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.

September 2020 Catch-Up

Summary

September 2020 was a pretty busy month with 124.8 miles run and 12,500 feet of elevation gain, the most since May. I ran often, 23 days with 17 of these covering new streets. I crossed over the 300 run threshold. With any luck, I’ll be done before I hit 400 runs, but that remains to be seen. I can see a flicker of light at the end of this project tunnel!

Unfortunately, my blogging hasn’t kept up with my running, so this catch-up blog will be a veritable book. Oh well, here goes!

RATS #00292

https://www.strava.com/activities/4012388510
RATS #00292 in Squirrel Hill

This was a short run to cover a few errant streets in Squirrel Hill and Schenley Park. I cut through Frick Park, using Iron Gate Trail to vault me over the big hill separating Swisshelm Park and Squirrel Hill. By the time I came back, it was too dark to gallop through the park without a flashlight.

RATS #00293

https://www.strava.com/activities/4016390122
RATS #00293 in Perry Hilltop

This was roughly a 10K to Perry Hilltop from West Park. It got started off with a sparkling sculpture, a yellow-eyed cat and a colorful backyard.

Then, I explored Irwin Avenue, which rises out of Central Northside. Surprisingly, it is blocked off for a few hundred yards and then jumps up to the top of Perry Hilltop on steps.

I zigged-zagged up here a bit, eventually finding my way to North Charles Street. Just before crossing the Swindell Bridge, I cut off to the left on Hazelton, to clear up that dead-end. Further along, up on the hilltop, I got a good view of the Swindell Bridge over I-279 and then wandered down into Fineview. That’s not something you hear much… “DOWN” into Fineview. Everything is steep over here. On one side, you have the ravine down to I-279, on the other the streets fall steeply towards Perrysville Avenue. Tall houses stare down from their perches like vultures.

RATS #00295

https://www.strava.com/activities/4025090610

This was a run cut short by tired knees and mistaken maps. Nonetheless, I made some progress on a few Shadyside alleys and small streets near Ellis School. By the time I got to East Liberty, though, I was done.

RATS #00297

https://www.strava.com/activities/4071163546
RATS #00297 West Liberty and Brookline

This was a gut check run. It was late and I didn’t go far, but I got out there. I did finish off Flatbush Avenue in Brookline, but it was too dark to do much exploring and I didn’t stop long enough to take crisp pictures.

RATS #00298

https://www.strava.com/activities/4075550982
RATS #00298 – Brookline

Another evening run in Brookline. This time, I made a beeline for streets on the left of Whited Street, as you go towards Saw Mill Run Boulevard. I really wasn’t sure what I would find, but found very residential, suburban streets perched on a plateau. There were tweens goofing off in the street, a couple walking their golden retriever and a mom walking up and down the street with a stroller and a chatty three year old; “Mom, why is he running THAT way?”

Coming back along Whited Street is NOT something I would recommend, especially in the darkness. At least, I could see headlights in time to huddle off the road.

RATS #00299

https://www.strava.com/activities/4079580634
RATS #00299

This was a short run in the South Side Flats. Like a vampire, this neighborhood keeps coming back with some little street or alley I’ve missed. I’m really trying to drive a stake through the heart and get this area done. In spite of the short run, there was lots to see. Perhaps my favorite were the pierogie signs around Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church. Downtown Pittsburgh is just across the Monongahela River and the skyscrapers caught the evening sun nicely.

RATS #00301

https://www.strava.com/activities/4094305425
RATS #00301

This was quite an adventure. I checked out one of the lesser known neighborhoods, New Homestead. It is west of West Homestead/Munhall, east of the Glenwood Bridge interchange and south of Sandcastle yet north of Mifflin Road. Looking at the map below, you might notice that there are three disconnected areas of New Homestead. I ran most of the northeast section.

New Homestead

Also looking at the map, you might notice a lack of streets. Okay, a lack of anything. Your observations would be pretty much correct. There’s just a number of long streets dotted with houses and large areas of woods. Deer were everywhere and seemed offended by me disturbing them. I actually parked in West Homestead, above a baseball diamond.

RATS #00302

https://www.strava.com/activities/4103987670
RATS #00302 – Carrick & Overbrook

Run number 302 saw me back in Carrick and Overbrook. Unlike New Homestead, this area is dense with houses and people. Hills, steps, alleys, this run had it all. I don’t remember seeing many deer, though. I was amused by the war memorial in front of Carrick High School. Most memorials of this age have howitzers or bronze soldiers. This one had a bronzed shell. Many lawns were covered in political signs; often with neighbors cheering opposite sides. Just think how fun that block party would be! That cat, however, wasn’t the least ruffled as I run past it, huffing and puffing up the hill.

The Englert Street steps conveniently took me from Saw Mill Run Boulevard up the hill again, while the Dartmore Steps were just a convenience. Unfortunately, the Antenor Way Steps were blocked off, even though they didn’t look too bad.

RATS #00303

https://www.strava.com/activities/4108586048
RATS #00303 – Lawrenceville

Speaking of neighborhoods which keep coming back with uncovered alleys and streets, Lawrenceville takes the cake. This five mile run just went round and round dim back alleys. Interestingly enough, it was busy enough, between restaurants and residents that I felt more comfortable here than in New Homestead.

RATS #00304

https://www.strava.com/activities/4115676785
RATS #00304

This was a nine mile run (not to be confused with the stream of the same name) through Manchester. With this run, I’ve covered all the streets between the railroad and Chateau Street. This is a large, flat area. Mexican War Streets, with their 1890’s row houses gradually transform into sprawling mixed housing, newer three bedroom split levels interspersed with magnificent mansions. Some of the ‘mansions’ have seen better days.

Alleys are where you see the underside of a neighborhood. These show the old warehouse nature of the area. There’s also a major railroad line, below grade, which dominates the eastern fringe of this area.

But there’s a lot going on here. New construction isn’t too surprising given the great location and flat land. People have gardens and little libraries and seem to generally be active. I didn’t expect to see that huge rooster mural or a booming market along Juniata Street, but there it is.

RATS #00306

https://www.strava.com/activities/4125952429
RATS #00306

Once again, I returned to Carrick and Overbrook in the evening. At this point in the month, I was really trying to complete a Strava Challenge (200km), so after doing Yale Street, I just went exploring.

Yale Street is in the same are as RATS #00302. One section has extensive steps leading up into Phillips Park, then it drops precipitously to Dartmore Street. Clawing my way back to Brownsville Road, I needed a couple more miles, so trotted along Carrick Avenue. It was fully dark and I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going. Nontheless, I ‘just needed to bear right’ a couple of times to take me back to Brownsville Road and into Pittsburgh again.

RATS #00307

RATS #00307 – Banksville

Must say, I’m proud of this run. I planned it pretty well and stuck to the plan. It was a little over seven miles in Banksville where it borders Greentree and Mount Lebanon. It is a nice area with long winding streets. However, there weren’t many distinctive things to see. At the start, I did pass a soccer field off of Hillsdale Avenue, where a girl’s soccer game was in progress under the lights. They have a powerful PA system, and for the rest of the run, I could hear the announcers.

That’s All Folks!

So, there you have it. September 2020 in the books. I think this is the longest “Catch-Up” blog I’ve had and I might change things up a bit to avoid this in the future. Maybe a weekly blog?

At any rate, I want to run a bit farther in October and continue to efficiently cover streets. I’ll try to get into Lincoln Place, another outlying neighborhood, as well as continue to finish out the Hill District, Marshall-Shadeland and Carrick.

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.