We finally got to the tip of Florida and thought that the journey from Key Largo to Key West was going to be a fun run over the water, but such was not the case. Lots of city driving, long lines of traffic, copious amounts of cops, and a pesky 45-mph speed limit (for more than 150 miles worth of travel) made for a journey that just kept going on and on. While driving, however, we were treated to a powerful lightning show that illuminated the partially overcast skies as if giant flashbulbs were going off up in the heavens. Soon thereafter, rain began, which added even more drama to the final leg of our journey and also hampered any chance of speedy forward progress.
Although extremely hungry, we opted to skip a roadside food shack offering all-you-can-eat frog legs, as we had our dinner sights set on Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant in Key West. As we rolled into town, our first order of business was to make a stop at the buoy-looking marker that indicated, "Southernmost Point, Continental U.S.A., Key West, FL" to officially end our Hummer H2 Extreme Road Test that ran from the northernmost road to the southernmost road in the United States. Somehow, clicking off the ignition to the H2's mighty 6.0-liter V-8 seemed exciting and sad, both at the same time. We'd finally achieved our lofty goal and the H2 was unscathed (save for a cracked-up windshield), but the only thing we could think about was good food and a soft bed -- neither of which we would learn were realistic goals.
After a few flash-filled snaps with our Canon EOS 1D camera (which, consequently marked the first story that Motor Trend had shot entirely with a digital camera) we headed for Margaritaville in search of, you guessed it, a frosty cool margarita.
Finding parking in the very-hopping downtown Key West proved challenging, but eventually we were successful and soon we found our butts parked at one of Jimmy Buffett's tables ordering the house special, a Cheeseburger In Paradise. Despite being hungry enough to eat bark, we must admit that the burger wasn't exactly the "paradise" we'd envisioned from the song, and the margaritas were only fair. No worries, however, as rocking the joint was a young band named Decifunk (www.decfunk.com). The band was made up of 10 just-graduated music students that were belting out surprisingly good songs that stirred together a heaping helping of funk, Chicago-like brass, and lots-o-energy. At 1:30 am we listened to their closing tune, quizzed them on their opinions of the H2, and then shot a group photo of them with our cruiser (see photo).
Leaving downtown Key West, the H2 garnered lots of attention, including hoots as we passed by the Bare Assets "dance" club. Throughout our long journey we'd asked hundreds of people about their opinions on the H2, so in our state of chronic fatigue we saw nothing wrong with asking a few "entertainers" their thoughts. For what it's worth, Cassy (we're guessing a stage name), with dollar bills still adorning her garter strap, really liked the H2 and noted that the seats were very comfortable.
Despite lots of cheers from drunken guys (surely cheering for our H2, not the girl), we decided it best to find nightly accommodations, as we were ready to keel over. As a fitting end to our trip, it served almost too perfect to discover that every hotel in Key West (and 100 miles north) was sold out. Thus, what was to be a joyous end to our grand adventure actually had us getting even closer to our beloved H2 as we again slept in its cushy cabin cooled by its dual-zone automatic comfort control A/C system.
We awoke the next morning to a slight drizzle, tossed on a fresh shirt, and then drove by Ernest Hemingway's former home. After a few photos (complete with six-toed Hemingway cats and all) we again drove past the Southernmost Point for a quick video stand-up for the website. Moments before leaving, Stick-Boy pointed out that Kiwi had swam in the Arctic Ocean at the northernmost road, so why shouldn't he take a dip at the southernmost road? With that, Kiwi again zipped off the legs of his Columbia convertible pants and dove in for the camera.
With shorts hanging out the window to air dry, we piloted the H2 northbound to Tampa, Florida, home to Jeff Bartlett, MT's Online Editorial Director and east-coast editorial connection. In traditional fashion, we arrived with just enough time to fill Bart's trash cans with the loads of trash that had been littering the H2's cabin and to peel off the layers of Armourfend paint protectant (which, for the record, did an excellent job), before he whisked us off to the Tampa airport for our flight back to Los Angeles. After 11,328.2 miles, we'll miss our beloved H2, but truth be told, we were happy to be able to kick back and get some sleep on the airplane, as tiredness was the most torturous aspect of the entire trek. The H2, however, never gave indication of weariness, which speaks novels about its true nature.
But wait, there's more!
Although this story concludes the daily updates of our Hummer H2 Extreme Test chronicling our wacky and sleep-deprived, but incredible 11,328-mile journey, be sure to check out the February 2003 issue of Motor Trend Magazine for the official story on our great H2 Extreme Road Test adventure, as well as visit the MT Auto Pass site for the full archive of videos.