Bikes in Carrick

https://www.strava.com/activities/3860611348
Carrick – RATS #00275

I’m not familiar with Carrick and this area has flummoxed me before. I find Brownsville Road to be dusty, dirty and busy. I’m not sure where to park or what my “boundaries” are, so every turn is a mystery. Brownsville Road isn’t too hilly, but everything else seems to be falling off cliffs. So, for this run, my mindset was pretty much “just do it”, without much expectation for a dazzling run.

In most neighborhoods, I like to find a quiet street on which to park unobtrusively. However, here, people park all over the sidewalks in front of their house and I haven’t seen too much public parking. I resigned myself just to parking along Brownsville Road itself. From there, I took a right onto East Meyers Street. Almost immediately, I came across Highnote Way. Now, this felt familiar; an “alley” that transforms from steps to pavement every few blocks.

I came out on Birmingham Avenue. Birmingham was my college town, (Go Blazers!), so I rambled up that street back to Brownsville Road, intending to complete the square. By the way, that’s my favorite derivation of the quadratic formula, in case you were wondering.

That aside, I found myself trucking down Linnview Avenue. Again, cars were parked all over the sidewalk. Everything was cool until I spied an energetic girl clad in all black peddling like mad up the hill towards me. OK, I got on the sidewalk. And she did too. Argh, I scooted out into the street at the last minute to avoid her. Whew! I did have to admire her, as that was pretty steep.

Zoom! She swished right past me again, this time with earned downhill speed. I KNEW this was a dangerous area!

Past Susie Speedster, Linnview dead-ends into a grassy patch overlooking Becks Run Road, far below. I meandered a bit down there among the short streets, hoping that “Parallel Street” would actually continue to parallel Birmingham. Alas, it does not, so I’ve have to brave Susie Speedster for another trip down there.

Along the way back to my car, I found myself on “The Boulevard”, a surprisingly open and luxurious street. Then, on Transverse, it was back to tight houses on big hills. This time, a young man was zipping up and down the road doing wheelies on his motorbike. These folks seem to have a thing for bikes.

Finally, reaching Leolyn, I popped up the steps back en route to my car.

I must say, my feelings about Carrick have ameliorated a little, but I don’t feel I understand this area. Not ALL of Carrick is dusty and dirty, but it remains one of the more populous and sizeable of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. I’m sure I’ll see many things out here, if only I can avoid being run down!

July 2020 Monthly Catch-Up

Summary

July 2020 has been rather a dud when it comes to running. I had the lowest miles since last November, at 64.1 miles and a very modest 5,528 feet in elevation. Knee problems were the most significant issue holding me back, though the heat didn’t help, either.

Nonetheless, nearly all my runs have covered new streets and I’ve made significant strides in filling in the map. I did some interesting runs in Perry Hilltop, North and South. I covered 95% of Oakwood and have continued exploring Beltzhoover, Allentown, Carrick, Brookline and Homewood. Pittsburgh City Paper also included me on their list of Instagram accounts to follow “when you miss exploring the city”.

One benefit of running less is that I’m nearly all caught up. In fact, there’s only one more run I need to tell you about.

RATS #00270 – Brookline Evening

Brookline – RATS #00270

This was a simple three miler in Brookline covering some a few blocks bordering Mount Lebanon. It was a late run, as the sun was setting. It is funny, I have become more cautious about running in alleys at night this summer. Of course, when it is the dead of winter, and its dark at 4:30 pm, I’m sure I’ll run them in the dark.

These were just residential streets. A hot evening, many folks were out on their porches and decks eating, drinking and chatting. The building below is at the end of Castlegate Avenue. It looked eerie and foreboding in the setting sun.

Onward to August!

And with that, I’m done with July 2020! I plan to run more in August, concentrating on Carrick and the other large swathes of south Pittsburgh which I’ve missed.

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.

At the corner of Carrot and Celtic

https://www.strava.com/activities/3816294982
RATS #00272 – Oakwood

What will you find at the corner of Carrot Way and Celtic Way? This afternoon, you would have found a rather burnt, sweaty runner, amazed that the playground driveway became a true-blue alley.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Today’s run was all about Oakwood. It’s a small neighborhood squashed between the suburban communities of Crafton and Greentree. It connects to the rest of Pittsburgh via Noblestown Road to Westwood, and, in turn, throws a lifeline to East Carnegie, connecting it to the rest of Pittsburgh.

I started in Westwood, where there is a bit of shopping and a lot of concrete. It makes me hot just looking at the desert of stark asphalt shopping strips. But going up Poplar for a bit I came across Hall Street, which was much more inviting.

Hall Avenue took me slightly out of the city into Crafton and then to Crafton Boulevard. Taking a left along Crafton Boulevard quickly brought me to Oakwood. Coming this direction, Crafton Borough was on my right and the City of Pittsburgh on my left. I caught Oakwood Road, which is immediately a bridge with steps on the left. Ha! Steps. I had to go. It dawned on me that Pennsdale doesn’t actually intersect Oakwood, it goes under it. Maps do have their limitations.

Pennsdale was another world. In a very green hollow, with a stream nearby, there are a few dilapidated houses, a burned out house and a couple of nicer ones at the end. Deer abound, and from the number of fawns I’ve seen, this year has been especially fruitful.

Pennsdale eventually becomes Steen Street and intersects Baldwick Road, a narrow winding road with cars parked all over the cracked sidewalks. Looping back to Oakwood Road, I actually crossed the bridge this time and found steps. leading behind some houses. It seems just to be a shortcut to Balver Avenue.

Quite in contrast to the creepy, burnt-out houses of Pennsdale, Balver Avenue is a ring of modest two and three bedroom houses built in the 1950’s and 60’s. There is an interesting mailbox there, which looks like a tall pink guy with a sailor hat on. Sorry, no pic.

From here, I just tried to hit all the little streets and alleys. Going down Grasmere Street, I knew it was a dead-end and wasn’t looking forward to coming all the way back. As it took a little turn, I noticed that the dead-end “barrier” was a few logs in the street. Continuing, I hoped it would lead to Oakwood Park. Alas, I was disappointed and just came to a wood pile. However, immediately to the right was a set of stairs which took me to very end of Oakwood Road. Yay!

From here, I wandered through the alleys and streets of Oakwood. It is rather small, but has some character, especially in the older streets.

Finally, I made it to Oakwood Park. A lone shirtless teenager shooting hoops was on pace to getting a nice sunburn as well. The old elementary school’s bell has been patriotically painted red, white and blue. The strangest thing, to me, were the tennis courts inside a high, circular, stone wall. Upon further research, it turns out this used to be a reservoir.

Continuing down Carrot Way, I didn’t even see one rabbit, but came out to Craftmont Avenue. At this, I returned along Noblestown Road to my starting point. Turns out, I got seven solid mile in, one of my longer runs this July.

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!

Park often?

RATS #00266

This was a loosely planned run in Homewood on a Sunday morning which took me from the flats near the East Busway to the towering hills above Frankstown Avenue. Along the way, saw lots of cats, some turkeys, some cats chasing turkeys and lot of greenery. There were steps and urban decay balanced by murals and a few cute houses.

I crossed the East Busway on the North Lang Pedestrian Bridge and started east. This area is very tight with tiny alleys between small streets. There are newer houses, older homes, a few nice places and many decrepit ones. It is the height of summer and weeds are taking over any undisturbed lot. Mulberry trees were so low along one alley, I had to duck to run under them.

Toward the end of Tioga Street, the narrow street was lined with large trucks. On one side, a large dump truck had driven onto a soft meadow months ago. On the other, big rigs were parked all over. I got as close as ever to a shiny Mack cab, while a “Fast-Unlock” dump truck body sheltered Long Haul Kitty. His orange coat looked sleek and a water dish had been even left out.

Now heading north to my real target, I climbed streets splaying out like fingers up the hills above Frankstown Avenue. At the split of Mohler Street and Willing Street a small set of steps lead you up Mohler (yes, they are documented in Bob Regan’s book, all six of them.) Willing was a long, desolate street with mattresses and garbage near a condemned house. That white house looked like it was falling off the hillside. Passing that, and coming closer to a better maintained house, I spied a turkey and three grey chicks clucking across the street. As I approached the adult turkey rushed back across the street and chicks disappeared into the undergrowth.

I wound my way down one finger, and then up the next, Wheeler Street. Pittsburgh has a penchant for alliteratively naming neighboring streets. At the corner of Wheeler and Mohler, I saw another flock of wild turkeys. Here, though, a wily, skinny, white and orange cat was creeping up on them, eye’s as big as saucers. I ruined his cover, and the turkeys went gobbling off into the woods. I’m thinking I did the kitty a favor, as those turkeys would have beaten him up.

Wheeler took me up to an impressive set of stairs at the end of Ferndale. They have several twists and turns, but were too overgrown to completely traverse. On Willing Street, I did not notice their upper landing.

Ferndale Steps – Left is the bottom, middle is looking up them and the left picture are the steps disappearing into the woods.

Running out of Pittsburgh for a moment into Penn Hills, I came to my senses and went up Ferndale. Whew! That is certainly a steep street, making it into the “Filthy Five”. Ferndale intersects Lawndale Street at the top. On the left, Lawndale is partially blocked by Jersey barriers, but I trekked down it a bit anyway. However, once I saw an RV down the dead-end road, I figured I had gone far enough and turned around. That’s probably in Penn Hills anyway.

Lawnsdale careens straight down the hill. As it reaches Perchment Street, it spills down to Frankstown Road as a set of steps.

Back to the flatlands, I made my way back to my car. As I skittered down Durango Way, a colorful wall peeked through a slightly open steel door. I peeked in and was rewarded with a garden of murals.

I finished with six and a half miles – slightly more than a 10k. Most of the run covered new streets and I got to see turkeys and murals along the route. The steps were interesting, too. Nice run!