Military convoy passes through Logan County on Route 66 cross country

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[September 19, 2017]  On Sunday the Military Vehicle Preservation Association convoy made its way through Logan County. The convoy consisted of more than 40 military vehicles, many driven by military veterans from all across the United States, as well as six from New Zealand and one from Belgium. The group is traveling Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, sharing their vehicles and military knowledge with communities where they make stops, and also honoring all military veterans in the process.

The group left out of the DuPage County Fairgrounds on Saturday, and stayed over in Pontiac on Saturday night. Sunday morning they made their way to Atlanta, where they stopped for a long rest and lunch at the Palms Grill. In the afternoon, they continued their trek through Logan County following the 1926 route of the historic highway, which brought them into the downtown area of Lincoln, then on to the Mill on 66 Museum for another stop.

The group arrived in Atlanta in two stages. The first group to arrive consisted of a number of lean vehicles. In the fashion expected from a military unit, the advance team set up people in key locations to lead the convoy into town. Watchmen were set at the intersection north of Atlanta, to steer the group into town. Others stood watch on the street the convoy would drive in on, and others still, directed the “rack and stack,” style parking that filled a full city block in Atlanta with military vehicles, six to 10 deep and four wide.

According to Brad Nelson, Section One Leader, who arrived ahead of the convoy, the average highway speed for the convoy is about 20 mph, with a maximum speed of 35 mph. The group will be traveling across the country at a snail’s pace compared to modern day vehicles, and anticipate they will be on the road a total of 29 days getting from Chicago to California.

Nelson said that the oldest vehicle in the convoy was a 1942 MP (military police) Jeep, and the young buck in the group would be a 1994 20-ton heavy truck.

As the convoy arrived in Atlanta, they were directed into their parking spots, with the excess vehicles spilling over onto adjacent streets. As folks exited their vehicles, they were happy and excited to talk about their trip.

This is the fourth such convoy. The first convoy was held in 2009, at the 90th anniversary of the first U.S. Military convoy crossing the nation from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, California.

In 2012, the group traveled the “Trail of ‘42” on the Alaska Highway from Dawson Creek to Fairbanks, Alaska. In 2015 the third convoy followed the 1920 U.S. Army route across the country on the Bankhead Highway from Washington D.C. to San Diego, California.

Rick Constien, one of the convoy participants and MVPA members, talked about that first trek across the country in 1919. The convoy followed that trail on their 2009 trip on finished highways. However, he said in 1919, there were no finished roads west of St. Louis, and the group actually built roads as they went.

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Constien said that the MVPA is a worldwide organization with chapters in nearly every country. There is an annual convention in the United States, each year choosing to meet in a different part of the country. MVPA members come to the conventions with their vehicles and enjoy a time of sharing what they know, some first hand as veterans, and others as avid collectors, about their particular vehicles.

It was also noted that the convoy events are often considered by the group to be the world’s longest veteran parade. Many of the vehicles, once parked, were decorated with placards honoring specific veterans.

It was also explained that the convoy travels with its own team of mechanics. With many of the vehicles being antiques or vintage, the convoy needs mechanics who can check over the vehicles at the end of each day and address any reported issues from the drivers. Sometimes the mechanics will work all night so as to have every vehicle ready to hit the road come morning.

In Atlanta, the group was met by several spectators, some coming from outside of town, just for the chance to see all these vehicles in one spot. The convoy drivers were happy to visit with everyone. One couple, Jack and Beverly Burke from Texas had driven to Chicago to be a part of the convoy. They enjoyed hearing about some of the Route 66 history in Logan County and were amused by the story of the Paul Bunyon statue in Atlanta.

Constien is also a bit of a history buff, and enjoyed sharing with the Burkes information about the history of Route 66 in the days of Al Capone and noted that the Mill on 66, the next stop for the convoy, was a favorite hangout outside of Chicago for the notorious gangster.

The convoy stayed in Atlanta through the lunch hour, having a special luncheon upstairs at the Palms Café. They then left Atlanta and traveled on to Lincoln and the Mill. Traveling Route 66 included driving through Lincoln and making their way to the Mill via the downtown area and Fifth Street.

Rebecca Johnson of St. Clara’s Manor on Fifth Street shared photos of residents gathered outside the Manor to see the convoy go past. It was also noted at the Railsplitter events at Postville Courthouse when the convoy would be passing through, and some guests at that festival took advantage of the opportunity to watch as the vehicles passed by.

The convoy visited the Mill for a short period of time before traveling on to Springfield where they spent the night at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

The MVPA does have a website, where one can read more about the organization and also follow the progress of the convoy as it crosses the United States. Access that website at http://www. 

[Nila Smith with Photos at St. Clara's Manor by Rebecca Johnson]

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