December 2020 Catch-Up

Summary

December 2020 wasn’t too bad in the running sense. Early on, I had missed some days due to quarantining for Covid, but I finished strong and had some long, street eating runs late in the month. The mileage, 79, wasn’t great, but with 8,878 feet of elevation, I once again, gained over 100 feet of elevation per mile. More importantly, for this project, 13 of 15 runs covered new streets and I’ve 99% covered East Hills, completely finished Arlington and continue to make significant progress in Hazelwood, Glenwood, Woods Run, and Brighton Heights neighborhoods.

Without further ado, here are the four remaining runs of December.

RATS #00344

https://www.strava.com/activities/4505906772
RATS #00344 Saint Clair and the Pittsburgh Neighborhood of Mt. Oliver

Down Mountain Avenue from Arlington lie two mostly forgotten neighborhoods. On the right is the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Mt. Oliver, not to be confused with the Borough of Mt. Oliver, which is adjacent. On the left is the neighborhood of Saint Clair.

Before getting to either of those, I ran down Parkwood Road. From the maps, I understood it to be one of these Pittsburgh roads which fade into the wilderness, probably for landslide reasons. It did become smaller and smaller, and finally was blocked by jersey barriers. However, there was much more traffic than I expected with large dump trucks, a UHaul driver and at least one Lyft ride roaring by.

Moving up to Mt. Oliver, on the other side of Mountain Avenue, I straddled the border between Pittsburgh and Mt. Oliver (the Borough) along Otilla Street. The houses were mainly on the larger size, typical Pittsburgh four-squares. I was surprised at the number of staircases. My favorite was the Como Street steps, between St. Joseph Street and Ormsby Street. It wasn’t on my map at all. The little set from Otilla to Gorgas were also a nice short-cut.

On the other side of Mountain Avenue, Ormsby Street dies off, but not before serious “No Trespassing” and “Private” signs were displayed. Reminds me a lot of the streets on the other side of the ravine, where I had seen similar signs.

St. Clair still has a few streets and houses. However, the large housing development known as St. Clair Village, has been torn down and mostly fenced off. St. Clair Village, was perched on a plateau is isolated from the rest of Pittsburgh by steep ravines on three sides. Unsurprisingly, this site was chosen for housing projects. Regardless of the reason, lots of people lived here, until the housing authority decided to close it down, in 2009. Here’s an article which gives some insight into Saint Clair as well as a blog by Ninetyhoods.

These days part of it is dedicated to urban farming. I have mixed feelings on this. I love gardening, plants and nature and understand that lack of accessibility to healthy food is a large issue. However, sustenance farming is not a ladder to wealth. Education, home ownership and skills applicable to today’s economy are. With its focus on building farming skills and partnering with local schools, perhaps Urban Hilltop Farm will have a outsized impact. I still wonder where the residents moved and whether this large tract of level land in the city could be put to a better use. Finally, this neighborhood has still more stairs, at least one Little Library and lingering decorations.

RATS #00345

https://www.strava.com/activities/4513239274
RATS #00345

On a rainy Christmas Eve, I decided to finish out the East Hills. I nearly did it, too, just missing the end of Angora Way. On Strava, there’s a ghost street, Roth Way. After my run, I looked at my route and was deflated to see I had completely missed that alley. Taking a closer look with streetview and satellite pictures shows that the alley doesn’t really exist after all. Grr!

Anyway, there were the normal yard decorations, as well as a REAL snowman who has been melting away. Perhaps the highlight of the run was seeing a group of wild turkeys. They were very clever. As soon as they saw me, they angled away, keeping bushes between me and them. They are large birds. Each one was about twice the size of a house cat.

Toward the end of this half-marathon distance, I came upon another border between Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg. Ridiculously enough, the roads changed names as they crossed the border. At least each municipality thought it was important enough to put up their own street signs.

border between Wilkinsburg and Pittsburgh
Wilkinsburg, Pittsburgh border

RATS #00346

https://www.strava.com/activities/4526875256
RATS #00346 in Glenwood

Turning my attention to Hazelwood’s southern neighbor, Glenwood, I ran from Hazelwood Green to the Glenwood Bridge. It was a cold Sunday afternoon, a couple days after Christmas. Most of the run was on flat streets between Second Avenue and the Monongahela River. Glenwood Railyard spreads out down there. Dyke Avenue is shockingly close to the live tracks, with houses being no more than 50 yards from railcars.

Continuing the theme, I made it to the entrance to the yards. It remineded me a bit of Thomas the Tank Engine, a show my kids loved. For those unfamiliar with Pittsburgh, it is worth noting that surrounding hills are across a river from here.

From here, I climbed the hills a little, making my way back to the car.

RATS #00347 – Downtown

After all these far-flung adventures, I realized I still had streets and alleys Downtown to do. Garmin doesn’t do too well among the downtown buildings, so it looks like I had had too much holiday cheer. It was another run in rain, this time in darkness as well. Not one to take post-card shots, here you’ll see some of the darker areas of town.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4541744978
RATS #00347 – Downtown

I parked near Firstside Park. A couple years ago (just kidding, it was over 20 years ago), I remember seeing the B&O Railway Terminal being dismantled. The hot white flash of cutting torches blazing through the steel beams flashed like sparkling stars even at midday. That demolition was soon replaced by Firstside, which, I understand, houses much of PNC’s computer systems.

Literally overshadowing the end of First Avenue is the Liberty Bridge. The maze of steel beams throws a spidery shadow on the barron slopes below. Not far away, Fourth Avenue ends under the approach ramps to the bridge, providing parking, restricted as it is.

Continuing deeper into Downtown, I was dismayed to find that Strawberry Way was blocked by construction equipment. That threw me off my planned route a bit. Nonetheless, I made my way over towards the Convention Center.

There’s is still some holiday cheer down there, from stars shining on tall buildings to bubbles of “Covid safe” outdoor dining. I’m not sure how safe enclosed outdoor dining is, but I got to hand it to the restaurants being creative and trying to stay afloat. Youth cannot be denied and under the Garrison Place lights a couple was frolicking, even in the rain.

Before Snow After Snow

Snow livens up Pittsburgh in Winter. Without snow, Pittsburgh looks a little dreary and drab. Snow is like a fresh coat of paint. Here are two runs, a week apart in mid-December. They are in similar, rather suburban, parts of Pittsburgh. Before the snow, the streets are drab and faded, while afterwards, every hilly subdivision looks like a ski resort.

RATS #00340 – Brookline

Run in Brookline
RATS #00340 – Brookline

My 340th run for this project was on a chilly Sunday in Brookline. I started at Brookline Memorial Park and headed north to clear up a couple of alleys. Then I scooted across Fitch Way to Edgebrook Avenue on my way to a large block of streets off of Glenbury. In more social times, I’d expect the Boulevard Lounge to be hopping on a Steeler Sunday. As it was, it was empty and quiet. I only caught a block of Edgebrook Avenue, but it included steps. I was very good when I passed Santa Street. No use getting on the naughty list now. Very impressive weather station, I must say. It must have come in handy later in the week when the winter storm rolled in.

RATS #00341 – Westwood

https://www.strava.com/activities/4492917551
RATS #00341 – Starting in Westwood

Then a week later, I started a run from the Shop ‘N Save in Westwood. During the week, we had had an impressive snowstorm which plopped nine inches of snow throughout the area. The plow teams were efficient and the temps weren’t too cold, so the roads got cleared pretty quickly. The sidewalks, on the other hand, required some dedicated staff.

This section of Westwood has a a mix of suburban style subdivisions sprinkled with older homes. The snow blended everything into a ski-chalet look. Kearns Avenue was a key point to this run. On several maps, it is shown to be closed off for a section. That’s a pity, because it would be an alternate route for Greentree Road as it comes out of the West End. Anyway, I was curious as to just how “closed” it was, so intended to see how far I could go before it got dark.

Well, Kearns has been closed so long that grasping bushes are beginning to take it over. Passing the Jersey barriers, no foot falls crushed the snow before me, no tracks of dogs or strollers, no ski lanes; just deer tracks and rabbit paws. A little rivulet trickled down the hill with me. Tromping for two tenths of a mile, I finally came to the other side. Here, a pair of tire tracks slithered to the last house on the street. I followed the tire tracks, as they descended another two tenths of a mile.

Bunny Trails To You

Here, the single houses gave way to industrial buildings. Quality Concrete has a fleet of trucks parked beyond their barbed-wire fence. Kearns ends at McCartney Street. I took the left and ran about a quarter mile towards its dead-end. McCartney sits at the bottom of a ravine. Noblestown Road, aka Route 60, is high above on the right. The hills of Westwood were on the left. I would imagine the area is ripe for flooding. Where’s there’s flooding, there are boats. Where there’s boats, there are stairs. No exception here.

McCartney Street intersects Greentree Road in the West End, formerly known as Temperanceville. Boy, that’s a mouthful. There’s a concrete plant there, a glass studio and a couple of other businesses.

I took Greentree Road back up the hill, running in the street when it was clear and jumping into the slush when it wasn’t. The hill wasn’t a picnic either, rising 445 feet in a mile.

But before too long, I was back in Westwood climbing into my car. Cool run!