Extreme Road Test - 2003 Hummer H2: Leg 2, Day 8

Columbia, South Carolina to Key West, Florida

John Kiewicz
Nov 12, 2002
Photographers: John Kiewicz, Brian Vance
After five hours and 45 minutes of log-like sleep, we were actually feeling relatively good, but still not great. Upon placing our derrieres on the H2's cushy front seats we were, for the first time of the entire trip, thinking, "What the heck did we get ourselves into."
As we entered Georgia and were cruising south on highway 95 with the sole intent of just getting to Florida (the final state in our long Hummer H2 Extreme Test journey), we couldn't help but notice the urgent driving nature of other freeway folk. Despite humming along at 80 mph, we were regularly getting passed as if we were dragging a 12-pack of anchors. Good thing we stuck to our 80-mph-max limit, however, as our radar detector squawked loudly with increasing frequency to inform us that we were being closely watched.
With our eyelids sagging and our stomachs grumbling (we skipped breakfast in the interest of racking up miles) we needed a serious mental/physical energy boost, so it was again time to claw into our Coleman ice chest for a treat. Pulled from the pool of frigid, once-ice-cubes water was test specimen number 13 -- a Dracula Supernatural Energy Drink. In an attempt to counter our frequent beyond-tired status, the H2 had (for the last 5000 or so miles) been serving as a rolling clinical test chamber for those wickedly expensive little power-up energy drinks. Besides being super-saturated with sugar and chemicals consisting of 18-plus consonant words, we were giddily intrigued by Dracula's claim of, "Contains the maximum caffeine allowed by law." After two cans of the magical brew, we were flying high and making a power push for the Florida state border. For the record, we tested scads of power-up drinks including, but not limited to: Red Bull, SoBe Adrenaline Rush, Mountain Dew's Amp Energy Drink, Hansen's Energy, along with traditional coffee, Gatorade with lots-o-electrolytes, and even Starbucks' new Double-Shot Espresso. The test was fun (albeit highly unscientific), and near the end of our trip we had determined our top three favorites to be Amp, Dracula, and SoBe. For the record, our test also showed that simultaneously ingesting beef jerky, a Snickers "The Big One," chile picante Corn Nuts, and an energy drink yields a stomach with a thrust force on par with that of one of those solid-fuel rocket boosters strapped on the Space Shuttle.
As we crossed the Florida state line, ominous-looking cumulus clouds closed in on us and threatened to end our great H2 adventure on a soggy note. Refusing to let our spirits be dampened, we set our sights on the racing holy land of the South -- Daytona International Speedway. We pulled our big 4x4 into the Speedway parking lot wondering whether we should bow in reverence or just shout out a "gall-lee." Upon exit of the H2 we were perplexed by the sound emanating through the grandstands -- the high-pitched roar of honest-to-goodness Winston Cup cars lapping the track. Clearly there was no race that day, thus what could the hot laps be all about?
Passing through the Daytona USA front doors, we were instantly enlightened that the sole intent of the Speedway was all about raking in good ol' greenbacks. As far as the eye could see were rides, games, souvenirs, photo booths, memorabilia stands, and (as Stick-Boy noted) "smokin-hot chicks at the NASCAR Experience." We skipped the touristy bus ride around the race facility in favor of walking out to (and planting our rears in) the mega-huge grandstands that encircle the 2.5-mile-long tri-oval. We sat in a zombie-like trance as a half dozen Cup cars from the Richard Petty Driving Experience blazed around the 31-degree high banks with Racing Experience students getting the thrill-ride of their lives. Kiwi considered seriously bruising his Visa card to enjoy a few "ride along" hot laps, but Stick-Boy tapped his watch indicating that we were behind schedule yet again.
The long slog down I-95 continued and as we neared Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center we knew we'd better not stop or we'd still be rubbernecking the out-of-this-world artifacts well past dark. Realistically, such a great attraction would be an all-day venture in and of itself. However, as we passed Cocoa Beach we were hoping for a Barbara Eden sighting, as that's where Jeannie used to park her bottle at Major Nelson's abode.
Our we-missed-Cape-Canaveral sadness was reduced as we drove south on I-95 and spotted a chap towing an intrigueing, yet positively scary looking swamp-skimming airboat fortified with an aluminum-headed 502-cube big-block Chevy mated to a huge four-blade prop constructed of carbon fiber (can you say "ca-ching!"). After an at-speed exchange of facts with the boat owner (via yelling out our windows while driving) we learned that the engine was pumping out a dyno-proven 650 hp, which made us shutter to think what a ride in the aluminum-turkey-pan-looking boat would be like. When asked if he liked our H2, the boat owner replied, "I ordered one last week."
South of Titusville the Florida Highway Patrol were running a well orchestrated "you're busted" speed trap that surely was raking in scads of money for the state. Our Escort Passport 8500 saved us eight times in one hour alone, thus more than paying for itself in a mere 70 miles. At mile 10,555.5 the fuse blew again on our Bose nine-speaker stereo and, consequently, we had no more road tunes. A pit stop at the next rest area had Kiwi ripping off the lid to the engine-bay-mounted fuse box in an attempt to remedy the situation. Just as had occurred before in British Columbia, mysteriously the stereo fuse had not blown but just needed to be removed and reinstalled to reset the system. Hmm, interesting. (GM, you guys might want to check into this.)
As we entered Fort Lauderdale, a serious five-car, one-tanker-truck fracas occurred that brought six lanes of southbound traffic to a 3-mph crawl. Interestingly, impatient Floridians thought it no big deal to simply execute a U-turn on the freeway and drive right down the freeway onramp to flee the scene. Nothing illegal about that, right?
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.
2003 Hummer H2 front Side View
112 0209 H2 Leg2d8 02 G

112 0209 H2 Leg2d8 03 G
2003 Hummer H2 fuse Box Top View

112 0209 H2 Leg2d8 05 G
112 0209 H2 Leg2d8 06 G

112 0209 H2 Leg2d8 07 G
112 0209 H2 Leg2d8 08 G

2003 Hummer H2 front Side View
2003 Hummer H2 side View

2003 Hummer H2 driver Side Interior View
2003 Hummer H2 front Side View

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