After blocking most of the "For Check-In Only" parking lane with our sizely H2, we lethargically walked into the lobby of the South Bend Marriot at 9:31 am to be greeted by the desk clerk who sheepishly asked, "Weren't you guys supposed to check in last night?" Our zombie-like stares were enough to tell the story and she knew not to ask any more questions. After numerous crumpled-up gas and food receipts fell from Kiwi's pocket as he dug for his credit card for room payment, the clerk politely suggested that we pay when we checked out. We opened the door to our room, flopped down on the beds, and quickly realized that despite having just arrived we were already late for our day's activities -- partaking in the second annual Hummer Homecoming at AM General's extreme-duty off-road test facility just outside South Bend. After a brief rinse that would make even a "Navy shower" look long, we installed lightly wrinkled Motor Trend embroidered shirts upon our bodies, and walked out the door.

Upon reaching the H2 we realized there was no way we could arrive at the Hummer event with our rig looking as scrungy as it was. Thus, we hastily rounded up all the crumpled candy wrappers, fast-food bags, half-eaten pieces of beef jerky, and empty energy drink cans and crammed them into an already overfilled trash can next to lobby front door. A quick shake of the floormats did a fine job of ridding the low-nap of rogue chip and cookie crumbs before we called our clean-up good enough. Happy that we could once again see the H2's plush carpeting, we were ready to leave -- up until we heard a knock on the side glass. In our sleepy stupor we had forgotten that MT's ace video guy Jay McCarthy had flown into town to roll some tape on the Hummer Homecoming event and we were supposed to chauffeur him to and fro because he was without wheels. Our immediate forward progress was squelched as Jay suggested that we roll some quick footage on the H2 arriving/departing from the hotel, and as can be expected, some 30 minutes later we were actually on the road.

We wheeled into the Hummer event with a tight agenda before Arnold Schwarzenegger arrived and effectively all hell broke loose. Sure, lots of the town folk were there to gawk at the fine AM General products, but realistically, most attendees were jazzed to have the opportunity to rub elbows with Ahh-nold.

Within minutes we surmised that the Hummer facility was no girly-man test track. The 320-acre validation testing compound incorporates a cornucopia of suspension tweaking, body panel bending, tire popping, engine lugging, log jumping, swamp crossing, ditch laden "tests" that had fearless Kiwi Knievel saying, "Dude, I don't know about that...it's pretty gnarly."

At our disposal were two instructors from the Hummer Driving Academy, Hummer's own driving school (www.hummer.com). While their usual clients are the general Hummer-owning public, these guides were ours for the time being to help prevent us from becoming stuck in the muck. In previous Daily Logs we've touched on the surprisingly well-mannered driving prowess of the rough-and-tumble H2, but we've received many e-mails from tech-head individuals who just want to know the hard-core engineering info on the vehicle, and more specifically, how it fares in extreme off-roading. For those enthusiasts we present the following info.

On pavement, the H2 handling and ride comfort are surprisingly polished. Yet, off road, it's nearly as fiercely utilitarian as the original H1. In a nutshell, the H2 is capable of traversing 20-inch-deep streams, clawing up rocks/logs/walls that present 16-inches of vertical rise, and can effortlessly conquer sand dunes (see "airtime" photo in Leg One, Days 11-14). The H2 employs a 6.0L Vortec V-8 that shuttles 315 hp to a new powertrain-integrated Borg-Warner two-speed electronically controlled full-time 4WD system. The transfer case offers five mode selections (including a rear axle differential lock) to provide excellent performance under most any driving condition -- and trust us, we've encountered a plethora of challenging driving conditions.