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.

Glorious Esplen Morning

https://www.strava.com/activities/5301358810
RATS run #00408 in Esplen and Sheraden

On this glorious Saturday morning, I ventured out to Esplen and Sheraden again. Nearly the site of my first run! I had no idea what I was getting myself in for! But now, I had to revisit to track down Bagdad Way in Esplen as well as several alleys up in Sheraden as well.

“Bagdad” conjures up visions of a sprawling, dusty strange city. Bagdad Way was nothing like that. Maybe the car wash at the end of the alley helps keep things clean? At any rate, its a short hop from the big bend of Rt 51 as it cruises out of Pittsburgh, crosses Chartiers Creek and hits the big city lights of McKees Rocks.

Drumming down Tabor Street from Rt 51 to Radcliffe Street, I took the left over railroad tracks down below. Right thereafter took me up Stadium Street. It rises sharply, quickly towering above the tracks filled with a waiting train full of tanker cars. Stadium Street is blocked off halfway up. It seems that the road is sliding off the hill, as it has been for at least a year. At the top of Stadium, I found myself in a rather pleasant, rather flat neighborhood. Fronona Way did an excellent job trying to hide, but eventually I found it.

Now, I have done much of this area before, but since I’m doing streets end-to-end, a missed block here or there means I need to revisit it. Ironically enough, CityStrides will call it complete if I just hit all their nodes (intersections). Speaking of which, take Wyckoff Avenue, part stairs, part alley and all hill, I had done most of Wyckoff earlier, but was determined to finish it end-to-end. I get a kick out of the “Avenue” moniker. It is slightly better than an alley for the most part.

At any rate, a short jaunt up Narcissus Avenue took me high above the Ohio. Properly taking a selfie, as everyone should, I took some time out from admiring myself to admiring the sweeping views. The Glasgow Steps took me even higher.

Coming back down to earth, I followed Stafford Street to the little dead-end of Adena Street. On my original (OpenStreets) map, Adena meets up with Joslyn Street, which connects with Strickler Street. However on Google Maps, Adena dead-ends, Joslyn doesn’t exist and Strickler dead-ends after a sharp elbow. Running to the end of Adena these days, I saw some hints an ongoing street, but houses and fences blocked the way. I cut over to “lower” Adena street, which meets Stadium. Curious about the view, I progressed on Stadium towards the Ohio River. The street is blocked-off on this end, too. There was some pavement on the other side of the jersey barrier, so I continued. The pavement disappeared into underbrush but not before a little switchback. I wonder if this is the remains of Joslyn Street? Or of the mysterious Saratoga Street and Gilroy Street?

I retraced my steps and again crossed Chartier Creek, happy with this adventure.

Love, Peace, and Joy and Those Beechview Hills

Here are two little five milers. One in the South Side Slopes and one in Beechview. One had twice the elevation gain as the other. Any guess which one? Read on to find out.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5233037880
Route of RATS run #00401

This run started in my favorite spot in Beechview, Vanucci Park. I can park there without worrying if the car is going to roll down the hill. At any rate, I wanted to cover a couple of streets I had neglected near Coast Avenue as well as to explore Crane Avenue a bit. My impression had been that Crane was not safely runnable and wanted to verify that.

Immediately out of the park, I made a right up the Andick Way Steps. They took me past a basketball court. The squeak of shoes, ball clanging off the rim and trash talking spoke of games being played, even though the retaining wall was too high to see over.

The next turn was a left onto Kenberma Avenue. Kenberma falls rapidly under the electric trolley line known as “The T”. From the bottom, I wrapped around Hampshire Avenue to the Boulevard and the Fallowfield T-Station, a hundred feet above.

The next stop on my tour was Alverado Street. At the north end of Alverado, a set of crazily tilted steps drunkenly fall down the hillside. I followed, only to realize they went to a house, not through to another street, and backed out.

To wrap up this area, I decided to run up Canton Avenue; the tenth of a mile street which is the steepest in the US. At the top, I explored the stairs off to the left which took me back to Coast Street, with only a 13% grade.

With this section done, I headed up Fallowfield to Crane Avenue. Crane is no bigger than the residential streets I had just been on, but has more traffic and fewer sidewalks. I feel like city planners intentionally said “we don’t want anyone walking here!” I crept down to Shadycrest, which, unfortunately is deemed government property and is awash with “No Trespassing” signs. From there, Crane Avenue makes a steep descent to Banksville Road; blind turn, no shoulder, no sidewalk, maybe another time.

I ventured the other direction on Crane, diving into Lowenhill Street behind Brashear High School. The basketball courts there were eerily silent while quiet dog-walkers ignored the signs and traipsed their canine cares around the field.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5238283756
Route of RATS run #00402

The evening was heavy with humidity when I started this run in the South Side flats. Going into the slopes by way of Quarry Street I passed under the Mission Street bridge and skirted the edge of South Side Park. The houses are tall and thin. All the houses in this row have three floors, a basement and attic.

Further on, as I criss crossed Freeland Street the skies opened up. A pedestrian shouted out “Great running weather!” and dodged into a house. The steps became gushing rivers.

Thoroughly soaked, I came back down Brosville Street and was awarded with some neat views of the retreating storm. Thank goodness for the towels I had in my car.


So, what was your guess? More elevation in Beechview or the South Side Slopes? If you guessed Beechview, you were correct! 1,034′ vs 596′

Summer Hill For 400, Alex

Here is a run from the first week of May, RATS run #00400 in Summer Hill.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5223940511
Summer Hill and the Livin is Easy – RATS run #00400

On this bright sunny Saturday a group of friends were doing their Virtual Pittsburgh Marathon. With Covid-19 still lingering, the in-person event had been cancelled, but Cathy, Avi, and Danielle were determined to do their first marathon while Dennis and Mark came along and added another marathon to their long list. ( I apologize if I’ve missed anyone.) So, while waiting to cheer on these folks at their 20 mile mark, I popped up to Summer Hill for a run, keeping a close eye on my phone for word that the runners were approaching 20 miles.

Today’s run was about clearing Dewey Street, the northernmost section of Evergreen Road and Golf Way in Summer Hill. Additionally, if the bat phone didn’t ring, I’d sneak in a few side streets off of Colby.

Dewey Street is a short thoroughfare squished between a steep hill and I-279. A long flight of stairs, Gribble Street, lands at its beginning and only a half-dozen houses are scattered along the tree lined street.

From there, I followed the pedestrian walkways under a rocky moonscape created by the I-279/Evergreen Street interchange. With limited visibility, I waited patiently for the lights to change and made sure no car was whizzing by when I did eventually cross, periodically checking the bat phone. Ironically enough, that led me up the long curving hill of Evergreen Road with no sidewalks, so I was still anxious about getting hit by a car zipping down the blind curve. Guess what? I made it.

Halpern Road led me to Colby Road and hence to Gold Way. It is just a little alley, ending in a nice green pathway. The neighbors should really get together and make a putting green there. It’s not like any cars are coming.

The bat phone still didn’t ring, so I got a chance to run out of the city on Faber Street. It was all lush and green suburbia.

Faber Road

The bat phone still wasn’t ringing, so I checked off Husk Street, little more than a driveway. But then, I looked up in the sky and saw a tiny plane high spelling out words…

G-E-T..Y-O-U-R.. A-S-S.. T-O.. H-I-G-H-L-A-N-D.. P-A-R-K

Whoops! I guess we weren’t using the bat phone today after all.

(I made it back in time to see Cathy’s group storm in, snack up and speed off.)

April Catch-Up

and a little hint of May

Summary

April 2021 was a busy month in the running department. I ran 133 miles and completed the Hyner 50k, a challenging, rocky trail race. Group runs had returned and at least once a week I ran with City of Bridges run club. As for neighborhoods, checking my April maps, it looks like I was really hitting the edges – Lincoln Place, Hays, Belmar, East Carnegie and Summer Hill. Blogging in April took such a hit that I spent most of the month talking about March. That trend has gotten worse, as it is early June and I’m just now finishing up these April runs. Oh well, I’ll get to them all eventually. For this catch-up I’ll be running you through six gorgeous routes, ending with RATS run #00399.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5139011420
RATS run #00394 in Carrick

I love a little quickie in the dusky evening. Here, I did a couple of miles circumnavigating Phillips Park. Nice two-mile run!


https://www.strava.com/activities/5143854725
RATS run #00395

RATS run #00395 was a long hard run from Point Breeze, to East Liberty, through Larimar and into Lincon-Lemington. It was mid-morning on Saturday and I was surprised to find a crowd along Paulson Avenue. It seems that Mt. Ararat Baptist Church was having a mass vaccination event. I felt a bit odd running down dead-end Tyler Way with dozens of people milling about. At the end of Tyler Way, this odd structure stands. I have no idea what it is, but UFO has to be a choice.

Graffiti and artwork adorn many of the neighborhood’s walls. Raymer did a Mac Miller tribute, while a lesser known artist renders bold angles and a someone remembers a friend. Artful graffiti is slowly outpacing the simple spray job; graffiti gentrification.

Moving deeper into Larimar, there’s a lot going on. Houses with the deadly blue ‘condemned’ sign are getting renovated. The “Know Thyself” school is surrounded by bulldozers and fences. Just remember to report to the office when you get there and ask “What ARE you doing?”

Elmer Williams Square has some cute houses while the Freedom Temple Church looks like it’s seen better days. Those painters didn’t spend much time accentuating the detail of that building, did they? Further into Lincoln-Lemington, the land rises enough to provide a decent view all the way to Oakland’s Cathedral of Learning.

Way up on Lemington Avenue, I saw an interesting school facade and took a closer look. Earthy, bold, colors and Mayanish tiles contrasted with the “young Queen Victoria” face staring out. And perhaps it is a theme, but make sure you report to the office here, too. Now it is called “Catalyst Academy” and I wonder if chemistry is the core curriculum.

Above this school several streets dead-end into St. Peters’ Cemetery. Some dead-ends you can go right up to, like this wall, while others are guarded by downed trees and old home foundations.

Speaking of St. Peters Cemetery, they spared no expense with the sign. The front declares it is “Historic”, while the back lists which wars the vets fought in. All the way back to the Revolutionary War, I see. That’s impressive.

From here, I trundled down Highland Avenue to Washington Boulevard. The greenspace on the left is actually part of Highland Park. I didn’t see any cat tails, neither mammals nor plants.

Lastly, the arched bridges along Washington Boulevard are quite impressive. Several carry the streets above, such as Lincoln Avenue and Larimer Avenue. One, though, carries an old railroad. Apparently this railroad spur crosses the nearby Allegheny River and is being considered for a rail-to-trails project. At the moment, though, the Brilliant Bridge just crosses Silver Lake Drive, home to storage warehouses and a car wash. It used to actually be a lake, then a drive-in movie theater.

From here, I trotted back to my car with fourteen miles in the running bank.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5151213965
RATS Run #00396 in the West End and Elliot

RATS run #00396 was a short run in the West End and Elliott. This was one of those frantic days, where just getting out for a run was an effort. Par for the course, I ended up in the wrong lane driving to the West End and just decided to park in Allegheny West, near Modern Cafe. It was OK, as I wanted a little more mileage than my planned route.

Crossing the West End Bridge has become an adventure these days. There are a couple of fenced-in walkways suspended above the street and below the bridge, taking you from the street to the bridge deck. I’ve run across it without a problem for years, but recently people have been sleeping on the walkways well into the day, leaving their bags and things strewn about. Covid or not, it is much closer to people and personal items than I’m comfortable with.

At any rate, I crossed the Ohio on the West End Bridge and made my way up to Elliot, Janewood Way in particular.

Marking that one off, I visited Herndon Street, high on the opposing hill. I had previously taken it for a driveway and did not realize how long it was. A few houses clung to the hillsides there. I used the Attica Street Steps to come back down to the quaint business district of the West End.

The West End Business district is a small grid of street off of Steuban. Motorists trying to avoid tunnel backups often zip through this alternate route. On the far side from Steuban, a mere two or three blocks, streets generally end at the Saw Mill Run (creek), while cars on Saw Mill Run Boulevard scream by. Mount Washington rises above in steep cliffs.

There are some cute parts of town. It even has a gazebo. However, trudging on Violet Way I looked up and became concerned. There seemed to be a police incident in progress, as several officers were milling around. Indeed, as I passed, it turned out maybe a dozen officers, in full gear were there behind a building.

They were chatting and joking. Shift change, I suppose. In 25 feet or so, it was a dead-end and I felt a little sheepish going back through the police crowd. With that I crossed the West End Bridge again, this time seeing two dudes rummaging through the homeless guys’ debris. I thought about the police a half-mile away as I whizzed past.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5163712017
RATS run #00397 in Banksville

Not a whole lot to say here. This was a short evening run in Banksville. Banksville Park was quite active this time through. The last time, it was a rather cold evening. Now, guys were playing cricket in a ballfield, while scads of people lined a dek-hockey game in progress. Further on, it looked like a Little League baseball game was starting.

The surrounding neighborhoods are quite residential, with big lawns and big garages. Oakville Drive, though, is a mass of apartments. There could be as many as 1,000 garden apartments there. It looked pretty nice, honestly. Just know that you can’t actually drive the way I came. The northern section of the apartment complex overlooks the Parkway West as it bends toward the Fort Pitt Tunnels.

A cell tower dominated the end of the playground. Lots of satellite dishes are clustered around that thing. Who knows how many antennae are on the tower? 50? 100? It’s hard to say.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5196544757
Route of RATS #00398 in Northview Heights

Northview Heights is an area I had been avoiding. There are security gates on Mt Pleasant Road and Penfort Street, which I found intimidating. However, I had taken some time off work to recovery from Hyner 50k, so had the chance to run here on a sunny weekday morning. I had no problems, other than a little soreness in the legs. People were out, waiting for buses or picking up kids. Maintenance workers were vigorously mowing lawns and doing repairs.

Chicago Street branches out of the housing development and stops at a cliff above I-279. I wonder if it ever went across. A lone turkey sauntered into the woods as I passed. Eventually I made my way out of the development, down to Spring Garden Avenue and back to Essen Street.

Crossing the Swindell Bridge again, there’s a neat glimpse of Downtown through the fence links.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5204801111
RATS run #00399 in Squirrel Hill

Last but not least, RATS run #00399 was a 5K run in Squirrel Hill North, land of the big houses. But I’ll start out on an alley and end on the public golf course.

Now, Robin Road is private, but since I’m not immune to doing private roads, I intended to go down it. However, it really felt more like a private driveway, so I bailed. This section of Squirrel Hill, “Murdoch Farms” has immense, imposing homes beautifully kept. Not so far away, little developments off of Schenley Park Golf Course include various “modern” style houses. Oh, so modern, they were built in the 1960’s.

The sun was setting across the golf course as I finished up, just past 5K distance.


That’s a Wrap!

(May was a busy month, too, but only 106 miles. I’ll start blogging about those soon. Thanks for reading.)

March 2021 Catch-Up

Summary

March 2021 was one of my most productive months in terms of mileage and streets covered. Among my 162 miles and 20,000 feet of elevation gain, I completed 192 more streets in Pittsburgh in 15 RATS runs. I even completed the “Take The Stairs 50k” course I published last year. That course, a small revision of Lamar’s original course, took me on roughly 78 sets of steps throughout the city, but, alas, did not cover any new streets.

Blogging-wise, March was less than stellar. I only published four posts and it has taken me all of April just to get this summary out, touching on three short runs in Carrick, Brookline and West Liberty.


https://www.strava.com/activities/4979989103
Route of RATS #00384 in Brookline

I had grand plans for this run, but was out-of-synch and got frustrated by small ‘streets’ just being driveways into hills. Argh! Just took one picture, before it all went downhill. I did end up with over four miles and several alleys covered.

Brookline Alley
Brookline Alley

RATS run #00386 Around South Side Cemetery
RATS run #00386 Around South Side Cemetery

In this run, I inadvertently circumnavigated South Side Cemetery. I started on Brownsville Road and took the steep West Meyers Street to Oakhurst en route to Newett Street, one of the steeper roads I’ve been on. I took Plateau Street to its dead-end above Volunteers Park, then came back to Newett, expecting to see Plateau on the other side. However, Plateau falls off of Newett so quickly that the other side looked like a driveway which disappeared over the hillside. Once upon it, though, I found my way down Plateau and was pleasantly surprised to find that Volunteers Field was an active hubbub. It looked like a fire department team was practicing on one field, while on another field, a younger group practiced base-running under the tutelage of a barking coach.

Moving on, I dodged cars on my way down Colerain to Noble Road. No sidewalks and not much of a shoulder made it tricky running. Then I peeled off and went down Denise Street. My internal map had Denise going a little way and dead-ending. It seemed to go on forever, but afforded nice views of the T tracks. Returning, I came across some steps which took me to Noble Road.

Once up on Noble, I backtracked a bit and went up Glade Street. The few streets up on that hill are tucked into a corner of the cemeteries looming above. It was a nicer area than I expected. Some kids were playing basketball in the street and others were riding bikes. Along the Montrose Steps I heard a rustling and noticed a deer in the woods. I took a picture and continued to Cloverdale Street. Only after looking at the picture more closely did I realize there were four deer there!

Cloverdale Street completed the southern border of the cemetery, bringing me back to Noble Street. This short, three mile run certainly had a lot to see.


Route of RATS #00387
Route of RATS #00387

This was an evening run in West Liberty to catch some alleys. I caught several in my alley catcher, but some were only paper alleys (here’s looking at you, Mascot Way!) Overall it was a pleasant, hilly run with over 400 feet of elevation in only three miles.


So that was it for March, 2021. I’m still chipping away at the streets. At the end of March I had a little over 800 more to complete. I’ve come a long way considering there are over 4,800 streets in Pittsburgh. I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Epic Eighteen To Fairhaven

https://www.strava.com/activities/4987052124
Route of RATS run #00385 from South Side to Fairhaven

On a bright Sunday morning in March, I undertook one of my longest RATS runs ever. I had a couple of goals. First, see how much of Beck’s Run Road I could traverse without getting run over and second, explore Fairhaven, nestled in the corner of Library Road and Saw Mill Run Boulevard, without getting run over. I was ramping up mileage in preparation for an April 50k.

First off, I decided to climb into the South Side Slopes in order to catch Parkwood Road, which I could take to Beck’s Run Road. While using East Carson is the fastest way by car, that whole ‘without getting run over’ idea convinced me the steps were a better idea. And of course, I would get to enjoy the great views.

Oakley Street has an impressive step-mosaic where it begins on Josephine Street. It does continue, however, for several more flights. I wonder about that handicap parking, though. It must be difficult for anyone with mobility issues to live in a spot surrounded by steps.