Philadelphia Trip, Wednesday June 12, 2002 (Day 1)

This story features information about our trip to Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Join us — won’t you — for this first installment, in which a trip is taken, the road winds & twists, a landing occurs, a temple is found, and an idol is seen.

Wendy and I set off for Philadelphia at approximately 9:30am, after dropping Mr. Face and Dolly off for their stay at Wendy’s hospital (the rest of the animals stayed at home, to be looked in upon by Wendy’s co-worker). The early drive was easy with little traffic, and we made good time. Our total driving time from Cincinnati to our hotel was just about 8.5 hours, which included a couple of stops for food, gas, & potty.One amazing part of the journey was the PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKEYIKES! One of the ‘features’ of the Turnpike that left Wendy and I scratching our heads were the Toll Plazas. We approached the first one expecting to have to stop and pay some money to continue on the road. Instead, we simply grabbed a ticket and drove away, wondering if we’d just broken some law beyond the speed limit (which we consistently broke). Little did we realize that you pay to get OFF the Turnpike.

The Turnpike is a twisty, windy road that is sometimes three lanes, often two lanes, and sometimes, I swear, a lane and a half — with no shoulders. We picked our way cautiously along, through the construction zones, painfully aware of crazy truckers (like Ghostrider who terrorized us between his truck and the concrete wall to our left!) and went through four awesome tunnels. Somewhere along the route we’re pretty sure that the road does a loop-de-loop. By the time we had snaked along the twisting Turnpike, the $9.50 we had to pay seemed like a small price to get off that crazy thing!

We made our way through Philadelphia and found our hotel at the LAST EXIT IN PENNSYLVANIA. Any further, and we would have driven into New Jersey! Got into our hotel and were greeted by the overheated Louis The Front Desk Guy. Despite the fact that he was roasting (the air conditioning was not working at the front desk), he was a very pleasant individual who helped us get oriented to the city and suggested routes for our planned driving tour of Philly. In our driving clothes (shorts and T-shirts), off we went!

We drove around South Philly and discovered that the roads are not very wide. This would not be so bad if the DRIVERS in Philly (and the cyclists) paid more attention to their driving. However, this is not the case. Wendy and I appreciated the one-way-street grid layout of the city, which made it easy to navigate. We were surprised at the amount of double-parking and creative parking (like in the middle of the street!) that people did.

When we got to Geno’s Philly Cheesesteak, there was a parking place RIGHT OUT FRONT of the shop (a rare occurrence which Wendy and I grew to appreciate much more as we hunted parking in Philly!). Louis The Front Desk Guy had given us some Geno’s coupons (which we forgot to use). Hunger, and the inability to pass that prime parking spot, caused us to stop. We ordered — what else? — Cheesesteaks! From seeing us go to the wrong window (we tried to order FOOD at the DRINKS window — sheesh!), the gang at Geno’s knew we were out-of-towners. They were very kind to us and gave us a couple Geno’s Drink Bottles as a gift to welcome us to Philly.

While eating our Cheesesteaks (which were very good!) and drinking our Birch Beer at a table out on the sidewalk, we met John & Kathy. John is a local and Kathy was a co-worker from out-of-town (Arkansas) who was in for the week. John helped us understand more about getting around in Philly and made some restaurant recommendations. They were very nice people — both John & Kathy and the crew at Geno’s made us feel quite welcome in the City of Brotherly Love.

Our Cheesesteaks consumed, Wendy and I jumped back in the car. Our destination? MORIMOTO! In my eagerness, I convinced Wendy that we should travel down to the restaurant “just to find it”. She agreed and we were off. We found parking in Jeweler’s Row — just one block away from restaurant Morimoto. As we were walking down the Row, an older gentleman was closing up his jewelry shop and stopped to greet us and wish us good evening. He was a nice, polite man, and so was the police officer that was nearby.

Wendy and I walked onto Chestnut Street and caught our first glimpse of the reason for our trip — restaurant Morimoto! Eager, I dragged Wendy until we were standing just across the street from the restaurant and took a picture. Then, I decided I wanted a closer look and dragged Wendy across the street until we were standing in front of the restaurant, just soaking up the aura of being there. Worried that we were under-dressed in our driving clothes, I peeked in the front door and saw a man in shorts! I was in the restaurant in a flash, leaving a surprised Wendy out on the street until she followed the trail of smoke that was kicked up in my haste.

We decided to have a drink in the lounge, which is upstairs and offers a wonderful view of the restaurant and sushi counter. From our vantage point, I could see Morimoto! Valerie, our very cool waitress that night, suggested some sake (Junmai Ginjo Morimoto — their ‘middle grade’ sake, which is made exclusively for the restaurant) which we tried and liked very much. It was custom-made for Morimoto and was exceedingly smooth. She also brought us a free appetizer to welcome us to the restaurant. We dined on the fabulous Rock Shrimp Tempura with Spicy Kochujan Aioli while I strained my neck staring at Morimoto.

(To get an idea of our view from the 2nd floor lounge, see the picture below. Morimoto is sitting where we sat, and in the far background is the sushi counter.)

At Valerie’s suggestion, we decided to try a dessert as well. We selected the Wasabi Tiramisu with White Chocolate Yuzu Sauce and it was awesome. You would think that the words “wasabi” and “tiramisu” should never appear together in the same sentence, let alone on the same plate, but Morimoto does it fantastically. Just the right amount of fresh wasabi (they grate it on site) is added to the homemade Marscapone Cheese to round out the flavor and provide the slightest bloom of wasabi taste.

Wendy and I drove back to the hotel, completely exhausted from the trip and the excitement of being in the restaurant. I was so overloaded that I had a very hard time getting to sleep. Wendy was exhausted, but also had a hard time getting to sleep thanks to the constant (and I mean constant!) knocking and slamming of the door of the next room over. They finally shut up at around 2:00am.

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