New Englanders have long been associated with the phrase “down the road a piece,” which is another way of saying gas up and be prepared for a long trip. After spending a weekend in Philadelphia with First Born and The Fiancé I can honestly say “down the road a piece” doesn’t hold a candle to “just a few blocks away” by Philly standards.
Now, I don’t usually whine. Stop it - I'm serious. I can usually deal with distance as long as it’s at my pace, and I will say Spouse and the Love Couple were pretty cooperative with this condition last weekend (in other words, they slowed down when they realized I was more than two blocks behind). I also tried to be distracted by new and interesting sights in the city. There are some scenes – for instance, the nude bicyclists – that I would have rather not seen, but at least it was a temporary diversion from the sweat trickling down my back. Spouse insists they were wearing leather straps, though none of us took in the view long enough to figure out exactly where the straps were for. To the bicyclists’ credit, they did have helmets on, so at least they were practicing safe cycling.
My point somewhere in here is that I don’t mind walking. Walking the sidewalks of Philly with two 20-something-year-olds that spend the majority of their free time exploring the area on foot is another sole-searing story.
There is, of course, the matter of a hard surface. It is fascinating to look up to a world of skyscrapers, especially when Maine’s tallest building is 204 feet high compared to Philadelphia at 975, but to hoof it on hard concrete for hours is not the most endearing to your dogs. Add to that an assault of late summer humidity that felt like a furnace between buildings and even my pixie cut resembled a Brillo pad.
After a day of touring the city on foot my hips had begun a rebellion of sorts and were all but refusing to carry me across the hotel room the next morning. I got up slowly, stretched, moaned, stretched a little more and moaned a lot. Spouse and I hobbled around at a snail’s pace in our attempt to prepare for another exciting day of agony. When the kids arrived, looking refreshed and ready to roll while we barely rocked, we headed for breakfast at a place that was mercifully next door to the hotel.
From that point on it was downhill. Or maybe uphill, depending on how you measure your pain threshold.
After two days of traipsing around Philadelphia my feet were ready to amputate themselves. I went to bed at 9:30 p.m. just so I wouldn’t feel them throbbing anymore.
Philadelphia streets are on a grid of numbers. As convenient as it is to have numbered streets, that doesn’t make your destination any closer. In fact, I found myself trying not to pay attention to the numbers because they could also be a tease by throwing in an extra side street every so often, which really messes with your carefully calculated objective.
But the worst part, as I mentioned, was that no matter where we were going and no matter how long we would be walking, these two young, physically fit, conniving people, who I admire and fear for their agility at the same time, would refer to our destination as just a few blocks away.
They lied. I believe it’s a game residents play to see how long it takes you to fall down writhing and gripping your sneakers.
So my advice to you if you plan to visit Philadelphia at any time is to be prepared. Plan out the things you want to see and then hail a cab. Or rent some mode of transportation, such as a bicycle.
And just hope the last person that rented it was wearing more than a leather strap.