Chickens on Sandwich With Dill

https://www.strava.com/activities/4182507915
RATS #00312

Early on a Sunday afternoon, I got out and ran to catch some streets in Mount Washington. These were not the touristy streets near Grandview, but rather small residential streets and alleys on the backside of Mount Washington as it slides toward the Saw Mill Run ravine. Between the lunchtime start and an early breakfast, my stomach was grumbling right from the beginning.

Starting Point

Stairs are as ubiquitous here as Steeler’s flag. Here’s a quick collage of some of the steps I did.

The area is filled with houses on impossible slopes packed right next to each other. The foliage was beautiful and I got a kick out of the fun Halloween decorations. Many of the houses were apparently built from the same plan, with slight variations.

Not every street was gorgeous. Some of the alleys in the hollow are lined with worn houses and old cars. I didn’t get a good pic of the car on blocks, but its age was notable. Just how long has it been on blocks?

Wrapping up on Sandwich Way and Dillworth Street, I glanced over and did a double-take. There were two live chickens peacefully pecking around the grass. If only I had had some buns and mayo! Speaking of double-takes, just up the street, Dillworth Street intersects Dillworth Street.

Now with my empty stomach was making louder noises, I scooted back to the car and headed off to lunch. Hmm, chicken sandwich anyone?

Bright afternoon in Perry Hilltop

https://www.strava.com/activities/4165506902
RATS #00309 – Fineview and Perry Hilltop

Running directly after work took me up past the marque Fineview destinations to some of the less spectacular streets, in the Notsofineview area. Nonetheless, it was a gorgeous afternoon, just right for running.

Nestled in the East Allegheny neighborhood, at the foot of the bluffs going up to Fineview are small cobblestone streets marked by spectacularly renovated row houses. In contrast, houses on Lafayette Street, on the ‘backside’ of Fineview, are twice the size and half the price.

Driving into Fineview requires navigating steep twisting roads. As a pedestrian, I had an easier time, just going up the James Street steps. Up and up, my path took me to Edenvale Street, and Fineview Avenue. In spite of its bold name, Fineview Avenue is only two blocks long and dead-ends into a wooded hillside. Lanark Avenue has a typical view. There’s a TV tower stretching into the sky at the top of the hill and, on the other side, in what I call ‘the backside’ of Fineview, Lafayette Street is dominated by huge old houses high off the street.

From here, the neighborhood descends literally and figuratively. Tiny alleys with 15% grades drop down to parallel streets tilting off the hill. The area was busy, with men working on houses and washing cars, kids playing on their porches and in the streets. Trotting down Olive Street, a cloud passed over the sun and I was dismayed with a trifecta of bad signs. First: a small dead-end with rapidly declining houses, second: a robust dog vigorously barking and testing the structural integrity of its porch gate, and third: two shiny cars parked in the middle of the street. As I approached, though, a teenager came onto the porch. I asked whether there were steps at the end of the street. He shushed the dog and proudly assured me that the steps were there. The sun came out and I was treated to this amazing set of wooden steps.

From here, I ventured up onto Perry Hilltop, on the other side of the ravine now carrying Federal Street. Encircled by Perrysville Avenue and Federal Street, there are only a few streets there. However, in spite of the views and convenience, this section of town looks forgotten. There are offices for Allegheny County, and Triangle Tech has a campus up here. However, it has the look of a dusty shopping area no one goes to anymore. The backstreets are lined with derelict houses. Kenyon Way must have been an impressive set of steps in its heyday, but now, its a jungle. From Clayton Avenue, the top of the steps’ railing is visible through the knotweed. That house is the same as in the “Lithgow Avenue” picture and the houses in the far hill are where I came from.

From here I traipsed down to North Park along West North Avenue. Last year, they restored one of its fountains, which, I must admit, looks great.

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.

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.

Carrick Buck and Bon Air Rooster

https://www.strava.com/activities/3949650172
Route for RATS #00285

First blog in a few days. Sorry, I’ve been running. Going back to last Sunday, me and a friend, Erin, tackled Bon Air and more of Carrick. I’ve known Erin for a few years and she has progressed from a beginning runner to quite the endurance athlete. Just the week before she had done a multi-day run/hike in the Laurel Highlands covering over forty miles. Last Sunday, she agreed to tag along in my all the streets adventure.

We started at the tip of McKinley Park and immediately went uphill on Bausman. Before we got into Bon Air, I had to cover some streets in Carrick. Aside from Brownsville Road, there are only a few small streets which continue into this area. Romeyn was one of them. It is impressive how high the houses are off the ravine floor.

This part of Carrick is densely populated and filled with Pittsburgh four-squares on small, hilly lots. There are few steps, notably Georgia Avenue, which go two blocks uphill. Also, as streets come off of Brownsville Road, there are often steps such as these Moore Street Steps.

Deeper into the neighborhood, away from Brownsville Road, vegetation starts to take over again, both controlled gardens and the lush mix of trees, wild grape vines and invasive Japanese Knotweed which is so prevalent in Pittsburgh. The green hillsides host a surprising amount of wildlife. We saw this buck nibbling grass along the top of Georgia Avenue Steps.

Moving up into Bon Air, we noticed a striking difference. While there were still some large Pittsburgh four-squares perched high on hills, there were many small two and three bedroom ranch houses and split-levels. These looked like houses built in the 1950’s. The yards were larger.

The streets were also long and straight. As I’ve mentioned previously, straight streets are attempts by planners to ignore the region’s topography. They are invariably very steep. At the bottom of one section, along Drycove Street, we saw not only another of Tom Murphy’s “Project Picket Fence” fences, but also a curious block of grass with steps into it. A lawn pool? I’m sure there’s a better explanation.

Bon Air was pleasant, in spite of the hills. We saw the largest lawn Rooster I’ve ever seen, ironically watched over by sunning cats. Lawn decorations were everywhere. I was impressed by this patio garden.

There are several flights of stairs in Bon Air. If you’re adventurous and go down a long asphalt alley, you’ll get to the Bon Air T-Station. I’m not sure why, but if you scour Bob Regan’s book on Pittsburgh Steps, you won’t find “Caperton”, but you will find a set of steps listed between Fodyce and Conniston, which are the steps on Caperton Street.

After rambling through Bon Air awhile, we went back to Carrick. Here, brightly colored yard decorations and a exquisitely planted pool awaited.

At the end of Amanda Street, we only had about 7 1/2 miles in, so we explored some more. We took streets which plunged down to Route 51. One woman on her porch suggested it would be easier to roll down than run down. I think she was right. Not wanted to dodge cars along Route 51, we made our way along Noble Street, encountering a number of flights of steps. These were fairly long.

We finally made it back with about ten miles under our belts. I was happy that Erin came along. We explored an area of the city neither of us had been in before. After such an exploratory run, I start to mentally connect different parts of the city together.

Winding Thru Windgap

https://www.strava.com/activities/3890197520
RATS #00277 in the Windgap neighborhood of Pittsburgh

Whew, another hot summer run! This time I sought out Windgap and Chartiers for a rather flat run in Pittsburgh’s western neighborhoods. I started from Chartiers Playground. As I waited there for my Garmin to synch to a satellite, I noticed an elderly man slowly walking a little fluffy white and brown dog up the street. I figured I would be long gone before he passed. As the satellites blinked overhead, refusing to connect, the man passed, chatting away on his cell phone, significantly younger than I had thought. While I stood there, getting old myself, he turned up the street and continued on. The effect was, that once Garmin did actually tune into the mothership, he was on the street I had originally intended to run. I felt awkward running by him now, so I decided to go around the block.

On this, my two-hundred and seventy-seventh run in Pittsburgh, I should have known you can’t just “go around the block” here. I dabbled a little on the other side of Chartiers Avenue, then found myself in the far end of Windgap, where large yards contain sprawling ranch houses or small two story homes. It’s rather remarkable how wide open this area is and I think it is on the Chartiers Creek floodplain.

At the upper edge of this plain, long streets such as Summerdale and Isolene provided some shade from the withering sun. Isolene has the distinction of being the first street you come to when hurtling down Middletown Road, which has about a quarter mile of nasty turns before hitting this flat area.

There wasn’t too much to see here. As it was garbage night, people were starting to bring out their trash. I seem to have a habit of running on garbage night, wherever I go. I liked the baby blue house below. Most houses were actually in better shape than that one. Large yards are the norm, many with large, flourishing gardens.

Approaching four miles, I finally made it around the block and called it a day. According to Strava, it was 88 degrees, but it felt hotter.

Borderlands

https://www.strava.com/activities/3758591851
RATS #00267 – Brookline

Continuing on the edges of Pittsburgh, I traveled from the heart of Brookline to Baldwin Township, on its southern border. It was a rather nice evening, sunny and mild. I’ve chatted about Brookline several times in this blog. Just to recap, Brookline is a sprawling residential neighborhood in southern Pittsburgh. The houses vary slightly from the smaller ones packed together off of Brookline Boulevard to the larger, but not palatial, ones on quiet streets. I took Creedmore Avenue from Brookline Boulevard to its end at McNeily Road.

Creedmore as it slips toward McNeily Road

I ran along McNeily for a bit, just to Chelton Avenue, which is actually a driveway for the one house there. Retracing my steps, I plowed up the brick part of Creedmore to Creedmore Place. I like that name, Creedmore. I can hear an evangelist now:

“Do you have faith? Do you know how to express it in a concise way?”

“Yes, yes!”

“That’s creed. Do you have MORE faith now?”

“Yes! Yes!”

“THAT’s Creedmore!”

<and the crowd goes wild…> or <starts throwing tomatoes>

hallucinations on the run

To get away from that crowd I took a right onto Seaton Street. The tall green trees along here are all ginko and must be beautiful in the Fall. I knew Seaton would take me out of Pittsburgh, but I wasn’t sure how far. Fortunately, Baldwin and Pittsburgh are VERY clear about which portion of the street is theirs.

From here, there wasn’t too much to see, just a flamboyance of flamingos at an intersection. Its good to see there are young flamingos there, too. It speaks well of the future of that flamboyance.

Flamboyance of Flamingos

And, finally, there were some steps. These went from Breining to Hobson. Interestingly enough, while there’s another set of steps from Breining to Hobson, which takes a more gradual way down. (See “Thursday Brookline Miles”), they’re only listed once in Regan’s “Pittsburgh Steps” book.

Breining to Hobson, the short steps

That was about it, a bit over four miles. More importantly, two consecutive days of running more than four miles without knee pain. Yippee!

Park often?

RATS #00266

This was a loosely planned run in Homewood on a Sunday morning which took me from the flats near the East Busway to the towering hills above Frankstown Avenue. Along the way, saw lots of cats, some turkeys, some cats chasing turkeys and lot of greenery. There were steps and urban decay balanced by murals and a few cute houses.

I crossed the East Busway on the North Lang Pedestrian Bridge and started east. This area is very tight with tiny alleys between small streets. There are newer houses, older homes, a few nice places and many decrepit ones. It is the height of summer and weeds are taking over any undisturbed lot. Mulberry trees were so low along one alley, I had to duck to run under them.

Toward the end of Tioga Street, the narrow street was lined with large trucks. On one side, a large dump truck had driven onto a soft meadow months ago. On the other, big rigs were parked all over. I got as close as ever to a shiny Mack cab, while a “Fast-Unlock” dump truck body sheltered Long Haul Kitty. His orange coat looked sleek and a water dish had been even left out.

Now heading north to my real target, I climbed streets splaying out like fingers up the hills above Frankstown Avenue. At the split of Mohler Street and Willing Street a small set of steps lead you up Mohler (yes, they are documented in Bob Regan’s book, all six of them.) Willing was a long, desolate street with mattresses and garbage near a condemned house. That white house looked like it was falling off the hillside. Passing that, and coming closer to a better maintained house, I spied a turkey and three grey chicks clucking across the street. As I approached the adult turkey rushed back across the street and chicks disappeared into the undergrowth.

I wound my way down one finger, and then up the next, Wheeler Street. Pittsburgh has a penchant for alliteratively naming neighboring streets. At the corner of Wheeler and Mohler, I saw another flock of wild turkeys. Here, though, a wily, skinny, white and orange cat was creeping up on them, eye’s as big as saucers. I ruined his cover, and the turkeys went gobbling off into the woods. I’m thinking I did the kitty a favor, as those turkeys would have beaten him up.

Wheeler took me up to an impressive set of stairs at the end of Ferndale. They have several twists and turns, but were too overgrown to completely traverse. On Willing Street, I did not notice their upper landing.

Ferndale Steps – Left is the bottom, middle is looking up them and the left picture are the steps disappearing into the woods.

Running out of Pittsburgh for a moment into Penn Hills, I came to my senses and went up Ferndale. Whew! That is certainly a steep street, making it into the “Filthy Five”. Ferndale intersects Lawndale Street at the top. On the left, Lawndale is partially blocked by Jersey barriers, but I trekked down it a bit anyway. However, once I saw an RV down the dead-end road, I figured I had gone far enough and turned around. That’s probably in Penn Hills anyway.

Lawnsdale careens straight down the hill. As it reaches Perchment Street, it spills down to Frankstown Road as a set of steps.

Back to the flatlands, I made my way back to my car. As I skittered down Durango Way, a colorful wall peeked through a slightly open steel door. I peeked in and was rewarded with a garden of murals.

I finished with six and a half miles – slightly more than a 10k. Most of the run covered new streets and I got to see turkeys and murals along the route. The steps were interesting, too. Nice run!

June 2020 – Monthly Catch-Up

Summary

June has been a challenging month and my running stats show it. With only 75.5 miles this month, it was the lowest monthly mileage since February 2019. My elevation gain was decent, at 7,700 feet, but half May’s. The main reason has been ongoing problems with my left knee/ hamstring/ IT band. However, I’m hopeful additional rest, along with a few changes in my routine will allow me to run much more in July.

Nonetheless, all of my thirteen runs this month covered new streets. In the South and West, I’m continuing to make progress in Allentown, Brookline and West Liberty as well as Westwood. In the East, I’ve made progress in Garfield, Homewood and Regent Square. In the North I touched on Brighton Heights and Lawrenceville. I’m up to 261 “RATS” runs.

This project also had the honor of being the subject of two articles, one in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the other in the Pittsburgh Magazine. Also Jim Lynch, the host of FeelGoodRunning featured me along with two other runners in his July 2020 podcast.

But, without further ado, here are the rest of my June runs.

RATS #00249 – West Liberty, Brookline

https://www.strava.com/activities/3549735818
RATS #00249

A run tragically cut short by hamstring pain. (Notice how I don’t get back to my starting point?) However, it continued my exploration of Brookline and West Liberty. It is a nice area, with modest houses, clean streets and a hill or two.

rats00249
Typical Street in Westwood

RATS #00250 – Garfield

https://www.strava.com/activities/3555235754
250th RATS Run!!!

This run was right after the Post-Gazette photographer took some pictures. She kept having me run back and forth. I thought “I suppose the first ones didn’t come out well.” Only after seeing the article did I realize how she used them.

A simple run in Garfield, with its booming hills and big houses. Usually I have no egrets on these journeys, but today was different.

An Egret Hanging Out

RATS #00251 in Brighton Heights

https://www.strava.com/activities/3560488435
RATS #00251 Brighton Heights

I like running in Brighton Heights. The rather flat big streets are tree lined and its easy to get to. As I ran down one alley, I heard a “Hi Ed” faintly. By the time it registered in my brain, I couldn’t see anyone, but I remembered passing a woman playing with her son, and thought, “Hmm, that sounded like Kara”. Sure enough, a couple of days later, Kara mentioned seeing me run by. I love to hear my name called out when I’m running in an unfamiliar place.

Below are a few pics from the run. Benton Road and California Avenue are major roads here. Many of the massive brick houses are now multi-family apartments. Got a chance to take a selfie, which looks tremendously like the “Slow Down, Children Playing” dude. I found a classic brick street which must be mowed; only exceptional areas keep their bricks. Finally, the peonies in the alley were spectacular.

RATS #00259 – Regent Square

https://www.strava.com/activities/3666770733
RATS #00259 – Regent Square

This run was over five miles in Regent Square on a sultry summer evening. Regent Square is pretty nice with brick, tree-lined streets and large houses. I spied a Little Library as well as the Glenn Green Stained Glass Studio , hanging wares on its fence.

RATS #00261 – West Liberty

https://www.strava.com/activities/3695225515
RATS #00261 in the West Liberty part of Brookline

A simple run in the Southcrest subdivision off of Pioneer Avenue. It is wedged between West Liberty Avenue and the South Busway. A very residential area, it is filled with small houses with impeccable lawns, many Mary statues and lots of cars.

So that’s it for June, 2020. Let’s hear it for a great July!

City Views to Salt Sheds

https://www.strava.com/activities/3643612502
RATS #00257

This was a short Saturday run in the eastern portion of Mount Washington. My hamstring is getting better, but I stopped running at the slightest twinge.

I started on Bailey Avenue, which is flat with ample street parking. While Bailey Avenue nearly runs on the crest of Mount Washington, there are a few streets closer to the bluff overlooking the city. I had missed this previously, including “Dicktom Way”.

“Did it intersect Harry Avenue?” some wise-ass friend asked.

Ha! No, it didn’t. But it did take me to Bigbee Street, with its great views of downtown buildings rising through the fog.. From there, I explored streets going down the hill toward East Warrendale Avenue.

This area is a mixed bag. There are certainly well kept houses and quirky yard art, but there are also run down houses and desolate alleys.

This orange Fletcher riding tractor caught my eye. I saw it turning the corner onto Cicero Way. While it looks a bit banged up, the tires and seat are okay and the blue tarp indicates someone cares about it. I wonder if it still works. The industrial strength salt shed was a bit of a surprise. However, looking at the map later I realized I was pretty close to the South Busway. That makes sense.

Finally, I saw this mural on a retaining wall along East Warrington Avenue. It seems this is a layered work. The original probably didn’t have the squiggles on top of the city skyline.

East Warrington Avenue Mural

This was a decent run, though short. Turning onto Haberman Avenue’s big hill, I felt some twinges and called it a day.