2013 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet: Road Trip to New York, Day 4
April 16, 2013
For the last three days, I've been getting supportive emails and texts from my coworkers. "Don't be foolish," some of them begin, "just park the Porsche and somebody will come get it." But even during my worst hour, I know I'm going to complete the drive to New York somehow. And after stopping in Indiana last night, that goal is finally in sight.
First, though, the 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet and I will take in more of Interstate 70, plus I-76 (better known as the Pennsylvania Turnpike) and I-78. It's an experience I won't soon forget.
See, this is the most direct route to New York and the one that the Porsche's navigation system recommends. (By the way, I don't love this navigation system. The accuracy is good, and voice prompts are well timed to make sure you don't miss turns. But the graphics are only so-so for a nav system in a six-figure car. BMW's maps are much prettier with better detail.)
I was tempted to go a bit farther north and use Interstate 80 instead, so I could retrace the steps of college-age Erin who spent a summer working in Youngstown, Ohio (the city is slightly scary, but northeastern Ohio is a fascinating place). I drove across Pennsylvania on I-80 that summer, and it was beautiful. But I figure I don't have time for beauty today.
And make no mistake, Interstate 76 is the opposite of beautiful. It's also clogged with trucks whose lane discipline makes the truckers on California's I-5 seem like the most courteous people in the world. "You should always take I-80," our Pennsylvania-based editor Bill Visnic tells me later.
Earlier in the day, as I'm driving through Ohio, I decide I haven't taken enough photos of the 911 in dramatic locations. I start looking for random historical places to stop. This semi-panic results in a detour through New Concord, Ohio, where I drive carefully past the local high school track team on an afternoon training run. Once in town, I snap photos of our 911 in front of a house where astronaut John Glenn apparently lived with his wife Annie and a section of National Road ("the nation's first federally funded interstate highway") called the Fox Run S-Bridge, which is a little twisty stretch of brick road that you can't actually drive on anymore.
The Porsche's paint (now coated with several days of wintry gunk) matches the heavy gray sky. It ends up snowing through half of Pennsylvania, but for the most part, it's not cold enough to stick. It's more of a workout for the 911's wipers than it is for the tires.
One thing I haven't disclosed yet is that I dislike our 911 convertible's driver seat. The seat back is nicely contoured and very supportive, but no matter how I adjust the seat-bottom cushion, I can't go more than two hours without getting uncomfortable. Using cruise control helps a little but not enough. There's no way I could buy a 991-generation 911 with these particular seats. But I have a feeling I represent the minority in this regard, and there's little doubt Mike Magrath will have a different opinion when he gets his turn.
Also nagging at me is the feeling that I haven't bonded properly with our 911 Carrera Cabriolet. Due to cold weather and driver frailty, I've left the top up the whole time. I've also treated the PDK like an automatic for most of the trip. I've done boring things with a really interesting car.
Part of me thinks it would have been different if our 911 had the seven-speed manual transmission. Conventional manual gearboxes always make cars seem more real to me. It doesn't matter how much the car costs. If I get to do the shifting, even a very expensive car feels accessible, obtainable and more like a friend for lack of a better word (and damn, there's got to be a better word than friend, right?). I felt closer to our '85 Porsche 911, even as I was struggling to rev-match the 5-4 downshift. But I'm making excuses. I haven't lived right in our Porsche 911 convertible, and I'll leave it to Magrath to make amends with our long-termer.
After buying the largest beverage that will fit in the 911's because-we-have-to-sell-it-to-Americans cupholders (it's a 1-liter bottle of water) along the PA Turnpike, I press on toward my last fuel stop in Allentown, Pennsylvania (and 92 octane is the best I can get here). I could probably make it into the city without refueling, but it would be unkind to surprise Magrath with an empty tank.
I've never driven into New York before, so the fact that there's only one cash lane for the toll plaza on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel comes as surprise. While I'm waiting at a dead stop, I get a text from Magrath:
"Where you at?"
"Lincoln Tunnel toll plaza, NJ side."
After that, it's an easy drive into Manhattan, because it's 1 a.m. and there's no traffic: It's a side of New York I've never seen before. I pull up at my hotel, and none of the valets come out to greet me. I put the hazards on and take my obligatory I-just-arrived-in-New-York photos. Five minutes pass. Still, nobody comes out and I'm parked in what's technically a bus zone. I lock the car and head inside.
"I'm staying at the hotel and I just drove in from California, " I blurt out, "can you put my car away for the night?"
It takes them a moment to process this, but soon they're in action, one taking the car, one trying to help me get my ridiculously large bag out of the 911's frunk. I slip the guy taking the Porsche a 20. "The car's pretty dirty," I say, "and I appreciate you taking care of it."
As I head up to my room, I realize just how far I am from Los Angeles. If you pull up at a nice hotel in L.A., the valets come running, eager to take your car and prevent the driveway from getting backed up. In contrast, hardly anybody drives into Midtown Manhattan, so I guess the valets don't bother waiting in the cold for privately driven cars.
But I drove into New York. It wasn't the most fun trip I've ever taken. But when I tell my kids about it, I'll make sure they think it was a fun trip. After all, I had a 2013 Porsche 911 to drive.
Erin Riches, Deputy Editor @ 6,600 miles