Imagine yourself crammed into the backseat of a 1980’s era Porsche 911 exploring the Midwest on family road trips for hours on end. Sounds comfy, right? Well, that’s how I spent many a summer when I was growing up. Mom and Dad would enjoy the relatively expansive front seats while my awkward teenage body was crammed like a sardine in the back seat. For hundreds and hundreds of miles. First world problem, right?
Truth be told a Porsche 911 wasn’t the best road trip vehicle for a backseat passenger approaching his late-teens, but the reality is those road trips were a lot of fun. And thank god I was an only child because the way my mom packed there wasn’t room for anyone else but my pudgy self and her abundance of extra baggage in the back seat. Strangely, while I’ve had a lot of (back) seat time in Porsche 911s, I’ve never really spent any significant time behind the wheel. That is until we acquired the MHCC Porsche 911. The car is one of our most popular rentals and whenever it’s not booked I look for any excuse I can find to drive it. The perfect opportunity arose two weekends ago.
For MEA weekend (a school Holiday weekend for non-Minnesotans) we organized a trip to Wisconsin Dells with some friends and their kids. My wife, kids and some of the group drove out Thursday morning, but due to some other commitments I couldn’t drive out until Friday. I love a good road trip and having driven the same stretch of road dozens of time heading towards Road America, I was looking forward to some solo seat time driving down memory lane. My experience would be contrasted by that of my wife, who made the 3.5 hour drive with three four-year old girls in the back seat. I guess that beats the other car that had four six-year-old boys in the back seats. Yikes!
As Friday approached I realized that the MHCC 911 was available and I jumped at the opportunity to drive it. I would be crazy not to. As Friday dawned I hopped in the 911 and kicked off my trip. My initial thinking was that I’d hit the road, make good time and get to the Dells before noon, but once settled in I realized that I wanted to soak up my time in the 911, make some stops that we used to make when I was a kid and enjoy a bit of reminiscing.
I made great time through Minneapolis, St. Paul and across the St. Croix River into Wisconsin. Minnesota has a strong rivalry with Wisconsin, but I don’t mind Wisconsin at all. Dare I say the rolling farmland makes for prettier scenery when cruising on a road trip. The rolling hills become evidently present when cruising down “Knapp Hill” approximately 37 miles into Wisconsin. My uncle told me that when he was a truck driver he’d put his speed-governed eighteen wheeler into neutral going down the hill and hit over 100mph there. That was in the eighties at roughly the same time that the 911 I was driving was built. For better or worse, with a flat-six lodged behind the back seat one needn’t put the 911 in neutral going down Knapp hill to hit 100mph. At least that’s what I’ve been told.
The trip continued for another 50 miles when I decided to do something I’ve resisted doing on road trips for years – I stopped at the Norske Nook for breakfast. Inevitably on every family road trip through Wisconsin my mom would suggest we stop in Osseo at the Norske Nook, a scratch made Scandinavian restaurant there. My Dad introduced her to it once on a prior road trip and it seems like every time we passed thereafter on a road trip the allure of Swedish pancakes topped with lingonberries and whipped cream. Apparently, sentimentality, and the aforementioned allure of delicious pancakes, got the best of me. Despite my historical stubbornness to stop on countless past trips I found myself exiting at mile-marker 88 and pointing towards the Norske Nook.
As I rolled up in the MHCC 911 onlookers knew immediately that I wasn’t from those parts. They watched as I nearly fell out of the 911, partially due to its lowered ride height and more to do with my tight road trip muscles. On the bright side, it would’ve been worse had I been riding in the back seat like did so many times as a kid. I was greeted with a smile and seated immediately. I quickly placed my order for, you guessed it, Swedish pancakes, a side of bacon and a large coffee. My food arrived piping hot a few minute later. Before digging in I did something cruel – I took a picture of my meal and texted it to my mom. Needless to say, she was very jealous.
After inhaling my meal, I wandered outside in a food coma induced state, hopped in the car and headed towards the Kwik Trip down the street to top off the gas tank. Kwik Trip is a Wisconsin staple and if you’ve never been to one you’re missing out. It puts all other gas stations to shame, particularly because it is much more than a gas station. Kwik Trip has delicious scratch made bakery items, deli items and a grocery section that makes some grocery stores blush. Also, based on my proprietary gas station cleanliness scale Kwik Trip ranks at the top. This is starting to feel like a Kwik Trip infomercial though, so I’ll move one.
Back in the car I continued east on I-94 through Tomah, past Camp Douglass and Volk field where Air Force aircraft stand on display out front, and past Mauston. My internal GPS is hardwired to head due east in Mauston towards Road America and frankly it’s always a little unusual when I continue past the exit there for Highway 82. It’s like my body thinks it’s getting cheated out of an opportunity to head to arguably the greatest race track in the US, America’s National Park of Speed, the one and only Road America. If it only knew I was cheating on it this time, with Wisconsin Dells of all places.
Shortly past Mauston the exist for Wisconsin Dells loomed in the horizon. I reached my destination. I’ll spare you the details from my weekend at the Dells because this is a road trip blog. And because no one wants to hear about slightly overweight Midwesterners donning swimwear sometimes too tight sipping from big gulps in the lazy river while eating Cheetos. Enough said.
Needless to say two days in Wisconsin dells is just about right and I planned to depart a bit earlier than the group Sunday morning to make it back to MHCC HQ to host a live US Grand Prix screening party there. I host similar events for most races on the F1 calendar and given the US Grand Prix is generally the most well attended, I wanted to be there for it. I fully expected my son to stick back in the Dells to enjoy one last morning with his buddies there, but I was happy when he told me he wanted to join me for the early drive back in the 911 to catch the F1 event. It was reminiscent of my road trips as a kid. The back-seat rider (me) became the driver and I passed the passenger baton to my son, but since it was just the two of us he escaped the confines of the back seat. Instead he rode shotgun next to me. Lucky kid.
The drive got off to a cold start. The car was covered in frost and I was worried that the defroster wouldn’t do the job. I was wrong, however, and after just a few minutes idling loudly in the parking lot the windshield cleared up. Our clear view came at the expense of louder than stock exhaust noise for the adjacent cabin dwellers who were likely still asleep. Or maybe they were asleep until they heard the 911. Who knows. If you ask me the road of a flat-six is a perfect wake up call. It rivals the sound of angels singing. If you hadn’t guessed already I drink the Porsche Kool-Aid.
We hit the nearly empty road and embarked on a pretty uneventful ride home. The growl of the engine and whirr of the heater fan nearly drowned out the sounds of my sons iPad. When I was a kid I most often found myself staring aimlessly out of the window asking if we were there yet. It’s a lot different for kids now. iPads are game changers for road trips. Eventually, however, my son got a bit restless and I knew what would cheer him up – breakfast. And you’ll never guess where we stopped? Of course we stopped at the Norske Nook, making it two visits for me in less than 48 hours. It’s safe to say I’ve hit my Norske Nook quota for a while.
After a hearty breakfast we were back on the road and before you knew it we were back at MHCC HQ amongst a lively crowd attending the F1 screening.
All told, my time spent in the 911 was a trip down memory lane providing an opportunity for me to extend the unique road trip adventures I experienced as a kid with my son. Whereas I spent past trans-Wisconsin 911 road trips crammed in the back seat, this time around I got to experience the joy of driving what I consider one of the most engaging and positively analog driving cars of our era. I covered approximately 500 miles in short order and never once wished I was driving something different. Heck, I’d even do it riding in the back seat. Again.