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.

New Steps and Wabash Tunnel

After checking I had my Garmin, the phone, a flashlight and two alternate sources of light I emerged from my auto-cocoon and pressed the button to initiate satellite linking. While waiting there…

https://www.strava.com/activities/4139483554
RATS #00308 – Duquesne Heights

I had heard through the grapevine populated with cats that certain steps in this area had been redone and I was encouraged to go out and be the first one to run on them.

That, my friends, is the genesis of this run. It didn’t hurt that I had a couple of lingering streets to cover here (looking at YOU, Crooked Way). So, as October 1st was coming to a close, I found myself parking along Shaler Street in the early evening.

After checking I had my Garmin, the phone, a flashlight and two alternate sources of light I emerged from my auto-cocoon and pressed the button to initiate satellite linking. While waiting there, cooling my heels, I noticed an urban deer emerge across the grassy lot on the hill above. Now, being an urban deer, it knew to cautiously wait at the stop sign for a chance to cross.

Urban Deer
Urban Deer

Then, all of a sudden several things happened at once. A woman driving up Shaler slowed and stopped; asking me if I thought she would hit the deer by continuing. Glancing at the deer and the other traffic, I figured she could proceed slowly. About the same time, a couple in their mid-20’s approached the intersection from the other direction. They were walking a white, terrier-like dog on a long leash.

All of this time, the deer stood waiting for everyone to clear out.

Then, Mr. Scotty, the dog in his red plaid sweater, spied the deer.

“Yip, yip, yap!” he pulled the leash taunt.

At that, the young man, six feet tall with a long stride, started racing the dog towards Mr. Urbane Deer, now sipping some chai and nibbling grass. Startled that such small slow animals would be chasing him, Mr. Urbane spilled his tea and galloped across the field. Flash Gordan and Mr. Scotty actually started to gain on him, blurring in the twilight. But as the field narrowed toward two houses, Urbane elegantly leaped over a tall fence and disappeared.

Agog at this display of speed and agility, I turned back to the woman and suggested that it was clear to go now. Shocked as I had been, she just nodded.

In the interim, I had finally acquired satellite and proceeded up Rutledge.

Unfortunately, the steps weren’t complete. However, they look like they’re doing a thorough job, so these should be here another hundred years.

Crooked Way wasn’t the only street here I needed, but several, like Wyola, led into Emerald View Park trails in the dusky light.

Wyola Street going into trails

From here, I bounced over to Woodruff Street as it fell towards Saw Mill Run Boulevard. It only had sidewalks about a quarter way and from there it was gutter running. At the end, though, the Wabash Tunnel emerged from underground like a fiery oven. Shortly after, Saw Mill Run goes under an overpass. It probably wasn’t meant for pedestrians, but there I was. A bit on the spooky side, I must say.

With this, I made my way up Wabash and back to Shaler Street. All the excitement was gone, no deer, no dogs, just a couple of other runners in the cool night.

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.

Sunset views in Spring Garden

https://www.strava.com/activities/3938468063
Route for run number 00283

This run, in Spring Garden, and the previous one , in Spring Hill, were both in the “Spring Hill /City View” area of Pittsburgh according to Google Maps, but each had a different feel and, quite literally, a different view of the city. Spring Garden seems more 1950’s residential than Spring Hill. While still boasting huge hills, Spring Garden’s main streets seem a little tamer than Spring Hill’s.

At any rate, I started as before on Vinial Street, due to its convenience for parking. I ascended the Arcola Street steps as a short-cut to Damas Street. So, let’s take a short aside here. I pronounce “Damas” as “dah-MAHS'”, with soft southern “ah’s”, stressing the “mas”. The first time I was on Damas Street, I was lost and a little late and mentally christened it “Dumb-Ass” Street. This time, though, I found it a delightful little street. At it’s entrance, Steel City Boxing has set up a ring in an old building fire station. Right across the street is Voegtly Spring. I like to think this put the “Spring” into “Spring Garden”.

Moving on, I found Admiral Street, Noster Street and the intervening alleys to be quite nice. It was a pleasant evening, so people were in their backyards having gatherings around their fire pits and playing in their pools. Along Admiral Street a small flagpole and a simple cast statue stood as a personal memorial along an empty lot overlooking the city. I found it touching.

Many of these streets dead-end into hillsides. I was surprised to find there’s actually a “Spring Garden Greenway”, with its own official sign. Curious what a “greenway” is? Here you go!

In 1980, the Greenways for Pittsburgh program was established to consolidate steeply sloped, unbuildable land for the purpose of protecting hillsides and preserving passive open space resources.

http://www.pittsburghpa.gov/dcp/greenways/

I was not surprised to find deer. Of course, I didn’t find them on the greenway. I found them in a side yard, where I cornered a doe and fawn munching on yummy landscaped flowers.

As the evening became night, I finished up on the tremendous hill of Donora Street. Not far behind it, a radio tower stood dark against the sky.

Coming back to the rather flat Rockledge Street, I considered covering “just one more street”, but thought the better of it and headed home with over four miles in, and another 600′ of elevation. Looking at the map later, I’m really happy I called it a day when I did. I would have had a two more miles of small streets, alleys and dead-ends; but in the dark.

Broadcasting from Beltzhoover

RATS #00280 – Beltzhoover and Knoxville

Last Sunday, I planned to cover some of the long North-South streets in Beltzhoover, then trot over to Knoxville to catch a couple of long streets there. If I had any juice left, I thought I might venture into Bon Air as well.

It was still mid-morning when I parked along McKinley Park and was expecting silence, or at least a rather quiet morning. Maybe a few people cutting grass, some birds singing, but generally silent.

Boy was I wrong! I stepped out of the car and found myself assailed by loud sounds from every direction. It sounded like a gospel church and a hip-hop studio were competing with each other to be the Broadcaster of Beltzhoover! My first turns took me right past the hip-hop broadcasts, replete with ferociously barking dogs.

I must say, that little section at the end of Estella Street wasn’t my favorite. The blaring noise, the narrow streets and nearly impassable alleys spooked me. Unfortunately, Beltzhoover seems to have the most overgrown, long and hilly alleys in Pittsburgh. Several of them looked like they need to be mowed more than paved. Of course, those cute brick streets sometimes could use a little mowing, too.

This corner of Beltzhoover is rather isolated. There’s a T-stop not far away, but the roads don’t go anywhere. For instance, off of Taft, a small street falls down the hill and turns onto “Buffington Avenue”. “Avenue”, well that sounds grand! Eh, not so much. After only a couple of distressed houses, the road is gated off as it dives into McKinley Park.

I must say, not everything is like this. Out of the hollow, the houses are rather large, typical Pittsburgh four-square houses. Upkeep is uneven, with some being meticulously maintained and others succumbing to nature. On the far side, as streets careen off the hill towards Warrington Avenue, there are a fair number of steps. Several of these lead down to the trolley and buses on Warrington Avenue. However, the steps are in sad shape. Not structurally, but they’re just overgrown to the point of uselessness.

Sometime, someone has put effort here. In addition to the community perennial garden, which I described earlier in “Hot Damn, It’s Hot in Beltzhoover”, there are signs directing pedestrians to steps for the T. Given the thorny nature of the path, I don’t think many people are going that way.

Finally, I made my transition to Knoxville, where to cover Georgia Avenue and Grimes Avenue. Those two parallel streets start high on a hill and go straight down to Bausman Street, and beyond. Here’s where things got a bit more interesting. At the bottom of Georgia, I turned right onto Rachelle, a dead-end, to avoid people. (Yes, I do that. ) Rochelle is narrow and tightly packed with houses and cars. Approaching the end, I hoped there would be some pedestrian outlet, but, at first only saw a wall. Then, at the last moment, I noticed a few steps down into the woods below. Taking the steps, I shortly found myself in a homemade BMX track, sized just right for a kid’s first bike.

My consternation turned to elation at this little adventure. I came back around and took a short flights of steps taking to Zara Street. Along the way, I came across my second set of penguins for the day.

And now, the only thing I needed to do was to find the top of Grimes Avenue. At the end of Ibis Way, I came to the beginning of Cedarhurst Street. As many good streets do, it started as stairs. Cedarhurst is more of an alley, but leads across the top of a ridge, where you can even see some buildings on Mount Washington.

Finally making it to Grimes Avenue, I took it past Bausman and muddled around on Mathews Street. I know some folks are more religious than others, but these the residents take it to a new level; four large statues of the Virgin Mary! Okay, maybe it’s just one large statue and a nativity set.

So that was about it. I didn’t have enough juice to venture into Bon Air. Next time, maybe.

However, on my way home, I stopped by Schenley Park on the off chance I might catch Elijah in his “I Still Run with Ahmaud Abery (Day 100)”. Luckily I made it in time to catch him and some folks going out for a lap. I, too, did a lap. Elijah has put together a lot of good information about racism. Let me know if you’d like his write-up.

I still Run For Ahmad

At the corner of Carrot and Celtic

https://www.strava.com/activities/3816294982
RATS #00272 – Oakwood

What will you find at the corner of Carrot Way and Celtic Way? This afternoon, you would have found a rather burnt, sweaty runner, amazed that the playground driveway became a true-blue alley.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Today’s run was all about Oakwood. It’s a small neighborhood squashed between the suburban communities of Crafton and Greentree. It connects to the rest of Pittsburgh via Noblestown Road to Westwood, and, in turn, throws a lifeline to East Carnegie, connecting it to the rest of Pittsburgh.

I started in Westwood, where there is a bit of shopping and a lot of concrete. It makes me hot just looking at the desert of stark asphalt shopping strips. But going up Poplar for a bit I came across Hall Street, which was much more inviting.

Hall Avenue took me slightly out of the city into Crafton and then to Crafton Boulevard. Taking a left along Crafton Boulevard quickly brought me to Oakwood. Coming this direction, Crafton Borough was on my right and the City of Pittsburgh on my left. I caught Oakwood Road, which is immediately a bridge with steps on the left. Ha! Steps. I had to go. It dawned on me that Pennsdale doesn’t actually intersect Oakwood, it goes under it. Maps do have their limitations.

Pennsdale was another world. In a very green hollow, with a stream nearby, there are a few dilapidated houses, a burned out house and a couple of nicer ones at the end. Deer abound, and from the number of fawns I’ve seen, this year has been especially fruitful.

Pennsdale eventually becomes Steen Street and intersects Baldwick Road, a narrow winding road with cars parked all over the cracked sidewalks. Looping back to Oakwood Road, I actually crossed the bridge this time and found steps. leading behind some houses. It seems just to be a shortcut to Balver Avenue.

Quite in contrast to the creepy, burnt-out houses of Pennsdale, Balver Avenue is a ring of modest two and three bedroom houses built in the 1950’s and 60’s. There is an interesting mailbox there, which looks like a tall pink guy with a sailor hat on. Sorry, no pic.

From here, I just tried to hit all the little streets and alleys. Going down Grasmere Street, I knew it was a dead-end and wasn’t looking forward to coming all the way back. As it took a little turn, I noticed that the dead-end “barrier” was a few logs in the street. Continuing, I hoped it would lead to Oakwood Park. Alas, I was disappointed and just came to a wood pile. However, immediately to the right was a set of stairs which took me to very end of Oakwood Road. Yay!

From here, I wandered through the alleys and streets of Oakwood. It is rather small, but has some character, especially in the older streets.

Finally, I made it to Oakwood Park. A lone shirtless teenager shooting hoops was on pace to getting a nice sunburn as well. The old elementary school’s bell has been patriotically painted red, white and blue. The strangest thing, to me, were the tennis courts inside a high, circular, stone wall. Upon further research, it turns out this used to be a reservoir.

Continuing down Carrot Way, I didn’t even see one rabbit, but came out to Craftmont Avenue. At this, I returned along Noblestown Road to my starting point. Turns out, I got seven solid mile in, one of my longer runs this July.

Hot Damn, It’s Hot in Larimer

https://www.strava.com/activities/3708218189
RATS #00261 – Larimer

Hot and humid, Hot and humid,Hot and humid…

Like the banging refrain to a bad punk song, “hot and humid” pounded into my head as I explored the streets of Larimer this afternoon. I had, honestly, been avoiding this area for a bit. It seems like a no-man’s land, squished between Negley Run Road, Washington Road and East Liberty Boulevard. But, other than the heat, there wasn’t much to worry about on a sunny mid-morning.

Not more than a mile from Google’s Pittsburgh offices in Bakery Square, deserted and overgrown Paulson Avenue whimpers to a dead end above Washington Road.

En route, I saw these oft-photographed murals across from Jeremiah’s Place on Paulson Avenue. Mac Miller, I believe?

As I ran further from the busy streets such as East Liberty Avenue and Frankstown Road, the neighborhood becomes pancake flat and very quiet. Perhaps it was the heat, but except for the occasional dog barking or child playing, there wasn’t much activity out there. Many of the smaller streets and alleys are overgrown. Many lots are empty, presumably where houses had been demolished.

For Pittsburgh, this is an incredibly flat area. I managed to find one small set of stairs off of Finley Avenue. The residents of here, as throughout Pittsburgh, seem determined to make their homes as quirky as they can.

Along one alley, old parking spaces had been transformed into an art gallery.

But overall, there is no doubt of the poverty and neglect of this neighborhood. Across from a decent playground, complete with slides and with a water wall, stand two abandoned houses stamped for demolition.

This area is pretty large, too. I covered only about a quarter of the streets here, but easily racked up the miles. As I approached five miles, I headed back to my car. I ended up with a 10k. Good run!

Noble way to Crafton Heights

https://www.strava.com/activities/3447167472
RATS #00238 – Into Crafton Heights from Noblestown Road

This was a pretty well-planned run in Crafton Heights. Instead of approaching Crafton Heights from Steuben Street, I approached it from Noblestown Road. Honestly, a big draw was the availability of parking at the Shop ‘N Save on Noblestown Road. I wasn’t familiar with the area and didn’t know what to expect. I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised and look forward to running more in this area.

To get to my designated parking spot at the Shop N Save, I actually went out of the city on the Parkway West, exiting at Greentree. A few minutes and a few turns later, there I was, pulling into a rather empty parking lot. Social distancing and Covid19 fears has certainly made traffic lighter!

Noblestown Road, at this point, is a broad avenue crossing street after street of modest two and three bedroom houses built in the 1950’s. It sweeps down to Crafton Boulevard, where I took a left and caught Stratmore Street as it climbed steeply. I turned around at Steuben Street, which is the border between Pittsburgh and Ingram. From there, I went back and forth on the grid of streets between Stratmore and Arnold. Much of the area resembled Hollywood Street shown above.

Round Top Street dives down a particularly steep hill. It also has one of the newest set of steps I’ve seen in the city.

Round Top Street Steps

Eventually, I got to Clairhaven Street. For cars, that’s where you have to turn left onto Norwalk Street, but people can take steps from Clairhaven Street to Arnold Street. These stairs are a little wonky. The wooden top section is a work-around. Older concrete stairs, having fallen into disrepair, were simply bypassed. There are two “orphan houses” here. An “orphan house” only has entrances on the stairs.

Crossing Crafton Boulevard again, I came across this, the busiest front yard in the ‘Burgh. They had at least a dozen shiny mannequin heads on stakes.

How many lawn decorations can you count?

Making my way back to the car, I was happy with this nice run in the sun in a pleasant part of Pittsburgh. I’ll be back.

Gardening in Garfield

https://www.strava.com/activities/3413828815
Rare morning run – RATS #00233

Ah, mornings, that time when I like to slowly awaken, shake off vivid dreams, think about the upcoming day and blink myself into consciousness. This morning, however, I popped out of bed, shoved my contacts in and darted out the door for a pre-work run. It was rather cold for early May, in the 30’s, but I think I overdressed. I headed for Garfield, just off of Penn Avenue. It wasn’t too far away and I had many streets to run there. I pressed the like button on a bold mural on North Evaline.

Then there were the steps. North Evaline begins as an average residential street but then continues to Hillcrest on two sets of stairs, becoming more and more overgrown.

Thankfully, Garfield is only really steep on the road coming off Penn Avenue. The cross streets, like Hillcrest, Kincaid, and Broad, are wavy, but not too extreme. Hillcrest is crisscrossed by other small streets and alleys. While some areas are tightly knitted with houses, there are also many wide open spaces. Presumably, there used to be houses on all the lots, but they were torn down as the houses fell into neglect. On Garfield’s hilltop the result is space for gardens and urban farms. Garfield residents seem to also have an artistic flair.

Of course, there are lots of steps as well. In addition to North Evaline, I did the steps on Fannell Street and Ardary Street. The Ardary steps come up from Columbo Street and widen into a full-fledged street. I’m had not been on that street before, so its always suspenseful to see what’s at the top of a set of stairs.

Warmed up by the run and the rising sun, I descended once again to the flat lands of Friendship. Nice way to start a morning, I must admit.

Another Side of Stanton Heights

https://www.strava.com/activities/3328610726
RATS #00222 – Stanton Heights

Nestled between the hills of Allegheny Cemetery and Stanton Avenue is a rather suburban section of Stanton Heights. I grew up in neighborhoods like this, albeit in Alabama.

To get there, I parked near McCandless and Wickliff in Upper Lawrenceville. I scooted down the stairs to Upland Terrace, a one street suburb built in the 1950’s. Crossing Stanton Avenue on Woodbine brought me into this cul-de-sac heaven.

Three and four bedroom houses built in the 1970’s sit back on their green lawns from the wide, winding, tree-lined streets. The stately trees soared into the bright blue sky. Compared to some areas of Pittsburgh, this is amazing. While hills rule Pittsburgh, the idea of large lawns, wide and clean streets with decent housing has yet to catch on everywhere.

Of course, with such wide and winding streets, the mileage added up quickly. Just looping through most of these avenues took me over seven miles, two miles further than circumnavigating all of Riverview Park, as I did earlier this week. It also wasn’t a mecca for street art, or fascinating steps, or unique architecture. But that’s OK; what are kids going to complain about if there aren’t some boring parts of town to grow up in?