Camping with a Porsche 911 on a road trip across America
Meet the man who’s visited 46 US national parks in his 911 Carrera 4
Porsche 911 Carrera 4 with roof tent attached at sunset
American Jeff Rhoades has travelled more than 140,000 miles across the USA in a 911 Carrera 4 with rooftop tent – and he’s not finished yet
Jeff Rhoades is a man on a mission – to visit every national park in the USA. With 63 national parks scattered across the country, Jeff has already checked 46 off his list, with the promise of more to come. To achieve his dream, the former lawyer turned Instagram hit covers up to 1,000 miles a day in his 911 Carrera 4 (type 991.2). In the process, man and machine have become the best of travel companions. If that’s not enough of a Porsche adventure, Jeff continues the fun at each new destination by spending the night in the roof tent he has fitted to his 911. It’s the best way to recharge after a day’s driving and to take in the scenery, he says. Keeping Jeff motivated on his long journeys is a personal growth mindset and his passion for an active lifestyle. “I’m always on the hunt for my next adventure,” says Jeff. “I like to challenge myself, learn new things and embrace new experiences. This mindset allows me to live life to the fullest and make extraordinary memories.” Driving a 911 is exciting enough, Jeff – but what else do you love about them?“It’s about the feelings and the experiences you have driving them and, above all, the memories you make. I believe that cars are vehicles for creating memorable moments – and that’s exactly what I’m doing with my Porsche 911.”
White Porsche 911 Carrera at sunset in the desert
During his longest road trip, Jeff Rhoades covered 14,230 miles, visiting 34 states and 26 national parks in his Porsche 911 Carrera 4 | PHOTO: Jeff Rhoades
What do you love most about your Porsche 911?“Its versatility. My 911 Carrera 4 (991.2) excels at everything. It’s a great daily driver, the 3.0-litre turbo engine is extremely responsive and delivers a lot of low-end torque so it feels quick around town. The car is also an exceptional grand tourer. It effortlessly transports two people (and their luggage and camping gear) across long distances, at high speed in complete comfort. Then with a turn of the Sport Chrono dial, the throttle response sharpens, the shifts quicken and the suspension stiffens, transforming the car into an amazing canyon carver. It’s a car that I can confidently push to the limit on the track and at autocross competitions. Plus, the car is all-wheel drive. With the right tyres the car handles challenging weather and surface conditions with ease – anything from sand to snow. “But above all the experience of driving the 911 is such a privilege and remains really special – even after six years of ownership. When I look out of the window and see the hips of that wide body or its distinctive silhouette, I have to pinch myself. The 911 makes even mundane tasks special.”Tell us about your experience of buying a 911 Carrera 4?“I never wanted to just own a 911. My goal was, and continues to be, to get the absolute most of out the ownership experience – which means using the car as intended and putting a lot of miles on it. Porsche has the best Certified Pre-Owned programme in the market. It is a great option if you intend to keep your Porsche for years to come and put a lot of miles on it. “My hunt for a 991.2 Carrera 4 started in 2017. I was lucky enough to find my white, Certified Pre-Owned 911 Carrera 4 after just a few months of searching. It had the options that I wanted and just a few thousand miles on it so it was practically a new car!”
Man and Porsche 911 Carrera 4 in Monument Valley, USA
Jeff and his 911 in Arizona. Epic Porsche road trips are all about spontaneity and seizing the moment, he says | PHOTO: Jeff Rhoades
How did you get the idea of travelling to all the US national parks?“The idea arose spontaneously. A close friend of mine was getting married in Colorado, which presented the perfect opportunity to take an extended road trip in the 911 and explore a new part of the country. I cleared my schedule, bought a rooftop tent, and set out on what would become my first long-distance 911 road trip in June 2022.“I had no idea where I was going after the wedding. I took a tip from someone about a great driving road and I found myself in central Colorado trying to decide where to go next. I was researching what was in the area and I stumbled upon an article about Black Canyon in the Gunnison National Park. I had never heard of it before. But the pictures looked pretty so I took a chance, set the navigation, and headed south.“When I arrived I was greeted with one of the most breathtaking landscapes I had ever seen. I was instantly hooked. I knew where I was going next. My mission became to visit as many national parks as I could in my 911. Over the next two weeks I logged over 5,300 miles and visited 15 national parks on that first road trip. I was off to the races.”
White Porsche 911 Carrera 4 in snow on mountain road
Jeff has three sets of wheels and tyres for his 911. Whatever the task, whatever the conditions, he and his 911 are always ready, he says | PHOTO: Jeff Rhoades
What’s the ethos behind your Porsche road trip adventures?“Premeditated spontaneity. I usually have a destination and maybe a stop along the way in mind, but I intentionally don’t pre-plan routes or operate on a fixed itinerary. It forces you to be mindful and present in the here and now. It also grants you the freedom to adjust your journey on the fly whenever curiosity strikes and opportunities present themselves. “I also try to avoid major highways, which allows you stumble upon hidden gems including breathtaking landscapes, charming small towns, great coffee shops, excellent restaurants and epic driving roads.”Driving a Porsche 911 in challenging road conditions seems counterintuitive. Why do you do it?“I love to hike and explore. Sometimes this calls for navigating a few miles of rutted-out gravel or dirt road to access a secluded hiking trailhead or remote campsite. There are certainly more practical choices than a 911 when it comes to navigating these types of challenging road conditions, but these conditions account for just small fraction of the total miles of the adventure. If I chose to take a more ‘practical’ car, one better suited to handling these conditions, I would miss out on carving canyons, charging up mountain passes and the joy of driving my 911 for the other 99.5 per cent of miles that I log on my road trips.“Plus, the reality is that I can get to most places I want to go in my 911. The key is understanding the car’s clearance points and knowing its limits. Take it slow and be intentional when it comes to selecting lines and approach angles and you’d be surprised at the places you can go in a 911. Those last few miles to the trailhead or campsite might take a little longer to traverse in the 911, and require a little more effort, but it’s worth it to be able to drive my 911 for the rest of the adventure.”
Man beside Porsche 911 Carrera in Grand Teton National Park
After Jeff began sharing his journey on Instagram he gained a big following. He aims to inspire Porsche owners to go out and get the most out of their cars | PHOTO: Jeff Rhoades
What have been the highlights so far from your 911 road trips?“There are so many that it’s hard to pick. One of the top ones is driving up the Tail of the Dragon [just outside Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park] at midnight, which is one of the most famous driving roads in the world. It has 318 curves and is over 11 miles long – a road that I’ve always wanted to drive. It’s usually slammed with traffic, but at that hour we got an unobstructed midnight run. I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to top that.”What made you decide on getting a rooftop tent for your 911?“Comfort and convenience. I can unpack the rooftop tent in less than three minutes – a fraction of the time it takes to set up a traditional ground tent, especially in the dark. It opens up the opportunity to hike up to the top of a mountain to take in the sunset without the stress of worrying about setting up camp in the dark.“Another benefit of the rooftop tent is that you can find a place to pull off the road, take a power nap, recharge your batteries and be back on the road in no time.”With the Porsche Roof Tent, you’ve got a perfect companion for your adventures. Among its many benefits, you sleep at ground level, regardless of the surface your car is parked on. And due to you sleeping at a raised level, you’re also better protected from free-roaming animals. When it rains, the roof tent always stays dry on the inside and clean on the outside due to its location on your roof. Meanwhile, you also make space in your car for other items as you don’t need to pack the roof tent in the trunk.
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