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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!