Nemacolin is in the process of building a course designed to showcase the maximum capabilities of the $118,000 H1 and its bargain cousin, the H2, which costs just under $50,000. As of May 1, Hummer riders will be able to bounce over obstacles carefully designed to meet the 22-inch clearance ability of an H1. There will be bogs and marshes with up to 30 inches of water and mud to slosh through -- and a slightly more shallow bog for the H2 -- plus things like a concrete incline with obstacles that will tilt the H1 onto two or three wheels. The Hummer, you see, doesn't simply have four-wheel drive. It's got a TorqTrac 4 traction system that constantly monitors the speed of each wheel. So if, say, one of the wheels is spinning on severe terrain or a slippery surface, or no surface at all, the spinning wheel stops and its power is transferred to the wheels that still have traction.
For now, Hummer drivers are confined to the 650 acres of woods and fields and old logging roads on Nemacolin property.
Weyand gives me directions as we navigate a paved road through Nemacolin. He rams us through a wooded area covered by a foot of snow, then turns the pricey vehicle over to me. It's surprisingly easy to drive. For one thing, it has an automatic transmission, which seems not as manly as one would expect from such a powerful vehicle. The plush seats give the interior such a Beltway-mom minivan feel that it's easy to forget the power beneath the hood.
Samuel and Benjamin egg me on, urging me to bump through an iced-over swampy area and to speed up. They've no worries about turning sharply to miss things like trees. Cocooned inside all that metal, I feel no personal danger. And since it's not my vehicle and I assume it's well-insured, I feel no apprehension whatsoever.
When our time is up, Samuel and Benjamin linger. They want to look under the hood. I presume that's where the engine is. I've enjoyed my time dredging tracks through snow and mud. But I'd like to soak in a jet-filled bubble bath now. Samuel and Benjamin's mother has indulged in a manicure while we were gone. Perhaps, after all that testosterone-laden outdoor activity, I could do with a cleansing seaweed and green-tea facial.
GETTING THERE: The off-road Hummer driving course at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa in Farmington, Pa., is about 180 miles and a three-hour drive from the District. It's located just north of Maryland's Deep Creek Lake. The resort has a private airstrip.
STAYING THERE: Nemacolin offers two hotels, townhouses and private houses. Double occupancy rooms at the most luxurious, the Chateau LaFayette, start at $225. Rooms in the Lodge start at $185 weekdays, $260 weekends. Townhouses range from $150 to $280; homes run from $350 a night weekdays for a log cabin that sleeps six to $2,000 a night for a seven-bedroom "estate." Info: 800-422-2736, www.nemacolin.com. Uniontown, about 15 minutes from the resort, has a number of chain hotel options, including a Holiday Inn and a Hampton Inn.
EATING THERE: Nemacolin has four "fine dining" restaurants, a cafeteria at the ski lodge and several casual dining areas on the property. Prices range from $4.95 for pizza in a snack bar to entrees of about $30 in the resort's finest French restaurant.
HUMMERING THERE: A two-hour session in a Hummer is $275. The Hummer H1 carries an instructor and a maximum of three clients. The H2 can take four clients. Hummer owners who bring their own vehicle pay $125 for a two-hour session. An instructor/guide accompanies all drivers. The resort offers a full array of amenities, including five swimming pools, golf course, shooting range, ski area, tubing hill, horseback riding and kids club.
OTHER OFF-ROAD COURSES: The Greenbrier Resort (800-453-4858, www.greenbrier.com), in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., offers a Land Rover driving course. An off-road driving course and school is also offered at the Summit Point Raceway (304-725-6512, www.summitpoint-raceway.com) in Summit Point, W.Va. Bring your own vehicle or use one of the raceway's Jeep Cherokees.
INFO: Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, 800-333-5661, www.laurelhighlands.org