By Sandi Soendker, editor-in-chief
OOIDA Life Member and former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, at the wheel of a custom decorated Mack Pinnacle, will be delivering the tree that will light up the nation’s capital this year. It’s the second time that Campbell has been chosen as the driver for the annual Capitol Christmas Tree Project.
He previously transported the tree as part of the 2000 project.
“That was a shorter trip, back in 2000,” said Campbell. “This one will be a longer trip. It’ll be fun.”
Trucking has been a part of his life, even through the years he spent in the U.S. Congress. He still maintains his CDL and enjoys showing his gray and black 2002 Sterling A9500 aerodynamic tractor with 850hp custom engine.
Through trucking, Campbell financed his college education, then became involved in politics. From 1983 to 1986, he served as a Colorado state representative. He was a three-term U.S. representative from Colorado and then a U.S. senator from 1993 to 2005.
Through those years, he says he was the only one in the U.S. Congress with a CDL. When he could, he’d go home and climb into his truck.
“It kept me grounded,” he said.
After the past eight years as senior policy adviser with the law office of Holland and Knight in Washington, DC, Campbell now has his own consulting firm – Ben Nighthorse Consultants Inc. – out of his Pueblo, CO, office.
In October, Campbell says he plans to get together with Mack Trucks and try out the Pinnacle before the trip that will haul the tree out of his home state.
The tree will be selected from the White River National Forest in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in northwest Colorado. Once selected, the tree will be cut in early November and brought to Meeker, CO, for a celebration. Following the celebration, the tree will be wrapped and ready to embark on its multi-week journey to the Capitol.
Numerous cities and towns will have celebrations at stops along the way, giving visitors an opportunity to see Campbell and the Mack Pinnacle hauling the massive tree.
According to Mack, after arriving in Washington, the tree will be decorated with almost 10,000 low-energy LED lights and thousands of ornaments. A lighting ceremony on the west lawn of the Capitol will be conducted, and the tree will remain lit throughout the holiday season.
The tradition of “the People’s Tree” began in 1964, and national forests rotate responsibility each year for providing the tree. LL