Crossing the River and through Homewood

Here are two runs from the end of May.

RATS #00411 in Homewood

Homewood! Homewood! Homewood!

I’ve written about you often and been through your maze of streets and alleys more than once. However, there’s always a little more of you. This was a Sunday afternoon run to tie up loose ends. El Court, for instance. On my first run past, I thought it was a sketchy driveway. Going around the block and back, I decided it was just sketchy, not a driveway. It has the style of row houses facing each other. Of course, a car was parked at the end facing outward. Why not?

I’ve found that this style of housing, with its row houses enclosing some sort of walkway or driveway, is found occasionally across the city, typically in older neighborhoods, Lawrenceville, Oakland and Perry Hilltop for instance. El Court, however, takes the cake for disrepair.

Another street I needed was Annan Way. It intersects North Braddock and parallels the busway as it heads toward North Homewood Avenue. Cinnibar Way is a similar-looking alley but isn’t nearly as long. It does have that typical red-brick paving of most of Homewood’s alleys.

Prior to getting here, though, I traipsed up Inglenook Place. I had done that area earlier, with its long flight of stairs up to Sickle Street. However, I had missed a tree-lined alley, Hackett Way, earlier. Actually, earlier I didn’t think it was even a street. But it is, and there I was, running it down. I didn’t get a good picture of it, but it’s right under those trees at the top of the steps.

In spite of rampant dumping in alleys, deer frequent the open grassy lots. Cuddy’s looks like a store from the 50’s.

Murals adorn many brick buildings. As I was discussing with a friend recently, these are ‘paid’ art; I call it graffiti gentrification. Most of it is pretty cool with real design and artistic talent. Of course, it’s just not the same as the midnight taggers marking their territory.

And that’s about it.


RATS Run #00412

I started this run, run #00412, across the Allegheny River. It is “officially” in the Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar neighborhood. Mostly, though, is a an Aspinwall, Fox Chapel shopping area.

After getting all the way to Fox Chapel Road, I retraced my steps and crossed the Highland Park Bridge. It crosses the Allegheny just upriver from “Lock and Dam 2”. It is a fairly simple lock and dam, maybe nine or ten feet high.

I ran past scads of cars slowly making their way into the Pittsburgh Zoo. It was a beautiful Memorial Day and the zoo looked packed. Just beyond One Wild Place, I took a detour off of Butler Street to do Ballard Way, Gallatin Street and the Jancey Street Steps.

Moving on down Butler Street, I noticed what seems to be large amounts of dumping down near railroad tracks. Turns out, this is an auto-salvage business and the mountain of metal will, I assume, be recycled. I stumbled upon a few streets which took me under the 62nd Street Bridge.

Apparently, the authorities frown on people dismantling their cars down here. What the heck?! In this land of the free, why can’t I just dismantle my car wherever I feel like it? Sheez! That sign made me so mad, I think I’ll just keep my car intact. Take THAT!

Silly rant aside, it was another world, down there under the bridge. Much more active than I thought it would be.

Moving on, I went up onto the bridge and ran across. Halfway across I was officially out of Pittsburgh and into Shaler. It does have some cools views of the city, must say. Of course, as I approached the northern end of the bridge, I crossed the ubiquitous railroad tracks again.

Another eight miles in the books.


So, that is it for May 2021. In spite of a week of travel, I ran over 100 miles. I’m slowly chipping away at the streets.

Beltzhoover and Edgebrook Avenue

Two runs in late May


Back-alleys in Beltzhoover

RATS run #00410 in Beltzhoover

Prior to this project, I did not appreciate the size of Beltzhoover. Now, I appreciate it, as I keep going back to ‘finish’ up more alleys and cul-de-sac’s. This run, run #00410, was on a beautiful Sunday morning, but my plans were immediately altered. My old nemesis, “Nonexisting Streets” was at it again; Pear Way, for example.

However, I persisted and found my way down many a country road there. Yes folks, this is a reputedly tough inner city neighborhood.

I’m often a little tense running through alleys like this because I’m not sure what I will find. I generally shouldn’t worry too much; mainly I’m dodging chipmunks, squirrels, groundhogs, the occasional cat and sometimes deer. Every once in awhile, I’ll come across someone walking their dog.

This is not to say these alleys are pristine. Often decaying garages house cars which haven’t moved in a generation. Tires and garbage are common. I do believe there is a City of Pittsburgh Ordinance about the cars, though. Oh, here it is:

The accumulation and storage of abandoned, wrecked, dismantled or inoperative vehicles, or parts thereof, on private or public property, not including highways, is found to create a condition tending to reduce the value of private property, to promote blight and deterioration, to invite plundering, to create fire hazards, to constitute an attractive nuisance creating a hazard to the health and safety of minors, to create a harborage for rodents and insects and to be injurious to the health, safety and general welfare. Therefore, the presence of an abandoned, wrecked, dismantled or inoperative vehicle, or parts thereof, on private or public property, not including highways, except expressly as hereinafter permitted, is a public nuisance which may be abated as such in accordance with the provisions of this chapter. [Ord. 664 C.S. § 1, 1973.]

https://www.codepublishing.com/CA/Pittsburg/html/Pittsburg08/Pittsburg0812.html#8.12.010

If only this were enforced! Maybe it is just too much hassle and paperwork, I don’t know.

Now, at some point someone decided that a directional sign pointing to Beltzhoover’s amenities was a good idea. It sounds like a great idea to me too! However, apparently there wasn’t any money to keep the right of way mowed or stairs intact, so now the sign is rather ridiculous. The pic below on the right were steps prior to 2007, if I’m not mistaken. Of course, these days, with smartphones and maps, I don’t think we need directional signs that much.

That was about it for alleys of Beltzhoover. I’m sure I’ve missed some and will be back.


An Epic Run From McKinley Park

RATS Run #00410 from McKinley Park to Brookline and Back

This run, RATS run #00410, started pretty close to the previous run, run #00409. However, I went in an entirely different direction, down Bausman to Saw Mill Run Boulevard. My main goal was completing Edgebrook Avenue. I did that and added a few charming streets.

McKinley Park is fairly large. The main access to it is along Bausman Street, where folks park along the road and have picnics, play hoops and skateboard. However, it was a rainy Saturday morning when I went through, so the park was deserted.

At the bottom of the hill, Bausman ends at Saw Mill Run Boulevard. This is only a quarter mile from the Liberty Tubes, so it is very busy. T-tracks tower overhead and a thriving thrift store sits across the intersection. You might notice the picture with the T is bright and sunny, while the Thift store is all gray. That’s because I did this one section twice. The first time, my GPS failed, so I felt compelled to do it again. (Argh!)

Behind the thrift store, Timberland Avenue crosses a closed bridge and runs past a couple of derelict houses before disappearing in a tangle of underbrush. The stream, Saw Mill Run, still has car carcasses littering the gravel.

Now running down Saw Mill Run Boulevard, the sidewalk disappeared, so it was crappy running. How about getting sidewalks here? Anyone? Buehler? Buehler?

There were some curiosities along the way. I feel like this truck was trying to hide, parked as it was between a shipping container and a billboard. However, it was as successful as an elephant hiding behind a refrigerator. While the door below is kinda cool, in that battered-steel-door genre, I really like the retro numbering next to it. (I’m sure it is original, not really retro at all.)

I finally got to Edgebrook Avenue. It actually starts under the T and even has a couch for resting. (Apparently having indoor furniture outdoors is against city ordinances, too.) Then Edgebrook Avenue passes a small car dealership and rises into Brookline, rising along a winding, wooded valley.

Up toward Brookline, several small streets branch off of Edgebrook Avenue. Milan Street used to have steps to Whited Street. But then, a tree fell. And fallen trees can’t be removed.

As always, people decorate their places. This goose was very appropriately dressed, while the fairy garden was trying to bring magic into the day.

I magically lumbered down Brookline Avenue to Pioneer Avenue, catching Oleatha Way en route. Then I decided to cross West Liberty Avenue and check out a couple of streets rising from beneath the Norfolk and Western train trestle. One just led to a city vehicle impoundment area, but Dawn Avenue rose on cobblestoned paths up the slope to Charm Street. Charm Street, ah, well, take a look and tell me how charming it is.

I was, honestly, surprised how far Charm Street extended. But at the end, well, it was dead. Again, I’ve taken a liking for doors, so here are a couple.

Dawn Street has its own South Busway stop and apparently a T stop. Stairs on one side led across to steep stairs on the other. Before coming down, I had a good look at that Norfolk and Western line. Such an impressive bridge for just one track.

Finally, I rounded the corner and found myself at the Thrift Store on Saw Mill Run again. I slogged up Bausman, taking a small detour for Lorna Way, another Beltzhoover alley.

Lorna Way

That’s all for now. Just remember, keep your couches inside and your cars operational. And, for goodness sake, stop driving into creeks.

Short March Runs

Here are three short runs I did in mid-March. These were “squeeze-them-in-runs”, where I had only a short time and planned out a very limited route. Though perhaps not as epic as some runs, they still took me to interesting places.


https://www.strava.com/activities/4947105503
Route of RATS run #00381 in West Liberty

This run started at Moore Park along Pioneer Avenue. I had mapped out a shorter, “nearly flat”, route for my girlfriend to run while I tackled the longer hill on Dunster Street.

Dunster is pretty much suburbia up near Pioneer Avenue, with a long straight stretch rolling east. After reaching the sunrise, it drops precipitously. Large lawns spread out and the bottom cross-street, Timberland, ends in trails. (The trails, incidentally, go back up to Moore Park.)

Following Timberland away from its trail end brought me to Edgebrook Avenue. At this point, Ballinger Street ascends as a staircase. This area was a bit more junky. I did spy what must have been an elf playhouse off the stairs. Also, I garnered more evidence for “Boat Theory”, as a speedboat was right next to the stairs.

I continued all the way to Whited Street before turning back. It is a neat area, off the beaten path but literally a quarter mile to Saw Mill Run Boulevard and overlooking the South Busway.

Returning to Moore Park, I had the pleasure of running up Dunster. Turns out that is a Strava Segment (“What a Dunster Fire”) and for the moment, I’m 4th overall! I also had the pleasure of getting some feedback for the “flat” run I had planned for Naomi. Ha! Perhaps it wasn’t as flat as I remembered.


Brook Street Route
RATS #00382, Brook Street in Carrick

Nestled between South Side Cemetery and Saint Georges Cemetery, a handful of streets and an amazing number of houses cling to steep slopes. This run, #00382, was a rare morning run and I just had enough time to do a couple of miles. I parked along Brownsville Road and ran north on that dusty road to Cedricton Street. Between the houses on the left, it was a long way down.

Once at the end of Cedricton, I jigsawed my way over to Brook Street, which flowed downhill, an amazingly far way downhill. There was actually a turn-around at the bottom, where all the views were up, up along fallen vine covered trees. A brook did emerge at the bottom.


https://www.strava.com/activities/4965153998
RATS #00383 in California-Kirkbride

This was a short run I tried to squeeze in before my regular City of Bridges Wednesday night run. I managed to catch Sigel Street, which has recently been repaved then ascended the Hyena Street Steps. No pictures, I suppose I forgot my phone.

Turns out I misjudged my timing as well, for by the time I got back, the COB runners had already left. Whoops! I had the map and tracked after them. However, with a ten minute head start, I only caught up with a couple. At least Modern Cafe was open and I got to enjoy some post-run libations with them.

Sunset on California

https://www.strava.com/activities/4621577990
RATS #00355

This was a very targeted run after work in mid-January. I started out in Brighton Heights and worked my way down to Ireland Way in Marshall-Shadeland. My first street was Lee Street, which took me past an old-folks home. It also bordered some sort of day-care and ended in the City Growers Community Garden. After a bit of ducking in and out of those streets, I found my way to Kalorama Way. Kalorama Way is a rather long alley and is broken into at least three parts. This part took me past the schoolyard of Morrow Elementary, with its towering smokestack.

This area has a mix of houses and apartment buildings. I liked the archways and balconies of this one on Fleming Avenue. In spite of the dense urban feel of Brighton Heights, there’s always an alley that takes you back to the countryside. I’m wary of such back-alleys, worried that I might trespass on someone’s property, and worried that they’ll take exception to it. Look what happened to the last trespassers here!

Nature is always at work. In a few more years, the straggly vines will cover that shed. Add a couple more years and the shed will be gone. I had already done the Rankin Steps, but they were a great shortcut to the third section of Kalorama Way. They also point to the amazing ups and downs of Pittsburgh. This house, with it’s high turret on a high hill likely has a better view even than I did of the Alcosan Plant far below. Everyone wants a view of the Alcosan plant, right?

Richardson Avenue and its side-streets dumped me out onto California Avenue. From that high bridge over Eckert Street, I caught the setting sun and then made my way down California to Halsey Place, not far from Marshall Avenue.

On the return trip, I scouted out Ireland Way and its two sections of steps. One, along the street, is just overgrown and crumbling. The other, shown on Google Maps as “Pickle Way”, is wildly overgrown and disintegrating. It doesn’t go very far until nature takes over. Hey Red Shed, see what’s in store for you?!

Further on, there was a set of steps which had eluded me on earlier runs. Supposedly, it ran from Toberg Street to Woodland Avenue. Aided by careful pre-run sleuthing, I finally found it. It was masquerading in plan sight as a side-yard. I went up to them, but those wooden steps were completely overgrown.

Side-yard Steps
Steps to Toberg

With this little mystery uncovered, I ran back to my car as the dusk turned into night.

High on Herschel

https://www.strava.com/activities/4594264949
RATS #00352

Ah, a sunny Saturday in January! I took this opportunity to finish off some small streets near Herschel Park and then make my way over to Crafton Heights and Corliss to tackle that conundrum.

If you’ve never been to Herschel Park, get out the door and GO! It’ll take a few twists and turns and maybe some back-tracking, but once you’re there, sitting high on a hill, the tremendous views of Heinz Field at the confluence of the Mon and Allegheny are amazing. The trek out there seems so arduous, I didn’t realize that it’s less than a mile away, as the crow flies. Damn crow.

View from Herschel Field
View from Herschel Field

From this starting point, I trotted down toward Noblestown Road, winking in and out of small alleys perched on the cliffs. For some reason, even after several forays here, I had not completed Weston Way. This time I made sure I ran it from end-to-end. Now I understood. Where Weston is supposed to intersect Steuben Street there are houses. Weston Way ends in a path which takes you down front steps to Steuben. Argh, so much for a public path!

With my first little goal accomplished, I hit a secondary goal; the three-street Whitehead Drive subdivision between Steuben and Arnold. Nothing much too see there, as split level fifties houses curved along the concrete streets.

Now to my number one goal, a mysterious section of Pittsburgh off of Middletown Road. What makes that area “mysterious”? Well, for one, I’m not familiar with it, so I don’t have a “mental map” of it. Secondly, while it can be approached from several directions, it is high above each of them (Chartiers Avenue, Berry Street and Middletown Road). Thirdly, there is a curious mix of streets, paths and steps. I wasn’t sure which would be truly passable and which sections were just lines on the map.

I shouldn’t have been worried. It is a beautiful neighborhood. The tree lined streets are broad. The houses are generally large and well maintained. Folks were walking dogs, chatting with neighbors and enjoying the day. The streets do tend to dead-end on the top of what I’ll call “Chartier’s Hill”. However, unlike some sections of Pittsburgh, where run down houses mar the view, these semi-country estates added to it.

In planning this run, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to understand Straka Street. In an overgrown summer, the Straka sign on Berry seems to be another misplaced Pittsburgh street sign. From Google maps, it looks like a walk-way, or a long driveway. Finally the Pittsburgh’s step website indicated that Straka way was a reality. So, I tentatively planned to do it.

Again, nothing to be worried about. A driveway lead to a walkway and then a long series of shallow steps from Sanborn Street to Berry. The collage below takes it all in. These must be super convenient, as Chartiers and Berry are busy with buses and this leads to the heart of this hillside neighborhood.

Straka Way Steps
Straka Way Steps

With this, I made my way back to Herschel Park. I skipped part four of this run as that would have pushed me to nearly fifteen miles.

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.