Call it an adventure. Call it crazy. But whatever you do don’t call it a cruise. The Military Vehicle Preservation Association has announced plans for the mother of all “convoys” and a once in a lifetime adventure—traveling 28 days and 3,500 miles, all in historic military vehicles, along the length of the great Alaska Highway.
In 1942, 27,000 soldiers and civilians punched a military road through the untamed wilderness of Canada and Alaska to defend the Alaska Territory. In August of 2012, members of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association
are planning to honor the 70th anniversary of this great engineering accomplishment by traveling that historic road from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Fairbanks, Alaska.
A caterpillar tractor with grader widens the roadway
of the Alaska Highway, 1942.
“For most, it’s going to be a major logistical exercise just to get to the start of it,” says MVPA’s Jeff Rowsam, of Wisconsin. “But we know it can be done.” The Lincoln Highway Connection
Rowsam’s confidence comes from experience. In 2009, driving his 1969 2.5 ton, 6x6 Vietnam era cargo truck, Rowsam was part of a MVPA convoy that retraced the Army’s 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy along the famed Lincoln Highway from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco.
Back in the age before television, the military wanted to show off to the country the vehicles that helped win the war and, along the way, inspire a new generation of recruits to serve. But, according to Rowsam, the most important purpose of the trip was to prove the strategic importance of good roads for moving troops and material. Along for the ride was a young Army officer named Dwight Eisenhower who was so impressed by the journey—and saw firsthand that U.S. roads were tragically in need of federal oversight and systematic repair—that he later championed America’s Interstate system.
“It really showed Eisenhower how lacking we were in any sort of road system,” Rowsam says. “The Lincoln Highway became one of the first major highways redone in what became a movement to build better highways in the U.S. after the war.”
With highway speed set at 35 MPH (in true military fashion a convoy can only travel as fast as its slowest vehicle), Rowsam recalls the MVPA’s Lincoln Highway convoy following the original route from 1919. The journey took one month to complete.
“We traveled down gravel and brick paved roads through small town America and I remember people turning out these little towns to see us roll by. The VFW posts would feed us. We camped out at night and after the first day or two we had very few mechanical problems—mostly fuel filter issues because of the unleaded gas and ethanol.”
Of course, there was also that incident when a driver in the convoy blew the engine of his WWII-era Dodge 4x4 command car while heading through Ohio.
“But we travel with a maintenance team—a maint team in Army jargon. Three of the guys are veteran, career-military mechanics so even changing out an engine is nothing major. In that instance, we even had help from a local club so the driver was back on the road at seven A.M. the next morning. The biggest problem was too many people wanted to work on the car.” Alaska Bound
The Lincoln Highway trip was well received by the press and the public and proved so successful that the MVPA planned its Alaska Highway convoy for August of 2012. Why announce it now?
The MVPA invites anyone with a historic vehicle to come along on the trip, and that requires a lot of time for planning. In strict military fashion, the MVPA has already designated teams to organize everything from food and fuel stops to lodging and campground options. Rowsam himself will be driving the entire route this May—a little “route recon,” he calls it—just to make sure there are no surprises next year.
Join. Drive. Make History. A map of the route that will be taken by the MVPA’s Alaska Highway Convoy in August 2012.
“There is safety in numbers,” he says. “But we have to make sure that, for example, the mom and pop store in Ross River, Yukon, has 600 gallons of gas and 500 gallons of diesel we’re going to need to fuel the almost fifty vehicles that have already signed up to go.”
In what is already shaping up to be an international event, military vehicle enthusiasts from England, Belgium, France, Puerto Rico and Australia have already committed to shipping their vehicles overseas in time for the 2012 event.
Participating drivers in the 2012 MVPA Alaska Highway Convoy pay a $300 entry fee. All military vehicles from any era are invited to come along. Drivers are responsible for their own fuel, food and lodging costs and must be MVPA members. Drivers are also responsible for getting their vehicle on-time to the convoy’s starting point. For most in the Lower 48, that means adding at least another 1,000 to the journey. But, no matter, says Rowsam:
“Everybody loves a car show. But military vehicles are made to be driven.”
For more information on the MVPA’s 20122 70th Anniversary Alaska Highway Convoy, email Wendy Rowsam, Convoy Public Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Or check out the MVPA on Facebook, search words “MVPA 2012 Alaska Highway Convoy”.