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.

Summer Runs and The Flags Are Waving

Here are three short runs from July. I’m not exploring new neighborhoods much, but filling in the lines for small streets I’ve missed. But, I must say, there are usually photo ops, because Pittsburgh is such a photogenic city.


RATS Run #00429 – Oakland

“The shortest distance between two points is…UNDER CONSTRUCTION!” That’s how this run started, for sure. I intended to take Robert’s Drive from Frew Street down to Panther Hollow, but was sorely disappointed. For a moment there, I hoped to scoot around the barrier, thinking it was just the intersection that was blocked. But no, the whole damn hillside is being remodeled. This road used to wind through several CMU engineering buildings.

Oh well, time to be flexible and use the alternate route. This one took me past a cloaked Columbus and behind Phipps. For awhile, I thought that street was just a driveway, but it does lead to a back entrance to Phipps, high over Panther Hollow. Looking across, I could see lower Oakland and Pitt rising high on the hill. Does anyone else ‘see’ a figure in the clouds? A figure with a ragged hat squashing lots of hair with his arm up?

From here I ran past the Cathedral of Learning and through that South Oakland scene. My target was Dawson Court. It was easy to find, complete with a street sign. However, CityStrides contends that there’s another Dawson Court, down the street from the one I found. I suppose the OpenStreetsMap needs to be updated.

Dawson Court, from Google Maps (left) and CityStrides (right)

Nonetheless, the Cathedral looked great in the twilight. Dimling Way, was, you guessed it, dimly lit. It’s more of a path between apartments these days rather than a real street. I also touched on a little end of an alley off of Frazier Street, right before the long steps to Bates. From there, I trundled back to Frew Street, a few miles down and a few streets covered.


RATS Run #00430 with City of Bridges through Shadyside and Bloomfield

RATS run #00430 was originally my regular Wednesday run with the City of Bridges run club. I stuck with them for a couple of miles, but then wandered off course to catch a bit of Lima Way. After that, I couldn’t catch up again and so just picked up Canterbury Way, re-did Aiken Place and the wooden street, Roslyn Place. My GPS hadn’t registered them correctly the FIRST time I did them.

My five mile reward was a beer, Mexican food and good company.


RATS Run #00431 through Downtown to Flag Plaza

Here was a little run across Downtown to capture the flag, well Flag Plaza. Flag Plaza is a small parking lot and building high on a bluff overlooking Cross Town Boulevard. It houses Pittsburgh offices of the Boy Scouts of America. There are five flags flown in front. They are changed periodically, perhaps weekly, maybe even daily. BTW, GPS and downtown buildings don’t get along too well. I believe the buildings beat up the signal and left it staggering across town. I assure you, I did not run in and out of buildings to get that route!

The back of Flag Plaza overlooks the Crosstown Boulevard. It is amazing to see those seven lanes of traffic, all on different levels. Or is it eight?

After capturing the flag, I made my way back to the lowlands, a couple miles complete.

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.

Long July 4th Weekend Running

Here are three streets runs which I sandwiched around my attempt at the Hell Hath No Hurry 50 Miler. Unfortunately, that race was on trails in Settler’s Cabin Park and so added nothing to my street total. I also only got in 38 miles, so DNFed. But I digress.


RATS Run #00423 in Squirrel Hill

This was such a short run I didn’t even bring my camera, or maybe it was that I ran before 7AM and wasn’t really awake. At any rate, I just took in Victory Way (top circle), Timberline Court (bottom circle) and the bottom piece of Forward Avenue (you have to find that by yourself.)


Hell Hath No Hurry

HHNH 38 miles, 6ish loops

RATS #00425 – West End and Elliott

Monday, July 5th, was a day off work with no big plans. So, of course, I explored the city some more. My “A” goal was a few snickering little streets in the West End. Every time I drove my them, I could hear them, snickering, “He hasn’t found US yet. Ha Ha!” Well, today, with candy bar in hand and a patriotic shirt on for good luck, I set out to end that snickering once and for all.

The first little snickerdoodle to go down was Plank Street. It is pretty much a driveway from the bottom of a cliff, across Wabash Street and into Saw Mill Run (the creek). The next peanut in the gallery was China Street. There’s no wonder I had missed it before, because little is there. A few cobblestones near the billboard at the bottom of Greentree Road traced where the street had been. Pushing through the undergrowth I could feel remains of a street, but everything else was overgrown. Some time ago, I think there were steps from China Street to the train line above. On maps it appears they would have almost connected with Journal Street steps in Ridgemont, but I don’t know if that actually was the case. At any rate, I didn’t see evidence of steps. Perhaps in the winter I would have.

From there, I crisscrossed under railroad trestles off of McKnight Street, as it plays jump-rope with Saw Mill Run. Several businesses still hang on down there, from Johnny’s Diner to TMT Services. I would not want to be here in a flash flood, with water crashing down off the hills.

From here I ventured up Noblestown Road. I’ve used it for many years as an alternate route when the Fort Pitt Tunnel is backed up. As a driver, I appreciate its curvy efficiency. As a pedestrian, I’m traumatized its lack of sidewalks. At least there is a small shoulder, and, if I would rather risk falling down a slope than getting hit by a car, I have the option of trotting on the far side of a guide rail. On a normal day, this would be pretty dangerous. However, with little going on and no traffic, it was OK. I feel bad for folks who use that bus stop on a regular basis, though.

Around the curve, I was rewarded by thundering applause from dozens of Kennywood prize animals watching my progress. (Or maybe it was just my thundering heartbeat!) Continuing, I came across the Old Stone Tavern, in operation nearly continually from the 1780’s well into the 2000’s. There is a group, “Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern Friends Trust Inc.” which is trying to keep the tavern from falling into disrepair. I hope they succeed.

Old Stone Tavern

Another building, more of a garage, struck me. “Mike Mannella” is proudly emblazoned across the lintel. I didn’t get as much information about that building and am curious if anyone knows the story there.

Mike’s parking spot?

I returned a different way, down the Kerr Street steps, one of my favorite flights in the city.

Kerr Street Steps

RATS #00425 in Squirrel Hill

Less adventurous than my last run, this one took me around the “North of Forbes” section of Squirrel Hill. Large single family houses are intermixed with condos on the shady streets.

Off of the major streets like Wilkins, Negley and Fifth, little dead-end streets curve up the hill providing privacy for unique houses.

Down near CMU, I took a little street off of Morewood behind frat houses. It’s off-season and a deer family quietly watched me run by. Robin Way is listed on CityStrides as a street, but in fact it is a private drive. With that, I was done on this lazy summer evening.

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.

Majestic Archon Oil

RATS Run #00420

Majestic Archon Oil; no isn’t the latest renaming of Standard Oil, but rather three of the alleys I finished up on this run in Friendship and Garfield. Archon Way is just a short little garage access road in Friendship. It dead-ends into a shabby garage, festooned with car parts.

Moving up the hill into Garfield, I came across this massive white house which still holds some glory, in spite of the window bars and peeling paint. I also came across this new recent construction, or is it a brutalist building? Only the architect knows for sure.

Up in Garfield, I darted in and out of alleys. Oil Way is little more than a small driveway, while Majestic Way is a steep stone stab into the hill. At the top of the hill in Garfield, the greenery takes over. One alley ends in an empty lot, now a playground. Fannel Street is as green as a lawn-bowling court with a rabbit directing traffic.

Gretna Way took me around an old school. On the way down, a sidewalk was brightly colored with this wall of names. I’m not sure what that is about. Last but not least, the Cathedral of Learning stands tall in the evening sun, the view coming down North Pacific.

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

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.