Like any red-blooded, four-year-old goldendoodle, Lucy is irrepressibly friendly and delights in windows-down car rides. But unlike a vast majority of dog parents, Brock Keen and his wife Sara possess an automotive wanderlust that has turned the canine-on-a-roadtrip trope on its ear.
Keen, a self-described petrol-head, admits to a long history of justifying car purchases using specious reasoning. For instance, when he craved a Range Rover Classic, the boxy ’80s and ’90s-era sport utility vehicle known for its associations with the royal family, he took the plunge on the notoriously quirky SUV to create “enough space for Lucy” on multi-day road trips. Similarly questionable logic was used to rationalize purchasing everything from a high-performance ’80s-era BMW sedan to a late model Porsche Cayenne GTS. “I’m always looking for a reason,” Keen admits, which inevitably shifts the conversation to the unlikeliest road trip vehicle of all: his 2004 Porsche 911 Carrera C4S.
Keen’s 911 is not what most people — or anyone, really — would consider a great car for camping road trips. Equipped with front bucket seats and vestigial rear perches better suited to small children than a large pooch, the classic Porsche sacrifices interior and storage volume for maneuverability and outright performance. That era of 911, known as the 996 series within Porsche circles, has also happened to strike a chord among the brand cognoscenti of late, including Keen. “I’ve always loved Porsches and they’ve always been a big part of my life. And there was no way I was going to drive the car without the dog.” Keen first took Lucy up the Oregon coast when she was eight weeks old and says, “She’s been with us on the road since Day One.”
Nearly every milestone in Brock and Sara’s relationship was forged on the open road. The couple eloped on what became a 3,000-mile road trip that took them from their home near Portland, Oregon, to Yosemite National Park, the western Sierras, all the way to the hills of Alabama, and back again. “Lucy rode with us the whole time,” Keen says with a normality that suggests he couldn’t have imagined it any other way.
The fixation on curating an intimate rolling home for the adventuresome trio evolved from the idea that more space is not necessarily better. This seemingly counterintuitive goal led Keen on a quest to reverse-engineer the compact sports car into a trail-ready, mile-gobbling, overnight-capable road trip machine. Finished in Atlas Grey, Keen’s 911 rides on all-season tires so it’s ready for almost any variety of inclement weather or iffy road conditions. That adaptability is also aided by all-wheel drive, which helps the Porsche claw its way through dirt and mud with ease. Mounted to the nose are large rally lights that flood trails and lonely stretches of highway with light. Atop the roof sits an expanding tent that accommodates Brock, Sara, and yes, Lucy too—who enjoys her own bedding in the cozy setup. The tent unfolds in minutes, props up via an extendable ladder, and can carry up to 600 pounds — more than enough for the three of them.
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Brock says that unlike, say, the capacious Range Rover, the 911’s space limitations enforce a certain discipline when it comes to packing for trips. “We treat sports car camping like backpacking,” he says, which means bringing along smaller, lighter versions of items just as you would in a backpack. “I usually bring things like chairs, a table, and a Snow Peak Takibi fire pit that fold flat either into the [front] trunk or beneath the rear seats.” While he says he respects so-called overland travelers, whose elaborate rigs cram stoves, showers, and portable bathrooms onboard, “That’s not really my style. I’d rather just get out there on the road and enjoy it.” That instinct for immediacy translates to his driving style, which he has described as “spirited.” It has also led to all manner of bold vehicular moves, from traversing snowy mountain passes to drifting side-ways across dry lake beds.
Though some assume that a premium sports car means the trio are living in the lap of luxury, Keen begs to differ. “Even though it’s on the top of a 911, I wouldn’t call it ‘glamping,’” he says. Not treating the car or its occupants too preciously enables a certain freedom; if Lucy jumps into the 911 with muddy paws, “it’s not the end of the world,” he insists. Keen is similarly comfortable with the inevitable nicks, dings, and bumps, which, he says, “add a little bit of charm” and are simply “part of the journey.” That journey has expanded significantly since the pandemic, which shifted Keen’s road going instincts into overdrive. He estimates that he, Sara, and Lucy covered some 30,000 miles in the last year alone, bringing the total up to 136,000 miles on the Porsche’s odometer to date.
Lucy integrates seamlessly into the sports car road trip scenario as if she was born to be there. Keen says that despite her seemingly bulky body, her coat hides only 48 pounds of dog, making the canine co-conspirator “super stoked” to sit on the shelf behind the rear seats and enjoy the view through the back window, watching the world go by as the miles roll on.
Lucy can do so for three or four hours at a time, and Keen says his need for bathroom breaks usually coincides with Lucy’s. “We don’t really have a signal. She might start spinning and turning around if she really has to get out, but we usually never get to that point.”
He says that climbing in and out requires moving the seat forward and sometimes giving her a boost. But apart from the occasional ingress and egress awkwardness, Lucy is remarkably comfortable within the 911, taking the rear shelf when Sara’s onboard, or sitting up front in the passenger seat, head plopped on the armrest. Rolling the window down often triggers her to lift her head, and Lucy usually perks up at the sight or smell of familiar spots, whether it’s the beach or Keen’s cabin. She has also taken naturally to spirited driving on curvy roads, as Keen learned after seeing rear-facing GoPro footage of her in the back of the 911. As the g-forces mount, Lucy trains her eyes on the road ahead and anticipates the corners by leaning in. The movement is as natural as breathing and as intuitive as surfing, illustrating the ease with which Lucy has taken to her dynamic surroundings.
While the novelty of sports car camping has been an undeniably large part of why six figures worth of followers — and counting — keep tabs on Keen’s Instagram account, @996roadtrip, Lucy has been an integral part of his story’s appeal, stealing the show with her enthusiasm for the nomadic lifestyle. Keen says, “What I think really engages most people across the board is how this big fluffy teddy bear, Muppet-looking dog looks inside a tent on top of a Porsche. It’s kind of a head-exploding moment for a lot of people.”
Perhaps what makes Lucy’s story so compelling is how seamlessly she complements Brock and Sara’s lifestyle. It’s about investing in relationships, adventure, and intangible experiences that accumulate over thousands of miles. It’s a timeless story of man, machine, and dog.
Follow Brock & Lucy’s adventures on Instagram: @996roadtrip
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