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!

Large houses on little streets in Shadyside

RATS #00265

Running late in the evening in Shadyside took me down streets with million dollar homes and large porches filled with dinner guests. This section of Shadyside, bounded by Forbes Avenue and Ellsworth Avenue, extending from Neville Street to South Aiken Avenue is one of the most opulent sections of Pittsburgh. Nearby are a number of landmark Pittsburgh institutions; WQED, Central Catholic, CMU, Pitt, and Rodef Shalom, to name a few.

Like sumo wrestlers straining to push each other off the mat, these institutions are constantly pushing and shoving each other to build on precious Oakland real-estate. The wrecking ball awaits any building the sumo can replace.

wrecking ball and giant metal hook

While that sounds ominous, the new buildings are pretty nice, I must admit.

CMU Tepper Quad
CMU’s New Tepper Quad

WQED has a prominent history and was home to Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood. I suppose that means I was actually running in Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood! Or maybe the Land of Make Believe!

I tell you what, these houses were unbelievable. The short dead-end streets are lined with ones like the seven bedroom jewel below. I’d be surprised if anyone can guess how much it last “sold” for. Just for perspective, it is neither the largest nor smallest home I saw.

Nice starter home in a quiet neighborhood

Devon Road becomes a “Private Road” at some point, although it really looks like the same crews are maintaining the public road and the private road. There are even steps here, from Fifth Avenue to Warwick Terrace, but the steps are closed. What a shame. Perhaps the folks living here don’t want vagrants, runners, and broke students traipsing through.

Beyond Devon Road, I wove my way up and down the little streets. It was cool to hear the clink of glasses and chatter of conversation as so many people were sitting on their verandas enjoying the slightly cooler night. The evening drew on to full night by the time I finished four miles.

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.

Allentown for Eleven

RATS #00254 – Allentown to Carrick

I’ve been all over this town but never to Carrick. Today I’m changing that. For today’s run, I started overlooking Downtown from Grandview Park, did a grid of streets in Allentown and then plunged south to sample Carrick.

Grandview Park is a narrow strip of greenery high above the Monongahela River. From here, you can practically open the windows on the skyscrapers downtown. There’s not much there except benches to look at the view, a viewing platform to look out over the city and a little natural amphitheater, with views over the city. And all of them are grand! I’m not sure if all cities are like this, but Pittsburghers really like to look at pictures of Pittsburgh.

Tearing myself away from the view, I embarked on the grid of streets behind the park, high in Allentown. In spite of the proximity to the views and Mount Washington, this residential area is tight with small, rather shabby houses. I saw at least five houses with the blue “condemned” sign on them. Small streets disappear into the vegetation. Of course there are steps and boats here, too.

Speaking of steps, Emerald Street drops off the hillside and becomes steps on its way to Arlington Avenue, passing Canary Way en route. Arlington intersects East Warrington, with its small business area.

East Warrington is not a large street, but is usually busy. If you are vegan, you should stop at Onion Maiden. The food is excellent and the music is rocking! No neighborhood is complete without a Little Library, and there’s one here too, a few houses from Beltzhoover Avenue. Of course, everyone needs a laundromat every now and then. Here, “Splish Splash” is incongruously nestled on the first floor of an older red and pink apartment building.

While completing several streets south of East Warrington Avenue, I came across another “Project Picket Fence” site. If you’ll recall, that was a mid-90’s project by Mayor Tom Murphy to encourage communities to brighten up vacant lots. Here, while the picket fence is down, the lot is nicely kept.

Another Picket Fence Project

From there, I found the source of Amanda Avenue, at its intersection with Manion Way. Amanda Avenue has a few street steps as it meets Arlington Avenue. I stayed on Amanda until it merged with Brownsville Road. (Not to be confused with Browns Hill Road, which is in another part of the city.) Here, Brownsville Road also forms a border with Mount Oliver, the independent borough entirely surrounded by the City of Pittsburgh. Just to make life interesting for dispatchers, there’s also a neighborhood in the City of Pittsburgh called “Mount Oliver”. It’s adjacent to the borough, of course.

In spite of the local differences in jurisdiction between Pittsburgh and Mount Oliver, there are few visual differences on that rather dirty, dusty street. Just the street signs; Pittsburgh’s are bright blue and Mount Oliver’s are a dusty green.

I continued to Noble Lane. In spite of its name, it is not a noble place to run. Where there are sidewalks, there are cars parked. Otherwise, you just have a narrow grassy, rocky path to navigate as the cars whiz by you on their way to Saw Mill Run Boulevard. Approaching Saw Mill Run, at least you get a nice view of the South Hills T-Line near Whited Street.

T-Line Bridge over Saw Mill Run Boulevard

Climbing out of the pit that is Saw Mill Run Boulevard, there are some more spacious residential areas. I made my way back towards Brownsville Road via Copperfield Road. At nine miles in, I was a bit disheartened to see the multi-block set of steps rise above me.

Copperfield Steps rising to Brownsville Road

Returning to my starting spot, I ambled along Brownsville Road until I hit Knox Avenue. Knoxville, along Knox Avenue is similar to Allentown, with undulating streets lined with houses and old three story apartment buildings. Ironically enough, yesterday I was listening to Malcom Gladwell’s book “Talking to Strangers” as he discussed the Amanda Knox case. Today, I ran on Amanda Street and Knox Avenue. Coincidence?

May 2020 Catch-Up

Summary

May 2020 was a long month. It started off cold and even had a few flurries early on. However, by the end of May, things had heated up in many ways. Cases of Covid19 are slowly lurching lower. However, we’ve gone from bad to worse in social upheaval. In early May, I did a “Run for Ahmaud” to show solidarity in the killing of a black jogger in Georgia. It was an emotional, sad, run. Then, on May 25, a black man, George Floyd, was killed by Minneapolis police officers. That has set the spotlight on racial inequity in the country and simultaneously sparked protests and called into question police tactics all over.

Against this backdrop, I’ve kept running and covering new streets. In May, I ran 130 miles, close to my goal of 135 miles a month. I completed all eight of my Strava challenges for May, including the distance challenge (210km), climbing challenge (4,229m) and the “Sufferfest Beer Challenge” which required four activities a week for four weeks. Of the 21 runs I did in May, 20 of them covered new streets. By May 31, I had completed 248 “RATS” runs in all. I’m over 45% done with the streets of Pittsburgh, according to CityStrides.

However, this sole focus on running has impacted my flexibility. I’ve cut more than one run short because of tight hamstrings. I’m hoping to put that behind me, by adding yoga and stretching into my routine.

RATS 00232 – Short and rainy in Scotch Bottom

https://www.strava.com/activities/3404563102
RATS #00232

Ah, a short run in Hazelwood. My heart wasn’t in it today, although I ended up seeing a few cool things. This church, for instance.

St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Hungarian Church

This church has been closed for awhile, but the Diocese of Pittsburgh still owns the building. In researching this, I found a short history of Hazelwood, taken from a 1972 issue of the Carnegie Magazine. Apparently it used to be known as “Scotch Bottom”.

Now the area is pretty run down, but still filled with people living and working among the old buildings. Wouldn’t it be cool to construct automobiles with biodegradable materials, so that once the engine fluids stop running, the whole thing decomposes?

RATS #00234 – Bloomfield

RATS #00234 – I run for Ahmaud

Short, chilly run in the rain. Fitting since it was dedicated to the memory of Ahmaud Arbery. Nonetheless, Bloomfield is quirky and I captured a little of it here. The immense building behind “Mend Way” is a hospital. <facepalm>

There’s a bar across from the mural. Had it been open, it would have been a pleasure to sit there and look at the bright mural.

RATS #00242 Brookline Evening

https://www.strava.com/activities/3485093748
RATS #00242 Brookline

Whew, Brookline is big! This run was over six miles, with minimal duplication, yet only covered one small section of Brookline. It is a suburban style community, flat except where it falls off of ravines. Running up Whited Street was heart-pounding not only for the elevation, but also for the lack of sidewalks.

The Jacob Street Stairs were cool and tunnel to the South Busway was interesting. In broad daylight, it wasn’t too bad, but it would be creepy on a misty November night. Birchland Street also gets steep enough to warrant steps.

Viaduct to the South Busway.

RATS #00243 Hills of Westwood

https://www.strava.com/activities/3490778183
RATS #00243 – Westwood

This was an evening run on the hills above the Westwood Shop ‘N Save. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the streets were very steep there. This seems to be an older area than across Noblestown Road. A number of the streets dead-end at the top of ravines.

Surprisingly, there were not many sets of steps here. Guyland Street’s steps are pretty impressive, though.

Guyland Street Steps

RATS #00244 Another Jaunt in Mount Washington

https://www.strava.com/activities/3499499413
RATS #00244

This was a rather laborious run through Mount Washington. You know the drill, hills, steps, views. Of note was finishing West Sycamore Street.

RATS #00245 South Oakland

https://www.strava.com/activities/3506891336
RATS #00245 – South Oakland

The last few runs had really done a number on my hamstrings. I looked up ways to alleviate the tightness and pain in my left leg. Ignoring the first suggestion, “Stop running”, I decided that the next suggestion, “Avoiding hills”, was more doable. I realized I had a few streets left in South Oakland and so headed there one Sunday afternoon.

South Oakland is a curious mix of students and a few long-term residents. At one point, three white-haired ladies, maybe even older than me, were gingerly helping each other off the three inch curb for a little walk. At the same time, less than a block away, cleverly tucked in an alley, a full scale frat party screamed with booming bass, a flashy car and beer pong.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. To get the opportunity to appear at that party, I had to face a dinosaur, run down the Romeo steps and uncover a wild strawberry.

From there, I used the Cathedral of Learning as a beacon to knowledge navigating the alleys of Oakland.

RATS #00246 South Oakland

https://www.strava.com/activities/3528144712
RATS #00246 South Oakland again

Continuing the “no hills” mantra, I again ventured into South Oakland. As you can see, I’m getting closer to downtown.

RATS #00247 – Southside Flats – and a hill

https://www.strava.com/activities/3537188640
RATS #00247 – Twelve miles in the Southside

Continuing to live up to my “Flatlander” reputation, I traversed the Southside Flats for twelve miles. It started out a bit rainy, but became beautiful. At the end I threw in one big hill and ran up South 18th Street to St. Patrick’s Street.

I did not encounter great sets of steps, but I have to say, the Wharton Street Passage is exciting. It will allow bicyclists and pedestrians to go under the Birmingham Bridge instead of going up to Carson Street. It’ll be great when it is fully opened.

While I traced five fingers up and down the Southside, I came across a mural painted to look like house fronts. That was cute. I also ran on Edward’s Way, which, honestly, could be more impressive. As it is, it is tucked against a railroad bulwark.

This is Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood – at least Mr. T-Rex Rogers! Looks like he’s not giving up King Friday without a fight.

RATS #00248 – Couple miles in Garfield

https://www.strava.com/activities/3541846391
RATS #00248 – Garfield

I was hanging around, waiting for someone and decided to run a couple of miles in the interim. Mainly covered North Winebiddle and North Millvale in the Garfield neighborhood. The North Winebiddle steps are long, going up several blocks to Hillcrest Street. Shamrock Way was as green as the Emerald Isle, while closer to Penn is a totally tagged door.

All Done!

That’s all for May. Looking forward to June, with its late sunsets.

Uptown and Lower Hill on a Beautiful Morning

https://www.strava.com/activities/3467145326
RATS #00240

This morning’s run was meticulously planned to be in Brookline. Unfortunately, I was day-dreaming on the Boulevard of the Allies and ended up on the Crosstown Boulevard instead of the Liberty Bridge. Oh well, sometimes its better just to start where you are. So I ran in Uptown and the Lower Hill. I must say, it was still a rewarding run, with a number of grand views and murals.

Uptown and the Bluff are dominated by Duquesne University and other large facilities, such as PPG Paints Arena. With the amount of pollution generally in Allegheny County, I’m not sure why there’s a continual flame above the People’s Natural Gas Gate, but it is cool to see.

Further east of Duquesne is Mercy Hospital with its helicopter pad and construction. Given the depth of the digging, it looks like something big is being built next to Mercy. I had to stretch out to get a pic over the fence. For a bit there, my GPS became wonky – claiming that I had run a four minute mile. That worried me for the rest of the run, but it turns out the route was recorded properly, regardless of that mile.

Eventually, the area settles down to small streets and alleys with row houses and small businesses intermixed. While there’s a lot of chain-linked fencing enclosing parking areas, there’s also bold murals along the houses and walls.

Crossing over the Lower Hill, I ran among the residential streets and alley ways in Crawford-Roberts and Bedford Avenue. Much of the area has been rejuvenated, with townhouses, condos and tree-lined streets. However, there are some older structures; dark-brick row-houses, standard Pittsburgh brick four-squares and tall narrow houses which are still in poor shape. Beyond Bedford Avenue, there are a number of places with views across the Allegheny River.

This is a very urban area, but is more green space than I expected, such as this parklet overlooking the Allegheny. The ‘featured image’ of the tire-swing surrounded by a grassy field is something I attribute to more suburban and rural settings.

This area is also pretty big. These seven or eight miles didn’t cover nearly the streets I had hoped. It looks like I’ll have at least two more runs in the Hill District before I can cross it off my list.

Esplen Revisited

https://www.strava.com/activities/3426791452
RATS #00235 – Revisiting Esplen and Sheraden

On this chilly, snowy day (yes, in May!), I revisited Esplen, where I first “officially” started this Run All The Streets project. That was in December of 2018. (blog “Esplen in Winter“). Now, 234 streets later, I came back to Esplen, with a little more direction and method. This time, Esplen was just a side-bar. My main objectives were in Sheraden: to run the corner where Stadium Street becomes Menges Street; cross Boulder Way off my list and run the length of Merwyn Avenue.

But, for old time’s sake, here are some pics from Esplen. Oregon Street is pretty typical. Radcliffe Street here is crossing railroad tracks on its way climbing the hill into Sheraden. Isolated from the rest of the community, at the corner of West Carson Street and Stanhope Street, is the Veteran’s Memorial.

Shortly after the Radcliffe Street Steps, I turned right and climbed Stadium Street. The middle section of Stadium Street is blocked off. I had been wondering why, then realized that someone had thrown out a piece of garbage and the street was sliding off the hill. Of course, it is only because the street is sliding off the hill that it is closed. But I wonder, what would happen if we closed streets because people threw garbage out? I suppose all the streets would be closed. Or would people learn to NOT throw garbage out of their car? Hmm… Honestly, this isn’t too bad compared to some areas I’ve seen.

Stadium Street. The top is blocked off by Jersey Barriers.

In my journey across the Sheraden plateau, I always like to go over to Brunot Avenue, with its sweeping views of the Ohio River and Brunot Island.

Coming off of Stafford, I saw a stairway rise to my right. It was Ashlyn Street. For a good bit, the stairs were solid, then the platform gave out, making little red stick figure dude scream for help. He only fell two feet and then was able to clamber out to Brevet Way, on the far side. I did learn from his mistake and just made the left onto Merwyn Street. While there’s usually an obstacle, some dynamic thinking and flexibility allows one to continue.

Merwyn wound its way into some verdant pastures where I saw turkeys and deer. It crossed Wyckoff Avenue on the way. In spite of the “Avenue” in its name, Wyckoff Avenue is primarily a stairway. Brooch Way wasn’t very sparkly either. I demand ACCURATE NAMING, damn it!

Brooch Way did take me back towards Boulder Way. This steep alleyway changes into a steep, two-block set of stairs down to Stafford Street. I love the arching old tree trunk which creates a portal for these steps.

With my main goals achieved, I circled around to West Carson Street. Earlier I had run Glenmawr Avenue, but didn’t have a camera. I ran up it a bit and got some pics this time. I feel that the railroad trestle is smaller than normal. It is certainly exciting to go under it when there is a train overhead, rattling small pieces of gravel as it rumbles past.

High in the streets of Sheraden, I found more evidence to support my “Pittsburgh Boat Theory”, while down on a small street off of West Carson, I found this old brick building. It looks like an abandoned old factory now, but nothing gave evidence as to its former use.

So that was it. I’ve covered much territory in these last 235 runs, but will have to revisit Esplen again before this project is all done.

Steps to Singer Place

https://www.strava.com/activities/3392709444
Point Breeze to East Hills RATS #00230

This was a long Sunday run. In the normal course of life, this would have been Marathon Sunday for both the Pittsburgh Marathon and the Cincinnati Marathon. As it was, I did a half marathon, concentrating on completing the streets near Singer Place, high on a hill in Homewood. I parked in Point Breeze, along Frick Park Bowling Greens, another unique feature of Pittsburgh. You can play lawn bowling there. The “bowls”, not balls, are not sphere’s but rather two half-sphere’s of different radii joined together along their equator.

Frick Park Lawn Bowling Greens

From there, I crossed Penn Avenue and completed a short section of Thomas Street. Quite the contrast, I must say, from the bowling greens. This area is actually showing signs of development. Had I pointed the camera the opposite direction, I would have captured construction scaffolding along an adjacent warehouse.

I continued into Homewood proper, working my way over to Oakwood Street. Oakwood Street plunges into Wilkinsburg, where its name changes to Wood Street. The hill rising above Oakwood was my main target this morning.

A memorial, either to a shooting or a car accident, has sprung up along Oakwood.

There’s one main street, but three sets of stairs you can take to get up to Singer Place. Here are the steps.

Once in the warren of streets on top of the hill, the pavement mostly flattened out. Large, multi-story houses stood sentinel on the overlooking slopes. At one point, I was surprised to find an entirely different structure, more like a farmhouse than a brick, four-square house.

I made my way down to Oakwood again, then finished up Frankstown Road, coming up East Hills Drive to complete the circuit. Again, I found a boat at the top of a hill, providing further confirmation of my “Pittsburgh Boat Theory”.

On the way back to my car, I passed another Pittsburgh feature, Clayton Mansion, the former home of Henry Clay Frick, a pivotal figure in the area’s steel industry.

Clayton

Getting back to my car, I was just shy of a half-marathon, so I ran a few more blocks to finish that out.

Gilded in Highland Park

https://www.strava.com/activities/3386291976
RATS #00229 in Highland Park
Typical Highland Park Street

Last Saturday was a stunningly beautiful day in Pittsburgh. Bright sun, deep blue skies and mild temperatures. I took this opportunity to run some stunningly beautiful miles around Highland Park. I started at Wellesley and Farragut, catching sections of hilly Bryant Street earlier missed. Then I snaked along the alleys behind Bryant Street business area enjoying surprisingly bold colors.

Gallery Alma was cute, but closed. As a city that loves itself, perhaps it was no surprise to see a naive mural of Pittsburgh. Its happy and mischievous honeybees look a lot like the Steelers’ throwback uniform.

Moving on, I hit another goal, to run down Elgin Street. At the end of Elgin is Baywood, aka the Alexander King Estate. If you’re looking for completely renovated example of Gilded Age houses, check out this real estate listing. The tribune review has an nice article about it as well.

King Estate in Highland Park

I did a circle around the driveway, I must admit. But then it was on to the only stairs of the day, a small affair going down to King Avenue.

After this, I went back and forth in alleys and streets of Highland Park as it flattens out between Stanton Avenue and Black Avenue. Got another picture of a cat and a few dogs along the route.

This relatively ‘short’ run ended up over seven miles. I crossed paths with a few other runners along the way, though with face masks and social distancing, I wasn’t actually sure who they were.