Extreme Road Test - 2003 Hummer H2: Leg 2, Day 7

South Bend, Indiana to Columbia, South Carolina

John KiewiczNov 12, 2002
The plan was to crash for three hour's sleep, wake up at 2 a.m., and get an early jump on the day's driving as we were well behind schedule after getting seriously sidetracked at the Hummer test track with our Ahh-nold antics. That was the plan. And it seemed like a good plan, too.
Despite overly clear directions (repeated no less than three times), the front counter guy botched our wake-up call and all hopes of an on-time departure. Kiwi awoke in a foggy stupor trying to figure out why there was so much light outside at two in the morning. After some careful calculations (a.k.a. trying to decipher his watch readings without his contact lenses in) it was determined that 2 a.m. had quietly passed more than three hours earlier.
Kiwi awoke the motionless, cadaver-like Stick-Boy with a violent shake, then proceeded to rant about how the day's plans had already been foiled by the not-so-diligent hotel front desk folks. Of course, the still-innocent Stick-Boy found it hard to understand what was so bad about actually getting a decent amount of sleep for the first time in three days? Directly after stupid statement #321, the half-asleep Stick-Boy was hastily herded out of the room allowing him no time for a shower, shave, or shoe installation.
Snafu number two of the day occurred just outside of the hotel; for the first time during our entire trip, we had trouble locating our behemoth H2 in the parking lot. The problem was that our ride was surrounded by a surfeit of other Hummers (H1s and H2s) all in town for the Homecoming festivities. Strange as it may seem, we walked up to no less than three H2's before finding our beloved gas-guzzler.
Stomachs growling and muscles still sore from doing Arnold-induced push-ups the day prior, our first order of business was to grab breakfast at the one of the South's famous Waffle Houses. Oddly, the "services next exit" signs on the side of the interstate kept referring to a similar-sounding restaurant by the name of Waffle & Steak. Kiwi insisted that these couldn't possibly be the restaurant we were longing for, and proceeded to drive past four of them before Stick-Boy's way past "E" stomach forced him to reach critical meltdown as evidenced by the spicy gushing of unprintable expletives. The next exit was used, and as it turned out, we learned that Waffle & Steak is someway in cahoots with the Waffle House. Most importantly, they both share the same famous menu item--pecan waffles. Yummy.
Freshly fueled (both vehicle and drivers), we continued our southbound journey through Indiana. As we approached the Indianapolis city limits, we recalled that the town was, in some measure, known for a famous racetrack. We followed the signs to a place called Indianapolis Motor Speedway and then wedged our big H2 through the tunnel-like visitor's entrance gate. After tugging on the front door handle, we were aghast to learn that the IMS museum/gift shop wasn't yet open. A quick bit of mathematics told us that we had 25 minutes to burn before opening, which served as a perfect opportunity for Stick-Boy to freshen up. Like a bird preening in a pond, Brian used the fountain adorning the museum entrance to scrub up and to slick back his 0.4-inch long hair. As the museum doors were unlocked, Kiwi plowed through the entrance and nearly inflicted a broken-hip-crashdown with the past-retirement-age desk lady who was working the front door keys. After a quick tour of the museum, Kiwi opened up a Costco-sized can of charm in an attempt to gain clearance to the actual racetrack to (hopefully) snap pics of the H2 at speed. Astonishingly, the track manager agreed to our ludicrous request. Our Canon GL1 digital video camera recorded our spirited drive around the 2-1/2-mile track and we were even granted a few moments to conduct a photo session right on the original start/finish line bricks. Sweet! We left the Speedway giggling as if we'd just spent an hour inhaling the anesthesia-like aromatic fumes emanating from a jug of race gas, and gave a dorky "parade wave" to the guard at the entrance gate before we boogied out of town in search of the next great roadside odyssey.
Continuing south towards Kentucky, we soon crossed the mighty Ohio River and entered the land of baseball bats and fried chicken. As Kiwi piloted the H2 through the maze of one-way streets that plague downtown Louisville (while on a search of the world's largest baseball bat), in a increasingly familiar manner Stick-Boy began babbling about how similar the shape of a baseball bat is to that of a chicken leg. Sure enough, right outside of the Louisville Slugger Museum stood a 120-foot-tall (68,000-lb.) replica of the "R43" baseball bat used by Babe Ruth. Unfortunately, the bat was undergoing a fresh re-rosining, and the crane assisting with the work hampered our prime photo opportunities.
Just outside of Louisville we drove past the Kentucky Fried Chicken museum, but at the freeway exit we chickened out and opted to drive on rather than drive-in for some original-recipe drumsticks. Much to the dismay of Stick-Boy, crossing the Kentucky/Tennessee border prompted Kiwi to mandate an all-country all-the-time selection on our XM Satellite radio. Mind you, this wasn't your Tim McGraw/Dixie Chicks new-school country, but rather the super redneck stuff from way back in the day, including an XM channel completely dedicated to Hank Williams Sr. (see photo). It wasn't long before Stick-Boy was howling like an old hound and had turned his focus on the whistle of the H2 A-pillars over the twangy drawl of ol' Hank's pipes.
Ever since crossing the Rockies, we'd passed scads of fireworks stores (a rare find in the crispy-dry, not-so-wild West where we reside) but we never had the time to stock up on the explosive delights. Fearing that our final destination state of Florida would not sell the festive finger removers (we wanted to use them for some artsy Kiwi-edition nighttime photos with the H2), we made use of I-40's Exit 407 to wheel up to the expansive Fireworks Supermarket. We quickly made friends with the jovial store employees, showed them the H2, then like giddy schoolgirls we combed the aisles for all types of the pyrotechnic phalange flingers. Things got especially fun after we spotted a "Visa accepted here sign" in the front window. Unfortunately the Hummer's 86.6 cubic feet of rear cargo capacity was more expansive than our credit line, forcing us to settle on only one over-stuffed shopping cartful of appendage-altering apparatus. Shamelessly, we swiped our plastic and then jumped back on the highway.
A quick survey of our road atlas informed us that we would be passing near Michelin's tire proving grounds near Laurens, South Carolina. The wheels in our noggins began turning, and consequently, we hastily dialed up former Motor Trend Senior Road Test Editor Mac DeMere (FYI: "Hey y'all" Mac is now one of Michelin's ace car-driving tire-testers) to pitch a "testing" scheme. To our amazement Mac gave us the green-light to stop by to conduct a bit of late-night testing.
We arrived at 11:18 p.m., and after a few handshakes and some southern-style chit-chat, Mac enlightened us on the basic mission of the testing facility. Besides having a great time thrashing cars/tires in the name of research, a regiment of eight basic tests are regularly conducted to evaluate experimental new Michelin (including BFGoodrich and Uniroyal) tires including: acceleration, braking, steering response, traction break-away level, recovery effectiveness, water depth sensitivity, steady state balance, and lift-throttle response. According to Mac, in addition to outright tire torturing tests, one of the most important testing aspects is the wet and dry lateral-adherence test on both rough asphalt and smooth concrete half-mile circles. This test basically measures the impact of the tread pattern and/or the rubber compound effectiveness relating to adverse weather under severe driving conditions. So what does all this mumbo-jumbo wordiness mean? It means serious sideways-sliding "testing" in our big H2.
Mad Mac started off on the almost-flooded wet concrete oval by giving us a 62-mph, wildly-sideways ride in a stock Mustang GT to illustrate the yikes-factor experienced with rear-wheel drive at speed. Later, we moved to the H2 with its radically increased weight and all-wheel-drive system. Interestingly, the big H2 delivered a nearly identical speed and was much easier to drive at the extreme limits; basically, the H2 would oversteer only if you did an overly aggressive yank of the steering wheel. "Ya' know, the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO tires on this H2 were specifically built for it by us and were tested right here a few years ago," Mac proudly said.
As the early morning hours of the next day began ticking by, Mac suggested we head out of the backwoods of South Carolina before the locals picked up our scent and initiated a hunt. We said farewell to Michelin's supremely impressive test facility, and began another one of our now famous early morning sprints to the next big town with hotel accommodations. We pulled into the Ramada Inn in Columbia, South Carolina, at 2:32 am and with barely enough energy to climb to our second level room, opened the door, plugged in our stash of battery chargers, and passed out.
112 0209 Extreme Road Test 2003 Hummer H2 Leg 2 Day 7 01g+2003 Hummer H2+open Doors Side View
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112 0209 Extreme Road Test 2003 Hummer H2 Leg 2 Day 7 07g+2003 Hummer H2+front Right View
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112 0209 Extreme Road Test 2003 Hummer H2 Leg 2 Day 7 09g+2003 Hummer H2 Pioneer Xm+view
112 0209 Extreme Road Test 2003 Hummer H2 Leg 2 Day 7 10g+2003 Hummer H2+front Side View

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112 0209 Extreme Road Test 2003 Hummer H2 Leg 2 Day 7 15g+2003 Hummer H2+side View

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