DRIVEN’s intrepid correspondent Fernando Morales of The Gentleman’s Topcoat recently took the rare, limited-edition Hummer H1 Alpha, souped-up swansong of the sadly defunct military-inspired marque, on a trip through the wilds of Bolivia.
Read on for the full field notes…
DRIVEN’s intrepid Fernando Morales meets the Hummer H1 Alpha
Grunts of the kind that nightmares are made filled the damp jungle air. We planted our boots firmly in the mud and slung our backpack over our shoulder, tossing the gear back into the hull of the steel titan.
As rain pattered down and a dense mist moved along our side, we were reminded of the remote location and how it was we got there.
We sat isolated in the deepest recesses of South America, within the overgrown valleys of Bolivia.
Our growling sparring partner—a widestanced behemoth humbly known as the Hummer H1 Alpha.
With stretches of track suited to such loving epithets as the Road of Death, Bolivia seemed liked a worthy contender to a vehicle that first made its name during Operation Desert Storm.
We sat isolated in the deepest recesses of South America, within the overgrown valleys of Bolivia
Beginning in a South Western department of the country we were determined to make our way West through the lowland jungles of the Amazon into the highland mountains of the rain forest.
Equipped with only a moderately provisioned, perfectly crafted Lexdray backpack, our tough-as-nails Red Wing Iron Rangers, a pair of Ray-Ban Cats 5000 shades, a black Submariner and a Canon 5D Mark II, we made a final inspection before embarking on our semi-Luddite mecca into the void.
We made our 3sixteen-clad lower half at home in the only plush nook of the H1 Alpha—the pilot’s seat.
A turn of the wrist and the mechanically voracious 6.6-liter Duramax Turbodiesel came alive.
Devoid of today’s automotive gimmicks, the Alpha is pure mechanics
Within the cavernous steel interior, tank like gauges lit up and rumbled to their normal readings.
Devoid of today’s automotive gimmicks, the Alpha is pure mechanics.
Rolling onto the pavement with the stance of an M1 Abrams tank, our gunmetal grey beast effortlessly moved forward with brawny ease.
With a vehicle of such heft, the irony of its momentum is a notion that arrives quickly.
Weighting in at more than 8,000 pounds, the rattle of the engine is something that barely translates into the pedals and much less into its chassis.
But with 520 lb-ft. of torque, moving forwards is never an issue.
With a vehicle of such heft, the irony of its momentum is a notion that arrives quickly
Edging precipices with walls of stone that rose almost 50 yards along our side, we stayed close as the roads narrowed.
Entering the jungle’s mist, the forest rainfall became heavy and we were quickly made aware of our unguarded reality.
Proceeding down the gravel road, a stretch of pronounced rockfall approached.
Falling rocks became accelerated by a free fall followed by contact with a tapered mountainside.
The result was a natural barrage of rocks no longer moving vertically, but along a horizontal ballistic trajectory.
The deafening sound of the Alpha being hammered with projectiles hastened our pace along the road
The deafening sound of the Alpha being hammered with projectiles hastened our pace along the road.
At the most opportune time, we stopped to survey nature’s unbridled assault on the machine.
While we shielded ourselves from the elements with a sleek, rugged Aether windbreaker, we suffered no consequences from the brief lesson in geology.
We ignited the Alpha back to life and continued on our way.
The brisk mountain air poured in through the windows and the visceral sounds of the H1′s turbocharged engine beat down on the road.
We were more unsettled by the hairpin corners hiding unknown horizons
Devouring the mountain air at 6,500 feet above sea level proves to be a challenge for any other vehicle due to reduced air density at higher altitudes.
The Alpha just grunts and asks more more.
Entering deeper into the highland mountains, we found ourselves increasingly more isolated, and more unsettled by the hairpin corners hiding unknown horizons.
Meandering along the side of the roads were deep mountain ravines intermittently framed by reminders of untimely demise, clusters of adorned crucifixes where drivers plummeted off the precipice.
With our wide frame and heavyset gate, we negotiated turns and straightaways with overzealous confidence.
Erupting the Alpha into a Cerberus-worthy roar as it dropped into low gear
As it was, we were virtually invincible to lean and slip.
At the longest downhill, we made heavy use of the necessary engine breaking characteristic of the H1, erupting the Alpha into a Cerberus-worthy roar as it dropped into low gear.
Reaching the foot of the mountain, we approached better weather with high ridges enveloped by trees and the occasional orchid and mossy growth.
Allowing our actions to drift into the involuntary, the hum of the turbo diesel engine set the frequency for our synapses.
We fantasized over the sheen of our HMMWV, and its sheer power now put to the test.
We were feeling cavalier. How could you not?
The portly stature and stance of the Alpha made us feel like tossing a big slab off dry aged côte de boeuf onto every Vegan’s plate—like pointing to their dish and saying, “THIS.”
But we were feeling cavalier. How could you not?
The Alpha feels like all that is man, running on the testosterone of Andrew Jackson‘s bare-knuckle bar brawl.
It takes little imagination to see how Arnold Schwarzenegger became the poster boy of this American-made monster in military clothing.
Pushing it a little further down the road with its hypnotizing groan, the scenery came and went like fast forwarding through a National Geographic highlight of South America’s many marvels.
We grew tired as the shadow of evening slowly drew itself upon the horizons
As we came upon our westbound checkpoint we noted the hour and the sunset threatening the end of our course.
Our backpacks reminded us of the little we had along with us and the little that truly mattered where we’d ended up.
We grew tired as the shadow of evening slowly drew itself upon the horizons.
Moving into the gloom of the forest, the Alpha’s trademark crown lights glowed in the dark.
Pulling alongside our fellow motorists, we dismounted from the Alpha.
The eerie ring of cicadas in the still night air emphasized our own silence
Our mucked up Iron Rangers tread up to the shrine and we humbly gazed at the notes left for the perished and the candles lit for safe passing.
The eerie ring of cicadas in the still night air emphasized our own silence.
We offered our thanks and backed down the shrine to climb into the dimly lit cockpit.
Calm was broken again as we trailed off into the night.
We wondered where tonight might end and where the next village might be.
Along the side of the road was a religious shrine that drivers bless on departing and arrival for their safe crossing.
The means to withdraw from it all, with man, machine and horizon
The uncertainty of what lay ahead was a destination not traditionally viewed as a luxury.
But the means to withdraw from it all, with man, machine and horizon, is the real luxury to be had; therein lies the unique appeal of Alpha.
Like the headlights on the road aiming down its path, we would reach as far out as we could.
We could seek a place to stop and withdraw.
We could retreat to the most isolated of places, and literally go anywhere. And we were going anywhere…
- Posted February 01, 2012
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- Fernando Morales