Heart of Beechview

https://www.strava.com/activities/3122913950
RATS #00188 – Beechview

This run was all about Beechview, catching its northernmost subdivision as well as exploring the southern edge. I parked at my go-to spot next to the Andick Way playground and set out. I was using the RunGo app to guide my turns. There were a few glitches, but overall it worked pretty well. Beechview is incredibly hilly and is home to Canton Avenue, reportedly the steepest street in the US. But Canton Avenue, for all its steepness, is short, not more than one-tenth of a mile. Many of Beechview’s streets are over 10% grade, with a few more approaching 20%, and much longer.

The Shadycrest subdivision in northern Beechview sticks out on a plateau above Banksville Road and Saw Mill Run Boulevard. From the end of one long street, Tropical Avenue, you can see the tops of the tallest Downtown buildings. As the crow flies, they are less than two miles away. Here, the yards are large, the houses have a 50’s and 60’s feel.

Crossing over Crane got me back into the main section of Beechview. Like many of its parallel brethren, Fallowfield undulates into the distance. I took Beechview Avenue into the heart of Beechview, where the T-Line makes quick work of the commute downtown.

I followed Beechview until it became Broadway Avenue and then turned onto Wenzell Avenue. By this time, my hydration was catching up with me and I desperately needed a pit stop. Luckily I made it to the McDonalds on West Liberty Avenue before I had to take drastic measures. Fully refreshed, I charged up Saranac Avenue. At this point, RunGo started acting up. It may have never recovered from being in McDonalds. At any rate, I carefully did the grid of streets around Saranac, charging up less and struggling up more.

Finishing that section, I crossed over Broadway to see how those streets. Bad mistake. The roads just plunged off of Broadway and coming back up was very challenging, even with the few staircases I came across.

While much of the area was very residential, I was able to spot the illusive bottle plant during its bottle blooming phase. Its always interesting what pets people keep on their porches, too.

And that was it! About twelve miles and over 1,700 feet of elevation. My knees are mad at me now! Nice area, too.

Forty-Third and a Half

https://www.strava.com/activities/3097553117
RATS #00184 – Lawrenceville

This was a short little run in the narrow, flat streets near 43 1/2 Street in Lawrenceville. This area is choked with traffic during rush hour and on Friday and Saturday nights. Just off the 40th Street Bridge and Butler Avenue, this maze of streets is in transition. The two pictures below were taken from the same spot. New, shiny development stares across the street, literally, at older row houses.

The alleys here are slightly smaller than the streets, but are important access points. They are populated by garages, backs of restaurants, front stoops and aliens.

With the resurgence of investment in the area, some older buildings have taken on a new shine, like the one below.

Pittsburgh Sandwich Society

And just like that, the run was over. Just over three miles with less elevation than some single hills I’ve done.

Brighton Road Long Run

RATS #00185 – Fineview, Perry Hilltop, Brighton Road

This was a long weekend run, to cover some streets in the northern neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, and see what’s out there. Short story – there’s hilly streets, stairs, creepy areas with houses falling down and nice areas with magnificent homes. I took more pictures at the start than the finish. The long story is below. Happy reading!

I started out in Allegheny Center and made my way up to Fineview on the James Street Stairs up to Fountain Street. Fountain Street and Henderson Street collide in a sharp angle, both steeply coming down the hill. I made the right onto Henderson Street and realized there was a little cul-de-sac on my left I had previously missed. Sandusky Court was a relatively new development and the condos were shiny, clean and modern. As I started around the cul-de-sac, I noticed a solid set of stairs in the back, leading to the neighborhood uphill. The stairs were nice, but, alas, blocked off at the top. I guess SOMEONE didn’t want foot traffic from Sandusky Court to go to Allegheny Dwellings, or vice versa.

Back down to Henderson, I wrapped around Carrie Street, where a magnificent set of stairs drapes over the hillside. BikePGH’s “The Steps We Take” had a performance on these stairs, which was quite mesmerizing, involving a “live portal” and flowing, multicolored fabric.

Continuing past this city-side of Fineview, I pushed even higher, where large houses sat high on the hills. Some sidewalks were raised ten feet above the street, with towering residences above. There’s a Pittsburgh Water Reservoir up here, a radio tower and crazy steps and alleys. This area was exciting and I was somewhat familiar with it from previous jaunts.

Now, my rough plan was to do a long part of North Charles Avenue and also head up Brighton Road. I went up Osgood, which starts where the steps go wild and terminates on East McIntyre Avenue. I did the little residential loop which sits about 225 feet above the Parkway North and East Street. This area has potential, big houses, large trees, a cool view, but lots of dumping, with mattresses, tires and other debris just strewn everywhere. It was sad to see and a bit creepy. From there, Kenwood Avenue starts inauspiciously as a parking spot next to steps. The steps gently go down toward Maple Avenue, then become an ugly asphalt path all the way down to Perrysville Highway. The last time I was here, we saw a mewing cat in the window of a neglected house, were accosted by the local neighborhood watch van and had to dash to the car as a summer storm let loose. This time, I was undisturbed in my journey, except for memories.

Wrapping around Perrysville to North Charles to Maple again, I was surprised to see that North Charles went under Maple with a cool viaduct.

I finished off Maple and then found my way to Brighton Road, along many winding roads. Brighton is a long way uphill, with dusty, dirty sidewalks nearly all the two and a half miles out of the city. When I saw the “Ross Township” signs, I rejoiced, took a bathroom break at a Giant Eagle and headed back towards downtown. I took the Winhurst Street stairs up into Brighton Heights, wandered a bit and followed McClure towards the city. This area was a marked improvement from Kenwood Street. McClure gradually descends to meet Woods Run Avenue. Shortly after that intersection, punctuated by a corner bar, I took the Malden Street Stairs to Geyer Avenue.

Geyer wound down to Eckert Street, giving up all the elevation I had just gained. I was tired and ready to be done. But up Eckert I trudged and made my way back to the Northside as the weak winter sun set. By the time I got to my car, it was dark.

But, overall, cool run with over 2000′ of elevation…

Whew! Wet Arlington!

https://www.strava.com/activities/3092478742
RATS #00183

This has been a long work week. It started, as most my weeks do, with Monday. It was a crazy day and I had crazily decided to run between work and yoga. I was intending just a few miles to pick up on some new streets.

I parked near Arlington Field and started off. Down Norte Way, onto Jonquil Street, these streets were small, very wet and picked through small houses with small yards and fences and lots of dogs. I kept thinking about the Twilight Bark from 101 Dalmations, as the dogs kept howling as I drew near. There were small groups of deer roaming freely, too. At one point, I saw a hill and figured I should go up it. Turns out, I had run out of the city again! This time it was into the Mt. Oliver enclave.

Getting increasingly cold and wet, I returned to my car after a few miles. Not a big run, but I was a bit proud of my determination to get a few new streets in. Then I tried to upload the Garmin data – no dice. I kept trying for the rest of the evening, even copying the .fit file onto my computer at home and trying to upload it directly to Garmin. Somehow, it had gotten corrupted. But, yay! There’s a fix for that!

I found this site “Garmin online fit repair tool” , uploaded my corrupted file and within seconds, had a good one to download. Whew! I was pretty happy about that, so I didn’t have to redo this run.

Hill District

https://www.strava.com/activities/3086233868
RATS #00182 – Terrace and the Hill

For this run I was joined by my friend Dayana. We met at Dippy the Diplodicus on a chilly, but sunny Sunday.

Dippy in the Snow

The first order of business was to cover a few streets off of Terrace Street, high on the Oakland Hill. About a year ago I had blogged about Terrace Village and today I was finishing it up. After a flat warm-up along Forbes, we went up Darragh, down Chesterfield, with its really rugged cobblestones then up Robinson. Regrouping at Allequippa Street, we found a nice view at the end. Branching off of Terrace Village, we made our way to Breckenridge St. It is a short street high off of Centre Avenue and well below the Pitt athletic facilities above it. I was looking for two sets of stairs, but only found the one.

We took Centre Avenue all the way downtown. The approach from the hill gave us more striking views. Here the roads really widen out and there’s a residential, downtown merge. We didn’t dally and soon were heading back up Bedford Avenue.

Huffing and puffing with the continual climb, we were treated to a mural of a family. In front of that building was a historic marker. Turns out this was the birthplace of August Wilson, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright. Tres cool!

Unfortunately, the hill didn’t end there. As we trudged up it we were treated to some Gospel music as we passed the Macedonia Church of Pittsburgh. Well-dressed church goers were still streaming in and cheered us on as we ran by. Continuing, we came across this gentlemen, tall and sparse in his Sunday hat.

Iron Mesh Man

We made it to Sugartop, dominated by the blue water tower and then skedadled down the other side into Oakland to our cars.

Does this route work? Part 3

https://www.strava.com/activities/3080725206
RATS #00180 – Windom Street Warren

In this latest installment of “Does this route work?”, I was interested in exploring a couple of staircases I had never been on. This was in a small warren of streets between PJ McCardle Roadway and Arlington Avenue. The pedestrian gateway to this neighborhood are the 10th Street Stairs. On the lower side, these stairs rise in five landings from dead end flat streets just to clear the railroad tracks. The landings provide respite from the stairs and some nice views. On the other side, though, the stairs rise again.

At the top of these stairs, the city seems to have fallen away and I was in an enchanted forest. Felt like I was Edmund first stumbling into Narnia. On the left, the untouched snowy street curved around into the Knoxville Incline Greenway. I disturbed four deer in their evening ramblings. They were not pleased to see me and only grudgingly gave way, staring me down like truculent teens as I jogged by.

Just past the herd, stairways to Hartford Street rose on my right. Despite the four inches of fluffy snow, the going was good. The stairs were solid and the snow crunched, packing as I went up. Hartford Street is narrow, but with cute houses. Squeezing past a resident who had parked in the street unloading groceries, I came all the way up to Arlington Avenue, but not before I got a good glimpse of the top of the German Square Stairs. I’d be back for those.

Making a right onto Arlington, I kept a lookout for my next set of stairs, Lauer Way. No, not Behring Street, whose steps were a vertical cul-de-sac. Behring Street is one of the few named stair streets which dead-ends. Ceasar Way in Southside Slopes declines into a grassy path but doesn’t really dead-end. Behring Street just traipses in front of a house and stops. Maybe it went through in years gone by.

At any rate, Lauer Way has an impressive stack of snowy steps. It traverses the slope from Arlington Avenue to Windom Street, two blocks below. Again, in spite of the snow, the stairs were solid, both in treads and handrails.

I meandered a little, and found myself trotting past little houses on Newton, which became another wooded glade of snowy stairs, Owl Way. These have a right-angle turn and landed me on Windom again. I took the German Square Steps all the way up the hill again.

German Square and Lauer Way are part of the “Take the Stairs Fatass” 50k route. I couldn’t fit them into the 25k, but it is a beautiful little section of stairs and hills pretty close in to the Southside Flats. This part of the route looks solid.

January 2020 Wrap-Up

Summary

January 2020 was a good month for running and running all the streets of Pittsburgh. The weather has been relatively mild, with little snow or ice impeding progress. Of the twenty runs I recorded on Strava this month, fourteen of them included new streets. I ran off the city map on a couple of occasions, once spilling into Bellevue and once falling off into Penn Hills. I’ve finished Southside Slopes, excepting a handful of streets and finished all six streets in Arlington Heights. I was also pretty good about keeping up the blog, so only two make it into this catch-up.

RATS #00163 – Pro Bike in Highland Park

https://www.strava.com/activities/2973617947
RATS #00163

This was a group run with Pro Bike. Nice route, nice chat with Tom as we powered up Highland Avenue towards the park. Tom is notable in the number and variety of races he has run in the last five years. Something like two marathons a month, but including all sorts of other races, from 100 milers to 5K’s. I veered off the official course to take in a few new streets. I also like the way the route looks – almost like a runner with a backpack.

RATS #00165 before the Cathedral

https://www.strava.com/activities/2985423200
RATS #00165

This was a short run down the length of Melwood Avenue in Oakland, before doing stairs at the Cathedral of Learning.

Does this route work? Part 2

https://www.strava.com/activities/3057870998
RATS #00176

For those who missed it, I’m organizing a run around Pittsburgh, focusing on taking public stairs where ever possible. In my previous “Does this route work?”, I verified a section of the route in Oakland. It was a good thing I did, because some of the stairs indicated on my maps were not, in fact, there. This run was meant to check out part of the route, circled in yellow above, in Fineview, Perry South and California-Kirkbride. Fittingly enough, only half of this involves the 25K, but all you 50k people, pay attention!

Going out of the Northside toward Fineview, I took James Street all the way up the hill. As the roads plows into the hillside, a pretty solid set of stairs, with only a few shaky treads, rises to Fountain Street. Good thing, too, since it is high on concrete pillars.

Once on Fountain Street, signs for the Fineview Fitness Trail lead to the next stairs. The 50k’ers will be going up these. The 25k folks will be coming down them, almost done. At any rate, the next sets of stairs take you to Graib Street and then onto Henderson Street. The pictures really don’t do this view justice.

The 50k follows along Henderson, crossing Federal and landing at the end of Arch Street. There’s an angled set of steps going up to Perrysville Avenue. A few years ago I saw “Steps In Motion: A Northside Animation”, at the Carnegie Library in Oakland. It is an animation about community project which cleaned up the Arch Street stairs. As you start up these, you can see the fading paint from that project.

The top of the Arch Street Stairs is Perrysville Avenue. You stay on that for a short section, then charge down the O’Hern’s ruts and uneven steps. I remembered it as all overgrown, but it looks like someone actually uses this road, despite the wavy asphalt. A little later, going up North Charles street, I made a left at the bold mural on Ferris Street. Stairs are at the far end of that small street and there’s a rather intimidating house and rambling porch besides them. I would advise moving past this place quickly. In fact, I waited until I had clambered over the fallen tree and up the stairs before I took a pic.

Staying on the 50k route, I made the left onto Island Avenue. Where did they get that name? This couldn’t be a more land-locked street. At any rate, making the left on Hyena Way was promising, but the entrance to the stairs off of Success Street looked more like a walkway between houses.

The Hyena Street Stairs are in reasonable shape, but don’t seem to get much use. Dried vegetation was strewn across the treads as it dropped in on Marvista Street. This lower section of Marvista Street still has a few occupied houses but also a few houses on the brink of failure. The 50k route continues down Hyena. Hyena and Ferris stairs were the ones I wanted to verify. Whoo! This part of the route works.

Now that that was settled, I started to work my way back my car. It wasn’t the easiest way, but Sunday Street was a pretty straightforward way back. It also happened to include an incredible set of brightly painted stairs. At the top was an amazing house set on the top of the hill. At one point, perhaps most of the houses here looked like that? I don’t know.

That’s a wrap. Hyena Way does indeed lead to viable steps.

Northside Grid

https://www.strava.com/activities/3049276898
Run Around Northside – RATS #00175

I squeezed this run between work and a performance at Alphabet City. I had loosely mapped it out the night beforehand. It went pretty close to plan, with one annoying exception.

Anyway, by the time my GPS had locked in, I was, once again, near the Children’s Museum. I crossed West Commons and made my way up Arch Street. The main features of this run were the narrow alleys and streets of the Northside, along with the surprising amount of art and decorations among the old, tight houses.

This is still an area in transition. Even among the row-houses, there is often a gorgeously refurbished house next to a dilapidated one. The streets range from small two-way streets to very narrow one way streets and even smaller alleys paved with bricks. The grid of streets between West North Avenue and Jacksonia Street is flat. Past Jacksonia Street, the land abruptly rises. Arch St unceremoniously ends in a pile of brush, but there’s a long flight of stairs providing egress to the streets above. Tonight, I skipped the stairs.

One of the most flamboyant houses in all of Pittsburgh is here – Randyland. Clicking its picture below will take you to Randy’s website. Incredibly detailed painting brings out the architectural details of the building. Randy also uses the building as a canvas, with larger-than life insects crawling and flying up the walls.

Randyland

Finishing up my explorations, I took a final pic of the city skyline looming over the neighborhoods and jogged back to my car. The annoyance? I had forgotten my running shoes and ran the whole thing in boots.

Does this route work? Part 1

A few years back, before I starting this “Run All The Streets” project; before I did a stairs tour; before all of that, Lamar, a local runner and urban explorer organized a “Take The Stairs Fatass” event. A Fatass in the running community is an unsupported, no frills run. No fees, no bling, just a run for the fun and adventure of it. So, one morning in March 2018, I found myself under the Birmingham Bridge with about 20 other running nuts, ready to do a big loop around Pittsburgh, taking city stairs whenever possible. I was running with Monica and Amy.

At that point, I had run a few Pittsburgh Marathons and even a few trail ultras, but otherwise had run mainly in the East End of the city; Regent Square, Squirrel Hill, Frick Park, Edgewood. Well, that 50k was an eye-opener for me. Polish Hill, City View, West End, Duquense Heights were some of the areas we went through. Despite examining the map in detail the night before, we spent a lot of time just finding the stairs. One of us had the directions, one of us had Google Maps on the phone and another tried to take in the big picture and keep us moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, after 20 miles, we got turned around coming out of Emerald View Park and couldn’t find our way anymore. We bailed and ran back to our cars, a mere 22 mile day. Ever since then, Amy and I have been chatting about finishing it.

Now I’m over a year in to my project of fastidiously running every street, alley and stairway in Pittsburgh. I’ve run on thousands of streets. I’ve run hundreds of miles and dozens of stairways. I’ve seen many stairs and nooks of the city with mis.steps, as the muses of the stairs speak to her and inspire her stories. I’ve covered many areas on my own, up hills unbelievably steep, seeing deer everywhere, finding surprisingly cute homes everywhere. I always find a house at the end of those long dead-end’s.

So I’m re-creating this “Take The Stairs 50K Fatass”. It will be on March 29. This time, I’m starting at Threadbare Cider instead of underneath a bridge. I’m relying heavily on Lamar’s original map, but I have changed it slightly to include a few more stairs. This run was about verifying some of the route. My friend and fellow runner, Naomi, was feeling adventurous and came with me to explore the route in Oakland.

https://www.strava.com/activities/3046440149
RATS #00174 – Hodges St

We started in the South Side and crossed the Hot Metal Bridge. Just past Parkway overpass on Bates is a little side street – Hodges. Only a dozen houses populate this neighborhood in the holler. Stairs rise on either side. I was interested in the ones going up to Bates, so we took those. Sunday morning traffic was light, so we were able to scamper across Bates to catch the Frazier Street Stairs. This is part of the upcoming 50k.

Frazier Street is a long street at the edge of South Oakland. This area is generally overrun by students, but there are still some single-family homes holding out down here. Unfortunately, some people have given up the ghost, even though their houses look good. If you can’t read it, that sign says “Sorry, We’re Dead”.

Haunted House?

From there, we traversed on Dawson to hit Diulius Way. Years ago, when I was a student at Pitt, I found this route from Schenley Park to South Oakland. This is also on the new race route.

Diulius Way – takes you from Dawson to Boundary

Now, once down at Boundary Street, Naomi wanted to just run for a bit, so we ran about a mile or so to the train trestle. Coming back, I wanted to verify a couple of stairways I saw on maps which would take me up again to South Bouquet Street. Unfortunately, development in Oakland has taken over some of the stairs I hoped to find.

Eventually I did find a path, albeit between two apartment buildings. So, I’m glad I did this run. I verified that the route through Hodges Street works, yet found some paths just didn’t exist anymore. The route will also include the newly refurbished Joincare Street Stairs, gleaming on the next hill. Just one more section to verify before springing the updated route on the world. Stay tuned!