Thursday, July 9, 2009

The End of the Road

WE MADE IT!!! We all arrived safe and with NO BREAKDOWNS about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Western Terminus of the Lincoln Highway on the edge of San Francisco, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Golden Gate Bridge to the east. It was a beautiful, clear day, about 64 degrees, with a gentle breeze. We have never been so grateful for police escorts! There were 32 motorcycle policemen helping us through the enormous amount of traffic over the Bay Bridge and through the hills of San Francisco. The drive was a challenge for the drivers and vehicles with the steep grades, and it took us over an hour each way to negotiate the escorted drive from our rally point at the Alameda Naval Air Station (NAS) Museum across the bay. We had stopped in Alameda for all chase drivers to jump into the military vehicles for the final leg into San Francisco. Again, we were cheered on by waving crowds and lots of picture taking as we made the final climb to our destination.

The last 3 days of the trip found us traveling through such a variety of landscapes. Monday was a special day for me. I got to ride all day with Den in Jezebel while one of the extra drivers took our suburban. It was one of our most picture perfect, scenic days. We lunched beside beautiful, blue Lake Tahoe and then traveled on to Pollock Pines, CA for our night's stop. We were treated to one our most delicious and enjoyable dinners, grilled lakeside, at the Sly Recreation Area. It was another lovely setting with pine trees down to the water's edge - it was a real treat for our campers. Gold was discovered near this area of CA.

On Tuesday, we started our descent to the coast and we traveled through vineyards and orchards, eventually leaving the tall pine trees. We stopped in Sacramento for lunch at the Tow Auto Museum, driving past the state capitol on our way out of town. We had no escorts in Sacramento, so exiting that city became one of our hardest challenges, especially for Den's crew at the end of the convoy. Den even had to round up some of my lost chasers, but we eventually regrouped and made it to Stockton for our overnight stop. Lots of folks greeted us through the small towns on our way that afternoon.

Wednesday morning after leaving Stockton, we were again led by a Lincoln Highway Association chapter member on our way to Livermore. One of the private land owners allowed us across a brief stretch of his ranch to travel the original, concreted, and very narrow 2-lane Lincoln Highway. We then wound through more vineyards, large irrigation aquaducts, and an immense 1,000-unit windcharger farm, ending our rural trek looking up at the "new" interstate as we stopped below on the older road. From there, we had to drive the interstates into Alameda.

Last night, the Alameda NAS Museum hosted our final dinner, and we said our goodbyes. This trip would not have been possible without the hard work of many folks, including Terry Shelswell as Convoy Commander and his wife, Muriel. I am proud to say that Den was a big part of the convoy's success and now, history. He and his maintenance crew were recognized for their efforts in keeping the convoy running and rolling, and I've included their picture taken at the Western Terminus. All 32 vehicles that started the journey with the intent to drive to San Francisco completed the trip. Den logged over 3,600 miles on Jezebel. Also included is a picture of Den holding the MVPA banner which he was asked to fly (an honor) on this convoy. The banner has been flown on similar convoys around the world, including one in Burma.

Leaders surface, teamwork develops, challenges are met, and you bond quickly on an adventure like this. We are proud to have been a part of and to have completed this journey, happy to have made new friends, and we are really ready to see our family and friends. Jezebel is going to need a nice long shower and rest, but what a girl! The convoy crossed America on the back roads, gravel roads, through farmland, and major cities. It overcame heat, humidity, the high desert, rain storms, mountain lightening, muddy roads, hail, and 73 mph winds - all in mostly open vehicles traveling at 30 mph. We've seen monuments to the Pony Express and stagecoach trails on private land; we've traveled the same concrete that LTC Eisenhower rode over and been greeted by patriotic Americans everywhere of every age. Few people will ever experience what we've seen, and we thank everyone for making it possible for us to share in this once in a lifetime event. We hope the 2009 Transcontinental Motor Convoy will be remembered as a fitting tribute to the officers and men of the 1919 convoy. We appreciate you watching after the homefront, sending your words of encouragement, and keeping us in your prayers.

See you soon,
Marilyn and Den

Sunday, July 5, 2009


We've completed the hardest portion of our journey, traveling across Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada, ending in Fallon, NV at the Navy Air Station, the home of the Top Gun Flight School. We are enjoying a second day of rest here at quarters on base. Yesterday we participated in the 4th of July Parade in Fallon and were again greeted by cheering and flag waving crowds. The population in the whole county is 28,000 and we think most of them were lining the streets. We watched fireworks shot from Rattlesnake Mountain last night and thought of all of you celebrating with families back home. It was cool enough for a jacket on the desert.

We left Green River, WY in the high mountain desert on Wed., July 1. We stopped for re-dedication ceremonies of the Black and Orange motor court (originial to the Lincoln Highway) at Fort Bridger State Park. We were greeted by mounted Sheriff's Deputies as we approached the town. We traveled on to Evanston and enjoyed one of our most unique settings for lunch. The town had refurbished and repurposed the railroad machine shop for use as a community center, and the town hosts many events now in the building. Note the beautiful wooden doors in the picture that opened for the trains to enter.

The drive into Murray, UT was a slow descent into the Great Salt Lake Basin. All afternoon we came down through an immense, green canyon into the traffic of the city, heading for Murray, UT. Thank goodness for excellent police and UDOT escorts.

The next morning, the convoy departed for Dugway Proving Ground (DPG) in western UT. The convoy had lunch at the military compound headquarters and then stopped for pictures at a bridge built by the 1919 convoy engineers. Then the real test began...the convoy exited the DPG and started for Ely, NV via 100 miles plus of gravel, dirt, dust, rain, mountain lightening, and mud. Along the route were monuments to the Pony Express, ruts from the stagecoach era, and steep grades on slick, muddy roads. The convoy that left Murray in no way resembled the group that rolled into Ely at 10 pm that night! The guys were cold, wet, and exhausted but exhilerated by the adventure of the day. Den, being the last in the convoy, experienced the worst of the road conditions. Mud was caked 3" deep in some places on Jezebel. The convoy experienced only one breakdown within one mile of the paved road into Ely. Rather than fix that jeep, the maintenance team loaded it onto a muddy trailer in the dark, and drove the last 2 hours during storms. Our hosts held dinner and served the guys a seated, hot meal when they got in, complete with door prizes! And what did Marilyn do that day? I traveled west on paved roads with some of the chase vehicles, skirting the Great Salt Lake. We stopped to take pictures at the Bonneville Salt flats, had lunch at the first casino in Nevada, and checked into our rooms at a historic Western hotel in Ely - it was a tough day! Then we watched the sky turn dark and paced for 4 hours until the convoy appeared - thankful that all came in safely.

Friday, July 3, was clear and crisp in Ely and the 260-mile drive to Fallon proved far easier than anticipated. The high mountain summits and views of the valleys below were so beautiful as we descended into the desert again across the "Loneliest Highway in America."

Being quartered on a military base over the 4th of July weekend, we are reminded that the price of freedom is not free. Happy Birthday, America!

We miss all of you, Marilyn and Dennis

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Home, Home on the Range...

...where the deer and the antelope play - under the windchargers! We've been surprised by the number of windcharger farms we've passed going across Nebraska and now Wyoming. And, the antelope are huge. We climbed across Nebraska and overnighted in Cheyenne, Wyoming (elevation over 6,000 feet) on Saturday. I drove ahead with our commander's wife, Muriel Shelswell, and we put together a cake party for one of the couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversay that day. It was a fun surprise and several of us continued the celebration at a Mexican restaurant. We needed our Tex/Mex fix after many hot dogs, hamburgers, and BBQ sandwiches. Afterwards, Den and I drove around the Capitol (which you can no longer do in Austin) and took pictures. We found the boot on one of the downtown corners.
Railroads are a significant part of the scenery and economy up here. We've waited for many trains, who now honk and wave at us. We saw massive machinery working on the railways between Ogallala, NE and Cheyenne.
On Sunday, we traveled from Cheyenne to Rawlins, again on parts of the original Lincoln Highway. One part was through Tie Siding, a rolling gravel road through private ranch property. At the intersection of I-80, we saw a large memorial to Lincoln positioned at the highest point of the original Lincoln Highway, over 8,050 feet. Den is shaking hands with our convoy commander, Terry Shelswell, in front on another memorial at the site dedicated to the Henry B. Joy, who was the first president of the Lincoln Highway Association. As we left the area, the vision of the convoy crossing the high desert on winding gravel roads fufilled all Den's expectations for the trip. We lunched at the Virginian Hotel in Medicine Bow where they were hosting the Quick Draw contest and the town's centennial which was in 1978 - they were just a bit late.

We crossed the Continental Divide twice today going west. How so? It's the only place in America where a basin splits the Divide, so travelers cross it twice at 7,000 and 6,930 foot elevations. We are staying the night in Green River, Wyoming and while attending festivities for us in the City Park, Dennis hears his name called. For our Denton friends, it was Doug and Lynn Ebersole who are vacationing in the area, heard about the convoy, and had come to the park to see the vehicles. While taking pictures, Doug said he needed to send this to Boots and one of the convoy members said that he was here. They found us and we spent the rest of the evening in pleasant conversation.

The antique truck picture is a Nash Quad, one of four 1919 era trucks that would have been on the original convoy. This one is still driveable and our commander gave his daily driver's briefing from it a couple of days ago.
We continue to be overwhelmed by the support and patriotism alive in small town America. Where can you be treated to lunch on picnic tables in front of the local grocery store with a keyboardist playing patriotic music and immediately feel like you are a part of their community? We know that at least half the citizens in a tiny town (pop. 253) lined the city park fence yesterday and waved us through. We've seen a Boy Scout leader walking his troup through the vehicles at 6:30 on a Sunday morning, talking about the importance of the vehicles, the men who drove them, and the role they played in our country's history.

We're off to Murray, Utah tomorrow, a suburb of Salt Lake City. First gear is at 6:30 - GROAN - so we better cut this off and get some sleep. Hope all of you are doing well. Goodnight from the High Desert - Marilyn and Den

Friday, June 26, 2009

Nebraska News

From SPAM to Buffalo Bill Cody to the sandhills of western Nebraska, we've seen it all. This enormous flag greeted us as we crossed into Gretna, south of Omaha on Tuesday. The American Legion Post was a grand host and fed us for 5 meals during our stay.

Note the picture of the red, white and blue markers. These are the Lincoln Highway signs that mark our way.

We did a drive-by of the huge Hormel plant on our way to Grand Island on Thursday. The management presented the convoy with 20 commemorative cases of good ole SPAM. We were treated to lunch in a pretty park that housed the Oak Park Ballroom - a beautiful facility built by the WPA in the 30s and inaugrated by Lawrence Welk. We were hosted at the oldest Veteran's Home in Nebraska last night and treated to runza sandwiches, kind of a northern version of our kolaches.

Today we left early as we had to drive 200 miles to reach Ogallala on the western side of Nebraska. We also changed to Mountain Daylight Time. Do you see the Military Policeman in the picture above? That's Bill and he is riding his WLA (WW II Harley Davidson) all the way across the country at the young age of 82. He has been an immense help to us, assisting law enforcement with controlling intersections for our safe passage.

We lunched at the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles, drove by Buffalo Bill Cody's Ranch, and then ran into tornado warnings and hard rain. We reached Ogallala and continued on with the scheduled parade, even though we were a bit soggy. Den had minimal breakdowns today. I think the vehicles were happy to be going in cooler weather! We got a special treat tonight from the Elks Lodge. Not only did they provide us a delicious supper, we dined to a Dixieland combo in this western town of 5,000. The stagecoach is located outside our hotel.

We are off to Cheyenne, Wyoming tomorrow which is also celebrating Frontier Days. Bet we'll see a cowboy or two. We've been ridden hard and put up wet, but still happy to be on the trail.....

Love to all - Marilyn and Den

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Corny Tales

Marilyn and her latest hero!

Den's crew

We've traveled through the 3 "I"s - Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, crossed the Mississippi River, changed to Central Daylight Time, and are spending 2 nights in Gretna, NE. Den is watching the LSU and Texas College World Series final baseball game which is being played up the road in Omaha. Have we seen the corn! It started out ankle high in Indiana where there has been too much rain and became almost waist high in western Iowa. The farms, cornfields, and particularly, the barns, have been so picture perfect.

I've been keeping a list of the funny things that have happened on our adventure so it's time to share some corny stuff with you. In South Bend, the smoke alarms went off at our new motel...Den jumped up and tried to turn off the alarm clock and he was all over the room trying to find the right button to push! We evacuated but thankfully, it was a false alarm. It rained alot while we were in South Bend, and Den decided to push the water off the top of his jeep canvas - it all landed on his chest instead of the ground, so he got a good cooling off. We've found out that streets with names, like 220th Avenue, are really gravel roads between section lines, out in the cornfields. Yesterday, we saw a field of longhorns, right in the middle of Iowa. Thought we had taken a turn south! After the rains, one of our dueces (a 2-ton truck) had to pull out our Sheriff's escort that got stuck in the mud on the side of the road. Speaking of the side the road, one of our rest stops was actually in the cornfields - men to the corn, ladies to the RVs! We've stayed in so many motels now that I tried to get in a room with the number from the previous night and couldn't figure out why the door wouldn't open. Then, one evening we heard glass breaking, and Den saw an assault in progress outside the back of the motel - several women were beating up on a man. Classy place!

We were caught by a terrible thunderstorm in Woodbine, Iowa, Tuesday afternoon. Today we found out that the National Weather Service clocked winds at 73 mph. The main convoy was able to shelter safely in the town, but Den and the maintenance crew got caught on the road as they were still approaching town after dealing with a broken down vehicle. Hail was blown sideways through Den's jeep, but all of them made it into town, soaking wet but unharmed. Many trees were blown down in town, but no injuries were reported. Entire fields of corn were laid over, but they should straighten up according to the farmers driving in the convoy.

We've enjoyed our trek through the farming heartland, and we are glad to see the corn growing tall. At one time, the convoy numbered over 100. We've been surprised by numerous windchargers we've seen on the farms. We are beginning to be stopped by lots of long coal-carrying trains. We've travelled more than half-way on our journey, and we received our commemorative pin this morning. It will take us 2 more nights on the road to cross Nebraska.

More later on our next "rest" day - love to all, Marilyn

Friday, June 19, 2009

South Bend

See the nose of that white suburban? She can keep up with those MVs!

Not one, but 2 radios!

The Frenchmen

Yesterday we left another great small town, Delphos, Ohio, and continued our journey west. We left early and the mist was still hanging over the cornfields. The column started a long zig-zag through the farmland and being positioned at the back of the convoy, I could barely make out the trucks and jeeps through the was an awesome sight, as if the vehicles were driving in from the past. Before noon we had paraded through 2 towns that were on the original 1919 route. Townspeople were out in force, waving their flags and yelling their greetings. We have been particularly moved by the folks from the retirement homes that have been positioned outside to watch our passing. Then, we'll see pre-schoolers lined up with their flags and families of 3 and 4 generations waiting to wave us through their town. Another community saluted us as their high school band played us across their square. The whole experience is so exciting and moving at the same time - it's hard to put down the right words.

We stopped at the Kruse National Military History Center in Auburn, Indiana for lunch and a quick tour of the museum. Then it was onto South Bend. We can't say thanks enough for our State Police escorts. They have been essential to our safe movement through the countryside, towns, and cities. Yesterday, our convoy stretch to 2.5 miles! We stayed in South Bend today, which gave us time for vehicle maintenance, laundry, and catching up on personal chores. I got to buy a new camera as I guess I overworked mine already and it broke! We are off ("First gear") at 6:30 in the morning and will end in Rochelle, Illinois tomorrow night. It's been a great first week, and by the way, Den is learning French. We have 6 citizens of France, including a diplomat, who are making the entire journey with us. They are fun to be around; they are enjoying seeing America and learning Texan from Den. "Y'all" in French doesn't sound quite the same!

We miss y'all!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Beginning...

Wow! The journey had been incredible so far and extremely busy. I just thought I could blog every evening! We've start with breakfasts at 6:30 and have not reached our hotel rooms until after 10 each night. Today is our first rest day, so I want to share some highlights. We are so filled up with memories already that we could stop now and be content.

It took the initial convoy over an hour to reach the Ellipse on Saturday for our ceremonial dedication at Mile Marker Zero in front of the White House. All the vehicles were lined up down Constitution Avenue, and the General who spoke at the ceremony "reviewed" the vehicles prior to our start. We made quite an impression and Mall visitors got a bonus on their sightseeing tours Saturday. Den and Jezebel are the last vehicle in the convoy and he deals with any breakdowns or problems. On Saturday, 6 vehicles had problems, but the vehicles were repaired and all made it to our first stop in Chambersburg, PA although they were 2 1/2 hours behind the main body. If a breakdown does occur, Den is responsible for overseeing repairs if they can be done and then leading to the next destination.

I led the support vehicle convoy after lunch, starting on Saturday, and we went through the battlefield in Gettysburg on our way to Chambersburg. The townspeople turned out in big numbers to view the vehicles and treated the convoy to supper in a beautifully restored barn in their community park.

On Sunday, we started through the beautiful western mountains of PA. They asked me to again lead the support vehicles so we went ahead this time with the climb ahead. Remember, we are traveling on the historic highway, not interstates. Folks were camping out, picnicking and waiting for the convoy with flags posted. The support group became goodwill ambassadors, waving and shouting out that "They're coming!" One church congregation was on the front lawn to greet the convoy as they came through with bells ringing. It was like the 4th of July as we wound our way to Greensburg. We stopped to pay our respects at the Flight 93 memorial. Groundbreaking will take place in July for the permanent site. We arrived at our rally point, a mall, and folks were lining the highway, watching and waiting. When we parked the support vehicles, folks immediately surrounded us, asking questions so we are brushing up on our public affairs skills as we are talking to elected officials and the media, as well as the public.

On Monday, the convoy headed for Pittsburgh only to be re-routed by the Penguin Stanley Cup Parade. Den had one minor breakdown, but the convoys reconnected prior to our lunch stop in East Palestine, Ohio. We stopped in the park that Den's family used to frequent many times for swimming and picnicking when he was a boy. The turnout was unbelievable. They had a band, flyby of old biplanes, a cookout complimented by potluck dishes from the townspeople. There was more food than even those hungry drivers could eat. They passed out cases of water to each driver. The bonus for us was a visit with some of Den's family members who came over from western PA to cheer Den on. It was a short but sweet visit, and Den so appreciated them turning out for this special event.

We traveled on to Wooster, Ohio for a 2-night stay. Our hosts are the Marlboro Volunteers MVPA chapter and they have even provided our meals in an actual field kitchen and mess tent. The Volunteers are changing out an engine in a 3/4 ton truck today and through the night and will have it ready to run tomorrow. That's the kind of spirit and teamwork we are experiencing on this adventure. Again, so many people have come out to see the vehicles on static display each night and express their support.

We are a bit tired, not so much from the driving, but from the work required to make the convoy a success. There are only a handful of women along so I have been working on registration packets and helping a bit with the sales of souveniers, which is really big. So much for all the reading and crafting I thought I would do!

Take heart - patriotism is alive and well! We are experiencing it firsthand. Den saw a farmer get off his tractor and stand by the side of the road to honor the convoy as they passed. So, things can't be all that bad. It's another early morning tomorrow as we will be moving by 7. Keep us in your prayers and know that we miss you and hope all is well at home.