Friday, September 7, 2012

Mercy sakes alive …. A Route 66 convoy

OOIDA Life Member Barry Chesler and his wife, Gigi
(Photo by Paul Abelson)

Land Line Senior Technical Editor Paul Abelson was in Morris, IL, this week to see trucking “step back in time.” Here’s Paul’s report from the scene:

For years, members of the American Truck Historical Society (ATHS) have been gathering to show their classic and vintage iron. The major event is at their convention and meeting each year, held at different locations around the country. Regional gatherings are also held, often at industry events like the Iowa-80 Truckers Jamboree. But all the events are static, with trucks just on display. At least that’s how it was until now.

This year, ATHS Regional VP-Ohio Mark Schroyer, Coldwater, OH, had an idea. He grew up in trucking. His father started as an owner-operator and built a successful, family-operated fleet. Mark chairs the ATHS membership committee. He came upon the idea of taking trucking's history on the road in a convoy, and what better road for the first ATHS Convoy than “The Mother Road,” Route 66.

Due to the age and condition of the trucks, the group decided not to actually travel in convoy, but to depart each morning from the gathering point and, after traveling separately, reassemble at the next scheduled destination.

In connection with their 40th anniversary celebration, Travel Centers of America agreed to sponsor the convoy at nine T/A and Petro truckstops, starting with yesterday's assembly and this morning's departure at the Morris Il T/A. The Convoy will finish Sept. 15 at the Route 66 Rendezvous in San Bernardino CA. Route 66 was selected because so many major fleets, some still with us and many now gone, were located along the old route.

“We were hoping to attract 10 to 15 trucks for the initial convoy,” Schroyer said. “But by late afternoon, we had almost 40 registered for one or more legs.”

Several retired OOIDA members were ready to go from the start at Morris. OOIDA Life Member Barry Chesler, Rochester NY was there with the two loves of his life: Gigi, his wife, and “Halfpete,” his ’83 Peterbilt cab on an ’87 GMC pickup chassis. Power is from a ’94 Cummins taken from a Dodge pickup. “I’ve always been an owner-operator,” Barry said. “No one would hire me because I had no experience, so I bought my own truck.

“I’ve always been into cars and light trucks. I had show cars and show trucks. That's why I built Halfpete.”

OOIDA Life Member Ron Williams, East Berlin PA, has been driving more than 42 years, but is now semi-retired. He works a 2000 International leased to Trailer Transit. But his pride and joy is his ’76 Kenworth W900A with a 475 Cummins and an Eaton-Fuller 15 speed.

“I had it in a garage for 12 years. Then I restored it to take it to shows. It was a tandem drive, but to save fuel and make things easier, I converted it to a 4-by-2,” Ron said.

The assemblage of trucks drew a few bystanders, too. Aaron Stoudt, an OOIDA member known as Paladin (Have truck, will travel) from Fairmount IL, was passing through the T/A. He had heard about the convoy, and wandered away from his 2006 T600 to see the assembled trucks.

“I've always liked trucks, new or old,” Aaron told Land Line. "I heard about the convoy and was happy to see it was on my route. Some of these are treasures. It’s good to know that people keep them running.”