HERE IS PROOF that the Boxster is one of the best touring sports cars around. Of course, it needs two guys who are good friends, love to drive, and have the time to pursue these adventures. Ben Quan and I have been next-door neighbours in Markham for 38 years, both PCA UCR members, and we each own a 2005 Boxster S. We plan our trips in early September, weather has always cooperated, and we pre-book all hotel rooms.
The cumulation of our trips since 2011 has totalled over 61,000 kilometres and taken us through every state in the continental USA (except Alaska), as well as much of eastern Canada.
2011 —CHICAGO, ST. LOUIS, NEW MEXICO, ARIZONA, CALIFORNIA — 11,136 kilometres, 26 days
After arriving in Chicago, we began our journey on old Route 66 to Los Angeles. Much of that road blends in with Interstate 40, however many sections still retain the charm of the diner era of the 1930s to ‘50s. In St Louis, we viewed the mighty, but muddy Mississippi River from the top of the Gateway Arch. Near Amarillo, Texas, we viewed the “questionable art” of Cadillac Ranch (10-year-old Cadillacs buried nose down in a field). The Big Texan Steak Ranch offered a 96-ounce steak, free if you could eat it in one hour. We passed!
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, we ate lunch at the 66 Diner, then visited Acoma Sky City, a native American pueblo built atop a 110-metre high mesa. A side trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico revealed many beautiful adobe-style structures, then another to Sedona, Arizona stunning views of the red-rock formations, and beyond to Jerome, a mile-high copper-mining town of the 1800s. The spectacular Grand Canyon was at the top of our list.
Next, we were “standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” (Eagles, “Take It Easy”). We then lightened our wallets in Las Vegas, and followed on to Santa Monica, California, where Route 66 ends at the Pacific. South to San Diego for a few days before driving through the wide-open sky, multi-coloured rocky landscapes along the highway, just north of the Mexican border to Phoenix, then back to Markham.
2012 — KENTUCKY, TENNESSEE, ARIZONA, CALIFORNIA, PCH, UTAH — 13,772 kilometres, 24 days
Again we headed for California, taking a different route, through Kentucky and Tennessee, then picked up Route 66 in Oklahoma. West through Seligman, Arizona and Kingman (Mr. D’s Diner from out of the ‘50s) then on to Oatman, Arizona, a dusty old west ghost mining town inhabited mainly by the many wild mules roaming the streets and shops, and a fake gunfight outside the brothel. Going south, we drove over the old London Bridge (1831) at Lake Havasu in Arizona. Then on to Palm Springs, California, with Marilyn Monroe’s nine-metre high Forever Marilyn statue, then north into LA. We visited the Petersen car museum, Mel’s Diner (of TV fame), and toured the city.
Later we took a side trip to Solvang, a beautiful Danish town in the wine and produce growing area. Driving north you can’t beat the scenery on the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway, elephant seals lounging on the warm sand, surfers in the ocean, the gigantic rock at Morro Bay, and the charming towns of Carmel and Monterey with the sea lions resting on the docks. Stopped off at Laguna Seca race track to watch Mazda practice laps, then on to San Francisco, great food and a Segway tour of the city.
From here we visited the popular Yosemite Park and crossed Death Valley to Las Vegas. We then drove through several of the scenic parks in Utah (Arches, Zion, Bryce and Canyonlands). Returning across America basically following Interstate 70, we toured and sampled product at Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado, then to Indianapolis where we did one lap around the Indy 500 track (by bus, sooner have done it in the Boxster) and checked out its museum.
2013 — INDIANA, MISSOURI, TEXAS, NEW ORLEANS, FLORIDA — 7,430 kilometres, 16 days
We started in Auburn, Indiana, a gathering of several hundred Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs, manufactured here in the 1920s and ‘30s. On Labour Day weekend Sunday, they circle and park in the main square. A terrific location to view some of America’s great luxury cars of that era. We moved to Branson, Missouri for a night of country music. Texas, 85 MPH, big blue sky, wind in our (remaining) hair, let’s go! We headed to Dallas, Austin (the state capital) and, in San Antonio, we visited the Alamo, as well as its magnificent river walk through the centre of town. On to Houston, then a Segway tour of beautiful old Galveston.
We had a chance to let loose in New Orleans, definitely a party town, great seafood at the Acme Oyster House. We drove farther east to Panama City, Florida, then to Montgomery, Alabama and toured the Hyundai plant. We arrived in Memphis, Tennessee on a Wednesday, bike night on Beale Street, a lot of money spent on chrome and lights. Next day a trip to Elvis’ estate Graceland, (we were both fans in earlier days). Back home via Pennsylvania and New York.
2014 — MAINE, BOSTON, CAPE COD, ATLANTIC CITY, WASHINGTON, DC — 4,211 kilometres, 13 days
We started driving east to Portland, Maine with dinner at one of many waterfront warehouses converted to restaurants. Then south, following highway 1 along the Atlantic coast to Ogunquit, Maine. Here in Perkins Cove Pier, at Footbridge Lobster, you can pick up two whole lobster lunches for under $20, grab a park bench and enjoy. Take the beautiful two-kilometre oceanfront hike to Ogunquit Beach. In Boston, we visited the two Cheers sites (of TV fame) and walked the many city attractions. In Hyannis Port, Massachusetts we had a day of deep-sea fishing, then drove out to Cape Cod and Provincetown.
We had a bit of a hiccup however, we bent a rim after hitting a pothole. We cautiously drove to a Porsche dealer in Warwick, Rhode Island, they ordered a new tire and rim, and we rented a car for two days, expensive delay. Then we headed for Mystic Seaport, Connecticut, tall ships on view in the harbour, and a seafood festival on shore, what luck. Atlantic City, New Jersey had a nice beach and boardwalk, however many hotels and casinos were in disrepair or closed. South to Virginia Beach, then north to Washington, DC. You could spend days at the National Mall’s galleries and museums. Dinner at a favourite spot, the Old Ebbitt Grill (since 1856) on 15th Street NW. North again to Williamsport, Pennsylvania and arranged a cruise on the Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat up the Susquehanna River, lots of beer and wings, great evening, blessed with a beautiful sunset. Then through Buffalo to home.
2017 — DULUTH, DAKOTAS, YELLOWSTONE, SEATTLE, PORTLAND, CALIFORNIA — 12,400 kilometres, 22 days
We skipped 2015 and 2016 due to other commitments. We decided since we love the open road, California sounded good again. North to Sudbury for lunch and on to Sault Ste. Marie. We crossed to the US, then to Duluth, Minnesota. We went west to Bismarck, North Dakota and turned south to the awesome Badlands National Park, South Dakota. Then farther on to Mount Rushmore where the immense head carvings of four US presidents stare out of the mountain. Next stop was Sturgis, South Dakota (Ben is a biker). Thankfully we missed the 750,000 riders in mid-August. In Cody, Wyoming we attended a rodeo and the following day arrived just in time to see the Old Faithful geyser blow off some steam in Yellowstone National Park. One could spend days exploring this place.
Crossing Montana and Idaho we arrived in Seattle, Washington and we explored the waterfront entertainment area. In Portland, Oregon we discovered a city block circled with 55 food trucks each serving its own ethnic style. Then south along the coast on highway 101 to Eureka, California and drove through the Avenue Of The Giants — massive redwood trees up to 115 metres tall. A light early morning mist gave an almost ghostly feeling driving among these big trees. At Leggett we picked up old Highway 1 towards the coast to Rockport. This is 29 kilometres of twists and curves through the woods which the Boxster much appreciated. It rivals, if not beats, the Tail Of The Dragon, route 129 in Tennessee, ending up overlooking the Pacific. At a pull-off we noticed several whales surfacing in the ocean far below us.
We continued south to San Francisco, turned east towards Salt Lake City, but just off Interstate 80 noticed the sign to Bonneville Salt Flats. We had to investigate, no restrictions, just a smoothed track, 72 metres wide by 16 kilometres long, marked by cones. We wanted to open it up but at 160 KPH we began to drift due to moisture content in the salt. Still being 3,000 kilometres from home, we decided it was enough of a thrill just to have tried it. Interstate 80 took us through Cheyenne, Wyoming and Omaha, Nebraska, lots of big sky and high-speed driving. Then through Iowa, Ohio and back.
2018 — QUEBEC, MARITIMES, CANADIANA — 4,978 kilometres, 13 days
A Canadian trip was overdue and we decided to avoid expressways — surprising how much more you see! Bancroft for lunch, Ottawa for dinner and a city drive. We stopped at the magnificent Château Montebello hotel to reminisce, having stayed there many years ago. It is the largest log structure in the world. North from Montebello, highway 323 leads to Mont Tremblant, a favourite winter destination, then on to Montreal. Next to the charming and historic Quebec City. We crossed the St. Lawrence and took highway 132 along the river’s edge to Rivière-du-Loup, enjoyed great crêpes in Rimouski.
After rounding the tip of Gaspé, we arrived at Percé, famous for its “rock with a window.” Enjoyed the waterfront, as well as the boat trip to Bonaventure Island to see the colony of over 100,000 gannets. Truly this trip around Gaspé Peninsula was one of the most beautiful we’ve been on. You hug the St Lawrence River 90 percent of the way, much at sea level. Good roads, mountains, waterfalls, and pristine homes in the many small villages. We drove down the east coast of New Brunswick and crossed the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island.
After a couple of days of beaches, family visits, and driving country roads, we left PEI. We drove to Moncton, New Brunswick then just west of Saint John, visited one of Ben’s relatives who owns and operates a lobster pound. Guess what we had for dinner? (Poutine? —Ed.) As much as we could eat! (Lobster poutine? —Ed.) We continued across New Brunswick and into the US to Bangor, Maine, then to Sherbrooke, Montreal and home from there.
2019 — SMOKEY MOUNTAINS, TAIL OF THE DRAGON, FLORIDA KEYS — 7,223 kilometres, 16 days
This trip captured the last of the states. We headed for Pigeon Forge, Tennessee in the Smokey Mountains where the “Hot Rod Run” had taken over the town. We paraded the Boxster amid the rods, Mustang muscle and Chrysler Hemis. Maybe we didn’t fit in, but we were cheered by the crowds and given many thumbs-up for being there. Driving top-down through the Smokies, the sights, sounds and smells bring out your appreciation for nature. Next day, not so peaceful, the Tail Of The Dragon, route 129, partly in Tennessee and North Carolina, consists of 318 curves in 18 kilometres. It’s absolutely the greatest drive to test your concentration and endurance on any public road, and the Boxster handles it like a dream. You could almost see a smile on the front bumper!
Driving south through Atlanta, Georgia we took the scenic Gulf Of Mexico drive along the Florida Keys. In Naples we opted for the southern road, route 41, as opposed to the Everglades Parkway, a more interesting way to cross to Miami. The 200-kilometre drive over open water to Key West consisted of a series of islands (some with bars and restaurants) joined by long bridges.
In Key West we were fascinated by the number of free-range chickens everywhere, revered by locals as “gypsy chickens.” Key West is noticeably a laid-back town with many restaurants, shops and deep-sea fishing tours. Back in Miami we spent time in South Beach, admiring the beaches as well as the ornate style of the retro, art deco architecture. Continued on highway 1, through West Palm Beach with its beautifully manicured homes. We had a drive on the beach in Daytona. Then to St. Augustine, toured the Spanish fort, Castello de San Marcos (1670). On to the port city of Savannah, Georgia, then to Charleston, South Carolina with its large plantation homes. In North Carolina we headed inland, visited the Civil War town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, then through New York state to Markham.
We could fill a book with the places we’ve seen and things we’ve done, but most importantly, “It’s not always about the destination, but it’s very much about the drive.” We know that’s what owning a Porsche is all about. </>
Story by Merrill Howard | Photos by the author and Ben Quan.