Gaslights and a Wooden Street

Ah, take me back to the days of gaslights and wooden streets! Eh, not really. These curious and nostalgic scenes are delightful yet do not reflect the dismal quality of life in Pittsburgh in the early 1900’s. I much prefer the current cleaner Pittsburgh. As they say “The good ‘ole days weren’t so good.”


https://www.strava.com/activities/5243296842
Route of RATS run #00403 in Shadyside and Point Breeze

I started this run, number 403, in Frick Park even though the object of the run was the curious winding avenues of Chatham University. But first, a photo of the elusive groundhog, cousin to Phil. I’ve seen groundhogs everywhere in the city, from Uptown parking lots to Lincoln Place. They scurry into holes under porches. They dive into garden bunkers. There’s one that lives in my neighbor’s yard. It must have an agreement with their dog, as it boldly traipses across their yard and into my garden. It loves to sample tomatoes, preferable almost ripe and generously leaves the half eaten fruits for birds to gorge on.

Groundhog
Grr, a groundhog

Nonetheless, back to the roads through Chatham University. These ‘private’ roads are often used by pedestrians and patient short-cut seekers to cross from Fifth Avenue to Wilkins Avenue. They are also some of the most gorgeous streets in Pittsburgh, with large mansions (now college buildings) on small winding lanes flanked by flowering dogwoods and towering oaks.

After wandering the winding lanes of Chatham, I traveled up Shady Avenue as the evening became drizzly. There are many small dead-ends off of Shady, as well as a few private drives. I ended up by following Mellon Park Road from Shady to Beechwood. I’m not sure what’s going on with the green lights, but I can assure you they are not from photo-editing.

I simply ran up and down and up and down Beechwood to my starting point. No groundhog out now.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5248910773
Strava route of RATS run #00404

This run was in Shadyside as well, though in the busier sections near Walnut Street and Ellsworth Avenue. I was on a mission to snag a number of dead-ends and alley-ways I had previously overlooked. The south side of the busway is quite residential, though crowded. A large percentage of the huge ostentatious houses have been carved into apartments, condos and town homes. There are still a few mansions along Fifth Avenue, though. The north side of the busway is more inner-city urban, with six-story apartment buildings and parking garages.

Getting there, though, I ran to Canterbury Lane, a dead-end; Aiken Place, another dead-end and Roslyn Place, an historic street off of Ellsworth. What makes Roslyn so historic? Well, the street is ‘paved’ with wood. And it isn’t wooden planks, it is more like the ends of 4×8’s. Very odd, but here, take a look.

As I say, very odd. How do they plow in the winter? Anyway, from here, I scurried down the alleys off of South Graham Street. One side goes to a Boys and Girls Club and the other dead-ends into a beautiful wall of ivy.

Crossing over the busway on the Graham Street walkway took me to Centre Avenue. It is a hopping place, with a Whole Foods, a Giant Eagle and lots of construction. Commerce Street, little more than an alley, parallels Centre and yet is much quieter. I made my way to Motor Square Garden and came back on Dapper Way.

So, I must say, my GPS wasn’t super accurate on this run. Sections of the GPS’ route are ‘translated’ off my actual route by 75 yards or so. Unfortunately, this misses the ‘nodes’ on CityStrides and doesn’t ‘complete’ the street. Argh. I’m uncertain as to whether I’ll run them again, which is easy enough, or just mark them as complete. Hmm, decisions, decisions.

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.)

From Costco to Groucho

Aka Finding the Second Door

https://www.strava.com/activities/5110253916
RATS #00393, Mainly in Hays

On this brilliant Sunday morning in April, I explored Hays and took on a few, semi-dangerously busy roads. My excursion up Mifflin Road and down Lebanon Road were fraught with nervous glances to see if I could get to the next bit of sidewalk before a car whizzed by. Nonetheless, the most interesting parts were, as usual, saved for the side streets. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Blooming Dogwoods
Blooming Dogwoods along Costco

I started in the parking lot across from Costco and took the asphalt biking path towards Sandcastle. This is a popular biking and walking path. Further on, anxious bird watchers and curious walkers look for eagles nesting high on a Hays hillside. But I did not go that far. Instead, I circled past the metal recycling facility and made my way under West 8th Avenue toward Mifflin Road.

Old Pittsburgh, of steel and industry, is on rusty display here. A large warehouse, which I assumed was a re-incarnation of a steel factory stretches several city blocks down Mifflin Avenue. I was partially right, GalvTech is a hot-dipped galvanizing facility. However, it didn’t start that way. This plant actually was owned by the Army and produced shells during WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam War. It was mothballed in 1971 and twenty years later was donated for redevelopment. A few years later, GalvTech moved in.

Making my way up Mifflin Avenue, I got a good look at a PNG natural gas junction and low-hanging railroad trestles. The far side is devoid of tracks, with only a steel shell remaining. Those are some massive steel beams!

Crossing under this spur, I came to the main section of Mifflin Road. It is one of those Pittsburgh ravine roads, heavily traveled, but surrounded by high hills and woods. Slate Street juts off of Mifflin for a tenth mile and ends in an idyllic cleft in the woods. This white door looks as incongruous as those in “Behind Her Eyes”. I didn’t go through it.

Near Hays School, teens were out defacing walls again, or did parents do this spray painting? Above the school, Wheeling Street steeply climbs to a dead end, with a good view of the valley below. The narrow brown house for sale has a sign on the siding saying “ENTRANCE UP STEPS” in mailbox-letters, as well as a sign on that bottom door saying “CELLAR”. Was that from the real-estate agent or could the residents just not remember which door to go into?

Past the school, Mifflin Road rises into Lincoln Place. As often seen on dangerous roads, there was a carefully tended memorial. So, instead of returning that way, I crossed over the big Lincoln Place hill and came down Lebanon Road instead. That’s no picnic, either, though wider.

Before coming back to that railroad trestle, I took Doerville Road up into the hills. This was a bit of a Rip Van Winkle Road, going back in time. There are several roads up here, which typically ended in “No Trespassing” signs guarding ramshackle buildings on a cliff. But there were some good views from Granger Street.

Coming back to Mifflin Road, I crossed over to Baldwin Road as it follows Streets Run. That was another surprisingly narrow street, with intermittent sidewalks. A few small streets cross the creek known as Streets Run. I’ve never been in Groucho’s, but I picture it filled with old men grumbling about the weather, politics and “kids these days”.

Finally returning toward Costco, I came across a bus stop for Holy Angels, as well as a church of that name. Then, this inspiring billboard looks a little different through barbed wire.

I finished with more than a half-marathon distance, picturing myself winning. The hallucinations are amazing when you’re dehydrated.

Spring in the Almost Suburbs

Here are two runs from early April, 2021. The first, RATS #00391, winds through Brookline (again), while the next, RATS #00392, finishes a cool section of Lincoln Place. That’s a little bit of a cartographer’s joke, but I’ll let you figure it out.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5082128211
Route of RATS #00391

This was an evening run in the alleys of Brookline again. They seem to be never-ending. One curiosity was that I happened to revisit Dorchester Street only to realize that the building on the end of Castlegate was gone. In an earlier post I caught ongoing demolition of The Bradley Place/ DePaul Center. Time flies. There’s only wide open land there now, slated for new development.

Early twilight left sunshine on the houses of Brookline and Overbrook. The first two pictures below are from the top of Castlegate Avenue and the end of Viaduct Way, respectively. The bottom shows just how steep Queensboro Avenue is. All ye runners, do your hill repeats here!!

With the fading sun I saw some fading glory, too. This speedster could’ve been a contender, I daresay. The blossoms, come back year after year, though.

And that was it, a bit over three miles in the ambience of a Brookline Spring evening.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5103612150
Route of Strava run #00392 in Lincoln Place

Here, I revisted Lincoln Place, that sprawling section of Pittsurgh which some mistake for Munhall or West Mifflin. It certainly has a suburban feel, even though from the hilltops you can see downtown.

I thought the white house below was pretty cool. When looking at the picture again, I realized that the neighboring house is nearly identical. Further on, the little brick house has a veritable gravy train of wagons in front of it. Cox Place, a cul-de-sac no less, is prototypical suburbia.

One feature of Lincoln Place is the number of high-voltage power lines running through it. It does help with navigation, though. Just follow the buzzing.

Power, power, power!

Here and there were a few sparks of the unusual. For instance, I don’t think I’ve seen a car quite like this blue one before and I’m sure some small child grieved when their exuberant bouncing exploded the bouncy house. All those balls, needing a new home. Lastly, its always nice to see a little library along the way. With snacks, too!

And that was all. There are a couple of streets I’ve missed here, but by and large, I’ve completed Lincoln Place. It took me a long time to get out here, but I’m glad I did.

Two Border Runs

These two runs in early April skirted the Pittsburgh border. RATS run #00389 tickled the Munhall boundary, while run #00390 hopped into Penn Hills briefly.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5063866562
Route of Run #00389

I started this one in Munhall, along Main Street. I suppose I could have parked closer, but I just wasn’t sure. Apparently Pittsburgh hasn’t cornered the market on steep hills, as Munhall has a few of its own. Right off the bat, I climbed a long hill and then coasted down to West Run Road. With cars zipping by and no sidewalk, West Run Road terrifies me. This slightly recolored photo sums up my impression of that road.

Busy small road with no sidewalks
Argh! Hell for Road Runners

Once I entered Gates Drive, a pleasant residential road with sweeping curves and large trees, the running was less heart-pounding. In a block or so, I was welcomed into Pittsburgh and only had to contend with dodging the Amazon delivery truck. These days, I see more delivery drivers than residents.