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.

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.

And then, the stairs. I’ve already talked about Roethlein and Arcola Way. Hunnel Street is sometimes a paved road and sometimes a cattywumpus flight of wooden steps. Stein Street is also a step, street combo, but straightened out a bit.

This throwback run was fun. It might not be the most ‘runnable’ section of town, but it certainly has plenty of views and character.

Hot Damn, It’s Hot in Beltzhoover!

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

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 It could possibly be superseded by “Running on the Surface of the Sun…” or “All of Pittburgh is Lava”.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take The Stairs 25K

https://www.strava.com/activities/3211259821
RATS #00202 – Take The Stairs Fatass 25K

I went ahead and did the whole route of the planned “Take The Stairs Fatass 25k” last Sunday. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know that I had organized an event for March 29, for unsupported (Fatass) runs of 25K and 50k around Pittsburgh, focusing on using Pittsburgh’s public stairs. There were over 125 people signed up and another 50-60 on the wait list. I have t-shirts which will be arriving soon (for a small price of $15). However, with the Covid19 pandemic, this event has been canceled. Restaurants, especially Threadbare, our starting point, will be closed except for take-out. We’re supposed to stay at home, except to get exercise and aren’t supposed to gather in groups.

So, this turned out to be a solo run. While I used RunGo to guide me along the route, there were a couple of glitches. Apparently it doesn’t understand that there are steps through the concrete pier of the 31st Street train trestle. Can you believe that? Sometimes it told me to make a right or left turn when there weren’t any turns to make. Then, it kept telling me to make a turn off of a perfectly good road onto a cliff. Actually, that was OK, it was just directing me to steps.

And steps I did. I counted thirty bona fide flights of stairs. I started with the Basin Streets steps, which took me from Spring Garden up and across Troy Hill. One thing about Rungo; if it doesn’t say anything you’re supposed to continue straight.

The roller coaster ride took me down the steps to Vinial Street, near Penn Brewery. My amazing route brilliantly directed me up Troy Hill Road, only to plunge off the cliff on the Troy Hill steps, those multi-level, swirling steps leading to the bike path along Route 28. I had a bit of a breather as I crossed the 31st Street Bridge and ran along Spring Way in the Strip District.

Here, Rungo wanted me to keep going to the next street, but I knew better and went through the silly little stair case through the pier. Now I got into serious step country, Polish Hill. Throw a rock in any direction and you’re likely to hit a set of stairs. Jewel Street, Harding Way, they were all on this route.

With just about a 5K done, I had covered over 900′ of elevation with a half dozen flights of stairs. The fun was just beginning. Next was the climb into the Hill District. Finland Street, which starts in Polish Hill, doesn’t let slopes break it up, it just transforms, as a shape-shifter, from road to stairs as needed. Here, we see it intersecting Bismark. I must admit, I ran up and down Bismark because I hadn’t done it before. It’s not really on the route.

Moving on up Ridgeway to Monroe, I got to the long Orion flight. Those pop out right next to a distressed house, which can be unnerving. But, no worries, I continued down Webster, making sure to take a right there. From this point, there weren’t anymore stairs until the Southside. That was just a lack of imagination on my part, as I suppose I could have gone down Chauncy Street Stairs. But then I would have missed a great musical mural.

Wylie Avenue and Kirkpatrick Street.

I had another breather as I crossed the Birmingham Bridge and made a left on East Carson Street. Before heading into the maze of steps known as the Southside Slopes, I came across this mural on the Birmingham Bridge Tavern.

Birmingham Bridge Tavern

Now, Southside Slopes is the Mecca for city stairs. With sixty-eight sets of stairs, it has, far and away, more steps than any other section of Pittsburgh. Many of them provide sweeping views.

There is more to see than just steps, of course. I do like these murals on Old Arlington Avenue Streetcar Loop.

The slopes are somewhat divided by a large greenway and South Side Slopes Park. The steps above are on the East side. On the West Side of that greenspace are long stairways like the S 18th Street steps, Yard Way, and St. Thomas Street. Eventually a set of winding stairs on South 15th Street took me down to the flats. Here I had another breather as I crossed the 10th Street Bridge.

The official route takes one through the Armstrong Tunnels in a rush to get across downtown. However, sitting at the light at 10th and Second Avenue, I noticed a rather long flight of steps up. I decided to take it instead of the tunnel.

Rejoining the route at outflow of the Armstrong tunnels, I continued across Downtown and the Northside. I ascended James Street, up the stairs past Henderson and on up. This is Fineview, and indeed, has a fine view of the city. Between detours, intentional and accidental, I was already at 15 miles coming to Rising Main. From the top, it just looks like another step off the cliff, but then you see it spread out before you. Hope you don’t have vertigo!

After crossing 279 on Gerst Way, a pedestrian bridge, you come to East Street. The next set of stairs should really be closed, but they’re not. Watch out for a landing that has fallen through as you go up to Radner Street and make a left. Do not go up the next set of stairs on your right. It leads to a blocked-off street which is overgrown and has at least one manhole without a cover. Of course, that’s what I did. @@

Coming back on course to Radner and Rostock, I caught the modest set of stairs up to Solar Street. At this point, you’re less than a mile from Thredbare, using the impressive Lappe Lane stairways to get there. My phone battery was very low, so I didn’t get a picture of them. Whew, that was it! Back at Threadbare, I jumped into my car and sped home, about 17 miles in the bank and 3,200 feet of elevation.