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The Boys of Hummer

At a Pennsylvania resort, truck-crazy kids take an off-road spin in the ultimate Tonka Toy.

By Cindy Loose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 4, 2004; Page C02

The Hummer H1 can plow along tilted sideways at a 40-degree angle without rolling over, and can climb up and down a mountainside with a 60-degree slope, I'm told. But I brake at the top of a snowy hill: From here it looks like a sheer perpendicular drop of 90 degrees.

"It can take it," my driving instructor says.

So I inch the grille of the Hummer to the edge of the crest and hit the gas for a self-driven amusement-style ride. I gun the engine as we race through the icy ravine at the bottom, picking up speed so we can zoom up the other side of the incline. The twin boys in back simultaneously whoop, "Yes!" It's fun in a bumper car sort of way, but they are finding an excitement that is eluding me.

I've recruited the boys to come along on this newest addition to outdoor activities available at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa in the Laurel Highlands of western Pennsylvania, a 2,800-acre retreat three hours from downtown Washington.

Of course my daughter, a girl who loves fine things and the outdoors, wanted to come to the resort. She enjoys the luxury of the chandeliered lobby of the Chateau LaFayette, is excited about skiing and tubing, and would probably love a spa treatment, were I inclined to pay for one. But when I tell her about the main goal of the trip -- a Hummer adventure -- she asks, "Couldn't I just stay in the hotel?"

So I try the idea on Caroline Sherrard, the 11-year-old friend Maddie is bringing along.

"What's a Hummer?" Caroline asks.

I don't even bother mentioning the Optimizer 6500 turbocharged V-8 diesel with a cast-iron block, the aluminum cylinder heads and sequential fuel injection, the 440 foot-pounds of torque, or even the Hydro-boost four-wheel in-board-mounted Meritor-WABCO ABS power disc brakes. Instead I pitch the vehicle's astounding capabilities.

"It's a big SUV adapted from a military vehicle. It's practically a tank," I tell Caroline. "It can climb mountains, and go over rocks and tree limbs, and splash through 30 inches of water. It can zoom through the woods and bounce over stuff and lean over practically on two wheels."

"But what's the point?" she politely inquires.

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