Halloween’s Alive in Lincoln Place

https://www.strava.com/activities/4177544599
Run #00311 in Lincoln Place

Lincoln Place is the southernmost neighborhood in the City of Pittsburgh. If you take the Glenwood Bridge out of the city and keep going along Mifflin Road, you’ll come to it. There are three Pittsburgh neighborhoods down here, Hays and New Homestead being the others. Lincoln Place is, by far, the most populous.

Lincoln Place

I parked at McBride Park, intent on doing the grid of streets to the right of Mifflin Road. McBride Park, which is on the top of a ridge overlooking the neighborhood has a playing field, some tennis courts and wide open fields. There are a couple of pedestrian-only entrances which enhances its neighborly feel.

Speaking of the neighborhood feel – it is solidly suburban. Small, two and three bedroom houses at the top of the ridge give way to sprawling houses at the bottom.

This looks like a good neighborhood for trick-or-treating. Nearly every house is decorated, some more profusely than others. There is even a small graveyard off of Nollhill Street. I actually came upon it through a small path from Orchid Street where I can imagine a preteen Disney movie unfolding. You know, someone intrudes upon a house while the parents are at a Halloween party, so the kids must hide out in the graveyard which has its own dangers.

Completing these streets, I crossed over Mifflin Road and explored a bit. Interboro Avenue has the distinction of being parallel to itself for about half a mile. Physically, they are two distinct streets, as my feet can tell you. McElhinny Avenue is interesting in that one side is full of houses whereas the other looks out onto a wilderness. Turns out, most of that wilderness is just a couple of lots combining for 50 acres of land. Across that “wilderness” is the Allegheny County Airport.

Working my way back to McBride Park, I was pretty pleased. Over seven miles in another one of Pittsburgh’s great neighborhoods.

Butterfly to Bridge

https://www.strava.com/activities/4169627708
RATS #00310 – All over northern Pittsburgh

Run after work! Yay!

Well mapped to start! Yay!

Steps here, steps there! Yay!

A slight detour and no easy path to the Swindell Bridge. Boo!

And that, my friends, was this run in a nutshell. Starting out near work, I made it to the same area I had run; Perry Hilltop. This time, I hit a few small streets, University and Langley, from the Perrysville Avenue side of the hilltop. Turning onto University, these neat mosaics jumped out at me, hidden though they were, on the back side of nondescript brick building.

University is a short dead-end and my next street was Langley. It goes steeply half a block and then says “Oh shit, this is too steep” becoming steps to the next, flatter section. These weren’t the only steps I encountered. One wooden set of steps, named either McKee’s Lane (according to the city’s step website) or Cheese Street (according to Google Maps) took me from Perrysville Avenue to Burgess Street. Burgess Street, itself, has sidewalk steps as you power your way up to Osgood Street.

From here, high on the hill overlooking I-279, I made a fateful decision. If I turned now, I could finish off Brightside Avenue and have a nice 5-6 mile run. If I took Suffolk Street, I could hopefully take the Swindell Bridge back and have perhaps a 7-8 mile run. It was sunny, cool and I was feeling good, so I decided on the later and turned onto Hazelton Street.

Hazelton Street is a curious pocket of houses. As I started down it, a traffic jam was emerging. The large white truck was having a hard time making the sharp left turn as the smaller cars zipped around it. Eventually, the driver got it right and made its way down Suffolk Street. It took me a little longer, as I went to the end of Hazelton, where the TV tower pricks the sky.

I did make it to Suffolk, which is notable because from I-279 coming into Pittsburgh, you can see it on your right; steps rising into the hillside.

Running, and more generally exploring on foot, changes the scale. At my pace, I got to examine the steel beams of the highway as they slowly came into view. Very impressive, I must say. At any rate, Suffolk plopped me onto East Street. This is the point in the run where my planning stops and I’m exploring, with only general goals in mind. At this point, I was looking for a street or steps to take me up the hill to the Swindell Bridge, high above.

Swindell Bridge

Unfortunately, I didn’t see anything. So I just continued up East Street and came down Perrysville Avenue. It is familiar to me now that I’ve run all these streets here. But there’s always something to see.

Little Free Library

I did get to do Brightside after all, but finished with ten miles, roughly double my original plan.

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!

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.

Rambling in Manchester

RATS #00278 in Manchester
RATS #00278 in Manchester

This evening I came back from the outer limits of Pittsburgh to run closer to its core, the Manchester neighborhood. Reading a little about it, I was surprised that the Manchester Historical District is Pittsburgh’s largest historical district, known for its Victorian homes. In spite of this historic designation, the area is bounded by the lifeblood of commerce; highways and railroads. Southern Manchester is close to CCAC and there’s a semblance of off-campus college life in that area.

I started along Brighton Road with its tree-lined street and community gardens. Going down Beech Avenue, a group spilled out down the street; which concerned me. A protest? A street party? No, it was a scene filming. While not a big production, with Haddad trucks, it still had a dozen people working the set, sound and lighting.

Continuing past the Victorian row houses, I meandered through the streets and alleys, including rather forbidding looking Buttercup Way.

Even along alleys there was lots to see here, from impressive doors to curious door-knockers.

Moving along, I came to one of traffic borders, with its high brick walls. This half-house with a high-rise a a backdrop really captures the ups and downs of this area.

Finally, I couldn’t pass up this car, quietly snuggled in a grassy lot.

SUV Painted with "Amplify"
Quiet times for loud car

I finished up as the evening grew old and shadows lengthened with a good five miles and several new streets under my belt.

Water Domes and Garden Hedgehogs

https://www.strava.com/activities/3870482463
RATS #00276 – Carrick

Another evening run in Carrick. This time, I chose to stay south of East Agnew Avenue. I’m slowing warming up to this area, though should warn all potential runners that once you leave Brownsville Road, it quickly goes downhill, elevation-wise. The neighborhood is mixed, with broad streets and large houses followed by steep streets with small houses. There’s also a some suburban decay – a few residences are condemned to voracious vines.

But the real surprise of this run was how quickly I went from those residential scenes above to the water filtration plant along Madeline Street. These geodesic half-domes are part of Pennsylvania American Water’s system. American Water is a much larger company than I expected, supplying water to communities in 46 states. Alcosan, servicing much of Pittsburgh, seems to be the bigger water player around here while another water company, Penn-Wilkinsburg Joint Water Authority, services suburbs east of the Pittsburgh, like Wilkinsburg and Penn Hills.

I wandered between East Agnew and Madeline for most of my run. Redrose Avenue dead-ends but has a flight stairs coming down to Madeline. Later in the run, I found a curious set of sidewalk steps along East Woodford Avenue. They were sunken alongside a retaining wall instead of above the street.

At the end of Hornaday Road, I found an interesting collection of neighborhood delights. I could be wrong, but it looked like a garden, a playground and a Little Library all in one! That sounds like a fun place. I also came across a hedgehog shrine.

I also encountered my share of house guardians. A few just stood stone-like, scared of me, I suppose, while many more voiced their disapproval that I was running by, or running by without petting them and giving them treats.

Crossing over Brownville Road, I discovered the streets on the far side to be steeper than the ones I had just left. West Woodford Avenue, for example, drops nearly 170 feet in two-tenths of a mile. Climbing back out of that well, I ran to my car and finished with five miles.

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!

June 2020 – Monthly Catch-Up

Summary

June has been a challenging month and my running stats show it. With only 75.5 miles this month, it was the lowest monthly mileage since February 2019. My elevation gain was decent, at 7,700 feet, but half May’s. The main reason has been ongoing problems with my left knee/ hamstring/ IT band. However, I’m hopeful additional rest, along with a few changes in my routine will allow me to run much more in July.

Nonetheless, all of my thirteen runs this month covered new streets. In the South and West, I’m continuing to make progress in Allentown, Brookline and West Liberty as well as Westwood. In the East, I’ve made progress in Garfield, Homewood and Regent Square. In the North I touched on Brighton Heights and Lawrenceville. I’m up to 261 “RATS” runs.

This project also had the honor of being the subject of two articles, one in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the other in the Pittsburgh Magazine. Also Jim Lynch, the host of FeelGoodRunning featured me along with two other runners in his July 2020 podcast.

But, without further ado, here are the rest of my June runs.

RATS #00249 – West Liberty, Brookline

https://www.strava.com/activities/3549735818
RATS #00249

A run tragically cut short by hamstring pain. (Notice how I don’t get back to my starting point?) However, it continued my exploration of Brookline and West Liberty. It is a nice area, with modest houses, clean streets and a hill or two.

rats00249
Typical Street in Westwood

RATS #00250 – Garfield

https://www.strava.com/activities/3555235754
250th RATS Run!!!

This run was right after the Post-Gazette photographer took some pictures. She kept having me run back and forth. I thought “I suppose the first ones didn’t come out well.” Only after seeing the article did I realize how she used them.

A simple run in Garfield, with its booming hills and big houses. Usually I have no egrets on these journeys, but today was different.

An Egret Hanging Out

RATS #00251 in Brighton Heights

https://www.strava.com/activities/3560488435
RATS #00251 Brighton Heights

I like running in Brighton Heights. The rather flat big streets are tree lined and its easy to get to. As I ran down one alley, I heard a “Hi Ed” faintly. By the time it registered in my brain, I couldn’t see anyone, but I remembered passing a woman playing with her son, and thought, “Hmm, that sounded like Kara”. Sure enough, a couple of days later, Kara mentioned seeing me run by. I love to hear my name called out when I’m running in an unfamiliar place.

Below are a few pics from the run. Benton Road and California Avenue are major roads here. Many of the massive brick houses are now multi-family apartments. Got a chance to take a selfie, which looks tremendously like the “Slow Down, Children Playing” dude. I found a classic brick street which must be mowed; only exceptional areas keep their bricks. Finally, the peonies in the alley were spectacular.

RATS #00259 – Regent Square

https://www.strava.com/activities/3666770733
RATS #00259 – Regent Square

This run was over five miles in Regent Square on a sultry summer evening. Regent Square is pretty nice with brick, tree-lined streets and large houses. I spied a Little Library as well as the Glenn Green Stained Glass Studio , hanging wares on its fence.

RATS #00261 – West Liberty

https://www.strava.com/activities/3695225515
RATS #00261 in the West Liberty part of Brookline

A simple run in the Southcrest subdivision off of Pioneer Avenue. It is wedged between West Liberty Avenue and the South Busway. A very residential area, it is filled with small houses with impeccable lawns, many Mary statues and lots of cars.

So that’s it for June, 2020. Let’s hear it for a great July!

Gilded in Highland Park

https://www.strava.com/activities/3386291976
RATS #00229 in Highland Park
Typical Highland Park Street

Last Saturday was a stunningly beautiful day in Pittsburgh. Bright sun, deep blue skies and mild temperatures. I took this opportunity to run some stunningly beautiful miles around Highland Park. I started at Wellesley and Farragut, catching sections of hilly Bryant Street earlier missed. Then I snaked along the alleys behind Bryant Street business area enjoying surprisingly bold colors.

Gallery Alma was cute, but closed. As a city that loves itself, perhaps it was no surprise to see a naive mural of Pittsburgh. Its happy and mischievous honeybees look a lot like the Steelers’ throwback uniform.

Moving on, I hit another goal, to run down Elgin Street. At the end of Elgin is Baywood, aka the Alexander King Estate. If you’re looking for completely renovated example of Gilded Age houses, check out this real estate listing. The tribune review has an nice article about it as well.

King Estate in Highland Park

I did a circle around the driveway, I must admit. But then it was on to the only stairs of the day, a small affair going down to King Avenue.

After this, I went back and forth in alleys and streets of Highland Park as it flattens out between Stanton Avenue and Black Avenue. Got another picture of a cat and a few dogs along the route.

This relatively ‘short’ run ended up over seven miles. I crossed paths with a few other runners along the way, though with face masks and social distancing, I wasn’t actually sure who they were.

Thursday Brookline Miles

https://www.strava.com/activities/3377638002
RATS #00228

This run, nine miles through Brookline on a Thursday evening, actually belonged in my “April Catch-Up”, but I overlooked it. Why nine miles? Why Thursday? Well, it came down to completing my Stava challenge to run 200 km in April. I was about nine miles short and Thursday was the last day in April. I chose Brookline because the route was easy to plan. Every street was a new street.

Brookline Neighborhood, courtesy of Tom Murphy VII

Brookline is a large neighborhood and densely packed with houses and streets. The “Brookline History Homepage” has an outline of its history, which seems to have been a series of housing booms as access to the area improved, first trolley lines and then cars. It is a very car friendly area, with most houses having a little driveway or an alley garage available. Most of it is also pedestrian friendly. However, bikes might have a tough time on some of the streets and I only noticed bike lanes on Brookline Boulevard.

I started out on Brookline Boulevard, but when it veered off I stayed straight onto Chelton Avenue. The pictures above are fairly typical of the area. Moderate two and three bedroom brick houses stand shoulder to shoulder up and down the hills. There’s a lot of yard pride here, with neatly cut lawns and front yard decorations. My favorite was the row of miniature houses along Sussex Street. My next favorite was Boots the Friendly Cat.

The streets which are roughly parallel to Brookline Boulevard have big sweeping hills, while the cross-streets are crazy steep. Stebbins Avenue is a cross-street and is stair-studded. There were more steps as well. As dusk settled in, I found myself at the end of Hobson Street, which descends in steps to Breining Street.

There’s much to explore in Brookline, and I’ve only begun to scratch the surface.