Nikola Tesla was a brilliant and eccentric electrical engineer and scientist. He didn’t hit the big time payday like Elon Musk and instead had a series of setbacks. But his ideas still resonate in today’s world and a steep street in Hazelwood has been endowed with his name. Tesla St makes it to the 13th street in the hallowed Dirty Dozen (baker’s dozen, I suppose).
So, on a hot Sunday in early August, I trotted out there. The route hugged the boundary of Calvary Cemetery. The streets out here are more like country roads than inner city streets, “Harlem St” notwithstanding. The houses are rather suburban; mainly split level 3 bedrooms. Yards are large and the residents take advantage of the “country life” by spreading out.
My first encounter with Tesla St was, thankfully, downhill. It didn’t seem too bad, actually. I followed it to the end, then wound up through parts of the Hazelwood Greenway to the top of the hill, where large transmission towers and cell towers loomed over the greenery. Coming back, I went to the end of Kingslake St, hoping to find stairs to lower streets. No dice, Edington St stairs were overgrown and officially closed. Again, I’m surprised at the thoroughness of the City of Pittsburgh’s sign department. Even at the closed stairs, there was a bright blue street sign.
So, this Tesla St isn’t as electrifying as its namesake, but a steep, secluded, green street.
Alleys in Pittsburgh are named. They are designated “Way”s. In practice, some are as wide as some “Streets”, while others are barely wide enough for a small car. Like Spring Way, pictured above, many alleys in the Strip District and Downtown are lined with garbage receptacles, the backs of restaurants and formidable garage entrances. Many alleys in residential areas are lined with small gardens, above-ground pools and older garage-sheds. Finally, there are alleys which are lined with the front doors and window boxes. The outbound portion of today’s run was on two long alleys, Spring Way and Woolslayer Way.
Spring Way runs through the heart of the Strip District, between Penn Ave and Liberty Ave. It starts at 16th Ave and ends at Ligonier almost at 36th St. The picture above really tells the story of Spring Way. It’s a long asphalt strip.
Woolslayer Way, on the other hand, is much more varied. It winds through Lawrenceville and into Friendship. How did they come up with that name? My running musings picture an 1850’s city office where they are naming streets.
Clerk 1: “There’s this little street with a few meat processing warehouses on it. What shall we call THIS?”
Clerk 2: (brandishing a pen) “We SHALL CALL IT WOOLSLAYER WAY!”
At any rate, Woolslayer has a muddled start off of Denny St. Unlike the map on Strava, it doesn’t actually go all the way to Denny St now, rather it juts off of 37th St between Mintwood and Penn. It continues to run parallel to Penn all the way up to Main St. It has garages and houses on it, but little in the way of greenery. Just past Fisk St, behind the MK Motor Mark and Tram’s kitchen, it seems to finally peter out. However, there’s a sidewalk on the right which continues past the end of the alley, only to emerge onto another section of Woolslayer on the other side. There is even an orphan house off of the sidewalk! Woolslayer. Beyond Friendship Ave, Woolslayer gives up its name and becomes Comrie Way.
After the Woolslayer adventure, I wound my way back to the Northside, where I had started. I made a quick stop at the Bloomfield Farmers Market, crossed the Millvale St Bridge and took Centre Ave and Wylie Ave back to downtown.
This was a relaxed morning run including the short length of English Lane.
Ah, Greenfield again. This time with more purpose and time constraints. The main goals here were completing Flemington and Deely, which I did. Yay! I won’t EVEN start talking about hills!
This was a run with 3ROC in Regent Square. Mainly trails, but a little in Regent Square as well. That is a nice, tree-lined area.
This was a pretty adventurous run, exploring Garfield and Friendship. It was the first time I had ever gone into Garfield from that direction. It was also, as I recall, hot as hell that day, AND the hills were significant, culminating at one of those blue water towers you see around Pittsburgh.
Not to weaponize everything, but doesn’t this look like an ancient ritual dagger from a lost civilization? But its just Greenfield again. The view from the dagger point, Exeter St is surprisingly good.
A pre-track warm-up along the tree-lined, yet heavily trafficked Greenfield Rd.
This was another 3ROC run, with more of Regent Square thrown in.
A Wednesday night PBR run. Can you tell the extra street?
This run was all about covering Winterburn Ave and close-by cul-de-sacs.
For some reason, I felt the need to run BEFORE an HPRC run. Since it was Upper Lawrenceville, it made for some nice grids. The “Ways” in Lawrenceville are small narrow streets. Unlike areas such as Greenfield, where garages and back yards line alleys, there are often front doors to narrow houses along the alleys.
This run was simply to cover more streets in Squirrel Hill. It is quite the mental challenge to remember a map, then go run it. It doesn’t help that often maps are slightly wrong, such as showing a street as going through when it doesn’t actually. Here’s to you, Colma St!
Some interesting streets solidly in Squirrel Hill North, an area characterized by immense houses with well manicured lawns and driveways to garages in the back. I think about five Lawrenceville row houses could fit in the space of one of these houses.
Just in Point Breeze, catching some streets which keep trying to poke into Homewood Cemetery.
Ah, the little Edgerton Square makes this PBR run qualify to be a RATS run. (BTW, a “qualifying run” is one in which I run on a street I’ve not done before. )
This was a long, quick run with Pro Bike and Run. I tossed in Broad St to add a few miles. Nice running group with auto voice directions (as other runners would shout out the turns as we approached.)
Wendover St was a bit disappointing. It is nestled between Beacon and Hobart, but was lined with large, old apartment buildings in poor repair, instead of cute houses. There could be over 1,000 people living on that street, given the number and size of the buildings. However, I did find a nice little cut-through connecting both sides of Murdoch St as I ran to track.
I almost made it to 3ROC, but instead ran up and down small flat streets in Regent Square, straddling the Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg border. This little 5 mile run took me into three municipalities; Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg, and Swissvale.
That’s a wrap
That’s all for July. I was much more focused on covering new streets. I also ran a lot, slightly more than in June (134 miles), with less elevation (only 11,117 ft). Soon, I’ll be publishing maps showing cumulative progress as of the 100th run. Looking ahead, in August, I’d like to cover more of the southern neighborhoods, but run about the same amount of miles.
As July drew to a close, two running threads converged. One is that July 31st fell on the last Wednesday of the month, meaning that the Brooks shoe rep would be at Pro Bike, AND there would be beer after the run. That’s always a good time. Another one was that this would be the 100th RATS run, if only I could get the mapmaker to include some new streets. So I messaged the running mapmaker, Kim, and asked if she could include Gettysburg St on the route. We’ve run many parallel streets in Squirrel Hill often, so it wouldn’t be too crazy of a change from normal routes. She agreed and put together the route.
At the beginning of each jaunt, Kim makes announcements and welcomes new runners. She also explains the route, going over the differences between the three and five mile routes, for example, and any gotchas with the map. Tonight, she took the occasion to point out that I had requested the route and asked me to tell the group the significance of it. I gave my short canned messaged: “It’s a personal project to run all the streets of Pittsburgh”., then tossed in the part about it being the 100th, too.
The run itself was a nice mix of a social run and pure run. It took us down the venerable Beechwood Blvd, then up Gettysburg. That was a short, steep hill which most people had never done. This was still Squirrel Hill, so the houses are huge, the yards beautifully maintained and the streets wide. Things became more interesting as we traversed Penn Ave all the way to Trenton Ave, in Wilkinsburg. By the time we got there, the various 9ish groups were strung out for a couple of blocks. Most people in the group had never run in this area and there was some trepidation about running in Wilkinsburg. It was no problem, actually. Much like Homewood, it has large brick houses, flat, dusty streets and small yards. Pittsburgh’s signature bright blue street signs helped us figure out when we had crossed out of the city, as Wilkinsburg’s street signs were faded green. We had a bit of confusion at the end of Forbes Ave, where it forks for a half block. But when we went up Forbes everyone knew where they were.
Forbes Ave is a long gradual uphill, which gets steeper as you approach Squirrel Hill. We spread out a little there. I ended up talking to John, who is almost done training for the Erie Marathon. He has been putting in boatloads of miles, over 200/month. Back at Pro Bike’s Squirrel Hill store we feasted on ice cream and brown ale. It was an unlikely combo, but I didn’t hear any complaints, except about that hill on Gettysburg.
That map does not do this run justice. It was a hot and sunny day as many of this summer’s runs have been. I would have given much to be in the start of a classic detective novel (you know… a dark and stormy night…). Anyway, with that groan out of the way, let’s go through this run.
I mapped out the first half of this run pretty well. It met two objectives, run over ten miles and cover lots of new streets in Oakland and Uptown. I got a late start, hitting the pavement around eleven in the morning instead of eight. It was hot, but I had some electrolyte fluids with me and have gotten used to the heat. However, I was definitely planning to take it easier than the previous day’s 13 miler.
Getting a nice start through Schenley park, I checked off Prospect Drive, a long looping park drive. Then, I delved into onto South Oakland, jogging on Dawson, Frazier, Semple, and Ward streets. Frazier St, I must say, wasn’t as hectic as the rest. In a little playground, water was spewing and I took the opportunity to soak my shirt. The other streets were lined with apartment entrails; sofas, bookcases, lamps, plant stands, TV’s, broken dressers, and mattresses. U-Haul’s were maneuvering in the narrow streets. New students were fumbling with apartment keys while parents unpacked vans. Moving season in South Oakland was in high gear!
Finally going up Halket, I approached Fifth Ave with five miles already under my belt. I took advantage of the Pittsburgh OpenStreets event in progress and explored some Uptown streets. In particular, I traversed Watson St. I was “in the loop” of closed streets, so I didn’t have to worry too much about cars. Watson Street is quite narrow with quite the variety of buildings on it. In many parts of the city, this would have been an alleyway. On it were a few older houses, some row houses, some detached houses. There were new warehouses and very old, haunted warehouses. There were parking lots and a small corner store. It was nearly devoid of people, except a couple of groups of young men and the occasional homeless person. There was even a city groundhog, nervously eyeing me as I passed.Just a block away on my left, the Open Streets program hubs were busy and cyclists were zooming around.
Finally coming to the end of Watson St, I made a loop and headed back home on Forbes Avenue. Only fifty yards in, I heard my name and there, just outside the Armstrong Tunnels, were Sasha, Chris and Donies. I was happy to stop running and chatted for a bit. As we were starting to break up, Suzanne, Amy and a friend biked past. Wait, we needed to chat more! It was great! Eventually, Sasha, Donies and I headed up Forbes, while Chris plunged into the cool Armstrong tunnels and Amy & Co biked away. Pretty soon the three of us split up as well and I made my way to Tustin St.
Now, there’s nothing fabulous about Tustin St. It was similar to Watson, but narrower and not as pretty. There’s not much in this area except concrete, asphalt, fencing and row houses. Tustin was in the zone as well and I didn’t have to worry about cars. It also seemed very direct and started taking me down to the Birmingham Bridge, with all of its underpasses and overpasses.
However, after I passed the Tustin Tot Lot, a little playground, I found a small vacant, grass covered lot guarded by a mounted horseman!
That was the highlight of my run. I made my way back through Oakland, happy to find kids selling lemonade. I made use of the Lawn St stairs and Frazier St stairs to get home as directly as possible.
Today’s run is brought to you by the question: “Can I get there from here?” More specifically, I was curious how to run from Mt. Washington over to the South Side Slopes. I’m also hoping to find a “Great Southwest Passage” – a running route that will get me from the South Side Flats to the big southern neighborhoods such as Beechview and Brookline.
I began in the South Side Flats, concentrating on Larkin Way. Larkin Way starts at a ten foot wall enclosing an electrical substation. It feels rather odd, because there are also house entrances right there too. Another in a series of long alleyways, Larkin Way goes from that wall near 28th St all the way to S 17th St, where it basically morphs into Sarah St in the heart of residential South Side Flats.
Catching PJ McCardle at its lower terminus, I chug up the gradual slope as it rises past Cupples Stadium. All along here, McCardle is pedestrian friendly. OK, “friendly” might not be the right word. It has a crumbling sidewalk and wet branches swat you in the face as you’re running by, but at least there is a sidewalk. As you approach the Liberty Bridge intersection, its another story. Here there’s nothing for pedestrians but a high curb and the graciousness of Pittsburgh drivers. Crossing the entrance to the Liberty Bridge, begins the long ‘classic’ McCardle climb. This takes me over Sycamore St, under the Mon Incline, under the round viewing platforms on Grandview Ave and up to Grandview itself. Normally when I’m running classic McCardle, I’ll either stop here to take pics or run down to the Liberty Bridge and back for hill repeats. This time I ran through the intersection and onto Merrimac St, taking a left onto Virginia Ave. Behind the views and tourists of Grandview Ave is the Mt. Washington neighborhood. Modest three bedroom Pittsburgh brick houses with small yards are interlaced with $900K condos. The rather wide streets wind up and down steep rolling hills.
My route took me down Boggs Ave and up Southern Ave, making a loop down and up. These are densely populated streets with houses separated only by hedges or narrow walkways. As I finished the loop, where Southern Ave meets Virginia Ave and Wyoming St, I heard a rustle behind me. A deer leapt from the wall on my left, skittered across the intersection and bounded up a twelve foot retaining wall across the street. Urban wildlife strikes again!
I made a left onto Boggs this time and as it became Baily, the street flattened out. Baily was shockingly wide and straight. Larger houses, mostly brick four-squares with nice lawns lined the road. Across the street, you could see views of downtown. Then Baily made a sweeping curve past Emerald View Park and started a literal and figurative downhill into Beltzhoover. I’m always surprised what a mile will do, and this street was no exception. In Beltzhoover, the houses became narrower, weeds grew between the sidewalk blocks and it was just dirtier. I made the turn onto East Warrington Road, along the business district with its Family Dollar, barber shops with their old-style barber poles, bars, and a beer distributor. Onion Maiden is there, a vegan restaurant with a heavy-metal/punk playlist. I turned right onto Arlington Ave, past the police station and Black Forge Coffee House. At this stage of my Pittsburgh explorations, Arlington Ave is a well-known street for me. I know that if I continue, I will eventually cross streets that plunge down to the South Side Flats, often as stairs.
I did just that. Unfortunately Arlington was a long, hot run, but eventually I rounded onto Jospehine for a little and branched off onto Eccles St. Eccles St is a cross between an alley and a country road. Then I made the right onto Cologne St, with its unreal hills and stairs for sidewalks. I wound down to Oakley Street and took the extensive stairs from Oakley to Shelly and Stella streets and from there down to Josephine. Shelly St and Stella St would normally be one street, but the street is so steep that Stella goes one way and ten feet below Stella goes the other.
That was an amazing shortcut. In spite of all the tremendous hills I felt I had done, it turned out to be just about the same elevation as the previous day’s run though Stanton Heights. Now I know how to get from Mount Washington to the South Side Slopes. Next goal is to wind my way over to Beechview.
The starting point for this Saturday run was from Caffè d’Amore Coffeeshop in Upper Lawrenceville. It was organized by Corbin for HPRC. By the time I met up with the group, I had done a quick warm-up through two miles of Lawrenceville alleys. The HPRC group had ten to fifteen runners and I fell somewhere between the faster runners and the slower ones. I decided to ad-hoc it, running roughly the suggested route, but on streets I had never been on before.
My first detour was going up 44th St instead of 40th St. This took me up a slightly longer hill with nearly the same elevation from Butler St to Children’s Hospital. Then, fearing both that I had shortchanged myself on distance and that I would run into the faster runners (who might assume I was taking short-cuts), I zigged-zagged down an alley and then went down 42nd St to Butler St at the bottom of the hill. Hill climbing again, I went up tree-lined Fisk St to finally reach Penn Ave, or rather an alley parallel to Penn. This alley was wishfully named Garden Alley. Finally I did emerge onto Penn in front of Children’s Hospital. BTW, Children‘s is ranked in the top ten children’s hospitals in the country.
Ironically enough I did pass Kristen, Cathy and Dayana who had just come out of a water stop at Children’s. We just shouted at each other as runners do and I chugged down Penn Ave. My next detour was to venture into Garfield instead of staying on Penn and Negley. I had a thought of going down Broad, but that felt that would take me too far out of the way. So I started up Negley meaning to take an early left before Stanton and take one of those streets across Garfield. Alas, I was one street too far east – North Fairmont would have been a good choice, but North Negley only had a few little dead-end streets on the left. Then, I saw Columbo! Aha! Whew, I have never driven on Columbo and never had run on this section of it. The elevation chart below shows why. Heart-pounding indeed.
Near the top and off to the right a big blue water tower stalks on stilts above the houses. These large brick houses are on steep wooded hillsides. Broad, undulating swaths of pavement plunge off the left, streets eventually intersecting Penn Ave and continuing into Friendship. Staying on Columbo brought me past North Atlantic and North Pacific, and onto Schenley Ave. Where Columbo meets Schenley Ave, new housing has sprouted. This surprising subdivision of beige bungalows is nicely kept. From here, I wanted to get to Stanton without retracing too many streets. Little Aisbette Way appeared on the right. It looked like a driveway beneath large trees, heavy with un-pruned branches nearing the ground. From my memory of the map, I was pretty sure it went through, but it looked touchy. About 50 yards in, as Aisbette Way makes a sharp left, slouched a dilapidated house on the corner. Turning the corner, instead of pit bulls and angry residents which my mind had conjured, I found the street opening up and winding down the hill, lined by a couple of quiet houses, tall and narrow. Whew!
From there, I caught the curve of Mossfield until it became Black St and eventually made a left onto Samantha Way. Since my daughter’s name is Samantha, I had to see where that went. It went far. It was flat. Eventually it landed me on Wellesley Ave in Highland Park. I made my way back to Stanton Avenue, then diverged once more onto McCandless Ave, circling around a little, just for fun. I finally landed on Butler and Caffe D’Amore where a few HPRC people were still hanging out. Got a coffee and chatted for awhile.
Looking back, I went through five large neighborhoods and ran mostly on streets I had not covered, I saw cool views, neat houses and nearly always friendly people. Nice run!
Swisshelm Park is a border neighborhood in Pittsburgh. The naive pedestrian or driver could go down a road such as Nevada St or Whipple St and never know they had passed the boundary between Swissvale and Pittsburgh. There IS one tell-tale sign: the line in the street showing where one municipality’s road maintenance ends and the other one begins. If you tried to walk that line, you’d find yourself in the middle of backyards, front yards, sheds, kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms! Don’t walk that line.
So, on a hot Fourth of July I decided to run all the streets of Swisshelm Park in one blow. My rough calculation was that it would be about ten miles, and I was close. At any rate, I started by climbing Commercial Street, from beneath the Parkway East Bridge, where Frick Park spills toward Duck Hollow.
Once on the hilltop, the streets were pretty much level. The houses are modest two and three bedroom affairs; a few ranches, a few split levels, some larger houses. Most of the yards were a decent size with grassy lawns and maybe a tree or two. Home mechanics worked on their cars out of small garages lining the alleys. I could see tomato plants and zucchini bushes in gardens and the occasional backyard pool. Diligent homeowners were hosing down their sidewalks and watering their gardens.
Now, this is a convenient place. You can get downtown quickly as long as Commercial Street isn’t closed and you can get out to the eastern suburbs quickly as well. While too far to carry groceries, there are convenient stores along South Braddock Ave. You can attend Pittsburgh city schools, getting school bus transportation. Of all the streets I ran on, I don’t remember seeing any derelict houses, even at the end of the long dead-ends. In fact, some of the bigger yards and nicer houses were at the end of the dead-ends. With all these amenities, you’d expect a high-priced area, but its NOT.
My conclusion: These residents are living the American Dream. Life is never perfect, but this is a great neighborhood.
But, be forewarned, things may change. The owners of the land surrounding Duck Hollow, the same folks who built Summerset, have their eyes on developing housing along the woods and trails along Nine Mile Run. That would undoubtedly change the character of this neighborhood.
Also, I didn’t realize that Duck Hollow is considered to be part of Swisshelm Park. I thought that was its own neighborhood. Thus, I have a few more streets to run before REALLY completing Swisshelm Park.
This run was specifically to cover some streets such as parts of Aylesboro and Northumberland near Homewood Cemetery which I had previously missed. This area is tree-lined with nice, but not palacial homes. There were lots of people out and about, playing with kids or walking dogs.
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HPRC had an early morning run from the Cathedral of Learning. It was a fun run with a lot of familiar faces, but, oh, so early!!
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Another run just to cover some streets and get some miles. The area near the end of Hobart had a surprising number of small alleyways that led to cool houses.
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Three Rivers Outdoor Company (3ROC) is an outfitter store on South Braddock Avenue, at the end of the Regent Square business district. While they have cool stuff in their store, they also are big into community fitness events, such as their weekly trail run. This run covered a few new trails and maybe a bit of some streets. It was fun!
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A run up to Pro Bike before their Wednesday night run. I got some little streets in which had otherwise escaped by attention!
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Another run to cover some streets. Gotta catch them all!
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A double-rarity – a Friday run and an early morning run! As with many of these catch-up runs, this was specifically to cover some streets. I’ve done between 50% and 75% of the streets in Greenfield now.
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Down the wide open streets of the Hill District. It was relatively early and quiet, with the UPMC Building looming over me the entire run.
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A final run for June. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go, but wanted to end in Oakland and go to the library afterwards, so I started near Phipps, ran down into Schenley Park. One route would have taken me over to the South Side, but I choose to go through Hazelwood and cut through Greenfield, so the mileage and time wasn’t too crazy. Thanks to some stairs which connect the two neighborhoods I was successful.
There were parts of the route which were a little stressful, such as running down Irvine Street in Hazelwood. It had the feel of a street which really wanted to be an interstate but never quite made it. Irvine Street was busy and dirty, with narrow, overgrown sidewalks. Going up into the hills of Hazelwood is always a bit surreal. The hills and steps are steep and the greenery is suffocating (oh, maybe that was the heat). There are parts of Hazelwood where the houses are kept up nicely, but on the streets I ran, mostly the houses were falling apart and often empty. Lastly running along Frasier Street and Swinburne Street was pretty scary. There is not a lot of room to drive, much less run, and the streets are curvy and hilly. Nonetheless, I persisted and found my way back to the car.
Whew! This was the last run of June. I covered lots of miles (132) and climbed lots of elevation (13,400) in June.
The pictures above are courtesy of Amy Scharpf, the team’s official selfie-taker.
Teams, random locations, whatever route you choose, two hours to do it. This sounded fun! Then I had a look at the list of locations! Ninety spots where you needed to take a selfie with your team, capturing the location behind you. Some were general such as the “Fort Pitt Bridge”, some were very specific such as the “Singing Pigs in Wholey’s. This was Pro-Bike and Run’s Annual Scavenger Hunt Run. My team included friends I often run with on Wednesday nights, six of us. Collecting six people for a picture is not easy. “Where’s Kristen?” was the common call, as the first snapshot often missed her.
Denise had scouted out the Northside targets, so we started there. Probably the most interesting were the City of Asylum houses. City of Asylum is unique organization devoted to helping ‘endangered’ authors live and write. These writers usually face repression in their home countries but are energetic and expressive. The houses they’ve decorated with writings are unique. Cathy knows Chinese and was able to read some of the characters on the Poem House. No-one knew Burmese, but it is a beautiful flowing script.
We eventually made it to around forty locations, covering over seven miles. One of my favorite was the Singing Pigs photo. Wholey’s is hectic on a Saturday morning and the store manager didn’t appreciate groups of sweaty runners dashing in and out.
As the clock ticked down, the heat and the distance started getting to us. The selfies became more hurried. Nonetheless, we made it back in time and basked in the cool air of Nova Place as we uploaded our photos and rethought our route; making plans to be way more efficient next year!