Photos by Joel Rosenblatt and Sean Smith
Joel can’t remember if it was his idea, or if a friend jokingly said “Why don’t you drive to your gigs!”
It was the start of Something Big.
An early GPS was purchased along with a 60GB iPod, both for ridiculous dollars. (These days, all that is in everyday smartphones.) A few Rand McNally’s atlases to help with directions, a 12V fridge, some cymbals, sticks, tools, camping gear and clothes, and a radar detector. Every square inch in the Targa was utilized. Joel couldn’t see out the rearview mirror; it didn’t matter, he was moving forward.
He left home in Yonkers, NY on January 28, 2004, (a time of year most Porsches are hibernating) but first he had to shovel a foot of snow out of the driveway. He made it all the way to Washington, DC, where the distributor bearing went! He hung out for two days in DC while a used piece was Fed-Exed to him.
While waiting for the part, Joel started thinking. Should he cut his losses? Flatbed the 911 back to New York and grab his 4Runner? It would make the trip, no doubt. But that would turn the odyssey into a commute.
Hell no! This was a Porsche tour.
Joel replaced the distributor; the car ran beautifully, and he was southbound once again.
After that hiccup in DC, Joel decided to just listen to the car and watch the gauges and not get lost in his music. It became a Zen-like existence, just listening to the engine and thinking about life, the next step… he was also having a problem with dead batteries. (He was running a lot of gear off the 911.) What he didn’t know at the time—with an SC you need to bring the engine up to 2500 RPM to activate the alternator. There is now a voltmeter to make sure the SC is charging.
A stop in Charleston, SC to visit his ex, a doctor. Joel scored some MacGyver-type accessories. One item: a premium plastic urinal! It was not meant to keep Joel from having to make pit stops, it kept water from dripping on a stereo speaker from the leaky Targa top. One must have priorities.
Next stop, Miami, for a show. From there the pair headed west. He knew at the start of the trip the tires were marginal. Joel was planning to give the Targa new sneakers on the west coast, but after hydroplaning across Texas, he had to stop. His old pal Fed-Ex delivered the new tires to the Lone Star State and it was Westward Ho!
In Phoenix, wouldn’t ya know, smoke started pouring out of the AC vents. Another unknown SC flaw had raised its ugly little head. The windshield wiper mechanism had rubbed against some wires and created a short. A couple of dash gages were pulled, Joel applied some more MacGyver-style repairs, and all was copacetic.
With maps and the GPS, he never ran on the interstates. Joel and the Targa followed the back roads all across the country, most of the time at what you might call, well, enthusiastic speeds. Along the way Joel learned the SC could do 137 mph with the top off (sorry, law enforcement, the statute of limitations has run out.) He was on lonely roads for hours where he didn’t even see other cars— let alone cops!
The pair made it to the left side of the country. Joel had shows in Seattle, so he headed north from San Francisco through Oregon and on to the land of Starbucks. After Spyro’s residency in Seattle, it was south on Pacific Coast Highway all the way back to LA.
Then it was time to head home. To fill out the calendar, Joel threw in a few drum clinics in Dallas, Little Rock and Richmond. There was even a quick side trip to Mexico.
The heat caught Joel and the Targa only once.
On the return trip, driving through Atlanta, they were cruising with traffic and got pulled for doing 83 in a 65 zone; reason: daring to be from of out-of-state, and driving a Porsche. Luckily the cop took Visa! And Joel was on his way home.
The trip for Joel wasn’t a joy ride. There was a lot of joy, but it was more a journey of enlightenment. He was leaving a solid gig, but he was stagnating and had to make Artistic Changes. At the same time he wondered if he’d find good work again.
A relationship had ended. He needed to take a deep breath and think.
He had to get out of town and figure this world out!
He had many miles to go to get his head straight. The 911 was like a faithful dog, with him for every mile. They bonded. Taking that trip, in that sports car, was a healing, exiting, and rewarding experience.
Seven weeks, 15,000 miles, three oil changes, one new set of tires, a used distributor, multiple MacGyver impersonations, one speeding ticket, countless rhythms, a life changing experience…