Destination: Philadelphia

By Jonathan Spira on 25 April 2010
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Philadelphia, the epicenter of the American Revolution and the country’s capital in the 18th century, is much more than the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

Located only two hours from New York City and three hours from Washington D.C.,  Philadelphia is a cosmopolitan city with some of the country’s top universities, museums, and cultural organizations within its borders, not to mention the numerous Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies that call the region home.

Philadelphia’s architecture dates back to Colonial times and this makes for an interesting contrast with numerous glass and granite skyscrapers built starting in the 1980s (Philadelphia is one of four cities in the U.S. with two or more buildings taller than 900’ (274 m).

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in April, the trip from New York to Philadelphia took a little over two hours. The car’s navigation system reported traffic on the George Washington Bridge so I took the Long Island Expressway (I-495) to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel into Manhattan and continued to the west side of Manhattan to the Lincoln Tunnel.  There was quite a backup to get into the tunnel but once I was past the bottleneck, it was smooth sailing.

The BMW 335d is truly in its element on the world’s Autobahnen, whether it’s an autostrada in Italy, an Autobahn in Austria, or an Interstate in the United States.  Not only does it deliver outstanding fuel economy at speed, but its massive torque blurs  slower traffic when overtaking.

I continued via the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) averaging 120 km/h (75 mph) until I was well in South Jersey and I exited for the Walt Whitman Bridge to cross over the Delaware River.

Five bridges connect the Philadelphia area with southern New Jersey, but the Walt Whitman has always been a favorite, in part because it puts me right onto the Schuykill Expressway but also because of its majestic design.  (The other bridges include the Benjamin Franklin Bridge (which goes into Center City), the Betsy Ross Bridge, the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and the Commodore Barry Bridge.)

The Walt Whitman, a steel suspension bridge, was opened to traffic in 1957 and handles seven lanes of traffic.  Named after the poet Walt Whitman, who lived in nearby Camden, it is one of the larger bridges on the east coast.

After 192 kilometers and two-and-one-half hours of driving, I was at my destination, the Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity House at the University of Pennsylvania, for the 32nd Annual Human Barbecue.  I averaged 106 km/h (66 mph) and I used 6.8 l/100 km (34.5 mpg).

Six hours later, I was on the road again, back to New York.  On the way back, I stopped at my brother’s house in northeast Philly and then continued on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the New Jersey Turnpike.  My route took me through Staten Island, over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to Brooklyn, and back home., for a total of 204 km (126 miles).

Although my average speed, 105 km/h (65 mph), was almost the same as the trip down, my fuel usage, 6.0 l/100 km (39.2 mpg) was much better, in part thanks to very light traffic.