We sat down with Harrison Schoen - full time photographer, adventurer, and Porsche-dweller. He gives us a look at life out of the back of his lifted V8 Porsche Cayenne and leaves us with a couple EPIC stories from life on the road.
Tell us a bit about yourself! Who are you? What do you do? Where do you live? What's life like out of the back of a Porsche? What makes you happiest?
My name’s Harrison Schoen, I’m a photographer and adventurer, a Navy Veteran and life enthusiast.
I’m based in Salt Lake City, UT where I have a storage unit and keep two other Cayenne’s.
At the time of writing this, I’ve lived in my Porsche full time for the past year and three months.
What makes me happiest and what I believe life is all about, is spending time with the people that matter to us most. I really enjoy sharing experiences with others and seeing the happiness it brings them, and also pushing myself to see what I’m personally capable of in all aspects. I will make any sacrifice necessary to continue doing those things for the rest of my time.
Describe your vehicle: make, model, etc.
2008 Porsche Cayenne S, purchased at 123,000mi, currently at 175,000mi a year and a half later.
How did you land on Porsche as an offroad/overland platform?
I landed on the Porsche Cayenne as my first real offroad vehicle because it was a perfect recipe for success. At the time it was a very stomachable $9,000 for a decent example with 125k miles. 6 piston brembo brakes factory, a 390hp V8, low range transfer case, a center locking differential, and the robustness of the car due to it’s racing pedigree in the Transsyberia rally and Porsche’s desire to hit the ground running in the market with their first SUV. It stood out more than any other vehicle at the time of purchase.
What are some of the mods you've done to turn this thing from mall crawler to Moab monster?
For the first year, and the most reliable time in the vehicle’s life, the only modifications to it were 3” puck suspension spacers, tubular upper control arms, polyurethane lower control arm bushings and larger tires. It just worked, so incredibly well. I’ve been chasing more capability recently by adding 8” travel 2.5 Coilovers and not many people have run this setup so it requires a bit of R&D to make it function well, like limiting straps and bump stops I’ve yet to figure out. It’s just such a capable vehicle from the factory that it doesn’t require much to do incredible things.
Describe your favourite feature of your vehicle.
My favorite feature of my vehicle currently is having the bed platform inside of it. If you’re interested in trips, or seeing more of the world around you it’s invaluable. No hotel rooms, no planning required. Want to go to the Grand Canyon and it’s 11 hours away?
Best location/adventure you've ever had with your vehicle?
I’ve been so many incredible places in the past year and a half, and have taken so many trips that are #1 in their own way that it’s hard to pinpoint the best of all of them. One trip that does stick out, and always will, was the beginning of my journey in Porsche-dwelling.
I started this trip in particular by driving from Salt Lake City, to Bend, Or where I spent a day or two just winging it. I had passed through on a roadtrip previously that year where some friends and I saw many of the major attractions in the state. While in Bend this time, I reached out to Brandon Haley (@Brandnhaley), a Photographer I had been following at the time, and who’s work I’d admired for a while. We got together, thrashed the car and took some photos. Soon after, I reached out to Brock Keen as a shot in the dark and he invited me over to his cabin (@TheTimberRetreat) to have some beers, talk Porsche and swap stories. Brock ended up driving my Cayenne up the side of a mountain, and a friendship was born. He introduced me to Brad Danger (@IdealCarsOfficial) and his wife Ashley (@youtubegirlfriend). We talked about business, content creation and life. Mind you, I was a nobody at the time, with no following, and nothing to give me credibility other than the car I was living in. All of these people took the time out of their lives to share their time with me, and inevitably inspired me to do more.
I drove to a beach in northern Oregon recommended to me by Brock, and recreated a TikTok video in front of my car I’d seen made popular by a climber. I posted this the same day and it immediately started gaining traction. By the next day, I was in Seattle and had so many requests for a walkthrough that I filmed one in a public park, with random people and cars passing by constantly. This was so far out of my comfort zone at the time. After posting that, the next few days both videos went viral simultaneously. Growing my TikTok following from 1,500 to 50,000 and also helping other social media accounts. I continued the trip, seeing all of Washington’s national parks, then down through Idaho and back to Salt Lake. The trip was life changing to say the least. I’ve been able to keep momentum since then, and it’s become a full time thing for me.
Most epic stuck/breakdown/wrong turn?
I’ll share two stories. The most intense, and a recent story, which may tie.
In late October of last year and right before SEMA, two photographer and videographers were driving Mike Ngo’s Cayenne out from North Carolina to attend the show. I met up with them in Moab, UT to camp and collaborate for a couple days. Everything went well until we decided to stop by Swing-Arm City, a location made popular by Ken Block and known for it’s wild landscape, which feels like a different planet. We took photos and videos going up the spine there, and eventually came across a dirt mound which I thought was perfect for jumping. I’d jumped the car before in Coeur D’ Alene, ID, on what I’d consider to be a flyout jump (if you’re familiar with BMX or Skate). This one had more of a sloped landing and I felt as if I could push it further. I got a few runs over it at about 25-30mph and wasn’t happy with how the photos were coming out, and the car wasn’t really getting off the ground. The next one, I decidedly went somewhere between 35-40mph and it made a world of difference. We created the photo that I will always cherish, with the cayenne several feet above the ground. When coming down from the jump, things felt fine until they didn’t. I crashed down and all at once, Ripped out my fender liners on both sides, pulled off my bumper, bent my upper control arms, taco’d my Shock forks, and ripped out the coolant lines in the wheel well. The guys I was with towed me a few miles into town, where I camped for the night and they set off for SEMA which was in two days. I slept in my broken cayenne outside of a taco shop with very friendly and understanding owners until the next morning when my friend Paxton Patey came down with his truck and trailer to rescue me and to me 250 miles back to salt lake. An eventful and unforgettable experience.
On the most recent trip to Tuktoyuktuk, around Canada and Alaska I experienced a wild vehicle issue I never thought could happen. The Dempster Highway is a 550 mile dirt/gravel/mud and pot hole filled road from Dawson, YT to The top of Canada. Known as one of the roughest and challenging roads in the U.S. and Canada. It takes some as many as 5-10 days to complete there and back. We decided to drive much more quickly. The posted speed limit is about 90KMH and we drove a majority of it somewhere between 140-150KMH to get it over with, and add an extra challenge as a driver. All the vibration and potholes from the road eventually wore down the car and approximately 250mi from the end of the road on the way back down, I noticed my steering felt loose and the car wasn’t turning in as quickly, but overall nothing was screaming “PULL OVER NOW” so I kept driving 100+KMH. I thought if anything, I had possibly bent a tie rod and the tow was pulling the car here and there. After about 50 miles of this, we came up on some road work and to be courteous we moved to the left side of the road and my driver’s side went into a bit of a sand/silt pit. I steered right to turn out of it, but the car wouldn’t go. I crank the wheel full right and eventually popped back onto the road. A few miles later we decided to pull over and assess the situation. On the side of the road, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and my tie rods didn’t look bent. We hopped back in the car and tried to drive away, but immediately my passenger front wheel dived left and started dragging across the ground as my driver’s side wheel was straight. I stopped, not sure what to do, and knowing I didn’t have a spare tie rod with me if it was broken. A few minutes pass by, and the thought popped into my head that, there’s no way this just happened as I pulled over, and from previous experience (an accident in a previously owned E46 M3 where I was able to drive with no tie rod up to 10MPH) I knew it was possible I’d been driving without for some time now. All I had to do was get the car up to speed, and the wheel would straighten out and turn as I did, following the road. 200 miles to go. The longest 200 miles of my life, with a few stops and starts through piloted construction zones along the way. We made it to Dawson without any other major hiccups where I jacked up the car, pulled off the wheel, and the inner tie rod boot and found that it had simply unscrewed it’s self from the steering rack over time. I tightened it back in, and it was good to go. Here I am writing this while in Bend, OR after making it several thousand miles through Alaska and Canada following that. What a story it was.
Any advice to someone thinking of getting into a custom adventure vehicle?
Getting into custom adventure vehicles, and this community has been the most rewarding and challenging thing I’ve ever done both physically and mentally. If you’re considering off-roading, or overloading as a hobby, I can’t recommend it and the people you’ll meet along the way enough. If you’re considering an odd-ball vehicle, I recommend starting with something that also has a good recipe for success beforehand, though one of the only limits to where you can take vehicle is how much you care about that vehicle and how hard you send it. Vehicles with existing aftermarket support are best, but if you’re creative you can make anything work.