A Veteran Affair

As much as I like to take a road trip to a new location, it’s also nice when the scenery comes to ME.  I took the day off today not so I could turn miles on an Oklahoma back-road or experience roadside nirvana in an old diner; I took the day off so I could drive to Claremore and follow a convoy along Route 66.  This wasn’t just any old convoy: this was the Military Vehicle Preservation Association and a collection of antique military vehicles heading down the Mother Road! From their newsletter announcing why they chose Route 66 for this year’s journey:  

“World War II caused a marked decline in civilian and tourist traffic, but it stimulated new business along U.S. 66, when it acted as a military transport corridor moving troops and supplies from one military reservation to another.  Motels saw an increase in occupancy, as families of servicemen stationed at military bases stayed for long stretches. But more significantly, Route 66 facilitated perhaps the single greatest wartime mobilization, as thousands of job seekers headed to California, Oregon and Washington to work in defense plants.”

MVPA Tul-43

I was made aware of the 2017 Convoy early last year; it’s been on my calendar for a long time.  Thanks to the Route 66 Alliance, I was even able to send some calendars for the convoy goodie bags. I’ve been excitedly following along as they prepare for the month-long road trip.  On Saturday, September 16th they left Chicago heading west.  They plan to arrive at the Pacific Ocean in mid-October but, of course, they had to come through the Sooner State first!  I met up with the convoy in Claremore mid-day today at the Expo Center, where the group had stopped for a lunch break.

MVPA Tul-66

It was stunning to see so many immaculate old vehicles parked in the home town of Will Rogers.  Jeeps, ambulances, cargo trucks, troop carriers, wagons, trailers, even a motorcycle.  Most were from the American armed forces but there were several imported vehicles from abroad; there were representatives (both drivers and transport) from Australia & New Zealand.  Some were veterans and others had restored vehicles in honor of veteran family members.  Everyone was friendly and talked happily as I walked between the parked aisles of the rolling museum.  Several local veterans had come out to greet the travelers, too; a few were too frail to walk and were being wheeled around to share their memories with those that understood.  It was really touching.

MVPA Tul-159

I met Janine McKluskey & her husband Dan, the Convoy Commander.  It was great to meet in person finally, as we’d corresponded about the calendars months earlier. Dan was pretty busy helping with minor repairs and keeping things organized, but Janine talked to me a bit about their crew.  She also took me around and pointed out a few things I’d missed, like the recovery vehicles they had along for the inevitable breakdown.  There was a fancy portable bathroom trailer they’d named the “White Castle.”  Many of the trailers had been retro-fitted as recreational vehicles, providing unique lodging for their owners.  I asked if they’d stopped at the J.M. Davis Arms Museum while in town but, alas, it was closed.

MVPA Tul-76

At 1:00 PM sharp, the convoy rounded up and headed towards Tulsa.  I lit out a few minutes early so I could set up on the southwest side of town for photos of the convoy on the move.  They had a police escort all the way out of Claremore!  I followed along Route 66, watching motorists on both sides of the road marvel at the unexpected parade.  Unfortunately, there was no police escort through Catoosa or Tulsa; the convoy broke up a bit as they rolled into town.  I had a few more photos in mind, so I raced ahead.  The convoy is limited to 35 MPH so all the vehicles can keep up; I had the benefit of I-44 and the Mustang!  Several of the convoy drivers remarked at my speed (and ubiquity) as they noticed me at each new stakeout spot.

 

The destination of the day’s drive was the VFW Post in Sapulpa.  I pulled in at the tail end of the convoy, parked, and continued taking photos.  My friend Jerry McClanahan had come up from Chandler and we visited for a few minutes.  I thanked the McCluskey’s for putting the convoy together and headed home as everyone started preparing for dinner.  What a thrilling day!  In addition to the photos I’ve shared throughout this post, I have a gallery of the entire day below.  Feel free to look through and comment if you know the make/model/year of the vehicle!

2017 MVPA Route 66 Convoy Gallery

About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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3 Responses to A Veteran Affair

  1. Sam Fiorella says:

    Thanks for all the fabulous photos of the military convoy, Rhys. My husband, Frank says he remembers many of these types of vehicles as he grew up on military posts overseas in England and France, but mostly Germany. Unfortunately, we’ll be in Denver instead of at home in Kingman when it rolls through our neighborhood.

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