Doing the Philadephia Shuffle

by Louellen Coker on June 25, 2008

Just a few weeks ago, I traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the STC 55th Annual Technical Communication Summit. I was excited to learn from the leaders in our industry, catch up with colleagues, and enjoy the venue.

As is my practice, I arrived in Philadelphia a day early to wander around and see the sights. Saturday was a bit rainy and my wanderings were limited to dashing into the shops as I wandered around. I found a great little sandwich shop filled with locals and shared the best Philly Cheesesteak I’ve ever had with a cadre of hair stylists and was enjoyed the chords played on the Macy’s organ–the oldest organ in the city–with pipes extending 6 floors.

Louellen at the base of the Sunday was my day to do serious touring. As a marathon runner, a dash up the Philadelphia Museum of Arts steps (aka the Rocky Steps), was a must! I grabbed a cab and off I went. I had to laugh as I discovered that I was not the only one who deemed running the Rocky steps as an important part of any trip to Philly. I ran it once and got my photo at both the top and bottom of the steps. I decided that didn’t really prove anything, so I ran it a second time and took a video. Rocky ain’t got nothin’ on me!

Philadelphia's Boathouse RowAs it was just around the corner, I decided that I needed to meander down Kelly Drive by the famed Boathouse Row along the east bank of the Schuylkill River. Boathouse Row is a series of charming Victorian structures decorated with Christmas lights all year round. I didn’t get to see the lights, but I did enjoy a horde of cyclists, joggers, rollerbladers, and dog walkers enjoying a beautiful day. Of course, watching the rowers heading out and prepping for races made it clear that Boathouse Row is the center of athletic activity in Philadelphia.

As I waited for a cab, inspired by a beautiful day, the horde of sports enthusiasts, and a beautiful flag-lined Benjamin Franklin Expressway with fountains spouting water spread along the way; I opted to walk the few miles back to the Convention Center to check in to the summit before heading to historic Philadelphia. I’ll admit the walk was a little longer than I expected, but it was was a glorious day, and it was quite fun to dip my toes into the cool fountains along the way.

Philadelphia fountain with the Art Museum in the backgroundI grabbed my conference materials and grabbed a bit at Reading terminal and made my way to historic Philadelphia and the really cool walking tour that I had downloaded from The Constitutional. I had intended to walk, but as I had made the walk the day before, and was running a little later than I expected, I grabbed a cab to the first stop on the tour.

I whirled my way to stop one of the tour of my shiny new pink Ipod Nano and hit play. I excitedly listened to the description of the first stop and the tour, learning that I’d spend the next 75 minutes making my way through the sites nestled in a 3 square mile area (historic Philly is about a mile wide at it widest point). Next stop, the Betsy Ross house… and I was off!

Liberty Bell and Contstitution HallAnd off I was. I strolled my way from one corner to the other, up and down the narrow streets. Stopped in to the local fire station for a sip of water, directions, and a chat with firemen with accents so thick I could almost cut them. All the while wondering why my “tour guide”, Philadelphia Freida, was taking me on such a circuitous route through the historic area, only to bring me back to tell me about a site I had walked past minutes before.

At 90 minutes into my tour, I began to think, “Some of the technical communicators in town this weekend could share a few usability tips with the design of the tour.” A few minutes later, just as I was deciding I could be legitimately frustrated with the tour, Frieda’s bubbly voice told me, “Next stop, the Betsy Ross House….”

Before I could dig my perky friend out of my pocket, I realized, that I had literally “shuffled” my way through historic Philly. All the difficulties I had with the tour melted away as it dawned that they were due to “user error.” (Note to self… the next time I download a walking tour, I’m going to make sure my Ipod has the shuffle setting turned off!)

Philadelphia's Chinese GateAs I had walked from one end to the other and back again, I took my Nano off shuffle and shuffled (and giggled) my way back to the hotel as I listened to the fabulous story my tour company provided me about all the things I had walked by–a few times over. I could’ve gotten a cab, but I wanted to see the Chinese Gate.

My distance that day? I’m not really sure, but I think it was about 14-15 miles of sights, sounds, and just about everything Philly had to offer.

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