Steps to Singer Place

https://www.strava.com/activities/3392709444
Point Breeze to East Hills RATS #00230

This was a long Sunday run. In the normal course of life, this would have been Marathon Sunday for both the Pittsburgh Marathon and the Cincinnati Marathon. As it was, I did a half marathon, concentrating on completing the streets near Singer Place, high on a hill in Homewood. I parked in Point Breeze, along Frick Park Bowling Greens, another unique feature of Pittsburgh. You can play lawn bowling there. The “bowls”, not balls, are not sphere’s but rather two half-sphere’s of different radii joined together along their equator.

Frick Park Lawn Bowling Greens

From there, I crossed Penn Avenue and completed a short section of Thomas Street. Quite the contrast, I must say, from the bowling greens. This area is actually showing signs of development. Had I pointed the camera the opposite direction, I would have captured construction scaffolding along an adjacent warehouse.

I continued into Homewood proper, working my way over to Oakwood Street. Oakwood Street plunges into Wilkinsburg, where its name changes to Wood Street. The hill rising above Oakwood was my main target this morning.

A memorial, either to a shooting or a car accident, has sprung up along Oakwood.

There’s one main street, but three sets of stairs you can take to get up to Singer Place. Here are the steps.

Once in the warren of streets on top of the hill, the pavement mostly flattened out. Large, multi-story houses stood sentinel on the overlooking slopes. At one point, I was surprised to find an entirely different structure, more like a farmhouse than a brick, four-square house.

I made my way down to Oakwood again, then finished up Frankstown Road, coming up East Hills Drive to complete the circuit. Again, I found a boat at the top of a hill, providing further confirmation of my “Pittsburgh Boat Theory”.

On the way back to my car, I passed another Pittsburgh feature, Clayton Mansion, the former home of Henry Clay Frick, a pivotal figure in the area’s steel industry.

Clayton

Getting back to my car, I was just shy of a half-marathon, so I ran a few more blocks to finish that out.

Thursday Brookline Miles

https://www.strava.com/activities/3377638002
RATS #00228

This run, nine miles through Brookline on a Thursday evening, actually belonged in my “April Catch-Up”, but I overlooked it. Why nine miles? Why Thursday? Well, it came down to completing my Stava challenge to run 200 km in April. I was about nine miles short and Thursday was the last day in April. I chose Brookline because the route was easy to plan. Every street was a new street.

Brookline Neighborhood, courtesy of Tom Murphy VII

Brookline is a large neighborhood and densely packed with houses and streets. The “Brookline History Homepage” has an outline of its history, which seems to have been a series of housing booms as access to the area improved, first trolley lines and then cars. It is a very car friendly area, with most houses having a little driveway or an alley garage available. Most of it is also pedestrian friendly. However, bikes might have a tough time on some of the streets and I only noticed bike lanes on Brookline Boulevard.

I started out on Brookline Boulevard, but when it veered off I stayed straight onto Chelton Avenue. The pictures above are fairly typical of the area. Moderate two and three bedroom brick houses stand shoulder to shoulder up and down the hills. There’s a lot of yard pride here, with neatly cut lawns and front yard decorations. My favorite was the row of miniature houses along Sussex Street. My next favorite was Boots the Friendly Cat.

The streets which are roughly parallel to Brookline Boulevard have big sweeping hills, while the cross-streets are crazy steep. Stebbins Avenue is a cross-street and is stair-studded. There were more steps as well. As dusk settled in, I found myself at the end of Hobson Street, which descends in steps to Breining Street.

There’s much to explore in Brookline, and I’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

Wells of Steps

https://www.strava.com/activities/3248165617
RATS #00212 – Duquesne Heights

This was a few miles around Duquesne Heights – the stepchild of Mount Washington. While my main purpose was to completely traverse Well Street, I made it from the great views of Grandview Avenue to the industrial bottom of Shaler Street.

I started out on Grandview Avenue. The view never gets old, especially on a clear sunny evening.

The grid of streets below Grandview are lined with modest houses with small yards. The alleys here mainly give access to garages and garden gates. They are also ideal playgrounds. Nice to see hopscotch markings and some gratitude for the garbage workers, but watch out for crouching panthers.

Shaler Street is a back-way off of Mt. Washington. It falls steeply through the Duquense Heights greenway and emerges between the pink buildings of the Minnotte Manufacturing Company. I ran around the block before heading back up the hill.

Finally, I started on Well Street, my target. From Shaler Street, it jumps up, hill after hill, stair after stair, until it reaches Oneida Street.

Well Street steps – some of them at least

Completing Well Street, I made my way back to the car. Another cool run in a super hilly section of Pittsburgh.

elliot

RATS #00203 – Elliot and West End

A day after running around the city and taking every stair I could, I was ready for the flat lands; no hills, no steps, no views. I just wanted the horizon to disappear in front of me, an unreachable challenge. Then I woke up and remembered that I was living in Pittsburgh!

For today’s run, I decided to check out the neighborhood around West End Park. Last Fall, I had attended an outdoor fashion show in the West End, off of South Main Street on Sanctus Street. That area seemed flat and I figured this area would be similar, I mean how much can things change in a mile?

Turns out, a lot. I parked near West End Park and ran down Kerr Street. Immediately, I came upon a very impressive set of steps leading far down. Their siren’s song drew me in and shortly, I found myself at the bottom, looking way up. I would have to ascend that eventually, and for now, went up Walbridge Street.

This twisting, steep street has some remarkable houses perched on its edge. Branching off of Walbridge, several small streets transform you from an urban runner in Pittsburgh to a wandering soul in the back roads of West Virginia.

My run planning had just set general boundaries – don’t go past Steuban Street or Route 60; leaving the exact route up to life’s realities. So, I just went back and forth on small streets and alleys. As it was a nice Sunday morning, people were out and about. Many were working in their yards and houses. Others were walking their dogs.

I was surprised at a few things I found. First was the back street full of boats. Next was the amazing view of the Ohio River near the Casino. Then, there were some really large and beautiful houses up here.

Of course, there were more stairs. The Hassler St Stairs off of Wymore are marked on my OpenStreetsMaps but not on Google. Usually Google is more accurate. I’d have to check again, but I at first glance didn’t see them in Bob Regan’s book, either. Also of note are the Lorenz Avenue stairs, which start slowly, just one step every ten yards before plunging down the hillside like proper steps. Elbon Street was surprisingly long. At one section, it bordered on an artifact of urban redevelopment – former Mayor Tom Murphy’s “Project Picket Fence”.

All in all, this was a cool area to run in. On a sunny Sunday morning, it couldn’t have been better.

Climbing Crumbling Stairs

https://www.strava.com/activities/3186942297
RATS #00198

This sunny run took me from the flats of Upper Lawrenceville to the heights of Stanton Heights along several precarious paths. As the reality sets in of Covid-19 social distancing, it was solo run without any stops at cute little coffee shops. I mainly was focused on a couple of streets with staircases, 56th Street and 57th Street.

I warmed up on the flats between Butler Street and the Allegheny River. This area is seeing new residential development, but still hosts large warehouses such as A-1 Cold Storage, the impressive buildings of McKamish, a mechanical contractor and a Sunoco facility. As for Sunoco, it was founded in Pittsburgh, apparently:

Joseph Newton Pew and Edward O. Emerson were partners at Peoples Natural Gas Company in Pittsburgh, PA, when they decided to expand their gas business to oil. It proved to be a success. Within a few years, the oil company had acquired pipelines, leases and storage tanks – emerging as one of the area’s leading suppliers of crude oil. On March 17, 1890, they made it official with a new name. The Sun Oil Company was producing, transporting, and storing oil as well as refining, shipping, and marketing petroleum.

https://www.sunoco.com/about-us

Who knew?

Now warmed up, I began to tackle the first objective, the 57th Street stairs and a small set of streets perched mid-way on the hillside. The stairs begin where the paved 57th Street turns left and becomes Christopher Street. The first section is very solid. Getting a breather at Duncan Street, stairs continued, ostensibly to Camelia Street for an official total of 345 steps according to Bob Regan’s book.

I had done streets on the top earlier and knew there might be a “connection issue” but, from a distance, I saw an individual climbing the second set of stairs. They disappeared as I went up this next flight. After three or four houses on the right, the stairs became challenging. Treads were sometimes missing. Railings were sometimes missing. Hell, at points, even landings were missing. However, not all at once, so was able to I scrambled up. Near the top, vegetation took over and I could not proceed.

I did the little circuit of streets, Duncan, Wickliff, a section of 56th Street and made my way down to Butler Street. This time I would ascend the 56th Street Stairs from the bottom. Now, just as 56th Street turns into the Shop & Save parking lot, stairs rise majestically up the hill. I must say, they are “officially closed” here, but I slipped through. Same story as 57th Street Stairs – missing treads, missing landings, but actually passable for the nimble.

The first section was the only one which was closed. After that, they become street stairs along the section of 56th Street I had already done. There is another section which ascends to Celadine Street, all in good shape.

Once at the top, I did some streets in Stanton Height and made my way down Kendall Street – a very steep, cobblestone street which masquerades as a country road. That brought me out to Kent Street, taking me back to the flats.

Kendall Street

Heart of Beechview

https://www.strava.com/activities/3122913950
RATS #00188 – Beechview

This run was all about Beechview, catching its northernmost subdivision as well as exploring the southern edge. I parked at my go-to spot next to the Andick Way playground and set out. I was using the RunGo app to guide my turns. There were a few glitches, but overall it worked pretty well. Beechview is incredibly hilly and is home to Canton Avenue, reportedly the steepest street in the US. But Canton Avenue, for all its steepness, is short, not more than one-tenth of a mile. Many of Beechview’s streets are over 10% grade, with a few more approaching 20%, and much longer.

The Shadycrest subdivision in northern Beechview sticks out on a plateau above Banksville Road and Saw Mill Run Boulevard. From the end of one long street, Tropical Avenue, you can see the tops of the tallest Downtown buildings. As the crow flies, they are less than two miles away. Here, the yards are large, the houses have a 50’s and 60’s feel.

Crossing over Crane got me back into the main section of Beechview. Like many of its parallel brethren, Fallowfield undulates into the distance. I took Beechview Avenue into the heart of Beechview, where the T-Line makes quick work of the commute downtown.

I followed Beechview until it became Broadway Avenue and then turned onto Wenzell Avenue. By this time, my hydration was catching up with me and I desperately needed a pit stop. Luckily I made it to the McDonalds on West Liberty Avenue before I had to take drastic measures. Fully refreshed, I charged up Saranac Avenue. At this point, RunGo started acting up. It may have never recovered from being in McDonalds. At any rate, I carefully did the grid of streets around Saranac, charging up less and struggling up more.

Finishing that section, I crossed over Broadway to see those streets. Bad mistake. The roads just plunged off of Broadway and coming back up was very challenging, even with the few staircases I came across.

While much of the area was very residential, I was able to spot the illusive bottle plant during its bottle blooming phase. Its always interesting what pets people keep on their porches, too.

And that was it! About twelve miles and over 1,700 feet of elevation. My knees are mad at me now! Nice area, too.

The Other Murray Ave

Murray Hill Ave – much quieter than that other Murray Ave

Today’s run took me across Squirrel Hill back into Friendship where I started yesterday. It was a relaxed Sunday run with no real target other than to see some new territory and get a few miles. With that relaxed theme in mind, I traveled up Murray Hill Avenue, which reminded me of a story.

When I first arrived in Pittsburgh, exactly 1 million years ago, I lived in a studio apartment in Shadyside. I lived in that one big room, galley kitchen and tiny bathroom for a couple of years. It was on the first floor of a large Victorian house. As I began to learn more about the city, I kept hearing about “Murray Ave” and “Squirrel Hill”. In school and without wheels, I explored on foot. One day, breaking out the Rand McNally map of Pittsburgh, I noticed that Murray Avenue was very close and decided to go see it. I crossed Fifth Ave and walked up a rather hilly street with big gray Belgium Block pavers and large, rambling houses on either side. After a half mile of this, I was not impressed. Sure, the houses were architecturally interesting, but where were the stores? The restaurants? The bars? This was not nearly as cool as everyone had made it out to be.

Turns out, of course, that I was on Murray HILL Avenue, not Murray Ave. Silly me, I didn’t think there would be such similar street names! But today, I knew where I was and rather enjoyed the quiet Murray Hill Ave instead of the bustling Murray Ave, with all its restaurants, coffee shops and bars. I continued into Friendship, covering some new territory, like Olga Way, pictured below. In many of my blogs, I’ve commented how some Pittsburgh streets are like being on country roads. Not so with Shadyside and Friendship, they are pulsing with urban life. This is the heart of a living city, with varied houses, businesses, people and traffic. I love it. Well, not the traffic.

Flowers along Olga Way
Route of run #00112 through Squirrel Hill North into Friendship

Eleanor, Steady on the Steep

Strava Cadence – straight as the South Side Flats

Not a long run, Just take Eleanor Street up from Josephine Street. If there are stairs, take ’em. If the hill is epic, keep your arms and legs going. Even six inches a stride if you need. Whatever you do, don’t stop (unless its to take pictures). Watch yourself coming down, that’s almost worse than going up. One trip and it’s tumble-sault time.

The graph above is from Strava and shows the distance along the bottom axis, the elevation along the left axis and three squiggly lines. The blue and dark purple lines are my actual pace and my “gap” pace (which takes the grade into account). The nice flat magenta line is my “cadence”. It is remarkably steady, but makes sense, given that I was trying to keep an even effort. I daresay the two sharp dips in cadence just after 0.5 miles and at 1.5 miles were picture-taking opportunities.

Downtown Pittsburgh from Cobden St
Great view from Cobden St on the South Side Slopes
View of Oakland from Keibe Way
Oakland from Keibe Way in South Side Slopes

Running up these streets always takes my breath away, both literally and figuratively. Eleanor St is incredibly narrow and steep. Starting from Josephine St, the pavement only goes a block before it gives up and becomes stairs for a tenth of a mile. That might not seem like much distance, but it is 282 steps according to Mis.steps (see Trip#212). Not willing to hit the steps just yet, I veered off onto Leticoe St, only to suffer Barry St and Holt St before rejoining Eleanor on the upper side of the stairs. Unwittingly, I was taking on the Twelfth Hill in the Pittsburgh Dirty Dozen. You might think it is the last one, but Pittsburgh is generous that way, there are thirteen hills in the Dirty Dozen. But I digress. This area has houses of all sorts of sharp angles, clinging to the hills, with decks and porches high in the air looking out toward Oakland or downtown. Cobden St ends at an overlook, where I took a picture and exchanged greetings with a woman sitting on her rocking chair. I always expect people to ask what the hell I’m doing, but in this case, she said that lots of people come there to take pictures. Ha!

I traveled a bit into Arlington, running the rest of Eleanor Street. I returned to the South Side Flats via the Eleanor Street stairs. On the way down, I kept an eye out for stairs and streets not taken. I’ll be making another appointment with South Side Slope streets soon!

Eleanor St Route: RATS 00071

the·od·o·lite

Strava map of route on Theodalite Way in Greenfield
Horizontal and Vertical Angles along Theodolite Way: RATS 00067

I’ll admit it, I just like the name, “the·od·o·lite”. I like the way it rolls off the tongue. I like the image of an explorer pulling out a theodolite to measure tracks of land in the jungle. Not sure if they did. The French Geodesic Mission, an expedition to measure the roundness of earth, used quadrants instead. Robert Whitaker wrote a fascinating book, “The Mapmaker’s Wife” about events surrounding that journey. These days, you’re more likely to see theodolites at roadway construction sites, as you crawl by in traffic. I do think they’re cool. Here’s more info about them if you’re curious.

But getting back to the run. Theodolite Way is a rather long alley in Greenfield which mirrors Greenfield Ave, only one short block away. Like many residential alleys in this area, Theodolite Way provides access to garages and a place for garbage cans. Like most of the streets in this area, Theodolite Way is hilly. There are two dead-end segments of Theodolite Way, separated only by fence and a flower garden. After traversing Theodolite Way along its length, I tried to cover as many Greenfield streets as possible; Montclair St, Lopez Way, Kish Way, Norfolk St, Millington Road. Slowly, but surely I’m traversing many routes in the warren of streets of hilly Greenfield.

On A Mission

Mission Street Run: Run All The Streets 0037

In my earlier blog post “The Dead-Ends of Mary” , I chronicled a run which took me on the Eastern curve of Josephine Street in the Southside Slopes and culminated in me running down 18th Street past Mission Street. So, for a few months, I’ve been thinking about returning to that area and just running the length of Mission Street. Mis-Steps recently wrote about her visit to nearby stairs on Stella Street, so I feel almost like I had been there.

Of course, an idea has to lay fallow then slowly germinate before blooming into reality. On this morning, the germination was still slow to come. I parked in the Southside’s Giant Eagle lot and wandered around new developments in Southside Flats before charging up 18th Street to find the end of Mission Street. It starts at an odd intersection and immediately becomes a steel-grate bridge crossing a deep ravine. Crossing that bridge, I was lured off to a no name side-street leading to the Bandi Schaum Community Garden. While the no-name street didn’t officially continue, there was a dirt-road which accessed Greely Street. Greely Street tries its best to make it up the hill, but the hill is REALLY steep and that little street doesn’t have much energy, so it just stops about 3/4 the way up. I ran up the dead-end and then sailed down the street, about 50 feet UNDER Mission Street. Crap!

Now I had to find my way back. It wasn’t hard – just took the left on Josephine Street, took another left into 21st Street, ending in a park-like green way. I found myself under Mission Street, again. Luckily there is a cool set of stairs which climb right up the belly of the arch and pop out where I had started, on Mission and 18th Street. Once again I traversed the steel-grate bridge and, this time, wasn’t lured by those damn no-name streets.

Mission Street is crowded with typical Southside Slope houses. Narrow, two and three story houses with a basement or two (whatever it takes to get to the ground). Mission narrows as it ascends one last hill then peters out in front of a well kept, yellowish brick house. I was hoping that there would be a trail or pathway leading to the other side of Mission, but, alas, there was not. So, I had to backtrack a little and wander a little, trying to get down to Arlington Avenue or Josephine Street. I had not mapped out the particulars of this end of Mission Street, and almost thought I wasn’t going to complete it. Luckily, still in an exploring mood going down Josephine, I took a random left. That left went uphill (of course), and I found myself back near where I had just been. Sure enough, I stumbled across Mission again! Looking across the street, there was no indication that this part had anything to do with the other part. In retrospect, I see that Monongahela Park, a small wooded park with a ball field, is the only thing keep both ends of Mission apart.

Mission accomplished!