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.
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!
As 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.
I 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!
And 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!)
As 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.