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Elko Hummer Roundup

Tanks Take To the Trail

Harry WagnerPhotographer, Writer

America's love affair with military vehicles dates back to the first Jeeps, built during World War II. Since then, M-151 Mutts, Power Wagons, and Duece and a Halfs have all gained reputations for being tough, reliable transportation. Nothing since the Jeep, however, has managed to capture the attention of Americans like the AM General Hummer. The High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle, or Humvee, gained notoriety during the first Gulf War when it was prominently featured in news broadcasts beamed from the Middle East. Soon, AM General realized that the general public wanted Hummers of their own and began offering them for sale at dealerships in 1992. GM bought the licensing rights to the Hummer name in 1999 and has since followed up on the successful Hummer with the H1 Alpha, H2, and H3, all of which retain the original Hummer's distinctive styling and rugged capability.

After solidly securing their place in the off-road world, it was time for an event grand enough to match the Hummer legend. Thus, the Elko Hummer Roundup was born. We are confident the Roundup will reach legendary status, considering it was the brainchild of Rod Hall and Emily Miller. Miller is a professional promoter who has worked on prior projects with ESPN, the NFL, and Red Bull, among others. No hokey games or hot dog dinners here. Rod Hall is a man who needs no introduction. A legend of off-road racing, Hall has competed in each and every Baja 1000 since the first. In fact, Rod got his seventeenth class win this past November and remains the only driver to ever win the Baja 1000 Overall in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Like a childhood dream, when we arrived in Elko, Nevada, it seemed as if every other vehicle was a Hummer. The event started on Tuesday with registration at the Elko Convention Center, which served as the base of operations. Sponsors such as Lightforce, AM General, and Premier Performance staffed booths at the convention center displaying their products. A large number of the 180 participants were Hummer dealers, with one coming all the way from New Jersey for the event! Hummer dealerships are required (as a condition to holding the franchise) to attend at least four Hummer-specific off-road events each year in order to help emphasize the capabilities of the product and how they differ from the competition. Most participants spent the first day at the trials course, located a short distance outside of town. This course allowed participants to test their vehicles and their skills in a controlled environment with experienced instructors.

Wednesday started early with clear skies and cool temperatures. All participants met at the convention center and chose from three available runs that varied in difficulty. Our chosen trail ride was the Merritt Mountain trip, which covered nearly 60 miles in the dirt and 200 miles overall. We rode with Cort Stoskoph, who led the group of thirteen H1s and H2s north out of Elko. The trail leaders for the Hummer Roundup included local four-wheelers and members of Rod Hall's race team. Stoskoph is a prominent surgeon from Southern California who spends his free time codriving for Rod's son, Chad. This day's events were much more slowly paced than Tuesday's and included a scenic drive down a two-track road containing the occasional narrow wash or loose, rutted hillclimb. Stoskoph spent the day entertaining us with stories from past Best In The Desert and SCORE events. "The amazing thing about Rod," he notes, "is that he seems to remember every feature on the course. He is always going into a corner with just the right amount of speed, and he hardly ever breaks equipment."

Fortunately, no one on our trail ride endured any carnage either, allowing us to cover a lot of ground and still return to Elko at a reasonable hour.

On Wednesday evening, the different groups all reconvened at the Elko Convention Center for daily "chalk talks." Rod Hall discussed suspension design and shock technology, while David Troutman of Michelin/BFGoodrich explained tire design and construction and the effects of varying air pressure. Participants were then left on their own to explore Elko's many dining options, including Silver Street's famous Basque restaurants, before returning to the convention center's auditorium to watch the feature film Dust to Glory. The film was the first exposure to the Baja 1000 for many in attendance, and it had a noticeable effect.

Thursday morning we again returned to the convention center, where everyone was eager to play Baja racer. We took the opportunity to head out to the trials course with Rod Hall to observe the master and his craft. The first thing we realized was that Hall is an incredibly modest person, despite his many accomplishments. We also learned the intricacies of Hummer gear ratios, traction control systems, and Hall's fondness for left-foot braking when on the trail. Following the instruction, participants had a chance to put the knowledge to use on a variety of berms, ruts, and gullies. Confident in their new skills, everyone followed Hall up a loose, rocky hill to a peak overlooking Elko. It was the perfect location to bask in the sun and enjoy lunch; it was obvious that the prerunning that has served Team Hummer so well during desert races was in use at the Hummer Roundup as well.

Time was limited on Thursday afternoon, so the group took an easy drive south of Elko to Lamoille Canyon. Nestled within the heart of the Ruby Mountains, Lamoille Canyon was filled with spectacular views of jagged peaks, peaceful streams, and the deep hues of the autumn aspen leaves. From there, everyone met at Red's Ranch in the town of Lamoille for dinner. With a full bar, country-style dinner featuring a whole roast pig, and live country music by David John and the Comstock Cowboys, no one was disappointed. It was the perfect combination of Old West, cowboy country feel and upscale elegance that discriminating Hummer owners desire.

On Friday morning we headed north to Double Mountain with John Pappenfort and a small, capable group of vehicles. Once again, we covered a lot of ground; however, unlike the aspen groves and fall colors witnessed on the previous two days, Double Mountain featured typical Nevada sage and endless vistas. Many of those views passed us in a blur, however, since Pappenfort took the opportunity to introduce the joys of prerunning to the more seasoned Hummer owners. Travelling at 60 mph might not seem very fast on the freeway, but it is a whole different story when piloting a 7,000-pound vehicle at that speed down a dirt road into hairpin turns. From there we returned to Elko where newly made friends gathered at the Folk Life Center to hear cowboy poetry, an art form unique to the rural West. Cowboy poetry does not have any defined scheme or structure; it is defined simply by subject matter.

Saturday morning the remaining participants gathered for breakfast one last time, exchanging contact information and making plans for future four-wheeling excursions. Those still in need of a greater challenge headed out on an "unsanctioned" run to the Broken Bones trail, while others headed home. One dilemma Hummer owners face by owning a purpose-built vehicle is that they often have a hard time integrating into local, Jeep-based, four-wheel-drive clubs. The Hummer Roundup gives these people an opportunity to wheel with their peers, in similar vehicles. And with plenty of trails available from short to long, scenic to challenging, the inaugural Elko Hummer Roundup was an overwhelming success.

Hummer Specifications at a Glance

Hummer H1 Alpha
Horsepower 300
Torque 520 lb-ft
Crawl Ratio 45:1
Ground Clearance 16" to body
Tire Size 37"
Locking Differentials Optional front and rearEaton E-Lockers
Weight 7,847 lbs
Tow Capacity 9,036 lbs
Price $129,399

{{{Hummer H2}}}
Horsepower 325
Torque 365 lb-ft
Crawl Ratio 33:1
Ground Clearance 9.7" to body
Tire Size 35"
Locking Differentials RearEaton E-Locker
Weight 6,400 lbs
Tow Capacity 6,700 lbs
Price $53,855
{{{Hummer H3}}}
Horsepower 220
Torque 225 lb-ft
Crawl Ratio 69:1
Ground Clearance 8.5" to body
Tire Size 33"
Locking Differentials Optional rearEaton E-Locker
Weight 4,700 lbs
Tow Capacity 4,500 lbs
Price $29,500