Martin finds his waypoint and gets coordinates for our next stop
Scratching of the head is usually not a good sign
Some teams left the designated path for the GPS course...
and got a little extra training in recovery
After another short classroom discussion about
what supplies and tools to carry off-road and general preparedness,
we headed out for some more trailing. This second time out on
the trails was a lot of fun. The instructors took us to some of
the more difficult areas of the woods and being that I was the
only driver with extensive off-road experience, I got to the lead
the pack and test the waters, so to speak, on some of the more
rutted out and muddy areas. This proved to be great fun and there
couldn't have been a better way for me to really test and evaluate
We went through
some pretty serious stuff and did eventually get the H2 high-centered
over an under-water log. So there we were, stuck on the log
without a single wheel contacting the ground below. We had
found the limit of the H2's break-over angle (I still think I was set up by the trainers). But what better
way to let the students learn how to use a winch, right? So
out came the gloves and each of the students got a chance
to learn some hands-on winching skills. Once again, lucky
for me, I got to stay in the dry, clean comfort of the truck.
This area turned out to be great fun for everyone,
as I got to rev up the H2 and send the mud flying everywhere.
Some of the people had never seen a "rooster tail" before
and were downright hysterical as it rained down mud.
Once out of the stuck, though, it wasn't long
before we got hung up in the mud again. This time, though, I did
have wheel contact and I got to test out the various 4WD settings
on the H2. I had found a situation where I could test out the
TC3 button on the H2. The Traction Control 3 system uses electronic
brake control to stop wheels that are spinning but not getting
any traction. The system only functions, though, at higher RPMs.
Being that I was stuck in the slime, TC3 was perfect for this
setting. I mashed the pedal to the floor and sawed the steering
wheel, as the H2's brakes, rear E-Locker, and transfer case all
worked in harmony to pull my truck out of the mud pit. Once again,
everyone laughed and screamed as my truck spewed mud everywhere.
wound around the woods for a good bit longer. Others got stuck
and got to test out the lockers and suspension on their H2's
and also honed their recovery skills some more. Eventually,
though, our time had run out and we all reluctantly headed
back for lunch.
We all sat
down under a covered pavilion and to our surprise, were
served a gourmet meal - complete with five-star service. Had
the trails not been so nasty from all of the rain, we were
told, the lunch would have been served on the trails. Hummer
was just full of surprises at every turn.
After lunch we headed out to a mini Rubicon. The
Hummer gang had constructed a boulder field, dubbed "Little
Sluice" out in the middle of the obstacle course where drivers
could go rockcrawling and learn things like tire placement and
spotting. Hey...now we're talking!
wide, the participants took to the rocks and learned how to
spot each other through the obstacles. What better way to
learn how to pound rocks than with someone else's truck, right?
Each driver went over the rocks one at a time. Bam! Clank!
Scrrrrrrape! They cringed at these new noises but when they
discovered that their trucks were just fine at the end they
were happy to know that they had bought some pretty stout
and capable trucks.
We then headed over to "Guardrail,"
which was a man-made version of the famous obstacle found at Tellico.
OK, well it wasn't exactly like the real Guardrail, but it was
close and it was very challenging! There was pretty much one line
up the hill and it was up to each driver to find it. Some drivers
took right to it while others decided that speed, rather than
finesse, was the way to go. Eventually, though, we all made it
up the hill and there were happy faces everywhere.
event of the academy was the Hummer Olympics. This was great
fun. Each team of two had to do various tasks, including finding
a waypoint with their GPS, balancing an H2 on a giant see-saw,
driving backward through obstacles, guiding the H2 through
tightly-spaced cones without knocking off eggs, and finally
a blindfolded obstacle course. Our very competitive group
really shined during this event. In fact, some teams were
downright devious. One team even told us their time to beat
on one obstacle. In our haste to beat it, we hit several cones,
costing us points. When we got to the end, we learned that
their time was grossly exaggerated and that theirs was nowhere
near what they had told us! Rats!
obstacle course was tons of fun. The driver was blindfolded,
obviously, and their team-mate had to guide them through the
course with verbal commands. Once again, eggs were placed
atop the cones. Break and egg - lose points. It turned out
that this was a great test of human nature because almost
every spotter would use hand signals, despite the fact that
the drivers could not see them. It was just one more way to
prove that communication is key to safe and successful four-wheeling,
and this is exactly the point that the Hummer gang was trying
to get across.
Once we were
all finished, we were dragged back into the van and taken
out to dinner at Tippecanoe
Place, which was the home of the Studebaker family.
The gorgeous mansion was completed in 1889 at a total cost
of $250,000 and has four main levels totaling 40 rooms and
20 fireplaces. Needless to say, we all indulged ourselves
in great food, great wine and great company. After dinner,
we were all presented with framed certificates showing our
passing the courses and we were all given individual gag
awards for our personal achievements. For my entertaining
antics in the mud, I received the "High
Gear Award," which has now found a nice home in my office.
The gang poses for photo after a week of great fun
not only offer Hummer owners the chance to learn the basics
of four-wheeling, but offer a wonderful way to get to know
their vehicles better and make new friends. For me, it was
a glimpse into the world of the H2 owner and a chance to really
play hard in someone else's H2. Attendees came from very different
backgrounds - a bolt distributor, a high-tech executive, a
police uniform manufacturer, a wine and beer importer, and
those crazy Cooper brothers...CIA? INS?
But even more
than just getting to know some H2 owners and what makes them tick,
I got to really get my feet wet in the H2 itself. I learned its
strong points and its weak points. I learned what it could and
could not do in just about every imaginable off-road environment.
But most importantly, I had the chance to really try to make the
H2 look silly - and I failed. The H2 really is a very capable
vehicle - especially in the hands of an experienced driver - and the folks in South Bend are ready and waiting to prove
it to you - well, once you buy yourself an H2, that is.
more information or to sign-up call:
Contact Tim Bonadies at 574-258-6622
Hummer Driving Academy
(574) 258-6622 or (866) 831-9547
408 South Byrkit Street
Mishawaka, IN 46544