Whenever I go on road trip, I tend to make mental notes about the trip.
What worked, what didn't.
What I liked, what I didn't.
What I am glad to have done/seen, what I will never do again.
I've been to Philly before. About 10 years ago, with a different company, for a different reason. We spent a week in a small town north of Philadelphia in training. We tried to see some of the area, but only got time to see Valley Forge. We did have a chance on the weekend we arrived to drive out to Atlantic City for some gambling. Never made it downtown to see Independence Hall or the Liberty Bell. My initial observation from the last trip was that it was a nice area, very wooded, green. Traffic sucked. Hated the toll road system. Food was good - found a great German food restaurant, but their liquor laws were a bit confusing. You cannot buy beer or wine at the local grocery store, but I finally stumbled across a package store that sold beer by case. I may be a seasoned drinker, but trying to consume a case of beer in less than 4 days is something I might have done in college. Tried out a local Mexican food restaurant that was, to put it nicely, on my "never again" list. I mean, really, how can you screw up a Margarita? The trip was pretty good, but I was left with the impression that the traffic/road system was something less that I would prefer on a regular basis.
Fast forward to last week. Took a short hop to north Philly for a pair of supplier audits. I was the leader of this little expedition, so I was left with the planning/logistics. Since the two companies we were going to audit were on different ends of Philly, I picked a hotel in the middle. A decent Hampton Inn in Plymouth Meeting just off of 476. Given some of my previous experience and the geographic location, I figured to make use of the toll road system to get us to where we needed to go. Hop on the 276 toll road east in the morning to the first site and then back on 276 to the west for the second day. No big deal, right. Only the entrances to the toll roads were as confusing as I recall from my last visit. We could find all sorts of ways to get onto 276 west, but could not buy our way onto the east bound toll road. Left the hotel early on Tuesday morning with plenty of time to make it to the site only to spend 20 minutes wandering through the local streets to find a east bound entrance. Finally made it onto the toll road and to the site only 15 minutes late. Nothing pisses me off that getting screwed up on my directions and being late to an audit that I scheduled. Throws me off my game. After the audit, we went downtown to tour the historical center and we had no troubles getting there and back to the hotel. Wandered around some of the local suburbs looking for a good restaurant before we stumbled across a very nice, small bar/cafe that had an outstanding cheese steak. Day two, I figured we had it made. Right next to the toll road and we know where the west bound entrance was. Can't screw this one up, right? Au contrair, my friend. I got on the entrance, navigated the ticket lanes only to jump on the east bound toll road entrance. Before we could blink, we were headed east again into Jersey. Of course, we had to go 10 miles before I could get off and execute a u-turn in the toll booth lane to put us back on the west bound side. Needless to say, I was pissed again for messing up this simple execution. Put us about 15 minutes late to the supplier, but not too far behind schedule. This place was in a very nice little town west of Philly way out from the main traffic. Coming back I had no problems navigating the roads to get us back to the hotel. On the toll road/highways, I did note that, most Pennsylvanians do not tend to use their turn signals. At times, I felt like was an out lander by signalling my intent to change lanes. On our last day in Philly, we left the hotel early enough to make the airport, but misread the exit to the rental car place and wound up driving across the river into south Philly. If we had the time, we would have looked for Pat's. Finally made it to the rental place but could not find a gas station so had to let them pay for gas to fill up the car ($6.99/gallon). Glad it wasn't my dime paying for this rental.
Overall, my impression was that the surrounding areas of Philly were nice. Traffic sucked. Toll roads were confusing, headaches. I am reminded of Meleah's trials on the NJTPK. Not quite as bad, but still I am not a big fan of the Philly toll roads.