PCA Southeast Michigan Region

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Porsche Under the Stars In a Boxster S Made for Two…

Porsche Under the Stars
In a Boxster S Made for Two…

Article by Jeremy Goddard

In our early twenties, my wife and I came to agree that we would always prefer to travel in “a Ferrari with a tent” rather than bow to the temporary attractions of a substantial RV; the dashing delights of the day would more than compensate for a little discomfort at night…  Since that time, I have paid my motoring dues wallowing in minivans with children, mountain-bikes and tents exploring Montana, Colorado and Utah.

This summer, with children gone, Karen and I elected to take our shiny, new black Boxster S on a long and lazy loop through the Southwest.  Inspired by Porsche’s ad copy saying that the car has the “greatest luggage capacity in its class”, we looked at the trunks front and rear and imagined them filled with:  tent and sleeping bags, sleeping mats, two-ring Coleman, cooking pans and utensils, and ice box (all in the front); hiking boots, a duffel each for clothes, towels (all in the back), food (some in the front CD compartment), maps in the door pockets, spices …  Using every nook and cranny just like a boat (or an RV…), it really looked possible, and we began to plan.

We had a trial pack a couple of days before we left, just to confirm what we had visualized and needed to make no compromises.  Karen, more used to loading a Suburban with enough to cope with every outdoors eventuality, was astonished and then pleased at the efficiencies.

On June 30th after work, we packed the front and rear trunks (I do like the passenger compartment to stay uncluttered…), pumped up the tires to the laden pressure, and left Rochester for St Louis.  A rather unfriendly National Park guard challenged us at 4:00 AM as we symbolically entered the West on foot through the Gateway Arch with the Mississippi bubbling away behind us.  He seemed worried about security, but, even unshaven, I didn’t look threatening.  Perhaps Karen’s natural beauty threatened his libido…  or he was just annoyed that we disturbed his sleep.

We continued to speed on through the rest of the night and the next morning – spectacular thunderstorms on the eastern plains of Colorado (the temperature dropped from 78°F to 56°F in 30 seconds) – and entered Colorado Springs in the early afternoon.  We felt fresh, and the car had run like a top to deliver 1402 miles, 75 mph, 24.5 mpg; it told me I needed to offer up a quart of Mobil 1, so I did. 

We found a great campsite in a river gorge at the foot of Pikes Peak, made a comfortable camp, shopped and had a very satisfying meal before sleeping hard close by our babbling brook.  We liked it so much, we decided to stay another night, so spent the morning up on Pike’s Peak (the annual hill-climb had been the previous weekend), had lunch by one of the lakes – with the haunting music of an Alpenhorn played by a Swiss tourist wafting through the valley – and after, visited the Olympians in training.  (Descending Pikes Peak, there is a stop halfway down where brake temperatures are checked with an IR device for safety reasons; we had smelled a lot of others’ burning brake pads, but the Porsche’s brakes registered barely 100°F…)

Fellow campers were astonished to see us disembowel the Boxster to yield all our camping gear, tent, sleeping bags, boots, clothing, food:  all the comforts of home, including the clothes line.  The scene and interrogations remained the same everywhere we camped, and afforded much amused interest and conversation-starting.

Our next destination was Sante Fe.  The road through the mountains past Taos looked great on the map, but turned out to be tedious and dull, even if it was fast motoring; it was certainly no challenge for our singing machine (except she was wounded in the windshield by a rock flicked up by a truck in front doing a diving-right-turn maneuver).  Sante Fe was in fiesta mode, hot and full of people, but we enjoyed seeing the exotic houses tucked up in the canyons.  None of the restaurants appealed, however, and since we were getting quite good at steaming vegetables and grilling fish on charcoals, we settled down among the pinion pines on a hill overlooking a quiet section of Route 66…

The road northwest towards Durango climbs along the side of a thrilling gorge before emerging into Los Alamos, and then carries on over the mountains to Cuba.  As unexpectedly-dull as the road had been the day before, this road was spectacular, carving high through the pines and alpine meadows for 50 wonderful miles before finally dropping down into the heat and dust of Cuba and then across the arid plains north into Colorado.             

We set our tent by another chuckling stream up in a narrow valley to the west of Durango and went into town in the late afternoon.  The July 4th fireworks display being set up by the river was drawing quite a crowd.  We had a light, Lebanese meal – disappointing (and not nearly as good as our own preparations) – before joining the throngs to celebrate anew our Independence. While the traffic cleared afterwards, we restocked with fresh vitals.  We were rediscovering that using dry ice saves a lot of weight, allows for more food in the ice box, doesn’t wet food, lasts longer and costs no more.

Tuesday saw us moving west into the heat of the desert, and it would be several days before the daytime mercury dipped below 90°F.  The Boxster loved the climb up into Mesa Verde, and we loved the sounds bounced around us by the long tunnel there; the days in thin air had robbed us of the full flat-6 musicality, but here the walls kept it all close and we bathed in the resonant harmonics (…at least, I did).  We explored the cliff dwellings and camped in a very private site.  It was good to get a long shower and to catch up with laundry.  The night, high up at 7,000’, was dark and very quiet – quiet enough for me to be awakened at 2 by a woman screaming somewhere out there in the night.  I cleared my head to go to the rescue until I realized, gratefully, that she was enjoying a noisy and well-sustained orgasm.  My adrenalin dissipated into a smile for her.

Past Four Corners and out into the desert heat proper, we headed next morning for Page – where we had a wonderful lunch overlooking Lake Powell – and then on towards the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  The road from Page south to Lees Ferry drops down onto the ledge above the Colorado River and offers truly spectacular desert scenery as well as a series of fast, open sweepers (yielding mph numbers usually higher than the temperature).  We saw 112°F on this day before climbing up to the wooded, top-down cool of the North Rim.  (We tweaked our roof-down rules to keep them simple: up on Interstates or if over 105°F; good hats and suntan creams helped a lot.)

All the official North-Rim campgrounds were full, so, after an explore of the village there (the car was keyed both sides while she sat waiting for us; it seemed completely unjust that this innocent and plucky machine should be so treated; we were all very upset.), we backtracked and headed off-piste into the Kaibab National Forest along the rim to find a place in the woods.  The dirt roads were smooth enough (although very dusty), and took us away to the east where we found a completely-remote place among trees above a side canyon; from our 7,000’ vantage point, we could see for 80 miles.  It was getting late, and we ate still later the grilled chicken and vegetables (and the usual salad) prepared wonderfully by Karen on the open fire.  It felt good afterwards to escape the chill and to snuggle into our zipped-together sleeping bags.

The night was windy and, as we settled down, the woods seemed alive with people moving around and talking, and a couple of large grizzly bears scratching to get into our tent and play.  I ignored the pesky critters, but Karen wouldn’t have it.  I went outside to wrestle and subdue all the violent twigs and sticks tampering with our tent …and we then slept the sleep of the dead.  The Boxster remained calm through it all.  Primeval.

The next morning we slipped back along the dusty road to the North Rim, strapped on hiking boots and dropped down into the Grand Canyon; we followed the Bright Angel Trail five miles as far as the tunnel and the first bridge below it.  There was an eclectic mix of fellow hikers. 

Back on top, we had a tasty lunch sitting on the Lodge veranda overlooking the majestic landscape, and then headed out, refreshed, for Zion NP, some 200 miles west down through the desert heat and past the coral pink sand dunes.

Zion is a wonderful place:  the road from Kanab in the east climbs steadily over 15 miles to enter through a gorge among extraordinary rock formations and then a long tunnel before emerging to switch-back its way down the wall to the canyon floor:  quite breathtaking.  We planned to stay two nights to give a full days’ hiking, and found a good, shaded site in the South campground. 

Our car seemed very small among all the other “Conestogas”.  People, puzzled as usual by the apparent lack of engine, stopped to ask a variety of questions about it.  We were delighted to tell them how well the car ran:  how economical; how solid and un-temperamental; how open-air comfortable.  Truly, our Boxster-enabled travel-light-and-fast formula was working well. 

Friends had told us that the Angel’s Landing was not to be missed.  The trail took us 1,500’ up the west side of the canyon and then led us the last half mile along the 40-foot-wide (with sections down to barely three feet wide) promontory which serves to catch these birds of pray (Get thee to a Punnery!).  It’s quite an experience to look down 1,500’ between the toes of your boots, but Karen was inspiring with her surefootedness, and the view (and snack) at the end was worth all the puffing and sweating.  We were back down by noon and quickly stripped to ease into the fast-flowing river to cool off.  Our lunch of rice-and-beans and salad in the shade of the huge cottonwoods which front the Zion Lodge was memorable.

Later in the afternoon, we walked up the canyon floor to the Narrows and watched people wading up through the chilly gorge.  In the deep shade between the cliffs, it stays quite cold even in July.  

We had planned to return home through Salt Lake City and Yellowstone, but I disappointed Karen with the administrative detail of “too many miles” and the need to take a more direct route…  The next day, therefore, we headed back the way we had come, but turned northeast at Orderville towards Bryce Canyon (I annoyed a large H-D posse snaking towards Orderville – they consumed more than a half mile – by filtering my way through them as carefully and as considerately as I could; they did not appreciate my efforts…  It was quite worrying.).

Route 89 north from Orderville wends its way up a broad river valley – more open sweepers – before turning east to climb on to the Bryce plateau.  I had been previously unimpressed by Bryce NP and its rock formations (too much “there’s Queen Victoria reading a book”), but this time I loved watching eagles soaring through the canyons, and the exceptional star-gazing at a pollution-free – and refreshingly-cool – 9,000’.  I felt much more the essence of the place:  it was a very different experience and I want to return to explore the extensive network of hiking trails beneath the rim.  We expected to be quite cold that night, but once more our sleeping bags worked their magic.

The next morning, we descended from Bryce and turned again to the east, passing through the colors and shadows of the Capitol Reef headed for Moab.  It was a long way and very hot in the glare of the pale rocks of eastern Utah.  We arrived at the entrance of Arches NP in the mid-afternoon and secured a voucher for one of the last camp sites available in the park.  With 45 minutes to stake our claim or forfeit it (the camping area is 18 miles into the park), we sped into Moab to buy our vitals and dry ice.  Karen and I are both time-and-motion efficiency-study people, and with our labor divided we were through the supermarket in record time.  The Porsche wailed back up through the switchbacks into the park and plucked off one by one the lumbering competition chasing the same plum spot; we lead them into the camping area to score a fine location among the huge boulders and overarching cliffs.  It was very hot (the ambient temperature gauge showed 117°F for one moment):  too hot to take on some of the hikes we did before supper.

That evening, we went to hear a Ranger (dress up as an old lady to) tell about the social history of Arches, and of John Wolfe and his family coming after the Civil War to ranch cattle in the Salt Wash – which became the NP.  It was one of the more-involving Ranger presentations of the many we saw on our trip.

In the cool of the early morning, we hiked up to Delicate Arch, my favorite, and then drove out of the park and across the valley to carve our way up to Dead Horse Point which overlooks the geologic turmoil caused by the confluence of the Colorado (nee Grand) and Green Rivers.  It is an awe-inspiring view.

Back in Moab, we then took the road which follows the Colorado River gorge upstream from Moab to Cisco.  I love this road for its elevation changes and how it dances around, all the while with indications from the landscape and the river as to where the road will go next.  It’s a great road for a quick car; I loved reading the road, and drove fast enough to worry Karen more than I should have…

From Cisco, we took the Interstate (top up now) through the Grand Junction valley with all its Butch Cassidy history until the mountains came together to form the gorge and present us with Vail (we had spent some time discussing options for our return route – long enough to have many of the alternatives fall away as we sped by the turn…).  Vail being Vail, camping possibilities were limited to just one place, tucked up a remote valley by a pretty mountain stream, deep in the woods.  We set up camp, took photos of dappled sunlight on splashing rapids, and headed for town.

Cash in dusty hand, we walked into the first smart hotel and asked what it would cost to make use of their showers in the pool area.  The front-desk manager smiled and handed us passes to the spa, gratis.  We must have looked pretty pitiful!

90 minutes later, we were both transformed with clean clothes, freshened skin and conditioned hair.  No longer did we stick out in the Vail crowd (except for our workaday tans!); the front-desk manager’s good judgment was proven!  We strolled around and explored the town like normal tourists, and then sat down for a fine meal – like normal tourists.  Our second dinner out was very much better than the first.  And we had wine (we had been in a no-alcohol/no-soft-drinks/no-coffee regime since the trip began, just as a mini-challenge).  We felt much restored.

The following morning, we cut north to head towards Rocky Mountain NP; we set up camp in the early afternoon in the Never Summer valley and went hiking, following the headwaters of the Colorado upstream towards the ghost town of Lulu.  We saw bull elk, a moose and her calf among the copious wildlife.

After the usual interrogation from curious campers and an excellent supper, we went to another Ranger campfire talk, this on the topic of Bighorn Sheep.   It was made much more interesting by the echoing, mournful wails of an elk up the valley, apparently separated from her calf.

Our second Thursday saw us climbing high (and quietly again, in the thin air up to 12,183’) further into the park.  Lots of traffic and people, but the scenery is spectacular, and the road does bring access to many who would otherwise stay at home.  We took a couple of hikes off the beaten track, enjoyed our lunch in a pretty valley, and then turned our thoughts to heading home.

After coming down the narrow gorge which drains water and people alike from the park out to the east, it took a while to disengage ourselves from the Estes Park/Loveland conurbation we had to cross before gaining the freedom of the plains.  But then it was into 6th and away.  We stopped for the night in a surprisingly comfortable campsite – with laundry and a swimming pool – near Sedgwick, CO.  We swam in the evening and we swam in the morning, and then headed out again across the plains.

The 1,300 miles smoothed by uneventfully except for a two-hours-for-ten-miles crawl on the south side of Chicago in the middle of the night.  We were back in Rochester at 7:00 AM on the 16th.

The whole trip was gloriously inexpensive.  During the two weeks, we ate three meals out – one breakfast and two dinners – but prepared wonderful, five-star (okay, perhaps four-star) meals wherever we were.  We shopped for the evening meal most days, and needed ice/dry ice every other day.  All told, we logged 5,898 miles, averaged 67 mph/25.8 mpg, and used one quart of oil (the car had 900 miles on the odometer when we started, barely run-in).   The total expenditure for fuel, camping, food, NP fees and sundries was $1,290 (not including the two dinners out).

And the car was the star:  an exciting, tough and uncomplaining companion.

Post script from Karen:

?? The malicious “injury” to the car impacted and dampened the spirits of all of us. It was such an injustice to the magnificent machine that had carried us in great style, its new and shiny coat always attracting a second look and a smile or tip of the head (as we blew by … “feel the breeze”!).  The vandalism was gut-wrenching: we felt the stab of the key and the scrape of metal, and the hurt that transformed the feel of our car – and us – from invincible to vulnerable.

As I think of our adventure in retrospect, from the beginning (where I viewed the car as exciting, fun, and offering a big challenge to “camp” when so small), the Boxster created an emotional link with me that transcended “car” and “transportation”.  A bonding took place, gradually, kind of like an earning of further respect and appreciation for the expansive completeness of its abilities.  I grew “feelings” for it, and we became a “threesome”, rather than just the two of us in a car.  Truly, the keying affront – to me – was towards all of us, and I felt the wound almost as if it were borne by one of my family members, only – of course – more inanimate.  Gulp.

?? COMFORT – Amazing. Two tall people riding for HOURS, with huge leg-room; I’d take that seat ANYTIME – zero complaints.  And we spent a lot of time in the chair.

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