Wish you were here

RATS #00432, Lawrenceville, Polish Hill, Troy Hill

RATS run #00432 covered a lot of ground, from Bloomfield/ Lower Lawrenceville through Polish Hill, into Troy Hill and the edge of Reserve Township. I started around noon with a leisurely Type-B pace which contrasted with the rigorous Type-A route I was following.

Foster Way, an alley off of the alley Obregon Way, was my first stop. Then it was on to the downside end of Lodi Way. Turning onto Lodi Way, I felt eyes upon me and hurried past.

My next stop was a section of Clement Way, between transformers and a ball field. It is funny how I rarely notice power substations, in spite of their size. I like the way the “Business Exchange” building stands out; perhaps it is the sandy color contrasting with the stormy clouds behind it. Also, do you think there are enough power lines there?

“Spray Paint on Corrugated Steel” could be an art installation decrying the gentrification of street art, but of course its not. It’s just graffiti. The back of that apartment complex on Clement Way was surprisingly ratty. With the booming real-estate market in Lawrenceville, I figured they would at least clean the building.

Moving on, I looped back and crossed the Bloomfield Bridge to come out on Oscar Way. I think the Grouch would be happy here, collecting garbage from those steps. Speaking of steps (and graffiti), I took the Finland Street steps across Bigelow Boulevard and was kinda impressed with this piece of street art. I took it as a “Oh no, I’m 40!” message. Undoubtedly, it means something else.

From here, my path took me down Ridgeway Street, with Leander being my eventual goal. I hadn’t done a huge amount of research, so wasn’t sure exactly what would be waiting for me on Leander. Turns out, it was just another Pittsburgh street, clinging to the hillside and going nowhere. I was actually surprised how well-kept the houses were. That gray shed caught my eye, with its small extra door cut in the big door, with a sign “Low Clearance”! What? Why not just use the big door? I suppose there are reasons…

Luckily for me, I had an escape route from Leander and didn’t have to go all the way back to Herron. The 30th Street Steps took me down to Bigelow. Further down, a section of the same steps are blocked off at Paulowna.

Speaking of Paulowna, it lead me right past the pool at the West Penn Community Recreation Center. For some reason, I had always called that the “Polish Hill Recreation Center”, but I stand corrected. The pool wasn’t open and not even filled with water, which was a shame, because a dip in the pool would have felt great. But the driveway to the pool was a red-herring. I needed to take the lower path which took me past a ball field, with a game in progress. This was actually a fortunate find, as I needed to do Kenny Way, the alley on the other side. I often have concerns about the safety of dead-end alleys, but, so far, its always been OK. This one did narrow after Harran Street, but continued above back-yards only to pop-out in the parking lot of Mt. Horran Baptist Church. The back end of Brereton took my down into the Strip District.

Now I made my way across the 31st Street Bridge. Downtown was obscured by a thundershower. However, once I realized that showers were upstream as well, I put away my phone and took no more pictures.

That was a wise move, but it didn’t really start raining in earnest until I had powered up Rialto and was on the far side of Troy Hill. By the way, the words “Just how wet can I get?” apparently angers storm clouds. They just try harder. Coming down the Wicklines River, I made a left on Spring Garden Creek then up Lager Falls. The knotweed made a nice canopy on Wet Purse Way, but eventually I had to get going again. I splashed through a few more Troy Hill streets and squished my way back to Liberty Avenue via the 40th Street Bridge, passing a wet band in the Millvale Riverfront Park en route.

Clocking In

RATS Run #00427 Stretching From Banksville Road to the Liberty Tubes

This run covered lots of miles, 7.79 to be exact and lots of territory, but only a few new streets. It’s a good thing I like to run around Pittsburgh! Anyway, I started in the heart of Beechview, along Broadway Avenue. It’s similar to, but a little different than the Broadway of theatrical fame.

Right off the bat, I descended steeply along Boustead Street and took in part of Hillgrove Avenue. At the fork, each road looked like a narrow driveway and I returned to Boustead. Of course, I should have actually taken both tines.

From here, I stepped down Wentzell Avenue and crossed Banksville Road, exploring Jessie Street. It’s a little dead-end with two turns rising off of Banksville. I didn’t find anyone like Jessie’s girl but I did find a house which looks like it fell out of the sky.

Returning across Banksville Road, I came up the Potomac Avenue steps and made the left onto Bellingham en route to Durham and Dalemount, two small lanes shooting up the hill. They were nice.

On the other hand, Denlin Street, often mistaken for a parking lot driveway, was rather scrappy. It just goes behind some businesses along Banksville and below a few houses on the hill. While this handicap ramp is amazing, I feel rather bad for anyone who actually has to use it. It must add a half a mile to their walk to the mailbox. While the white house has the blue kiss of death on it, the lounge chairs seem to be enjoying themselves.

From here, I ascended the Beechview hill again en route to Bazore Street. I got a kick out of the “No Outlet” sign next to all those electrical transformers.

All that Power, but No Outlet

Moving on, I traipsed down West Liberty Avenue, passing many car dealerships. Going up the Peola Steps took me to Texdale Street, which I had previously neglected. Once again I got to run the beautiful, winding streets of Beechview, hopping along to Frog Way. It was a much bigger Frog than I had expected. However, it made sense, as houses on Ringwalt Street below didn’t have anywhere to park in front, so with Frog Way behind, they could park there.

Again I sped down West Liberty Avenue. This time I went all the way the the entrance of the Liberty Tubes. Once upon a time, there was a sidewalk through the tunnel. But then, as lanes were expanded the sidewalk was removed. Perhaps it’s for the best anyway; with all the car fumes, it would be a really long way to go on foot. The “Traffic Grade Separation” plaque is on the retaining wall as West Liberty curves under a bus lane. It must have been an important project, look at all those politicians’ names! Rankin, Herron, Woodside; all of these have streets named after them now.

Just past the “Traffic Grade Separation” project, I came to “Clocks and Antiques”, a store that has always caught my eye. I got to spend a few minutes gawking through the dusty window. Grandfather clocks, mantel clocks, wooden clocks and porcelain clocks, this store has them all. My Dad used to walk into a clock store, look around and declare “None of these are working!” since they all had different times on them. This place is no exception. Ironically enough they have a little “I’ll be back” sign with the manual clock hands instead of some mechanical timer.

Speaking of time, it was time to get back to my car. After bushwhacking my way through the weeds along West Liberty Avenue, I went up the 150 foot, 10 degree slope of Woodside Avenue and sauntered over to Broadway. Maybe I could catch a show.

North Shore, Carrick and Belthoover Finishing June 2021

RATS #00421

RATS #00421 was a quick six miler after work. My main targets were alleys near PNC Park and Heinz Field as well as re-doing Children’s Way near Allegheny Center. As it turns out, there had been a Pirates baseball game that day, so my alley running included spectator dodging.

Once I had put some distance between me and PNC Park, I ran along Reedsdale Street, as it goes under the T, which carries hopeful gamblers to the Casino. It was rather precarious to walk along but I did see a number of “Marcher Arrant” stickers plastered on poles and guard rails. He blew through town earlier this summer and walked much of it. This section of town is not meant for pedestrians. It is meant to funnel people to the stadiums and back out.

Finishing Reedsdale, I decided to circle back to North Canal Street by way of the Children’s Museum. I always forget that West Park has a train track running through it, and, that the West Ohio Bridge is under construction. Whoops! I couldn’t get through, and had to detour via take West North Avenue. Isn’t it against some rule to put “West” and “North” in the same street name? It should be!

Anyway, upon emerging from the other end of West Park, I passed Allegheny Traditional Academy, which I believe is a charter school, before going through a section of Children’s Way. There’s some cool stuff there, including the sculpture reCARstruction. The link has a video of its creation.

Moving on, I trotted up North Canal Street. It starts as a ramp off of East Ohio Street and cars zip down it, perhaps expecting to get on the interstate. However, as it sweeps past the railroad and a high-rise building, it becomes just another way to get to Giant Eagle. I found out later that there is another section of North Canal, even more obscure. I ended near my start on Goodrich Street, a cobblestone relic of the past, interrupted by ramps.


RATS #00422 in Beltzhoover and Carrick

RATS run #00422 was all about alleys. Alleys in Beltzhoover and alleys in Carrick. Those aren’t exactly adjacent neighborhoods, so this ended up being a long run. But, let’s start with Beltzhoover Alleys. They are generally gravel and overgrown. Some are nearly footpaths.

Here along the alleys, you see garages falling down, with weeds on their falling roofs, but for the most part they are free of garbage and dumping (unlike Homewood). Heck, you see houses falling down on the main streets, so there’s no surprise the garages on the alleys would be in disrepair as well. I do have to say that Belzhoover is an active community. There’s always someone walking their dogs, riding bikes, doing lawn work or otherwise out and about.

Buffington Road, sits at the bottom of a steep hill lined with ominous houses. It was gated off. I really hate that. The maps show a public street, but the owners apparently think its a private drive.

Anyway, I shook the Beltzhoover dust off my feet and crossed over to Borough Way, forming the border of Pittsburgh and Mount Oliver. From here, I zigged and zagged my way to several alleys in lower Carrick, ending in Sinton Way. Sinton is a staircase from Dartmore (near Saw Mill Run) to Lucina, where it flattens into a paved street. The steps in the picture below, however, are just in Phillips Park. My heart rate exploded going up those.


That’s about it, both for this run and for June. I finished June with a respectable 112 miles, which included another “Take the Stairs Fatass” 50k.

Squirrel Hill to New Homestead

https://www.strava.com/activities/5471340806
RATS Run #00417 Summerset and New Homestead

For this run, I started in the upper reaches of South Squirrel Hill then made my way across the Monongahela to New Homestead. I parked near Forward and Beechwood and trotted down the hill to Summerset. It’s a nice development of newer houses built atop a slag heap. There’s a tree-lined entrance and sweeping views of the Mon. More importantly, it’s a shortcut to Dunkin Donuts and Bruster’s Ice Cream! Mark down THIS route.

Below Summerset, the Jewish Association on Aging has several housing facilities from apartments to assisted living. In addition to a high-rise, college-like buildings dot the well-maintained grounds. This little bird seemed out of place, hopping around on the sidewalk, chirping.

This leads to Browns Hill Road. Take the right and you’re at Brusters, with Dunkin Donuts at the next light. Alas, my trek took me down Browns Hill Road, where the sidewalks are iffy. Sometime you have them, sometimes you don’t. I crossed the street at an inopportune spot and got a gutter. Finally out on the Homestead High Level Bridge, I was treated with views of the Mon and a laden train far below.

Between the still-standing smokestacks and the ever-present railroads, reminders of the steel heritage of Homestead remain. This is roughly the site of the famous “Homestead Strike“. Just off the end of the bridge to the left is a bar, Blue Dust, named for the blue dust which covered steelworkers’ clothes after a shift.

But Homestead is not within the city limits of Pittsburgh, I was just passing through. Heading toward New Homestead I found a short-cut; steps leading from 8th Avenue to Basic Street. At the top of the steps, there is a view of the old smokestacks.

Turning again, I slogged up the steep hill which would take me back into the City of Pittsburgh. Beyond the impressive retaining wall, I found a little grotto. Perhaps it isn’t the safest place, what with rocks tumbling about, but the “Park Here” sign was certainly welcoming.

Rounding the corner, Basic Street enters New Homestead and becomes a paper street, disappearing for a half-mile. It is an area of half-acre yards and modest homes. According to CityStrides, Benezet and Bench Way continue, making a circle. Well, not really. They are more like street stubs with new construction going on.

New Construction

And that was about it. I retraced my steps out of New Homestead, passing the Bulgarian-Macedonian National Economic and Cultural Center (BMNECC, for short). Last time I checked, it operated as an event venue, for dances and parties, while its bulletin board had flyers for lessons in Bulgarian. Eventually I crossed the Homestead High-Level Bridge again, this time getting an evening view of Duck Hollow.

Hitting the Rocks Bottom

Route of RATS #00416 Across the McKees Rocks Bridge and into Chateau

It was a humid summer evening in the ‘Burgh. Clouds pregnant with rain hung heavy over the city. Steam from earlier rains rose up to greet the newborns. This was the evening of Tuesday, June 8 and I was struggling. Mapping out ‘efficient’ runs has become more difficult. So, I figured, I’d do a simple run; complete Brighton Heights Boulevard, cross the McKees Rocks Bridge and then find the OTHER piece of Branchport Street I had previously missed.

I parked on Termon Avenue and scampered toward the McKees Rocks Bridge. It is a little annoying that sidewalks disappear from one side of the road, forcing you to cross. Par for the course, I suppose. Crossing Route 65, where it hits the bridge is a lesson in patience, but doable. If I remember correctly, only one side of the bridge had an open sidewalk. Once I got there, though, I was rewarded with great views down the Ohio on the right and down into an Alcosan waste water treatment plant on the other.

I must say, those churning tanks were mesmerizing. So many of them! Some were empty and surprisingly deep; maybe ten feet or more. On an amusing note, there is a high chain-link fence right above those tanks, presumably to reduce the chance of people falling in or having debris thrown in, mucking up the plumbing.

Unfortunately, the high fence stopped and only a low barrier separated me, the runner, from falling into the river. I found it unnerving, especially when the walkway went around the pier on the outside.

I made it to the other side just fine, of course, and was rewarded with steamy views of downtown, so far from the Bottoms, yet so close.

Downtown Pittsburgh from McKees Rocks Bridge

Simply returning across the bridge, I got to appreciate the views again. Then I trundled down California Avenue to the Eckert Street Steps.

Now, this section of the run was mainly due to poor planning. Earlier, I had run many of the streets in Chateau, but somehow missed that Branchport Street. This time, running down Eckert, I kept a mantra of “street after the marina”, “street after the marina”. I did get some nice views of the Ohio. “Street after the marina”, “street after the marina”. Look at that cool railroad bridge. “Street after the marina”, “street after the marina”.

Missed it. Whoops! Turning around, I finally came across it, a mere driveway.

Branchport Street, the Other

With this, I returned up the steps, up California Avenue and right onto Brighton Heights Boulevard. The Brighton Heights Bunny welcomed me back.

Brighton Heights Bunny

Long Way to Traverse

RATS run #00414 From South Side to Traverse Field

On this bright Saturday morning, a group of friends, led by Bob and Nancy, were doing the South Side Slopes piece of the “Take the Stairs Fatass” 50k. That route draws a jagged circle around Pittsburgh, starting in Spring Garden. An unsupported event (e.g. a ‘fatass’), it uses over 70 flights of city steps to bring the participants to some of the best views highlighting the city.

Anyway, I was NOT doing it, but figured I could meet up them. Sure enough, shortly after I parked in the South Side, I ran into them huffing and puffing up Eleanor Street. It has great views, and everyone in Pittsburgh should do them.

Breaking off after a few blocks, I continued through Arlington and to Amanda Street as it cuts down to Carrick. I needed to complete Charlock Way and Dove Way.

This area of the city; Knoxville, Mount Oliver, Mount Oliver Borough and Beltzhoover, are tightly packed. In some lucky areas, trees throw some shade, while in others, it is just sun, concrete and houses. Dove Way sounds pleasant enough, like the gentle cooing of mourning doves as the sun comes up over a green yard edged by flowers. The reality is different. It goes behind narrow towering houses leaning on each other for support. Grimes Avenue, while aptly named, at least has some trees.

Continuing the bird theme, I cut down through Partridge Way and a little unnamed alley off of Hawk Way.

Finally, I went back to Brownsville Road, passing the flower vendor en route to Borough Way. Borough Way straddles the southern border of the Borough of Mt Oliver and the City of Pittsburgh. At the end of Borough Way sits Traverse Field, which has little league baseball games. I finished up a little alley there and made my way back over the big hill, back to the South Side. It was a hilly seven miler. I was beat at the end.

Post Run

Crossing the River and through Homewood

Here are two runs from the end of May.

RATS #00411 in Homewood

Homewood! Homewood! Homewood!

I’ve written about you often and been through your maze of streets and alleys more than once. However, there’s always a little more of you. This was a Sunday afternoon run to tie up loose ends. El Court, for instance. On my first run past, I thought it was a sketchy driveway. Going around the block and back, I decided it was just sketchy, not a driveway. It has the style of row houses facing each other. Of course, a car was parked at the end facing outward. Why not?

I’ve found that this style of housing, with its row houses enclosing some sort of walkway or driveway, is found occasionally across the city, typically in older neighborhoods, Lawrenceville, Oakland and Perry Hilltop for instance. El Court, however, takes the cake for disrepair.

Another street I needed was Annan Way. It intersects North Braddock and parallels the busway as it heads toward North Homewood Avenue. Cinnibar Way is a similar-looking alley but isn’t nearly as long. It does have that typical red-brick paving of most of Homewood’s alleys.

Prior to getting here, though, I traipsed up Inglenook Place. I had done that area earlier, with its long flight of stairs up to Sickle Street. However, I had missed a tree-lined alley, Hackett Way, earlier. Actually, earlier I didn’t think it was even a street. But it is, and there I was, running it down. I didn’t get a good picture of it, but it’s right under those trees at the top of the steps.

In spite of rampant dumping in alleys, deer frequent the open grassy lots. Cuddy’s looks like a store from the 50’s.

Murals adorn many brick buildings. As I was discussing with a friend recently, these are ‘paid’ art; I call it graffiti gentrification. Most of it is pretty cool with real design and artistic talent. Of course, it’s just not the same as the midnight taggers marking their territory.

And that’s about it.


RATS Run #00412

I started this run, run #00412, across the Allegheny River. It is “officially” in the Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar neighborhood. Mostly, though, is a an Aspinwall, Fox Chapel shopping area.

After getting all the way to Fox Chapel Road, I retraced my steps and crossed the Highland Park Bridge. It crosses the Allegheny just upriver from “Lock and Dam 2”. It is a fairly simple lock and dam, maybe nine or ten feet high.

I ran past scads of cars slowly making their way into the Pittsburgh Zoo. It was a beautiful Memorial Day and the zoo looked packed. Just beyond One Wild Place, I took a detour off of Butler Street to do Ballard Way, Gallatin Street and the Jancey Street Steps.

Moving on down Butler Street, I noticed what seems to be large amounts of dumping down near railroad tracks. Turns out, this is an auto-salvage business and the mountain of metal will, I assume, be recycled. I stumbled upon a few streets which took me under the 62nd Street Bridge.

Apparently, the authorities frown on people dismantling their cars down here. What the heck?! In this land of the free, why can’t I just dismantle my car wherever I feel like it? Sheez! That sign made me so mad, I think I’ll just keep my car intact. Take THAT!

Silly rant aside, it was another world, down there under the bridge. Much more active than I thought it would be.

Moving on, I went up onto the bridge and ran across. Halfway across I was officially out of Pittsburgh and into Shaler. It does have some cools views of the city, must say. Of course, as I approached the northern end of the bridge, I crossed the ubiquitous railroad tracks again.

Another eight miles in the books.


So, that is it for May 2021. In spite of a week of travel, I ran over 100 miles. I’m slowly chipping away at the streets.

Beltzhoover and Edgebrook Avenue

Two runs in late May


Back-alleys in Beltzhoover

RATS run #00410 in Beltzhoover

Prior to this project, I did not appreciate the size of Beltzhoover. Now, I appreciate it, as I keep going back to ‘finish’ up more alleys and cul-de-sac’s. This run, run #00410, was on a beautiful Sunday morning, but my plans were immediately altered. My old nemesis, “Nonexisting Streets” was at it again; Pear Way, for example.

However, I persisted and found my way down many a country road there. Yes folks, this is a reputedly tough inner city neighborhood.

I’m often a little tense running through alleys like this because I’m not sure what I will find. I generally shouldn’t worry too much; mainly I’m dodging chipmunks, squirrels, groundhogs, the occasional cat and sometimes deer. Every once in awhile, I’ll come across someone walking their dog.

This is not to say these alleys are pristine. Often decaying garages house cars which haven’t moved in a generation. Tires and garbage are common. I do believe there is a City of Pittsburgh Ordinance about the cars, though. Oh, here it is:

The accumulation and storage of abandoned, wrecked, dismantled or inoperative vehicles, or parts thereof, on private or public property, not including highways, is found to create a condition tending to reduce the value of private property, to promote blight and deterioration, to invite plundering, to create fire hazards, to constitute an attractive nuisance creating a hazard to the health and safety of minors, to create a harborage for rodents and insects and to be injurious to the health, safety and general welfare. Therefore, the presence of an abandoned, wrecked, dismantled or inoperative vehicle, or parts thereof, on private or public property, not including highways, except expressly as hereinafter permitted, is a public nuisance which may be abated as such in accordance with the provisions of this chapter. [Ord. 664 C.S. ยงย 1, 1973.]

https://www.codepublishing.com/CA/Pittsburg/html/Pittsburg08/Pittsburg0812.html#8.12.010

If only this were enforced! Maybe it is just too much hassle and paperwork, I don’t know.

Now, at some point someone decided that a directional sign pointing to Beltzhoover’s amenities was a good idea. It sounds like a great idea to me too! However, apparently there wasn’t any money to keep the right of way mowed or stairs intact, so now the sign is rather ridiculous. The pic below on the right were steps prior to 2007, if I’m not mistaken. Of course, these days, with smartphones and maps, I don’t think we need directional signs that much.

That was about it for alleys of Beltzhoover. I’m sure I’ve missed some and will be back.


An Epic Run From McKinley Park

RATS Run #00410 from McKinley Park to Brookline and Back

This run, RATS run #00410, started pretty close to the previous run, run #00409. However, I went in an entirely different direction, down Bausman to Saw Mill Run Boulevard. My main goal was completing Edgebrook Avenue. I did that and added a few charming streets.

McKinley Park is fairly large. The main access to it is along Bausman Street, where folks park along the road and have picnics, play hoops and skateboard. However, it was a rainy Saturday morning when I went through, so the park was deserted.

At the bottom of the hill, Bausman ends at Saw Mill Run Boulevard. This is only a quarter mile from the Liberty Tubes, so it is very busy. T-tracks tower overhead and a thriving thrift store sits across the intersection. You might notice the picture with the T is bright and sunny, while the Thift store is all gray. That’s because I did this one section twice. The first time, my GPS failed, so I felt compelled to do it again. (Argh!)

Behind the thrift store, Timberland Avenue crosses a closed bridge and runs past a couple of derelict houses before disappearing in a tangle of underbrush. The stream, Saw Mill Run, still has car carcasses littering the gravel.