Nine days, nine states, two Four Wheeler staff guys, one H2.
Beginning Friday, June 10, Four Wheeler Tech Editor Sean P. Holman and Senior Editor Ken Brubaker will hop into a Hummer H2 SUT and embark on a California-to-Illinois adventure that will span nine states. Their H2our De Force will find them exploring an off-highway trail in each state daily. We're talking cool places like Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. For them, camping every night is mandatory but eating the bark from trees is optional.
The even bigger news is that they will be uploading images and text daily to fourwheeler.com so you can track their progress and read about their journey as it happens. Expected to be totally riveting, the daily updates will begin Saturday, June 11, after they depart Hollister, California and run daily through Sunday, June 19, when they arrive in Illinois. This web coverage on fourwheeler.com is a precursor to a three-part H2our De Force series in Four Wheeler Magazine, which begins in the November issue.
Preparations for the H2our De Force have already begun. We've consulted with the camping experts at Coleman, and they've sent us some hot new camping gear; the GPS gurus at Garmin have hooked us up with some of their latest and greatest mapping software and equipment; and HUMMER has pimped our H2 with genuine Hummer accessories. Read on to get the lowdown on the official H2our De Force gear, and don't forget to log on to fourwheeler.com beginning Saturday, June 11.
Granola bars don't cut it. Coleman hooked Holman and Brubaker up with their new-for-'05 2-burner propane Perfectflow Instastart stove so they can have hot meals at the campsite. This baby offers consistent cooking performance even in cold weather, high altitudes and when fuel is low; two 22,000 BTU high performance adjustable burners; matchless lighting; heavy-duty nickel chrome grate that easily removes for cleaning; and a Windblock System that shields burners for maximum heat. Speaking of hot stuff, they'll be able to have their morning java, or hot chocolate, or soup, thanks to the Coleman Camping Drip Coffeemaker. This unit simply pulls heat from the camp stove to heat up the liquid. It has an easy-fill reservoir, removable swing-out filter basket, easy-pour 10-cup decanter and a patented steel base that fits on two- or three-burner stoves. Coleman also provided a pair of their Cooking Station tables so they can prepare food like the Iron Chef. These handy folding tables provide separate cooking and food prep surfaces; an additional rack shelf for underneath storage; and a reinforced hardboard table.
Stumbling around in the dark doesn't cut it either. Fortunately, the boys have a pair of Coleman's Floating 4D Spotlights (they hope to not have to test the floating feature) and two sets of Graphite Flashlight Combo's. The floating 4D spotlight not only floats, but also is weather resistant and has a Krypton bulb for long-lasting light. The Graphite Flashlight Combo features 2 AA and 2 D Graphite flashlights, and they boast a tough graphite composite housing that can survive almost any condition and a patented shock-absorbing bulb and battery suspension system. They're also adjustable from spot-to-flood beam.
A dry camp is a happy camp, and the new-for-'05 five-sided Coleman Geosport Shade will protect our guys from rain or snow while they're cooking or huddling together scared of bears. It sets up in minutes and stands 95 inches tall. It features a pocket organizer, ceiling vents to reduce heat buildup or wind lift, a rainfly and guy lines and stakes. Also part of our camp is Coleman's new-for-'05 58-quart Xtreme cooler. This bad boy can hold 75 cans plus ice and it can keep ice intact for up to 6 days at 90 degrees F. It features 2-inch deep cup holders; two-way handles and a channel drain for no-tip draining.
One of the guys will be sleeping in a Coleman 10x8 Sundome tent. This tent sets up in minutes, sleeps four, and has a center height of 70 inches, a mesh vent for increased ventilation and a rainfly for when the weather goes south.
The other tent they're packing along is Coleman's new-for-'05 Crestline four-person tent. This tent sets up in minutes, features a waterproof floor, leak-free and protected seams, weather-resistant fabric, rainfly and a strong frame design. Also worth noting is the trick Variflo adjustable venting system, the Cool-Air port and the power cord port. Oh, and genuine Coleman stakes will ensure that their tents will stay planted no matter what the weather.
At night, the boys will scoff at RV's with their yellowy exterior lights because they'll be lighting camp with Coleman's brightest propane lantern, the Northstar InstaStart. This monster offers matchless lighting with easy-to-use InstaStart ignition, easy-to-install string-less Insta-Clip tub mantle and a metal guard that helps protect the globe. The Northstar InstaStart also comes with its own case to make transporting it easy and worry-free.
One of our adventurers will be sacking out in Coleman's new-for-`05 Granite sleeping bag. This king size bag has ComfortSmart technology (this means it's guaranteed to keep you comfortable), a Comfort Cuff (surrounds your face with softness) and Thermlock (reduces heat loss through the zipper, keeping you warmer). It measures 39x81 inches, has 5 lbs. of Hollofil 808 fill and a cotton flannel liner. The Granite bag is designed to keep the user warm down to 20 degrees F. Our other adventurer will saw logs in the new-for-'05 Colossal sleeping bag. This new bags stats mirror the Granite's stats, except it's designed to keep the user warm down to 30 degrees F. But that's not all. The guys will have happy backs thanks to a pair of ComfortSmart Quickbed twin size airbeds. They have `em inflated fast too, thanks to the a battery-operated Deluxe Quickpump. Speaking of air, they'll also be packing along the 12-volt Inflate-all Quickpump system. This cool compressor can inflate almost anything from airbeds to car tires.
This new GPS 10 Deluxe kit from Garmin will ensure that our Adventurer Boys don't turn into Lost Boys. This trick system includes nRoute navigation software, which is loaded into their laptop computer (it can also be loaded into a pocket PC). This software includes detailed maps and allows the user to automatically calculate a route as well as look up addresses, attractions and services, among other things. This software works in conjunction with the GPS 10, a waterproof GPS receiver that receives satellite signals and wirelessly transmits them to our guys laptop (using Bluetooth wireless technology) to give them navigation capabilities. Garmin also hooked them up with their MapSource topographical maps, which in addition to highways and roads show terrain contour, topo elevations, summits, and hiking and snowmobile trails. Now they have no excuse to claim to be lost.
June 10, 2005 - Day One: Hollister, CA to North Bend (Oregon Dunes), OR
Gas Stops: 3
Rest Stops: 3
Coke Consumed: 3
Dr. Pepper Consumed: 4
Songs on iPod: 1552
Times Brubaker was injured: 1
Tech Editor Sean P. Holman:
Whew! It sure has been a long and exciting week in Hollister, CA where we hosted the 13th annual Four Wheeler Magazine Top Truck Challenge. 60 vehicles appeared in the magazine and you guys voted in the 10 best. The competition was fierce, the events even fiercer, and we think you'll agree it was well worth it when you see this year's video.
I arrived in Hollister last Sunday, June 5th and we finally ended competition this morning, June 10th. Immediately after the awards ceremony Ken and I took off in our packed-to-the-gills long term HUMMER H2 SUT and headed north. One note to Hummer - we need tie downs in the bed! Otherwise our H2 has been a great road warrior, soaking up the miles with a comfortable and smooth ride, which was no doubt improved with the addition of Hummer's Genuine Accessory Rod Hall/Edelbrock IAS reservoir shocks. We can't wait to get some wheeling under our belts and see how this upgrade performs in the dirt.
With TTC behind us, it was nice to relax on the open road and leave the stress of coordinating and shooting every aspect of the competition behind us. While the rest of the staff will be returning home today (and to the office Monday - Ha! Ha!), Ken and I will be crossing the Northwest U.S. for the next 8 days, both to bring the Hummer H2 SUT to the Midwest Bureau in Chicago and to get out of the office for some much needed adventure, which will include camping and wheeling everyday.
So far the trip has been relatively smooth, well for me anyway. Our only major miscue was when Ken proceeded to walk out with an unpaid Coke (why you would steal a Coke when there is a perfectly good Dr. Pepper right next to it is beyond me) from a Chevron station while I was filling up the Hummer. The alert clerk walked out to confront the now thieving Brubaker and reminded him that a free Coke is not offered with every full tank of gas purchased. I talked the cashier down and explained that Ken was most likely out of his mind from earlier in the day when he walked right in to the open door of the H2, putting a gash in his forehead, and hence causing the first official injury of the H2our de Force. Don't worry boss, we patched him up pretty good.
A special thanks goes out to Joel and Karen at the front desk of the Oregon Dunes KOA in North Bend, OR, who took special care of us, despite our reputations preceeding us.
And hey, if you are following our progress and happen to see us out on the road, shoot us a friendly wave, or hit us up when were taking a break and ask for some cool Four Wheeler stickers. With almost 10 hours of driving behind us, its time to hit the sack - tomorrow its off to Yakima, Washington. Until then, happy wheeling!
Senior Editor Ken Brubaker:
I have four observations so far:
1. Clunking one's head on the sharp edge of a rear Hummer H2 SUT door is not only an act of ignorance it's also painful. On the upside, it gives you a good excuse when you walk out of a Chevron station in northern California with a Coke you forgot to pay for. Thank goodness Holman was a Criminal Justice major.
2. It is possible to fit nine days worth of food and clothing as well as camping gear for two into a Hummer H2 SUT. Oh, and still leaves room for two trash bags full of scary poison oak-laden dirty clothes from Top Truck Challenge.
3. California is a long state. At 8 p.m. we were wondering if we were ever going to get to our campground near the Oregon Dunes ORV area. Fortunately, our new Coleman tents and air mattresses set up quickly- even in the dark.
4. Tech Editor Holman is infatuated with how bugs splatter on the flat windshield of the H2. It doesn't matter whether they're California bugs or Oregon bugs, he's like a kid in a candy store.
June 11, 2005 - Day Two: North Bend (Oregon Dunes), OR to Yakima, WA
Gas Stops: 2
Rest Stops: 2
Number of Driver Swaps: 3
Number of Cokes Stolen: 0
Songs on XM radio: Countless
Tech Editor Sean P. Holman:
Believe it or not, my best night's sleep in the last week came on a sleeping bag and air mattress in a tent near the sand dunes of North Bend, Oregon. After publishing our first update to www.fourwheeler.com at 2 a.m., we finally had enough of being coherent for one day and headed back to camp. With my iPod pumping some gentle tunes through my ears, I fell right to sleep and don't remember really moving until about 8 a.m. when some unruly dogs in a neighboring camp decided to play the part of roosters and declare the morning had arrived. I eventually accepted morning, but only after a refreshing shower was out of the way.
As I reluctantly emerged from my Coleman hideout, I found Ken, the quintessential morning person, enjoying a low-octane Coke C2 while watching all the ATVers riding off to the dunes. Ken is such a morning person that for the past couple of mornings I have heard him at the crack of dawn greeting Bluebirds with song. I on the other hand am the embodiment of a night person and find myself poking the Senior Editor with sharp objects just to get responses after 9 p.m. After 10 p.m., sharp objects no longer garner any reaction and the little voice in Ken's head is officially checked out for the day.
With the dunes beckoning our own H2 for play, Ken and I started working on putting the packing puzzle back together, piece-by-piece. Amazing to both of us, everything seemed to fit in the H2 easier this morning, all while taking up less space. In the mean time, Fritz Gross, owner of the Oregon Dunes KOA introduced himself and offered us a KOA flag for the dunes and a delicious pancake breakfast on the house. Being the often-hungry magazine editors that we are, we jumped at the invitation before heading out to the sand.
After both of our tanks were topped off we were finally on our way to drop our treads on the first off-pavement portion of the trip. A short trail leads straight from the KOA out to the dunes, which are reminiscent of the Outer Banks in North Carolina, with a huge expanse of wind-blown sands to explore. Even on the dunes, our H2 drew waves and grins and the Hummer Accessory reservoir shocks proved their weight in gold by taming the oscillations of our heavy beast through the nearly two miles of whoops laden trail.
Once in view of the ocean, Ken commented how the Oregon ocean water looks just like the California ocean water. After explaining to our normally landlocked Midwest Bureau chief that this was the mighty Pacific and that it actually stretches from somewhere around Alaska to the tip South America, and that those white-capped thingys were waves, Ken thought it would be a good idea to park the Hummer amid the crashing tide for a dramatic photo op. Dramatic indeed. Even more dramatic was when the tide decided to make up some ground on the beach during our little photo shoot and the Hummer's sidewalls started disappearing in to the sand. With great calmness, Ken lowered down the long lens of his Cannon 10D and said, "Hey, you might want to move that."
Out on the road it was about 8 hours until our next destination of Yakima, WA was reached. North on through Eugene, Oregon and Portland, we trudge through heavy rains and sporadic traffic before the clouds broke just before the Washington border. Finally, we can pump our own gas again. Oregon is a friendly, but somewhat wacky state.
After making camp, we took an impromptu tour of Yakima looking for some high-speed internet, so that we could fix the Day 1 report, which was littered with the misspellings and grammatical errors one expects from doing work at 2 a.m. Nestled inside of a Borders bookstore, Seattle's Best coffeehouse had the hi-speed Wi-Fi connection we were looking for. We finally added photos of yesterday's adventure, so be sure to check those out.
It is about midnight, and I am sitting on a picnic table in our campsite, finishing this up so we can upload it tomorrow morning before we wheel near Mount Rainier. Hopefully the technical difficulties are behind us. As long as we can find reliable internet, or even a seemingly antique phone jack, along the way we'll try to add our updates on a daily basis. Until then, keep a look out for us on the highway or in your town, as we'll be headed to Coeur d' Alene, Idaho tomorrow. Happy Wheeling!
Senior Editor Ken Brubaker:
Yesterday was the day that wouldn't end. It began in Hollister, California, at 6 a.m. and ended at 2 a.m. when we crawled (literally) into our Coleman sleeping bags at the Oregon Dunes KOA Campground in North Bend, Oregon. Tech Editor Holman looked like a zombie. I looked like a zombie with a bandage on its forehead.
With that said, we were trippin' when the owner of the campground, Fritz Gross, showed up at our humble campsite first thing Saturday morning. We figured he came over to kick us out for hogging the modem connection in the laundry room until 2 a.m., but he was simply there to welcome H2our De Force to the Oregon Dunes. He graciously hooked us up with a hot breakfast (the campground cooks up a storm on the weekends) and he provided us with a genuine Oregon Dunes KOA flag so we could explore the dunes in our H2 (thanks Fritz, you da man!).
If you've never been to the Oregon Dunes ORV area, go now. Seriously, drop everything and go, because it's an off-highway dream come true. It's huge, ridiculously scenic, and even on a summer Saturday it wasn't that busy. We explored the dunes for quite some time and never saw another truck!
Tomorrow we hit a trail north of Yakima that's supposed to offer spectacular views of Mt. Ranier. We'll be in touch.
1. It's amazing how the human body can function on virtually no sleep when it's andrenalized or trippin' on sugar.
2. It's amazing how much food Holman eats. He says that he loves to eat when he travels. I've never seen a guy eat so much and stay so skinny. Can't wait to see what's on the menu for tomorrow.
3. It's amazing how many Four Wheeler readers we've met in the weirdest places. We just hung out with Yakima resident Ryan Clifton, owner of a '79 GMC 4x4 pickup, at the Seattle's Best coffee house in Yakima.
June 12, 2005 - Day Three: Yakima, WA to Coeur d' Alene, Idaho
Gas Stops: 1
Rest Stops: 2
Crappy Breakfasts Served: 2
Number of On-Road Naps: 2
Miles of Dirt Today: 40
MLB Games Heard on XM: 3 (Go Angels!)
Tech Editor Sean P. Holman:
When you are on the road for work, your lifeline to your job is an internet connection, and you'll do anything just to hook up and check your e-mail. Heck, we even put up with a 26.4 kbps modem connection to upload our Day 2 blog this morning. Finally after an hour and a half and a missed KOA pancake breakfast we were on our way to the little town of Natches, WA where we could pick up a trail to bypass the I-90/I-82 interchange and drop down in to the little town of Ellensburg.
A filling breakfast of biscuits and gravy, topped with eggs, greasy hash browns and bacon had us feeling pretty good about the day. Then, we were presented with the check, only to be told after the fact that the credit card machine was no longer accepting plastic. After digging deep for singles and pennies, we had a few cents left over for a tip. Ken and I then headed to the local Chevron, where we filled up our blue beast, stocked up on our obligatory Dr. Pepper and Coke (actually paid for) morning serum and headed out of town.
With a few minutes of Ken's fiddling, the Garmin GPS system was up and running and it pointed out several routes that we could take over the pass. After scanning the maps, a decision was made to take Black Canyon, which unbeknownst to us at the time had been shut down by the state. Every alternate spur we took had the same ending - closed. Feeling somewhat disheartened that our wheeling plan for the day may have been curtailed, we backtracked and headed back to the road. Soon, the GPS software was indicating a huge trail system just east of the road. With adventure strong in the air and a good set of maps on a laptop, we left the hard packed and played around in the mountainous terrain to the south of the Wenatchee National Forrest. After some photos and exploration we dropped down in to the town of Ellesburg where we caught I-90 east to Coeur d' Alene, ID.
The Hummer H2 certainly has it detractors out there, but we still keep getting the looks and everyone we've met here in the Northwest seems to be enamored with the passing of our Stealth Gray H2, except for the gas station attendants who enjoy when we don't pass them. We have watched as kids plant their little faces against windows, saw an old man stop dead in his tracks and have caught lots of stares from strangers. There have been many questions from fellow travelers who want to see the H2 up close and personal. Out on the highway, the H2 is one smooth machine, effortlessly and comfortably eating up the ribbons of asphalt, mile after mile. Out on the trail, the 35s and locker will get you over anything reasonable, while rock rails protect the body front pesky boulders. One thing that we can say about the H2, is that while many new vehicles we test fail to incite passion, Hummer has managed to keep character in the H2. It's a vehicle that garnered many mixed feelings on its introduction, even from some on the Four Wheeler staff, but has won over every one of us who have spent any amount of time with it. It may not be perfect, but maybe that's why we enjoy our H2's personality so much. Ken and I think it is the perfect vehicle for this adventure.
Today has been our easiest day of traveling so far. We started late this morning, and ended up at the Coeur d' Alene KOA at 6 p.m. right on the nose, giving us plenty of time to each do a load of laundry (remember, we've been gone since the beginning of TTC), write our blog entries, download photos, and hopefully leave for dinner, all before sunset here. After we post today's entry, it will hopefully be an early night to bed, as we are planning some snow wheeling early tomorrow before heading off to Glacier National Park. So if you don't hear from us for a couple of days, we were probably eaten by giant hungry bears, deciding to take an extended leave of absence from our jobs, or maybe we have decided to keep the H2 and run. More likely though, we might find ourselves without an internet connection. Until the next blog, happy wheeling! And don't forget to say hi if you see us out exploring in your neck of the woods.
Senior Editor Ken Brubaker:
Today we met another Four Wheeler reader! He works at the Coeur d' Alene, Idaho KOA Campground and his name is Race Bingman. This transplanted Alaskan drives a white '99 F-150. Hey Race, thanks to you and the KOA crew for the laundry soap! You have no idea how grateful we are.
Speaking of laundry, we found that our wet Top Truck Challenge clothes were beginning to congeal. The wet Tank Trap clothes that were in the bag for three days were the worst. You guys that competed in TTC know what we're talking about (by the way, we hope all of the TTC competitors made it home safely). Needless to say, our clothes were generating some very unique odors. Thank goodness we could throw them in the cargo area of the H2 SUT. As this is written we've commandeered almost every washing machine at the campground to remedy this problem.
After finding our intended trail closed today, we rallied and found a neat little trail that wound us through the Washington backcountry, past an observatory, and eventually to Ellensburg, Washington. After that, we had to make-up some serious miles due to a late start (created by a slow internet connection which forced us to linger at the Yakima KOA late into the morning) and the hassle of our trail being closed.
Both Holman and I are stoked about tomorrow's trail. It's high up in the Idaho mountains and will hopefully give us the opportunity to do a bit of snow `wheelin. We're being led by Mark Tihonovich of the North Idaho Trailblazers. Talk to you tomorrow.
1.We've driven 1,391 miles so far, and we're only on day three of H2our De Force.
2.The Hummer H2 SUT attracts an unbelievable amount of attention. I'm not sure we could attract more attention if we peeled down to our skivvies and rode zebras for the rest of the trip.
3.Our camp setup times are improving. Early times were dismal, hovering around 45 minutes, during which mass chaos ensued. Tonight we set a record and had our tents up in 12 minutes. Tomorrow night at Glacier National Park we're shooting for 10 minutes- if the bears don't get us.
June 13, 2005 - Day Four: Coeur d' Alene, Idaho to Glacier National Park
Gas Stops: 1
Rest Stops: 1
North Idaho Trailblazer Hats Acquired: 2
Times Sean Stuck H2 In Deep Snow: 10
Times Ken Laughed at Sean Who Stuck H2: Countless
Times We Sang Kumbaya: 0
Tech Editor Sean P. Holman:
So the giant hungry bears haven't gotten us...yet (Ken says they don't exist in these parts, but I am still keeping myself busy by scanning the forest for Monkeys!). But, if we keep averaging 5 hours of sleep or less a night, we might find a mutiny on the S.S. H2. Last night, we drove around Coeur d' Alene, ID looking for Wi-Fi hotspots, thinking that we would be in and out within an hour. One hour turned to several as the connection while sitting outside a closed FedEx Kinko's wavered and information on our upload was lost. We just wish the local Starbucks would have stayed open one more hour... figures, being Sunday and all. As the clock swung past 11, all of our hopes and dreams of eating at Chili's faded. When we were finally finished at midnight, it was off to the local Wendy's to raid the dollar menu. By the time we finally ate, drove back to camp, and showered, it was close to 1am and we had to be up early to meet with Mark of the North Idaho Trailblazers for a morning snow run in some scenic logging and mining country.
Mark arrived at camp around 7 a.m. and after another filling KOA pancake breakfast, we gassed up the Hummer and headed out to Mullen, ID where we met up with Mark's friends, Brent and J.T. After several miles of climbing, we finally hit our first patch of icy snow. Figuring the H2 was probably going to get stuck, we decided to break-in our new Warn/Hummer XD9000i multi-mount winch by stretching the cable. With snow ranging from 6-inches of ice patches to a few feet of the white stuff, our winch came in very handy several times. Apparently, I better stick to dry wheeling because I wasn't doing our H2 any justice by repeatedly high-centering it in the deep mush. Ken, our own resident Yeti was loving my futile attempts at snow driving. I had fun early on, but after a while I was ready to wheel again on dry, solid earth. I gotta give it to you guys in the Northwest, you have got some skills, but I think I'll stick to my own backyard, the So Cal desert. Also, a special thanks goes out to the boys, Ken and I love our honorary membership in the club. You can see us sporting our North Idaho Trailblazers headgear in one of the adjoining photos...word.
A few observations of my own here... Ken wore pants today. Not that he doesn't normally wear pants, but the man likes his shorts (he also likes to tear sleeves and collars off Four Wheeler staff shirts. I think he is trying to show his off his bratwurst-like arms, but he looks more like Tom Hanks in Cast Away). Maybe it is because the man is always hot, you see I have this watery girley-man So Cal beach blood, and he has this stuff running through his veins that is more akin to molasses. I was surprised that the pants came out when the temperature dropped below 50 for the first time - no jacket though. He also zipped two Coleman sleeping bags together, and apparently can't get them apart now or roll this mass of fabric up. Since he likes his roomy bag, any spare room on the inside of the Hummer is now absorbed with this mega-blanket. Oh yeah, props to the State of Montana, damn you have nice and clean rest stop bathrooms, best ever. Seriously, if you are traveling in the Northern U.S. and feel the need to interview Shatner, do it Montana. One last thing, our internet guy Trevor Reed, back in the office, has been doing wonders to help us out, adding the links to the maps, and doing some behind the scene template work, so that we can be more efficient with our uploads. Thanks Dude!
Fortunately, we had a great day of wheeling, and made good time driving, so we are sitting at a local coffee house, just outside Glacier National Park, and using their Wi-Fi, just to get this update to you early today and give us time for a good meal and some much-needed rest. Looking at the map, the next few days seem somewhat bleak for internet connections, so we'll hop in and update when we can - as long as those bears don't get us first (Or the legendary Forest Monkeys, right Ken?)!
Senior Editor Ken Brubaker:
Today was a blast! We met up with Mark, JT and Brent from the North Idaho Trail Blazers and we all went `wheelin in the Idaho high country. They joined us with two Jeeps and of course we drove our H2 SUT. We wanted to explore a snowy trail and they obliged (or is that humored?) us by leading us to a trail covered in over three feet of snow. Our 35's were no match for the steep and deep white stuff and we got to try out our new Hummer accessory line Warn winch. A lot. As a bonus, thick clouds were even spitting snow.
After we explored the Idaho high country for a few hours we made a beeline for the Glacier National Park KOA near Kalispell, Montana. Tomorrow we're going to tour the park before we continue our eastward trek. Tomorrow's journey will take us deep into Montana's midsection. We're excited about this leg of H2our De Force because the area we will be traveling through will be very remote and we'll be far from "civilization." Because we're camping in a remote area Tuesday night we may not have access to the internet, thus there may be no update for Day 5.
1.California dude Holman hates cold weather. Morning lows only dipped to the upper 40's and he emerged from his tent wearing a potpourri of clothing and a sour look on his face. He looked like a gangsta' Frosty the Snowman.
2.We're averaging five hours of sleep a night, which makes for some very interesting in-car conversation. Okay, maybe not.
3.We sat outside of a Fed Ex/Kinko's in Coeur d' Alene from 10 p.m. to midnight last night so we could use their wireless internet to upload our web update. Amazingly, the CDA cops left us alone.
4. Coleman is one of our bestest buddies in the whole wide world. We're enamored with all the stuff they sent, especially the sleeping bags and air mattresses
June 14, 2005 - Day 5: Kalispell, MT to Williston, ND
Gas Stops: 3
Rest Stops: 4
Hygiene-deprived Locals: Thousands
Deer Avoided: 3
Critters Too Close To 35" BFG A/Ts: 2
Meals With French Fries: 1
Tech Editor Sean P. Holman:
Wow, a whole day has gone by with no new updates! Were you worried that we tossed eachother off a cliff (rest assured, as amazing as it sounds and after locking ourselves in an H2 for nearly 2500-miles, we are still the best of friends!), got eaten by grumpy Grizzly bears, attacked by poo-throwing Forest Monkeys? Go ahead, tell us you missed us, like you miss your cup of coffee in the morning, right? We know you are probably in need of your Ken and Sean fix, so here we are back up and blogging. Turns out that there aren't really many places in Montana that offer internet, let alone high speed, so we took the night off for some much needed rest in Kalispell, MT.
After a somewhat relaxing evening, we were reenergized for the day's big destination, Glacier National Park. This was probably the one part of the trip Ken and I were both looking forward to the most, and since neither of us had ever visited it before, and it did not disappoint. Higher elevations were still covered in several feet of snow, while summer runoff created raging rivers and majestic waterfalls. Everywhere we looked was amazing and green, well except for when it was amazing and white. Even more amazing was thinking about the explorers who first surveyed the park by foot. For $20 a car, you can't beat the day of history and beauty that Glacier National Park offers.
Our next goal for the day was reaching the McClelland Ferry before sunset. The ferry offers a free trip across the Missouri River for anyone who arrives in daylight hours between April and October. In order to get there, we had to go through such prime examples of towns most likely to end up in a horror flick as Cut Bank, MT. Okay, so maybe that wasn't exactly a representative slice of Middle America, but we were scared just the same, oh so very scared.
With several hours to go and the sun sinking in the sky we pinned the skinny pedal of the H2 and moved some serious air out of our way, and had enough insects collected on the windshield of our H2 to make an entomologist jealous. One thing you can count on is if a map says "free ferry" anywhere near the route Ken and I are taking on a cross-country trip, we are there, man. We are so there. And if you ever do decide to follow in our footsteps, along the 80 miles of country back roads through the cattle ranges and ranches that eventually lead to the ferry you will come across a lone bar in Cleveland, MT with a real honest to God hitching post out front. Sometimes you'll get lucky like us and see 'ol Buck and Chief tied up there. If you have a few minutes, stop in and say hi to the kind folks who run the bar, they seem to enjoy the company of visitors - at least they didn't protest when Ken and I walked in.
Continuing on the road to the ferry, its was clear to see what the locals had already confirmed, it is nearly impassable in rain, due to the slime-like mud that sits on top of the hard-packed surface. This mud turns to a fine powder when dry and makes for some exciting driving maneuvers. For quick travel along this road, rally car experience is recommended. On a side note, the H2 is no rally car, but it handles predictably when loaded up and recovers quite well from drifting sideways around corners. Just ask Ken.
After some exciting driving and a nicely muddied exterior, we reached the Missouri River and met a colorful character of woman by the name of Grace Sanford. She runs the ferry and if you want to get across, you better make friends quick. Petting her dog Scabby or interrupting CSI will not get your name added to the "A" list of river crossers, but sharing some good stories and asking about the old days will. By the way, she is a hoot to talk to and the dry humor she'll spit your way is alone, well worth the treacherous drive to the ferry crossing.
It was only after crossing the Mighty Missouri that we realized what a huge state Montana is. I mean really huge, and the further east you go, the less there is. Don't get me wrong, the scenery is spectacular and after spending a day driving the width of it, I now know why they call it Big Sky Country. The problem is that when you are trying to find places to park yourself for the night for uploads, or outrun a huge storm, your best option is to keep driving - or else tempt the wrath of some rancher's double-barrel in front of his double-wide. So keep driving we did, well in to the wee hours of the morning, which placed us as participants in the dangerous game of Deer Slaloming. After a few close calls we pushed back the shadows of the night a little further with our Hummer Genuine Accessory roof-mounted lights and were able to pick out those darting little ba$t@rd$ far before they had a chance to ruin this adventure. We finally pulled in to Williston, ND at 4 a.m. and caught some Zs until mid morning when it was time to meet up with the local Cliffhangers four-wheel drive club.
Props go out to Hummer and its H2, which has performed flawlessly through everything we have thrown its way. The H2 is comfortable enough to get the two of us and our gear through this 1000-plus mile day and live to not only tell the tale, but want to hop back in it after a few hours of sleep and ask for more.
Senior Editor Ken Brubaker:
Glacier National Park was cool, but all the roads were blacktop. With that said, we beat feet out of there and headed east on Highway 2 to Chinook. Once in Chinook we dropped south on Highway 240 and then onto a crappy dirt road that would carry us 80 miles into absolute nothingness before it ended at the banks of the Missouri River and the two-car McClelland Ferry (get your atlas out, it's easy to find). I can honestly say that driving this rutted, closed-whenever-it-rains dirt road was one of the coolest things I've ever done. No cell service, no radio stations, no nothing. Just miles on miles of spectacular Montana scenery. If something happens to your rig out here, you're on your own, baby. Come to think of it, Holman could've disappeared out there and no one would have ever known what happened to him (Umm, Ken, I am the one uploading the stories, think I wouldn't see this one? Hope you sleep with one eye open buddy! --Sean).
Once at the ferry, the ferry operator (a 60-ish woman wearing a floral print dress and green clogs) shot out of the back door of her home like a bullet out of a rifle, hopped on an ATV and flew down to the bank of the river where we were waiting. She then proceeded to verbally ream Holman for petting her dog, followed quickly by a rash of complaints regarding the wandering free-range cattle. She then reamed both of us for intruding on her television watching. She softened up when it came time for us to go, however. She probably realized that we're probably the only people she'll see for a few days. (Uhh, Brubaker wrote that, haunt him, not me. --Sean)
1. We met another Four Wheeler reader! On top of Logan Pass in Glacier National Park we met Steve Lund from Council Bluffs, Iowa. He drives an '89 Suburban, and we're pretty sure he thought we were crazy!
2. All of the hundred of thousands of acres of land in Montana and the deer choose to congregate on Highway 87 between Lewistown and Williston, North Dakota
3. We're pretty sure the residents of tiny Winifred, Montana have never seen an H2 SUT.
4. We're pretty sure that there must be a serious shortage of dentists in Cut Bank, Montana.
5. Holman didn't bring up windshield bugs for almost a full day. This is a major achievement.
June 15, 2005 - Day Six: Williston, ND to Bismarck, ND
Gas Stops: 2
Rest Stops: 1
Cows Passed: Thousands
Locals Amusing Themselves With Term "Dirty Hummer": 12
Attempts At Speed Limiter: 2
Meals With Arby-Q sauce: 1
Tech Editor Sean P. Holman:
After yesterday's 1080-mile day and a brief stop for some sleep, Ken and I were raring to go hit some more trails and finish up a short leg today. We hooked up with some of the guys of the Cliffhangers four-wheel-drive club of Williston, ND. We met at the neighborhood Arby's and joined the three Jeeps and GM full-size for a few hours of wheeling, North Dakota style.
Right off the bat the group guided us through prairies and gullys of North Dakota's backcountry, in hopes of delivering our H2 to a hilltop overlook that once was employed by the Lewis and Clark expedition to survey across the Missouri River. Sounded great to us, and the wheeling, minus the gazillion or so man-eating mosquitoes we churned up in the brush, was exceptional. Crawling through the tightly-spaced groves of trees, ooey-gooey black mud, downed tree branches and logs, steep creek banks and waving grasslands, we had our work cut out for us, piloting the heavy H2 through some of the looser soil. Note to Hummer: We'd like a front locker, please. On some of the tougher obstacles, it took the low-hanging H2 a few tries to conquer, but we never called for the strap once (or looked to the winch for that matter), and yet again the H2 impressed everyone in its presence. While the 35s seem big in a dealership showroom, they looked downright civilian in this group and had us wishing for 37s, but the despite the difficult terrain, the H2 got us through everything we asked of it.
After thanking the group with some Four Wheeler schwag, we parted ways and headed back to the highway, which, would eventually bring us east to Bismarck, ND. Since we filled yesterday with a long day of driving, we were anxious to pitch camp early and decided to make up some time in the H2. It was while making up time, we discovered that the H2 is surprisingly stable at or around the speed limiter, if not a little noisy from all the air trying to get around it. Since we haven't cleared the state or the statute of limitations, that's all we will say for now...except that bug splatters at that speed are extreme! We also found out that when there is a gale force headwind and you exceed 85mph for 200 miles, you tend to limit you're your driving range some. We snickered as we passed yet another pesky Prius, only to find ourselves lapped while pitting.
As we neared our evening home of the Bismarck KOA, Ken was talking up a storm about how excited he was to finally cook on this trip. He must have mentioned home-cooked meals about 30 times during our travels, and as we discussed cuts of meat, my palette was preparing for the feast that awaited us. Upon our arrival to the KOA, we discovered that they offer Wi-Fi throughout the camp, so I ventured off to check my e-mail and prepare for tonight's double upload. On my return, dinner was served. Not quite the home cooked meal I had been longing for, but rather a camping staple of Dinty Moore beef stew, which actually does rate above hospital food when warm (and is especially good when washed down with an ice cold Dr. Pepper!). Just to make it interesting, I think I am going to remove the labels from every can and be surprised at what is for dinner tomorrow. When we arrive at Ken's farm in Illinois on Friday, I'll interview his wife and kids to determine if he can actually cook real food. If not, I guess there is always airline food on my way back to So Cal. Hmmm, Dinty Moore in a can is sounding better all the time.
Tomorrow we'll be heading off to wheel at the Spider Lake ORV area in Minnesota, so until then, good night (it's 1:30am our time) and happy wheeling!
Senior Editor Ken Brubaker:
We began our Wednesday by linking up with Williston, North Dakota 'wheeler Pat Helgeson and members of the Williston-based Cliffhangers 4x4 Club. They came out in force and showed us some North Dakota hospitality. They led us on a stunning private property trail that runs between the Missouri River and Williston. The only thing thicker than the mosquitoes was the stunning scenery. A great bunch of folks, with some very cool rigs. In retrospect, we think they were quite amused at two psycho magazine guys wanting to wheel an H2 on "their" trails. We wish we could've spent more time with them, but the road was demanding our attention, as we had to push east.
We chose to end our day a bit earlier than normal. We found a killer KOA campground in Bismarck, North Dakota that has awesome shaded sites and wireless internet. For once we actually got to set up camp in the daylight. This cool campground gave us the opportunity to cook a leisurely campsite meal and then get caught up on our web blogs.
Tomorrow we enter the state of Minnesota- land of more mosquitoes and more trails. Stay tuned.
1. Holman has reverted to his infatuation with windshield bugs. Today he shared that he'd like to scrape them off with a spatula and have them analyzed. I'm getting worried about him.
2. The outside of our H2 is utterly filthy, which is the way we like it and we have no intention of washing it. We've found that people who drive filthy H2's get more respect than those who drive spotless H2's with that shiny tire dressing.
3. The many hours on the road have allowed us to perfect the Four Wheeler gang sign.
June 16, 2005 - Day Seven: Bismarck, ND to St. Paul, MN
Pizza Slices 20-feet High: 1
H3s Seen: 1
Ken's Invitation To Ticks: At Least 1
New Ways To Amuse Ourselves: 2
Funny Looks We Gave Cops: 2
Funny Looks Cops Gave Us: 10
Tech Editor Sean P. Holman:
What a day! Well, a day of driving that is. Its not that the drive from Bismarck, ND to St. Paul, MN was boring, its just that not a whole lot of excitement happened today. Other than the knife fight in the morning, the pot and pan toss, and the race to break camp down we don't have a lot to tell you about, other than the same general level of goofiness Ken and I have to keep ourselves entertained. I think today's long drive to Minnesota had both Ken and I reflecting on this awesome journey, and how we'll look back fondly of this adventure and appreciate the time we spent scouring America's great Northwest for stories on interesting people and good backcountry wheeling.
After breaking down camp at the Bismarck, KOA, which, by the way has another awesome team of people, (KOA must have the friendliest staffs in the world, we have yet to be disappointed) we headed out toward Pine River, MN where we eventually found the Poison Spider ORV area; a very nice forest trail system, whether you ride on two wheels, or four. Just know that this time of year there is not enough Deet or fast-moving H2 windshields in the world to keep the horse-sized mosquitoes and bugs from clamping down and carrying you off to their young. Nothing short of lighting yourself on fire will keep you safe if you plan on stepping outside of your vehicle or wheel open top with a collarless and sleeveless shirt (Ken). After poking around and wheeling for a bit, the setting sun motioned us back to the highway for a rapid run to St. Paul.
Around 9:30pm, we finally arrived at the St. Paul KOA, where the staff stayed late to welcome us as their last guests of the day. They also allowed us late night access to the normally locked game room so that we could upload tonight's blog on their high-speed internet connection. Thanks guys.
Since this is our last night out on the road, I have got to keep this short and head off to some sleep. Tomorrow we'll be setting course for the private Apple Valley off-road park in Wisconsin, before we turn the rig south for our trip's final destination of the Four Wheeler Midwest Bureau in Illinois. We'll post a final blog when we pull in and fill you in on the details of our last boss-excused absence from the office. Thanks for stopping by and happy wheeling!
Senior Editor Ken Brubaker:
Bleary-eyed, we finished our blog upload at 2 a.m. Thursday morning. We shot out of our tents (sort of) early Thursday morning and the Bismarck, North Dakota KOA campground rapidly disappeared into our rearview mirrors as we headed east toward Minnesota. With very little sleep we looked like death warmed over (nothing new there) and within a few miles I had already fallen asleep again. After about 6 hours of driving we arrived at the Spider Lake ORV area in central Minnesota. We were able to find the place with the help of Minnesota `wheeler Lois Campbell who went out of her way to explain to us directionally challenged imbeciles how to find the place. We explored the old logging roads for a while, exiting our H2 only briefly on account of the ridiculously ravenous mosquitoes. We learned that Minnesota is second only to North Dakota for mutant mosquitoes. After a quick tour of the ORV area we again hit the highway. We dropped the hammer to get to the St. Paul, Minnesota KOA campground where we set up camp in the dark (again) and got started on today's blog.
Today's highlight: Holman trying to decide which would be better to eat- the gas station pizza he bought or the dead cat in the road. In the end he opted for neither.
1.Holman is staging a riot on account of the food. Today he threatened me with a saucepan. Just for that, I'm not going to cook the Spam tacos I had planned.
2. My annual post-Top Truck Challenge poison oak outbreak is in full swing. Perfect. (Yeah, watching him itch just makes me feel bad, well after I chuckle a bit. --Sean)
3. I learned a couple of new things about Holman today. First, he hates ticks. Hence, the woods of Minnesota aren't his cup of tea. Second, he harbors a lot of pent up anger towards Midwest drivers who hog the fast lane. (Ken is obviously not the bastion of observation if he just now noticed these things. I wonder how long it would take him to notice someone stripped to thier skivvies riding on the back of a Zebra. --Sean)
5.Speaking of Fargo, the cops don't quite know what to make of a muddy Hummer occupied by two guys wearing swimming goggles and blowing bubbles.
June 17, 2005 - Day Eight: St. Paul, MN to Four Wheeler Midwest Bureau
Times Sean Sneezed: 1,000,000
Barking Spiders Heard: 2,457
High-Fives In Illinois: 1 Big One
Ducks Stepped On In H2: 1,345
Electric Air Freshener Used: 1
Beards Needing Shaving: 1
Tech Editor Sean P. Holman:
We pulled in to the Brubaker Estate just after 5 p.m. local time, shot each other a high-five, and prepared to unload the Hummer. Fortunately, Ken has three kids who were so excited to see their Dad, they were willing to do anything - so before the mood changed we quickly employed their assistance to help unload our trusty H2. Tomorrow Ken will try to convince (read: guilt) them that washing a Hummer H2 SUT with mud and dirt from nine states on it is fun. Happy Father's Day kids.
We started out in St. Paul Minnesota and met up with Zeb Holder of the private Apple Valley Farms wheeling area. He brought with him, what are quite possibly the two-cutest wheeling compadres one could ask for. Cougar (age 2) and Max (age 1) are a couple of enthusiastic little guys that know the start of a wheeling trip when they see "Dada Truck!" rolling off the trailer. Because of the highway miles we needed to put behind us today, we were only able to play for a short time, but with 1600-plus acres of some of the most awesome and gnarliest terrain in Wisconsin, you can bet we'll be back to cover an event there in the near future.
Tomorrow we'll be hitting up our Illinois trail before I head off to the airport for my flight home. It is amazing that this wild ride is about to end, but I am looking forward to seeing my family, my girl, and my own house again.
Senior Editor Ken Brubaker:
It's day eight of H2our De Force, and we're beginning to show signs of advanced sleep deprivation. I've been drooling and mumbling and Holman has been nodding off at the most bizarre times. Today he got up, took a shower, got in the H2 and went back to sleep until we got to Apple Valley Farms, a private off-highway area near New Auburn, Wisconsin. At the park we met manager Zeb Holder and his two kids Cougar and Max, as well as his brother-in-law. They led us on a whirlwind tour of some of the trails in their highly modified Suzuki's and we were very impressed both in the trails and their rigs. We highly recommend Apple Valley Farms, and we offer our thanks for the tour.
After we left Apple Valley we hit Interstate 90 and dropped the hammer for the Four Wheeler Midwest Bureau in Illinois. Along the way we encountered the usual rubbernecking public that we've grown used to on this trip. The H2 is definitely a conversation starter. We arrived in the late afternoon in enough time to get some dinner and get a good start on our blog.
Tomorrow we do a brief tour of the Top Secret Four Wheeler Illinois Test Facility before we make a beeline to Chicago's O'Hare Airport so Holman can jet west back to quaking California.
1. We're considering planting seeds in the mud on our Hummer to see if we can grow stuff.
2. The inside of our Hummer is beginning to smell funny. Not funny ha-ha, but funny rank.
3. In an effort to make the interior of the H2 smell better we plugged a plug-in air freshener into our power inverter. Now the interior smells like apples and cinnamon, a fart and a corn chip.
4. We've both decided to toss out our mattresses at home and replace them with the Coleman air mattresses. Yes, the Coleman mattresses are that comfortable. No kidding.
5. I learned something else about Holman. It seems he's allergic to the Midwest. He started sneezing and sniffling in eastern North Dakota and hasn't stopped since.
June 18, 2005 - Day Nine: Four Wheeler Midwest Bureau
Stopped By Cops: 0
Problems with Hummer: 0
Worst MPG: 8.5
Best MPG: 11.93
Average MPG: 10.9
Times We Wanted Another Vehicle: 0
Tech Editor Sean P. Holman:
It was the best of times, it was the first of times...
This has been a very long week through nine very different states and terrains. This adventure took us from the sand dunes of Oregon to a crossing of the Missouri River in Montana, and beyond. Our original goal in planning this trip was to visit as many states as possible on our way to Chicago and experience wheeling in each one of them. In addition to providing a great magazine story, our other goal was to see if we could provide our readers with daily updates on our progress to www.fourwheeler.com from the road, something that has never been done at our title before.
With those goals in mind we contacted a few select companies for assistance. Coleman was the first company to join up and provided us with more camping equipment than we knew what to do with. We really appreciated the super-comfy air mattresses and warm sleeping bags. Next on the list were our friends at Hummer who offered to outfit our long-term H2 for the trip with Hummer Genuine Accessory remote reservoir shocks, lights, and Warn winch. We used and appreciated all of it, and if there is a vehicle out there that would have been more appropriate or a better match for this trip, we can't think of it. What else is as quiet, smooth and comfortable on the highway, is as capable in the dirt with 35s, rear lockers, and short overhangs, and capable of carrying all of our gear, and ourselves, in style? We can't think of anything. Lastly Garmin hooked up with all the GPS mapping software, which came in handy when we decided to give unknown back roads a try. We can't thank those companies enough for helping to make this idea a reality. We'd also like to thank our boss, Four Wheeler Editor Douglas McColloch for agreeing to this crazy plot to get out of the office and letting two of his editors loose on America for nine-days (Sorry about all of the mail you are sure to get, Doug!).
At the end of the 9-days, we charged through sand, blew through dirt, blasted through mud, grew beards (well, at least I did) and rinsed off in ocean water. While it wasn't exactly a paid vacation, especially with the 18-hour days, we had a great time and we look forward to refining our uploading skills and attempting a similar trip again in the future. We hope you enjoyed reading our blogs as much as we enjoyed writing them, and we'd like to hear what your thoughts are, so go ahead and click on our names to send us a quick e-mail.
As for Ken (who I haven't killed) and the H2 (of which I'll miss), they'll be staying at the Midwest Bureau, where we hit our last trail of the trip - the Official Four Wheeler super secret Midwest Test Facility. With that out of the way, I am about to leave for Chicago's O' Hare airport to catch my flight back to Southern California, just in time to see my much-missed loved ones for the first time in two-weeks and have a beer with my Dad on Father's Day. Be sure to check out our H2our de Force magazine coverage (with unique photos and text), which will begin with the November 2005 issue. Until then, Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there, and happy wheeling to the rest of you! Thanks again for checking in.
Senior Editor Ken Brubaker:
Sleep is good. Last night we slept at the Four Wheeler Midwest Bureau in Illinois, and we actually got over 8 hours of much needed shut-eye. Our moods have improved substantially. Holman and I no longer want to kill each other (You wanted to kill me , Ken? -Sean) .
Before we hit the last trail of the trip, the top secret Four Wheeler Illinois Test Trail, we devoured some home-cooked breakfast burritos. This was our first (and last) home-cooked meal of the trip. After exploring the Illinois backcountry we aimed the H2 toward Chicago's O'Hare International Airport so Holman could catch his flight back to California. Even this was fun because it's not every day one gets to drive an H2 wearing mud from nine states to the passenger departure area at the airport. The looks we got were priceless.
Hence, H2our De Force has concluded. Personally, I'd like to thank Hummer for hooking us up, not only with the H2 SUT, but also with the awesome roof-mounted auxiliary lighting. It made night driving so much easier and safer. The Hummer/Warn winch was also hugely appreciated, as we probably couldn't have left the Idaho mountains without it. Finally, the Rod Hall remote-reservoir shocks are simply awesome.
Coleman, you guys rock. We love the tents, sleeping bags, air mattresses, stove, lantern, cooking table, coffee maker, air compressors and everything else you sent. Our trip wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable if we didn't have your stuff.
Holman and I spent the better part of Saturday morning reflecting on our 3,500-mile trip. I have to admit that I'm sorry it's over. I've been a magazine dweeb for 16 years and I can honestly say that this was one of the best assignments I've ever had. I went off-highway in places I've never been before, and it was awesome. It was also cool to meet Four Wheeler readers along the way.
But hey! The H2our De Force coverage is just beginning. We're planning a three part series on H2our De Force in Four Wheeler Magazine beginning in the November issue. In it you'll see loads of all-new photos and get a detailed overview of our trip from our departure in Hollister, California to our arrival in Chicago.
1. Since I left my office June 3rd, I have traveled through 17 states, 9 of which included H2our De Force.
2. Holman finally sneezed his last sneeze of H2our De Force at 10:22 a.m. Central Standard Time on June18th. Not because I killed him, but because he was done, I guess.
3. We're ready for another H2our De Force-type run. Just not right now.