Another day, another taco.After a late-night Mexican meal, we checked in to modern accommodations for the first time. The Aspen Hotel in Fairbanks was a real treat after staying in overpriced shotgun shacks, offering such amenities as friendly staff, clean bedding, comfortable mattresses, and in-room telephone. Civilization at last!
A few hours into our slumber, the cleaning crew cruelly woke us at 7 am with laugh-tinged banter and incessant vacuuming. Bleary eyed, we logged online with our Apple PowerBook G4, checked e-mail, and uploaded text and images. With two-thirds of our daily editorial coverage handled, we hunted down a PakMail store and shipped a few digital videotapes out for production. With $65 worth of gas in the tank and fresh ice in the cooler, we were ready to hit Taco Bell once again.
Just minutes down Highway 2, we stopped at North Pole for obligatory photos with jolly holiday characters. While parked in front of the Santa Claus House gift store, we were approached by MT Online reader Chris Litton who told us he had been following our rolling adventure and hoped to bump into us. "I really like the idea of testing an SUV on the most aggressive roads in the country," said Chris, as he admired our crusty H2. Before leaving town, we sent postcards to family members emblazoned with the North Pole postmark.
A few miles past the geographically, inaccurately named North Pole, we spotted a nightmare-scale mosquito made of old gnarled wood. Looking like an unfinished prop from a 1950s Japanese creature film, the burled bug was captured on video attacking Kiwi. Confident the roadside attraction wouldn't fly away with our Hummer, we moved along.
As with any travel companion, the H2's personality continued to reveal its many facets as the days marched on, some more endearing than others. Though sharing architecture and many components with other full-size GM trucks, the Hummer has its own character. Applying the original H1 model's core formula, the boxy H2 features outstanding approach/departure angles, flip-forward hood, seven-slot grille, rock-straddling ground clearance, massive tires, and ultra-wide stance. As we become increasingly familiar with this new sport/ute, our respect has also grown.
For such a heavy vehicle, the H2 was surprisingly easy to push through turns. Familiarity breeds confidence, leading us to drive the H2 harder through curves than one would expect. Impromptu off-road excursions for videography have only fueled our appreciation for the rig's stout 4x4 prowess, as we climbed steep sand banks and confidently negotiated river washes.
Our main beef continues to be the fuel economy delivered by the powerful yet thirsty 6.0L Vortec V-8, now averaging 10.7 mpg. Even with a 32-gallon tank, gas stops in remote environs must be strategically timed to ensure uninterrupted late-night driving. The other recurring criticism is the ingress/egress challenge. The high ground clearance means a jump-and-swing maneuver is required for even those with average stature to enter when the removable side steps are not in place. We had ditched the steps to maximize off-road ability and improve appearance, but owners will likely leave the convenient aids in place.