Homestead.

RATS #00304

https://www.strava.com/activities/4115676785
RATS #00304

This was a nine mile run (not to be confused with the stream of the same name) through Manchester. With this run, I’ve covered all the streets between the railroad and Chateau Street. This is a large, flat area. Mexican War Streets, with their 1890’s row houses gradually transform into sprawling mixed housing, newer three bedroom split levels interspersed with magnificent mansions. Some of the ‘mansions’ have seen better days.

Alleys are where you see the underside of a neighborhood. These show the old warehouse nature of the area. There’s also a major railroad line, below grade, which dominates the eastern fringe of this area.

But there’s a lot going on here. New construction isn’t too surprising given the great location and flat land. People have gardens and little libraries and seem to generally be active. I didn’t expect to see that huge rooster mural or a booming market along Juniata Street, but there it is.

RATS #00306

https://www.strava.com/activities/4125952429
RATS #00306

Once again, I returned to Carrick and Overbrook in the evening. At this point in the month, I was really trying to complete a Strava Challenge (200km), so after doing Yale Street, I just went exploring.

Yale Street is in the same are as RATS #00302. One section has extensive steps leading up into Phillips Park, then it drops precipitously to Dartmore Street. Clawing my way back to Brownsville Road, I needed a couple more miles, so trotted along Carrick Avenue. It was fully dark and I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going. Nontheless, I ‘just needed to bear right’ a couple of times to take me back to Brownsville Road and into Pittsburgh again.

RATS #00307

RATS #00307 – Banksville

Must say, I’m proud of this run. I planned it pretty well and stuck to the plan. It was a little over seven miles in Banksville where it borders Greentree and Mount Lebanon. It is a nice area with long winding streets. However, there weren’t many distinctive things to see. At the start, I did pass a soccer field off of Hillsdale Avenue, where a girl’s soccer game was in progress under the lights. They have a powerful PA system, and for the rest of the run, I could hear the announcers.

That’s All Folks!

So, there you have it. September 2020 in the books. I think this is the longest “Catch-Up” blog I’ve had and I might change things up a bit to avoid this in the future. Maybe a weekly blog?

At any rate, I want to run a bit farther in October and continue to efficiently cover streets. I’ll try to get into Lincoln Place, another outlying neighborhood, as well as continue to finish out the Hill District, Marshall-Shadeland and Carrick.

Fawning Over Perry Hilltop

https://www.strava.com/activities/3768623876
RATS #00268 – Perry Hilltop

Planning for this run, I was a bit anxious. I had done Perrysville Avenue and Watson Avenue, on the east. I’ve also been on North Charles Street, slightly further south. I have found this area a mixed bag. I’ll come across magnificent, well-kept houses on one street and garbage-filled, falling down dumps on the next. My “target” was a few streets tucked into the bends of Riverview Park to the west of Perrysville Avenue. I wasn’t sure what I would find.

My first find, along Perrysville Avenue was this house, circa 1900, in slight need of upkeep. The large chimney peeking up behind the decorated roof crest suggested a magnificent history. I hesitated to take pictures, but then saw the deer and two fawns ambling around, so figured folks weren’t hanging out on the porch or anything.

The turn onto on Marshall Road wasn’t too inspiring, but showed promise. Just past this stark red garage, the neighborhood took a sharp upward turn.

Old Garage

From here, I was in a delightful slice of Pittsburgh with large houses perched on hilltops with unique and detailed landscaping. Looking at the map later, I realized that this section of Pittsburgh abuts against a large greenspace. Some of that is the hills of Riverview Park, while some is Highwood Cemetery. Either way, the effect is a lot of greenery and deer.

It is a bit of a curvy maze here, but I think I found gold with this cool garden, complete with bowling ball. Where else do balls go when the lanes close? Or maybe, just maybe, this is where they grow!

Wooden picket fence outlines a front yard garden with pink flowers, spent roses and lawn decorations

Eventually I was done with these alleys and streets. I crossed Marshall Avenue (not road) and embarked on the Norwood Avenue stairs. At the top, a large patch of sunflowers are almost ready to bloom. Going down to Kennedy Avenue, I saw an old friend at a corner. Elmo!

Once done with Kennedy Avenue, I headed back to my car. I even put on a small burst of speed, huffing and puffing with my mask on. Whew!

I know the pieces fit!

There’s a puzzle out there. They call it “Pittsburgh”. It is a puzzle of geography, rivers, ravines, hills, roads, and steps. It is also a puzzle of people, living side by side, mostly in harmony, but sometimes not. I’m trying to put this puzzle together. I’m assembling it run by run. Sometimes, I don’t understand. How does this work? But I do know one thing… I know the pieces fit!

Dun dun ta dun dun dun Dun dun ta dun dun dun

There’s a puzzle out there. They call it “Pittsburgh”. It is a puzzle of geography, rivers, ravines, hills, roads, and steps. It is also a puzzle of people, living side by side, mostly in harmony, but sometimes not. I’m trying to put this puzzle together. I’m assembling it run by run. Sometimes, I don’t understand. How does this work? But I do know one thing… I know the pieces fit!

I’d been puzzling over this little enclave of Pittsburgh for some time now. Just out of Riverview Park, the area between Watson Boulevard and Perrysville Avenue kept thwarting me. Every time I planned to do it, I’d invariably experience a setback; I’d forget my watch, forget my phone, have severe knee pain, get a nail in my tire or experience one of other 1,000 reasons I couldn’t fit this piece of Pittsburgh into the big picture. It was my personal Bermuda Triangle. But not today.

A sliver of light on concrete stairs with an observatory at the top of the steps
Riverview Park Entrance

I must say, the Perrysville North Bermuda Triangle did put up a good fight. I started in the 95 degree heat at Riverview Park’s entry steps. In spite of the heat, my knees weren’t warmed up yet and complained vociferously that first quarter mile.

A slight mistake on the route took me onto Watson Street. Argh, it looked like this piece would win again! Then I noticed Talco Street and it realized I needed to do that one, too. It was more like a long shaded driveway than a road. Getting back onto Watson, I spied the Sigma Street Steps. These steps aren’t on Google Maps, or OpenStreetMaps. But they are there in reality. Pounding up the stairs, I noticed one jigsaw puzzle piece, then another and then a few more. I could just envision a small boy walking up the steps, holding an opened puzzle box by his side, with pieces dripping out. I felt a bit sorry for those trying to put it together.

The stairs, Sigma Way, must have been the key to this Bermuda Triangle, the key to getting back on track. I popped up on Delaware Street, just opposite Portola Avenue. I was not waylaid on Wayland Way; in fact it was a pleasant, wide brick lined alley. Here, just a small adjustment to my planned route took me around to Chemung Street and Orleans Street as originally intended.

Orleans Street hooked around to Viola Street. So far, the run had been flat, but that was about to change. Viola swoops like a roller coaster to Milroy Street. Here, once again, I was connected to the bigger picture by views, steps and crazy curves.

Cars labored to navigate Milroy’s steep curves. The bottom of Milroy crosses I-279 on a high bridge. For pedestrians a magnificent staircase provides a shortcut. One poor house, off of the winding stairs, has been half-eaten by grasping vines.

On Viola Street, I noticed an imposing red brick building. On closer examination, it was in disrepair, with broken windows and boarded up doors. However Milroy House was built to last and hopefully will see better days.

Clambering up the shaking wooden steps to Perrysville Avenue, I ran back to my car. I even tried to put on a burst of speed and ended the day with four solid miles. Another piece of Pittsburgh experienced.