Follow 997 Panamericana’s guide to creating epic Porsche 911 road trips
Tips and insights from the Californian 911 influencer
Porsche 911 Carrera (type 997) in Californian forest
Ever since Michael Erbland bought a classic 911 Carrera (type 997) he’s made the most of the ownership experience. From ocean to mountains, San Diego to the Sierra Nevada, he’s proving that there’s no limits to its capabilities
When you’re as big a Porsche 911 fan as Michael Erbland, just owning one is never enough. He was just a toddler when his love for the 911 took off – appropriate for someone who at university got his student pilot’s license. Ever since 2020, when the San Diego resident bought his first 911, a Carrera (type 997), Michael was determined to make the most of every moment with his dream car and share his exploits with us. His Instagram account, where he’s known as 997 Panamericana, is full of immersive images of his road trips through the stunning Californian wilderness and along its breathtaking coastline with his car, girlfriend Roxanne and dog, Sydney. Michael gives us a wealth of insight into life on the road, what to pack and where to go as he lives the dream of classic Porsche 911 ownership.
Porsche 911 (type 997) on road, Mount Whitney in background
California cruising: Michael Erbland, aka 997 Panamericana, travels the length and breadth of his home state – and beyond – in his 911 Carrera
Why do you love the Porsche 911?“When I was three, my dad bought me a toy truck from a gas station where we lived in New York state. It was a big 18-wheeler, carrying a sports car – a 911. It sparked my interest immediately. One day we were at a red light and my dad pointed to this black 911 – a type 993. He said, ‘Watch this, Michael. When this car takes off, the wing at the back is going to flip up.’ I’ll never forget that moment as I’d never seen a car do such a thing. A few years later, the father of a girl at my school would pick her up in a black 911 Turbo type 996. I knew he could own any car in the world but he chose a 911. It made me realise that this was more than just a car. From the age of 13 I knew that I wanted my own 911.”How did you end up buying your Porsche 911 type 997?“For a long time I drove normal cars. But when I turned 30, I had a realisation. I’d known enough people who had passed away tragically. Your life can just get cut short. When you’re passionate about something, don’t wait to do it. My dad said, ‘You know what? Owning a 911 is something that’s interested you for a while. Go for it.’”
Porsche 911 (type 997), Yosemite’s sunlit Half Dome cliff behind
Michael in Yosemite National Park, the famous Half Dome cliff providing an epic backdrop
“I started looking for one in November 2019. But by April, the world had shut down. It was a surreal time for everything, let alone shopping for a car. Luckily, we stumbled upon a beautiful 2009 911 Carrera in northern California. They gave me a deal that I couldn’t refuse, so the next day I hopped on a plane from San Diego, where I live. The dealership met me with the car at Sacramento airport and I took it for a test drive around the parking lot. I fell in love straight away. The best part about was that I got to drive it all the way home, in my first day with the car, on a road trip from northern California back to San Diego.”What was that first 911 road trip like?“I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I have a 911!’. It was a great way to get to know it. It took seven hours, but I learnt so much about it even then. I looked out over the hood and saw those bumps for the headlights and in my door mirror I admired its wide hips. And then the sound it made. I’d started the day on an airplane and here I was driving it home. An unforgettable experience.”
Porsche 911 (type 997) on road between two giant redwood trees
Sequoia National Park, California, winter 2021: until he bought his 911, Michael says life was a succession of “normal, boring cars”
“It was the middle of the pandemic when we got the 911 and my girlfriend and I were looking for something to engage us. We decided to check out a little mountain town near San Diego and grabbed some lunch there. We began heading out to places we hadn’t seen before – taking our 911 on road trips into the mountains or the deserts east of San Diego. We brought our dog Sydney along with us and eventually we began throwing in some chairs and a little fire pit too. Everything was still shut down but the outdoors was open, so we took the 911 camping. We packed the car with camping gear, and I bought a Porsche roof rack and cargo box. We were amazed at how much stuff you can fit in a 911.”
One of my favourite things that I discovered on our 911 road trips was how much stuff you can bring if you’re organised. We’ve never felt like we’ve left anything behind
Michael Erbland, aka 997 Panamericana | 911 fan
What can you fit in a Porsche 911 on a road trip?“We bought these clear containers for the 911 – so you can immediately see what is in them – in different sizes. We’d work out that one fitted here nicely or two could be put in this space there. Underneath the seats I could fit a couple of medium-sized tubs. One of my favourite things that I discovered on our 911 road trips was how much stuff you can bring if you’re organised. You buy gear that’s designed for backpackers, so they pack small. We’ve never felt like we’ve left anything behind.”
Man stands next to Porsche 911 (type 997) amid snowy scene
Big Bear, California, winter 2023: Michael says his 911 thrived in one of the coldest winters that the west coast of the United States has ever seen | PHOTO: Eric Paulin
“The roof transport system is great. It’s actually one of the defining characteristics of my Porsche 911 experience as it was designed especially for it. I love the way that it comes with different level bars so you can make everything you carry perfectly level – locked in, secure but still looking sleek. It’s got to be the best road tripping sports car. So versatile and useable yet at the same time it’s this visceral sports car that makes you feel connected with the road, especially on winding canyon or desert roads.”Why do you think California is the perfect location for a Porsche road trip?“We’ve focused on Californian road trips in the 911 because California is so big and there’s so much to see. When I was young, my family spent time visiting national parks and camping, but then I started playing soccer every weekend so I stopped spending time in nature. But my 911 has reawakened this. Reconnecting with nature was a silver lining about life during the lockdown.”“Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks are my favourite destinations and we love going into the desert, to Death Valley and Joshua Tree. You can experience one of the most desolate, barren places on the planet and later on the same day some of the lushest vegetation and tallest plants and trees in the world. We’ve recently started to move some of our focus away from California. We’ve been to Utah and down to Baja California in Mexico twice. And we’ll continue to do more road trips.”
Porsche 911 Carrera (type 997) by quayside in San Diego
Staying classy in San Diego: Michael’s 911 Carrera loves the mountains but with its new blue wrap it’s just as at home by the ocean | PHOTO: Jeff Vedenoff
What’s your dream long-distance Porsche road trip?“My dream road trip in a 911 would be transcontinental – but not in the direction most go. I want to take the Dalton Highway up through Alaska and carry on to the Arctic Ocean. It’s the kind of trip where you have to carry fuel with you and CB radios to communicate with the truckers working in the oil fields. The second half of the trip would be on gravel roads, so it’ll be pretty extreme. I’ll probably take a basic survival course before that one. The amazing thing is that the 911 makes you feel confident that it can go these distances.”Will you ever sell your 911?“I don’t just want to take this car everywhere. This may sound cheesy, but I want to grow old with it. Before I had a 911, I already knew it was a car you treasure. It’s like a stewardship. Something you should preserve, protect and maintain not just for you to enjoy, but everyone else. The fact that it’s officially being supported as a Porsche Classic is very exciting because I plan to take it on many more road trips for decades to come. At this rate it’s going to be a very high mileage car before I’m even middle aged! Knowing that Porsche will be making parts for it, some of which I can’t get right now, gives me huge peace of mind. It’s comforting that the people who made the car are the very ones helping me do that.”
Woman and dog outdoors with tent, Porsche 911 in background
Michael’s girlfriend, Roxanne, and their dog Sydney are frequent co-travellers on his road trip adventures
“Being supported by Porsche Classic means that I can keep it running without any worries and never have to consider selling it. That said, I know that I will buy another Porsche. I’ll never forget when the Cayenne came out – I’ve always thought that it’s just one of the coolest cars in the world, too. People talk about the perfect two-car garage and for me it’s a 911 and a Cayenne.”What’s your must-have road trip accessory?“We’d done a couple of road trips to remote but stunningly beautiful places where you don’t arrive until after dark. The LED light bar I fitted to the roof rack and the fog lights that I’ve added are really fun to use and expanded our road trip experience. You sometimes don’t see another car for ages so I’ll turn these big lights on. Suddenly you have sequoia trees towering over you that you couldn’t see before. Safety is really important to me. I’m in a very low car compared to the 4x4s and trucks that are typically on these trails, so it helps to have these lights.”
Porsche 911 (type 997), headlights on, on a snowy road
“The 911 finds a balance between luxury, sportiness and versatility that makes it just so useable,” says Michael | PHOTO: Eric Paulin
Tell us how you take your dog on your road trips?“She comes on all my trips. She’s a big part of every 911 adventure and loves it. When my girlfriend Roxanne and I first got the 911 we took Sydney in the car every chance we got so she quickly became comfortable in its backseat. She’s a dog who has her head out of the window the whole time. My job means that my work is flexible, but Roxanne is a teacher so can’t come on all our road trips. But even with her and a dog, the 911 is comfortable for hours on end. Roxanne and I listen to audio books, sing songs together. We’re just making so many good memories.”
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