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Historic Military Vehicle Convoy Celebrates the Alaska Highway’s 70th Anniversary

By | August 2, 2012

Photo courtesy of Wendy Rowsam

Around 200 participants associated with the Military Vehicle Preservation Association will be kicking off a drive up the Alaska Highway on Saturday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the highway’s construction. Wendy Rowsan is a logistics and public relations volunteer with the group. She says their first convoy was across the U.S from Washington DC to San Francisco.

“And we did that on the Lincoln highway in honor of the 90th anniversary of the transcontinental convoy which was a very famous convoy, Teddy Roosevelt participated in that convoy and it was really the precursor to the interstate travel system,” Rowsan said.

They decided the 70th anniversary of the Alaska Highway was a great next venture.

Rowsan says people have come from across the nation and Canada. One vehicle was shipped from Australia to join them.

Photo courtesy of Wendy Rowsam

“And one from Alaska. So, we’re all spread out, a number of people drove their vehicles here, so I’d say maybe a third to a half of the people on the convoy have already driven their vehicles anywhere from 1500 to 2000 miles to get here to start the convoy, so they’re all raring to go,” Rowsan said.

They will host a big kick off at mile marker zero on Friday night in Dawson Creek BC and start off early Saturday morning. They’ll travel 4100 miles in 27 days. The first stop will be in Chicken on the 15th and the next day on to Glenallen.

“We are in to Willow on August 17th, and that afternoon we’re going to take Hatcher pass. So everyone is very excited to drive that.  As you can imagine Historic military vehicles are very rugged and able to travel rougher roads and our guys like that type of driving, kind of the rougher the road the better for us so they think Hatcher Pass is going to be a lot of fun,” Rowsan said.

Seventy-seven military vehicles are making the trip.

“We have 33 that are World War Two era, 11 from the Korean war era, 17 Vietnam era vehicles and 14 from Desert Storm,” Rowsan said.

Spending weeks on the road in historic vehicles that were built for war efforts not luxury could be uncomfortable. Rowsam says there’s a wide range of restoration and modifications.

“We’re actually traveling in a 1942 Dodge WC21, which is sort of like a pick-up truck size. My husband has done all sorts of restoration and upgrades on it, and, in fact, I have seat heaters in my Dodge, even though it’s an open cab and we have no doors, when it rains you get wet and when it’s cold you get cold but that seat heater is gonna help,” Rowsan said.

Photo courtesy of Wendy Rowsam

Rowsam says there are 60 vets on the trip and 46 women with the group. She says they have some sponsorship for group meals but otherwise members saved for the trip and are funding their own travel.

“It’s one of those once in a lifetime things, and if you’re a collector of a historic military vehicle, the chance to drive the Alaska Highway is sort of one of the ultimates on your bucket list, because of all of the history there. You really can’t be a collector of a historic military vehicle without knowing what a significant role they played in the building of the highway and you can’t look at a photo of that whole construction project without seeing those one of those vehicles,” Rowsan said.

The convoy will end up in Delta Junction on August 21 where they will display their historic rides at the fairgrounds and take a group photo at the end of the highway marker. Rowsam says they anticipate being back in Dawson Creek on August 30.

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