Summer Hill Evening

https://www.strava.com/activities/3840941171
RATS #00274

Ah, it was a struggle to get out for this run. There were lots of fits and starts in my plans. Eventually, though I found myself in Oakland running along Burrows Street towards the Hill. As usual, once I was underway, my motivation increased as well as my overall enjoyment of the evening.

Burrows Street starts on Terrace Street. As I’ve discussed an earlier blog , Terrace Village is much improved from years ago. The redevelopment continues, as Caterpillars eat away the hillside, flattening it for future development. We’ve had caterpillars in the garden, but these will take out your entire house.

Caterpillars eating the hillside
Creatures of Metal Chomping on the Hillside

Borrows curves around Terrace Village, but I made a left onto Bentley Street. Here it is empty and deserted as it swirls toward Kirkpatrick Street. Before there, though, a closed stairway descends mysteriously on the left.

Steps from Bentley to Alequippa are blocked off with chain link fence

Crossing Kirkpatrick, Bentley winds through modern apartment buildings. These are in rather stark comparison to the older Hill houses. Coming out of Bentley Drive, a green Conex box almost blended perfectly with the voracious vines and overhanging trees.

Now coming out into the Middle Hill, the UPMC and Mellon buildings downtown dominate the skyline on the left. This area is older, with many small streets and tiny alleys. It is a mix of newer development and older, two-three story buildings. Mostly they were all attached originally, but have become separated into islands are house after house has been demolished.

I went up Dinwiddle to Bedford, where I made my way to Kirkpatrick and back down Dinwiddle. (It was a short run, afterall). Along Centre, murals, old and new, liven the area.

At the end of Dinwiddle, I made a left onto Fifth and headed back to Oakland. I came across another colony of penguins, far from their Igloo home. I wonder if they are related to the Allentown penguins? Entering Oakland, I got a good glimpse of the historic St. Agnes Church.

That just about did it. Another run over four miles. I didn’t even have to tape my knee. Now, I can’t wait to run more!

Shadyside Evening

https://www.strava.com/activities/3824300083
Map of route taken for run #00273

This was a short run to cover some streets I had inexplicably missed in Shadyside. I think my original reason for not covering them in a solo run was to cover them in running with friends. That was clearly a pre-Covid plan.

At any rate, I was tired and sluggish, but the thought of crossing these off my list provided enough motivation to get out and run. It was a a summery evening. Thunderstorms had just passed through and there were lingering displays of lightning and sprinkles. Walnut Street was empty, courtesy of Covid19. Usually it would be packed with people shopping, walking dogs and spilling out of bars.

This section of Shadyside is typified by narrow Queen Anne houses squeezed together with front yard flowers. Most of these structures are not the mansions found a couple of blocks away. Additionally, there are many large, old apartment buildings and row houses, mostly well kept.

Alleys are a bit of an exception. As my Mom used to say “Queen Anne in front and Mary Ann in back”. Here is where you find the unpainted porches and a few garages in need of paint jobs.

There are also some very cute houses. The Inn at Negley, for instance, is now a luxury bed and breakfast. It also has a Little Library in front of it, for you bibliophiles.

Murals are not common here, but in a brick seating area off Walnut is the Building Bridges mural while the William Penn Tavern watering hole has some humorous ones.

This wasn’t a long run and I was happy to catch as glimpse of the Cambell’s Soup Can on Holden Street before it got too dark. I believe those are carved from a tree trunk.

That was about it. A little over three flat miles through Shadyside, dodging raindrops.

Ahh! Pittsburgh streets, you drive me CRAZY!

https://www.strava.com/activities/3798163893
RATS #00271

I had a good game plan going into this run. However, after spinning my shoes on some of those tiny, hilly streets, I got a bit disoriented and managed to run out of my way, covering more miles and fewer streets than I hoped. Oh, well, another Pittsburgh Bermuda Triangle!

Highlighted area of Perry South with many map mistakes
Bulk of run was just in this small area, dominated by steep hills and disconnected streets

Most of my effort was to cover the streets circled in red in the map above. The black marks indicate streets that don’t connect like the map implies. Last week’s run with George gave me an inkling the area would be hilly, but otherwise I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be a pleasant run in the park? Or a stressful run with snarling dogs?

I was pleasantly surprised at first. I turned onto East Marshall, took the next sharp left on Sonora and figured it would lead me down Pelham Street, a long dead-end. That’s what OpenStreetMap shows. That’s what Google Maps show. On an old Pittsburgh map, Pelham even intersects Perrysville Avenue. However, it is just not there anymore. The Allegheny County Real Estate page actually lists five parcels on Pelham. All are owned by the city and now Sonora Street just dead-ends into a funeral home.

Following East Marshall past the deceptively flat part, it plunges down a hill, ending high above I-279. Only overgrown bushes stop a basketball from bouncing all the way down. I imagine there’s a veritable treasure trove of balls captured by the devouring vines.

I made my way down Leroy Way. After it turned into Goshen Street, I found myself looking up a steep Kennedy Avenue slope. As I criss-crossed the streets, I found some very overgrown street steps along Daisey; the top of the Hawkins Street steps and a nice view from the top of Veterans Street. You can actually make out the Trimont Towers if you look closely. As the healthy crow flies, that’s over two miles away. A hot, thirsty crow might want to take a dip in the Ohio River along the way.

Coming off the steep hills there, I made my way to North Charles Street. Of course, nothing is simple and here, Maple Avenue crosses North Charles on a bridge.

Maple Street Crossing North Charles.
North Charles passing under Maple.

North Charles sweeps downhill, passing Fowler Park and Allegheny Cleanways; a great organization committed to cleaning up the region’s rivers. I think everyone should volunteer with them at least once. You may never use another plastic bottle again. I took a short detour and hit a little set of steps leading to Kenn Avenue and past its tiny little subdivision. What goes down must come up, so I trundled up Marshall Avenue slowly. It passes between two large cemeteries, Union Dale and Highwood.

Pushing past five miles, with a rock in my shoe and a hot sun on my head, I explored no more and returned to my starting point. It was a good run and now I’m THIS close to finishing this section of town!

Chasing Deer and Climbing Steps

RATS #00269

Getting out of my isolation bubble for a bit, I ran Friday night with George, exploring the streets of Perry South. It was good to have the company and George got a taste of winding in and out of streets like true RATS. Hanging out before the run, I noticed this marker buried deep in the ground. It was a hot evening but we quickly made it to the Norwood Avenue steps, a harbinger of the remainder of the run.

Norwood Avenue plunges from Marshall Avenue to North Charles Street. Unfortunately, we had to keep going up and down that hill. The neighborhood was active, with people out on most of the porches, a few Friday gatherings, dog walkers and kids on bikes. Along one alley, we surprised a doe and a fawn out for an evening walk.

Along another street, an older woman swept the sidewalk as a little boy played with rocks, while across the street, large butterflies had been caught in a chain-link net.

And then, there were steps. It started slowly, with the gradual steps at the bottom of Norwood. Then it picked up a bit Delger Street. Those wooden steps were in pretty good shape, except one missing tread. It also was a convenient shortcut to the Delger Street, really an alley. Mayfield Avenue had a long series of street steps as it bucked up the hill like a horse.

Finally, as we rounded out one Quartz Way, we came to the Hawkins Street steps. They rose, block after block, from the ravine floor at Leland Street to their apex at Veteran Street, crossing Shelton Street, Ellis Street, and Perrysville Avenue.

Scooting down Veteran Street, we made our way back to the park. It was a solid run on a hot Friday evening.

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!

Borderlands

https://www.strava.com/activities/3758591851
RATS #00267 – Brookline

Continuing on the edges of Pittsburgh, I traveled from the heart of Brookline to Baldwin Township, on its southern border. It was a rather nice evening, sunny and mild. I’ve chatted about Brookline several times in this blog. Just to recap, Brookline is a sprawling residential neighborhood in southern Pittsburgh. The houses vary slightly from the smaller ones packed together off of Brookline Boulevard to the larger, but not palatial, ones on quiet streets. I took Creedmore Avenue from Brookline Boulevard to its end at McNeily Road.

Creedmore as it slips toward McNeily Road

I ran along McNeily for a bit, just to Chelton Avenue, which is actually a driveway for the one house there. Retracing my steps, I plowed up the brick part of Creedmore to Creedmore Place. I like that name, Creedmore. I can hear an evangelist now:

“Do you have faith? Do you know how to express it in a concise way?”

“Yes, yes!”

“That’s creed. Do you have MORE faith now?”

“Yes! Yes!”

“THAT’s Creedmore!”

<and the crowd goes wild…> or <starts throwing tomatoes>

hallucinations on the run

To get away from that crowd I took a right onto Seaton Street. The tall green trees along here are all ginko and must be beautiful in the Fall. I knew Seaton would take me out of Pittsburgh, but I wasn’t sure how far. Fortunately, Baldwin and Pittsburgh are VERY clear about which portion of the street is theirs.

From here, there wasn’t too much to see, just a flamboyance of flamingos at an intersection. Its good to see there are young flamingos there, too. It speaks well of the future of that flamboyance.

Flamboyance of Flamingos

And, finally, there were some steps. These went from Breining to Hobson. Interestingly enough, while there’s another set of steps from Breining to Hobson, which takes a more gradual way down. (See “Thursday Brookline Miles”), they’re only listed once in Regan’s “Pittsburgh Steps” book.

Breining to Hobson, the short steps

That was about it, a bit over four miles. More importantly, two consecutive days of running more than four miles without knee pain. Yippee!

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.

Hot Damn, It’s Hot in Beltzhoover!

https://www.strava.com/activities/3718029970
RATS #00263 – A Cat in High Heels?

This headline “Hot Damn, It’s Hot in…” will be used extensively the next few days. It could possibly be superseded by “Running on the Surface of the Sun…” or “All of Pittburgh is Lava”. Three cheers for July running!

I explored another of Pittsburgh’s southern neighborhoods, Beltzhoover. If you don’t understand how Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods are cordoned off from one another, Beltzhoover is a great example. The northern border is Warrington Avenue. From Warrington Avenue, a few streets climb sharply into the heart of Beltzhoover. On the west, the T-line and South Busway separate it from Mount Washington. On the east, Beltzhoover Avenue is a less distinct border with Knoxville and Allentown. On the south, a large ravine, a park (McGinley Park) and the busy Bausman Street completely seal it off from Bon Avon. It’s an interesting name and there’s a very short paragraph in this old Post-Gazette article attributing the name to Melchior Beltzhoover.

I approached Beltzhoover from the beginning of Beltzhoover Avenue at Grandview Park. It quickly rolls off the hill and after a few blocks dissipates into small shady streets. However, at the corner of Beltzhoover and East Warrington, a few penguins were getting a suntan. I think they would have been happier staying at the zoo.

This area has wide, long streets and tiny alleys. Michigan Street crosses nearly all of Beltzhoover, as do a number of other streets, such as Sylvania Street and Climax Street.

I did not traverse all of Climax Street, but one of the climaxes of today’s run was finding the Beltzhoover Community Perennial Nursery on it. In a cursory internet search, I didn’t find much information, but there it was, on a bright hillside, a slope filled with carefully tended flowering perennials buzzing with bees. I also got a kick out of the white lions at the top of some private stairs.

There were a few other steps, too. The most significant was along Bernd Street. It’s several flights took me to a back alley where the remains of yesterday’s fireworks were strewn across the ground. A phone booth, sans handset, adorned those steps. On the other hand, the only thing adorning the Delmont Street steps were weeds. Perhaps in wintertime, I could use the crumbling steps.

In spite of the gardens and wide, brick streets, much of this area has a neglected look. The wide streets are dusty and street sweeping doesn’t seem to be a regular event.

I cut out after six miles due to the heat, primarily. Also, while my knee is better, I didn’t want to push it too much. It was the right choice. Besides, the route turned out to look like a cat in heels, as my friend Cathy commented. Ha! I couldn’t have done that if I tried.

Hot Damn, It’s Hot in Larimer

https://www.strava.com/activities/3708218189
RATS #00261 – Larimer

Hot and humid, Hot and humid,Hot and humid…

Like the banging refrain to a bad punk song, “hot and humid” pounded into my head as I explored the streets of Larimer this afternoon. I had, honestly, been avoiding this area for a bit. It seems like a no-man’s land, squished between Negley Run Road, Washington Road and East Liberty Boulevard. But, other than the heat, there wasn’t much to worry about on a sunny mid-morning.

Not more than a mile from Google’s Pittsburgh offices in Bakery Square, deserted and overgrown Paulson Avenue whimpers to a dead end above Washington Road.

En route, I saw these oft-photographed murals across from Jeremiah’s Place on Paulson Avenue. Mac Miller, I believe?

As I ran further from the busy streets such as East Liberty Avenue and Frankstown Road, the neighborhood becomes pancake flat and very quiet. Perhaps it was the heat, but except for the occasional dog barking or child playing, there wasn’t much activity out there. Many of the smaller streets and alleys are overgrown. Many lots are empty, presumably where houses had been demolished.

For Pittsburgh, this is an incredibly flat area. I managed to find one small set of stairs off of Finley Avenue. The residents of here, as throughout Pittsburgh, seem determined to make their homes as quirky as they can.

Along one alley, old parking spaces had been transformed into an art gallery.

But overall, there is no doubt of the poverty and neglect of this neighborhood. Across from a decent playground, complete with slides and with a water wall, stand two abandoned houses stamped for demolition.

This area is pretty large, too. I covered only about a quarter of the streets here, but easily racked up the miles. As I approached five miles, I headed back to my car. I ended up with a 10k. Good run!