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Turning 300 in Lincoln Lemington Belmar

https://www.strava.com/activities/4088625359
Route of run number 300

Whoo! My 300th time covering new streets on a run through Pittsburgh! This run was rather adventurous for me, covering streets from North Homewood to Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar. It is a residential area, with a few churches and small businesses. The houses tend to be older, occupied and in decent shape. There are big yards and lots of open spaces. There are also crowded streets, alleys used as dumping grounds, broken staircases and testy drivers.

My intention was to ascend the steps going from Lincoln Avenue to Arbor Street. Unfortunately, they were severely overgrown, so I ended up just running up Arbor Street. It was a steep one and there were several men in the street, cleaning brush and arguing. It was a little uncomfortable running past this group but happily they ignored me. Arbor Street makes a steep, sharp turn to the top of the hill where it becomes Pointview Street. There’s a small square of streets on this hilltop, which I had visited the previous day, working with Allegheny Cleanways, a group that is cleaning up illegal dump sites around the county. Pointview intersects Bower Street, another side of the square. One end of Bower Street are steps leading to Lincoln Avenue.

The other devolves from a decent residential street to a back-alley strewn with trash and cars. I continued along the alley until it started to curve closely around a house, like a driveway. I scooted back the way I came, noticing deer among the derelict cars and trucks.

Making the right onto Hyatt and then Hedge Streets, I noticed a driveway into that alley. Skull-decorated “Do Not Enter” signs adorned the entrance. Glad I didn’t go all the way around that building! While many areas I cover are empty, deserted streets, this area was alive with kids riding bikes, men walking home from the Dollar Store and people putzing around their yards. I got more than one quizzical look, as I suppose old white men don’t run up there too often.

I made my way to the start of Olivant Street, which has a long and meandering path. On one side, glass filled steps made their way from Olivant Street to a rather nice ball field. On the other, houses shouldered up the slopes.

From here, I crossed Paulson Avenue and explored the dead-end remains of Olivant Street on the other side. At the end of Olivant, as far as publicly accessible roads go, was a Duquense Light Power Substation. It’s desert-like gray gravel contrasted sharply with the surrounding lush green woods. Here, too, people were out; weed-whacking and taking in garbage cans. The streets up here are all dead-ends. Some are marked “Private” well before the end of the road. While frustrating to me, I don’t go down those roads.

I did manage to get to the end of Olivant Place, a narrow lane which became more and more grassy. I was awarded by the sight of a flock of wild turkeys, five or six large ones and maybe six smaller chicks. (Of course, turkey ‘chicks’ are rather large as well.) Startled, they abruptly scooted down the slope and flew into the trees. I only caught a fleeting photo of them. Usually the only Wild Turkeys I see are empty bottles. Must say, from the hilltops you get a pretty good view.

From here, I just ran a few more, flatter streets, before completing Paulson Avenue and heading back to my car. Eleven miles in the bank and some new areas covered.

More about the 300 runs

Pittsburgh Streets I’ve Run

I use a couple of methods to estimate how much I have done in Pittsburgh. The “golden standard” is my map of the Pittsburgh, where I color in each run as I do them. When the map is incorrect, I make notes. Streets that don’t connect are stricken through in black, additional streets are marked. In my ‘rules”, I state that doing 1/2 of a dead-end is acceptable. That is a bit weak, though, and generally, I’ll go to the end unless it becomes a private drive. I’ll be done when my “golden standard” is complete and anything I’ve ‘missed’ has an explanation such as “doesn’t go through”, “is a private road”, “not safe for pedestrians”.

Another method is CityStrides, which processes Garmin route data to determine which streets are completed. It uses a concept of “Nodes” to determine if you’ve completed a street. Do all the nodes, you’re done. Miss a node and and you’re not. With that being said, CityStrides has me at 58% of Pittsburgh streets completed. If this were all linear, that would mean another 217 runs. Of course, it is not.

I estimate I’ll need 90-110 more runs to complete the city. It depends greatly on how much I cover per run and how efficient I am at covering streets. Either way, it looks like I’ll be done sometime between New Years and Easter, 2021.

Cemetery Sunset

https://www.strava.com/activities/4041859021
Route of RATS #00296

The sun is setting earlier. I’m not getting out earlier. The result? Lots of sunset and dusky runs. This short, steep run was in the Carrick area. Lucky for me, I wasn’t going up and down the hills, just across. Even so, I had over 100 feet of elevation per mile.

I started overlooking St. Adelbert Cemetery along Brownsville Road, then sauntered past backyards and into the cemetery itself. Just putzing around for information about it, I came across this “Pittsburgh Cemeteries” blog, which is pretty interesting. In an older section, trees have re-asserted themselves around the plots, making for a spooky evening scene.

I made my way down West Meyers Street. It actually dead-ends, for cars, but a little wooden staircase leads to the end of Mt Joseph Street. It was rather small, but is actually an official City of Pittsburgh stairway. From there the streets generally went “parallel” to Brownsville Road. “Pittsburgh Parallel”, that is; they followed the same contours and did not intersect. As is typical for the area, it is densely packed with two and three story houses. This one caught my eye, with it’s red and teal trim.

I worked my way back up the hill towards Brownsville Road, crossing Newitt Street from time to time. At the top, where it meets Bownsville Road, it has street steps. The picture of the parked car parked gives some scale for that slope.

The night came on fast and I didn’t get anymore pictures. But, it was a worthwhile run, covering some streets and chipping away at the vast network that is Carrick.

Banking on Southern Steps

https://www.strava.com/activities/4022027255
Strava route of RATS #00294

Good morning! Last Sunday I mapped out a little run in Brookline and left some room for exploration. Explore I did, crossing over into Banksville as far as Greentree, then coming back through Mount Lebanon and Dormont.

Brookline

Many of my “goal” streets were in Brookline, where Brookline Boulevard curves down to West Liberty Avenue. It is the site of the “Brookline” sign and has several small streets crammed together. The Boulevard circles a small section of lower ground packed with small houses. A few sets of stairs, such as Bodkin Steps and Kenilworth Steps rise out of the bowl. After the run, I feasted on strudel from DeLuca’s.

Wenzell and Louisiana

When Brookline Boulevard crosses West Liberty Avenue, it changes name to Wenzell Avenue. Wenzell Avenue has spotty sidewalks and rather steeply drops through Beechview to its terminus at Banksville Road. Some sections of Wenzell border the Borough of Dormont. Given this topography, it is no surprise this section is riddled with steps. Neeld Way, dropping out of Beechview streets, is a rather long set of steps going from Candace Street to Wenzell. Wenzell, itself, has a long section of street steps as it drops to Banksville Road.

However, the most impressive and interesting sets of steps is Louisiana Street. Just after the Neeld Way steps dropped me unceremoniously onto a shoulder of Wenzell Avenue, I looked up and saw the sign for Louisiana Street. In the summer, it looks like one of the many street signs to nowhere, swallowed up in knotweed. However, brushing aside the branches, I found myself in a long shady step tunnel. Along the way, a house arose on the right. It’s common to find ruins along stairs, but this large cream colored house looked pretty nice. Continuing as the stairs become a causeway, I came across the house’s mailbox and garbage cans. A living, breathing orphan house! Shortly after, it rises again to a streets blending into Dormont. Taking Ordinance Avenue steps out, I circled around to see it again.

Now, when I came down to Banksville Road, I was blocked by construction from crossing into Banksville itself. Not to be denied, I followed small streets to Potomac Avenue, whereupon I crossed over and ventured, for the first time, into Banksville.

Banksville

Banksville Neighborhood

Banksville is roughly bounded by Banksville Road, Greentree Road, the Parkway West and McMonagle Avenue. I was not familiar with the area at all. I crossed at Potomac Avenue, took the flat Banksville Avenue to steps and found myself in a curious area. On one hand, it looked very suburban with a range of houses from smaller 1950’s ranches to new McMansions. On the other, The Log Church was a rather hidden church complex near mobile home parks. Most of the roads did not have sidewalks. The steps from Banksville Avenue to Carnahan Road were impressive in length and the Anise Steps ended in the shadow of construction along Banksville Avenue.

Finishing Up

After exploring Banksville a little, I headed back to Potomac Avenue to finish off this run. I was trying to complete a half-marathon distance, which would wrap up my running goal for the week. While I’ve stopped paying attention to hills when planning, Potomac Avenue was a killer in the eleventh mile. I came across a chalk square, which happens from time to time, as I cross paths with other adventurers.

I still had a mile or so to go when I got back to Brookline, so I completed Bayridge Avenue and most of Harex Way. That’s a cool name, “Harex”. Anyway, with the 13.1 miles complete, I stumbled into DeLuca’s for my post-run treat. Yum!

Picaso’s Dog

https://www.strava.com/activities/4008140074
RATS #00291 – Looks Like Picaso’s Dog

A six mile run, with a few ‘targeted’ streets to begin and some exploration to end. Another Carrick evening run, which, in my humble opinion, traced a route which could be a dog drawn in Picaso’s style. Do you see it?

But first things first. My ‘targeted area’ was a small set of streets wedged between Brownsville Road and Becks Run Road. Athena Street was the entry-way and I was pleased to find some classical yard decorations right off the bat. Athena Street itself, was more of a country lane.

Athena Street took me to a small enclave of two and three bedroom brick homes nestled below it. Beyond the unexpected interruption of Nuzum Avenue, there wasn’t too much to see here. Once done circling the block, I popped out on Brownsville Road and hopped over to Parkfield Street. The drive behind Carrick High School is actually listed as a street, and, luckily was still open and had a nice view of the residential valley below.

Coming up Santron, I saw three or four tweens grass-sledding and giggling while moms watched for cars. “Grass-sledding” is a high form of sport wherein you take a large cardboard box, place it on the edge of a grassy slope, and whizz down gripping the sides, trying to stay on. It is summer practice for the winter sledding season.

Eventually I came down Westmont Avenue, meeting the Mother and Child sculpture, with its greenish patina as Westmont met Ravilla. Ravilla, which I’ve already traversed, does have a set of stairs smack next to a rather active house. I missed the steps my first time through, but today took them down to Almont. I encountered another lending library, very emphatic in its instructions to NOT BRING THE BOOKS BACK!

From here, I wound my way to Maytide Street and followed it to Saw Mill Run Boulevard. Maytide starts promising, with decent sidewalks, but as it descends, it deteriorates into broken sidewalks and then no sidewalk. There were a couple of step flights reaching up into the hillsides, but they had the “Thou Shalt Not Pass” bar across them. Saw Mill Run is not runner friendly. At least there are so many parking lots and businesses you don’t have to run in the street. This area has the prototypical used-car lots, with shiny streamers and lights. An older dealership had this mural, replete with the Pittsburgh skyline, traffic, houses and greenery.

Now my dilemma was finding my way back. I spied some steps and made my way to them. The first set was confusing. They looked like bona fide city steps, but after going up, I felt like I was on someone’s front porch. That didn’t feel comfortable, arriving unexpectedly on someone’s porch in Carrick in the dusk without even a six-pack or bottle of wine to share. So, I went down and checked out the next set of stairs, Sinton Avenue. These even had a street sign so they must be legit.

Sinton Avenue went up several flights, finally dropping me off near the high-school. There was one, minor detour, but except for that missing block, they went straight up the hill. Love the street sign of Marland Way and Sinton Avenue where steps meet alley. It was all the more incongruous in that the alley had run out of pavement at this point and was just a grassy space between yards. Got to love the sign department.

That brought me back to Brownsville Road and the civilization of Dunkin Donuts. Another section of Carrick explored, another doughnut devoured.

Dusky Hill Run

RATS #00290 across Upper Hill to Lawrenceville

This day’s run was more about distance than making sure every street was new. I did, however, have a few target streets on my mind and covered most of them.

I started in Oakland. While it was moderately busy, it was nowhere as crowded as normal. The city has closed a number of streets so that restaurants can spill out into the street.

Forbes Avenue in Oakland
Forbes Avenue in Oakland with Cathy in the distance

I progressed up to Centre Avenue, doing the steps which go from Centre Avenue to Ewarts Street. Saw some attractive butternut squash along the way, as well as mysterious gates and doors.

Ewart Street brought me to Iowa Street. From there, I did a few cross streets. These were long residential streets, very typical of the Hill District.

From this point, as dusk settled in, I found myself on dim steps and small roads. From Webster Avenue down to Ridgeway and then to Bigelow Blvd, the steps are a very direct way down. The roads were quiet and empty.

Finally I crossed over Bigelow Boulevard on the pedestrian walkway. While it looks a bit threatening, it was well used and much better than dodging cars. I crossed over the Bloomfield Bridge and sailed down 42nd Street.

The return up Fisk was easier than I expected. Actually, with all the hills I’ve come across, I didn’t feel it was too bad. I finished out by returning to Oakland. A nice eight mile run! It’s been awhile since I just popped out a longish run on a weeknight. Yay!

August 2020 Monthly Catch-Up

Summary

This August was hot with fifteen days of highs above 85; and busy, with a move. While I love this project, sometimes it is a chore. So in August, I’ve been slightly more relaxed about running with friends or just for an adventure, without regard to the streets I’ve covered. I’m keeping my knee problems at bay with a combination of new pair of shoes and using KT tape. (I’m back in a new pair of Altra Escalante 1.5’s.)

I’ve made large strides of progress in the South Hills, including Beltzhoover and Carrick, and continue to fill in the gaps in the North and West sections of Pittsburgh. August’s 97 miles was considerably more than July, and doubled my elevation, increasing it to 11,189 feet. Of the seventeen runs I recorded in August, fifteen covered new streets.

Without further ado, here are the rest of the August runs.

RATS #00279

https://www.strava.com/activities/3909687450
RATS #00279 Allentown & Beltzhoover

Just a short evening run to cover some streets before it got too dark. Looking at the pictures, maybe it was already too dark. Long dim streets filled with kids playing and adults coming home from work.

RATS #00281

https://www.strava.com/activities/3928625534
RATS #00281 – Carrick

Another evening run, this one in Carrick with its busy streets and close houses. Georgia Avenue dead-ends into a ghostly cemetery, especially at dusk.

RATS #00284

https://www.strava.com/activities/3943240703
RUN #00284

Hammering it out with the evening runs in Carrick. This one took me down Overbrook Avenue to Saw Mill Run Boulevard. The uphill slog was epic. Nighttime phone pics + running = streaks.

RATS #00286

https://www.strava.com/activities/3955466444
RATS #00286 – Beltzhoover and Bon Air

Finally, a daytime run! This Sunday run was intended to clean up a few streets Erin and I had missed the previous day. Turns out, one of the alleys in Bon Air which I had ‘missed’ doesn’t exist anymore. No worries, there were plenty more alleys, with more cars rolling down them than you might expect! If it sounds like a broken record, it is… at least you can still hear “Tubby the Tuba” on Youtube. Between this run and the previous, I covered 95% of Bon Air.

RATS #00287

https://www.strava.com/activities/3961468743
RATS #00287 – Brighton Heights

For a change, I headed north to Brighton Heights and traversed the small streets ending high above Route 65. These small streets are quite the mix and you can see the smokestacks of Brunot Island from several. Davis Avenue ends in steps down to Rt 65 and one house on Verner Avenue sported a manatee guarding its mailbox. That’s a first.

RATS #00288

https://www.strava.com/activities/3966234640
RATS #00288 in Bloomfield, Friendship and Garfield

This was short run to catch some alleys in Bloomfield. Within the first mile, I had most of the target streets done, including all of Jordan Way in Garfield. I was surprised to find the painted doors along the alley. Not only were there dozens of bird houses in that tree, there’s also a “Little (Bird House) Library” in front of it.

RATS #00289

https://www.strava.com/activities/3983608398
RATS #00289 in West Liberty

This last run, on the last Saturday of August, hit another section of alleys and streets in West Liberty. I think the auto artifacts along an alley’s garage and the yard decorations were the most surprising finds of this run. I get a kick out the various little libraries I see.

Finally, there were several sets of steps; long ones like Ray Avenue and Belle Isle Avenue. There was also a shorter set of steps, Templeton Street, but the lower section was too overgrown to use. Ironically, the City of Pittsburgh’s steps webpage give these a fairly high score. Here’s the Belle Isle set.

Here’s the Templeton set.

And finally, here’s Ray Avenue.

On to September

So, that’s all for August. I’m looking forward to cooler temps and a reprieve from moving boxes.

Carrick Buck and Bon Air Rooster

https://www.strava.com/activities/3949650172
Route for RATS #00285

First blog in a few days. Sorry, I’ve been running. Going back to last Sunday, me and a friend, Erin, tackled Bon Air and more of Carrick. I’ve known Erin for a few years and she has progressed from a beginning runner to quite the endurance athlete. Just the week before she had done a multi-day run/hike in the Laurel Highlands covering over forty miles. Last Sunday, she agreed to tag along in my all the streets adventure.

We started at the tip of McKinley Park and immediately went uphill on Bausman. Before we got into Bon Air, I had to cover some streets in Carrick. Aside from Brownsville Road, there are only a few small streets which continue into this area. Romeyn was one of them. It is impressive how high the houses are off the ravine floor.

This part of Carrick is densely populated and filled with Pittsburgh four-squares on small, hilly lots. There are few steps, notably Georgia Avenue, which go two blocks uphill. Also, as streets come off of Brownsville Road, there are often steps such as these Moore Street Steps.

Deeper into the neighborhood, away from Brownsville Road, vegetation starts to take over again, both controlled gardens and the lush mix of trees, wild grape vines and invasive Japanese Knotweed which is so prevalent in Pittsburgh. The green hillsides host a surprising amount of wildlife. We saw this buck nibbling grass along the top of Georgia Avenue Steps.

Moving up into Bon Air, we noticed a striking difference. While there were still some large Pittsburgh four-squares perched high on hills, there were many small two and three bedroom ranch houses and split-levels. These looked like houses built in the 1950’s. The yards were larger.

The streets were also long and straight. As I’ve mentioned previously, straight streets are attempts by planners to ignore the region’s topography. They are invariably very steep. At the bottom of one section, along Drycove Street, we saw not only another of Tom Murphy’s “Project Picket Fence” fences, but also a curious block of grass with steps into it. A lawn pool? I’m sure there’s a better explanation.

Bon Air was pleasant, in spite of the hills. We saw the largest lawn Rooster I’ve ever seen, ironically watched over by sunning cats. Lawn decorations were everywhere. I was impressed by this patio garden.

There are several flights of stairs in Bon Air. If you’re adventurous and go down a long asphalt alley, you’ll get to the Bon Air T-Station. I’m not sure why, but if you scour Bob Regan’s book on Pittsburgh Steps, you won’t find “Caperton”, but you will find a set of steps listed between Fodyce and Conniston, which are the steps on Caperton Street.

After rambling through Bon Air awhile, we went back to Carrick. Here, brightly colored yard decorations and a exquisitely planted pool awaited.

At the end of Amanda Street, we only had about 7 1/2 miles in, so we explored some more. We took streets which plunged down to Route 51. One woman on her porch suggested it would be easier to roll down than run down. I think she was right. Not wanted to dodge cars along Route 51, we made our way along Noble Street, encountering a number of flights of steps. These were fairly long.

We finally made it back with about ten miles under our belts. I was happy that Erin came along. We explored an area of the city neither of us had been in before. After such an exploratory run, I start to mentally connect different parts of the city together.

Sunset views in Spring Garden

https://www.strava.com/activities/3938468063
Route for run number 00283

This run, in Spring Garden, and the previous one , in Spring Hill, were both in the “Spring Hill /City View” area of Pittsburgh according to Google Maps, but each had a different feel and, quite literally, a different view of the city. Spring Garden seems more 1950’s residential than Spring Hill. While still boasting huge hills, Spring Garden’s main streets seem a little tamer than Spring Hill’s.

At any rate, I started as before on Vinial Street, due to its convenience for parking. I ascended the Arcola Street steps as a short-cut to Damas Street. So, let’s take a short aside here. I pronounce “Damas” as “dah-MAHS'”, with soft southern “ah’s”, stressing the “mas”. The first time I was on Damas Street, I was lost and a little late and mentally christened it “Dumb-Ass” Street. This time, though, I found it a delightful little street. At it’s entrance, Steel City Boxing has set up a ring in an old building fire station. Right across the street is Voegtly Spring. I like to think this put the “Spring” into “Spring Garden”.

Moving on, I found Admiral Street, Noster Street and the intervening alleys to be quite nice. It was a pleasant evening, so people were in their backyards having gatherings around their fire pits and playing in their pools. Along Admiral Street a small flagpole and a simple cast statue stood as a personal memorial along an empty lot overlooking the city. I found it touching.

Many of these streets dead-end into hillsides. I was surprised to find there’s actually a “Spring Garden Greenway”, with its own official sign. Curious what a “greenway” is? Here you go!

In 1980, the Greenways for Pittsburgh program was established to consolidate steeply sloped, unbuildable land for the purpose of protecting hillsides and preserving passive open space resources.

http://www.pittsburghpa.gov/dcp/greenways/

I was not surprised to find deer. Of course, I didn’t find them on the greenway. I found them in a side yard, where I cornered a doe and fawn munching on yummy landscaped flowers.

As the evening became night, I finished up on the tremendous hill of Donora Street. Not far behind it, a radio tower stood dark against the sky.

Coming back to the rather flat Rockledge Street, I considered covering “just one more street”, but thought the better of it and headed home with over four miles in, and another 600′ of elevation. Looking at the map later, I’m really happy I called it a day when I did. I would have had a two more miles of small streets, alleys and dead-ends; but in the dark.

Back to Spring Hill

https://www.strava.com/activities/3933510095
Route for RATS #00282

Early on in my journey to run all the streets of Pittsburgh, I ran several times in Spring Hill, including a pre-dawn, rainy run described in “Running Before the Storm”. Since then, I’ve spread my wings and run all over Pittsburgh. But still, Spring Hill, with its weave of steps and hills is a charming, challenging place to run and there are streets I haven’t completed. This night’s run was to fill in some of those streets.

Right off the bat, I crossed Roethlein Way, half stairs, half pavement. Then I explored High Street, which isn’t the highest. I truthfully ran on “Old Honesty Street” (love that name), as it took me from Spring Garden Avenue to Firth Street. Can you imagine being in 1st grade and having to answer in front of the class where you live?

While most of the houses here are small, narrow affairs, this larger house near the Arcola Way steps is pretty impressive, in spite of needing a paint job. Speaking of Arcola Way steps, they are long and steep, rising to Itin Street, about 100 feet up.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. After running to both dead-ends of Firth Street (hmm), I started up Holmes Street, then made a quick turn onto Diana Street. As in so many places in Spring Hill, this is a stairs to pavement intersection. A few years back the end of Diana Street was literally sliding into a ravine. The city did a good job and shored that up. Great views from the end of Diana Street.

It is cool to run up here. There is so much to see. Each street seems to be its own world, hidden from above and below. A number of houses have either fallen down or been demolished, with the only reminders ghost steps and old retaining walls. The small streets are not for the faint of heart, like that sharp intersection of Diana and Itin.

These murals caught my eye. The driver looks cool, but must be English, driving on that side of the car. It’s really tucked away, on Haslage, I believe.

Cats abound here, taking full advantage of nooks and crannies to live and friendly folks who feed them.