Albuquerque marks Route 66 convoy halfway point

By Kimberely Lennard, Land Line staff writer | 9/11/2012

An idea that cropped up during a breakfast conversation two years ago turned into a planning meeting for a trucking adventure reminiscent of the days of yesteryear. Mark Shroyer, regional vice president for the American Truck Historical Society (ATHS) said that’s how the Historic Highway Convoy along Route 66 came to be.

“We figured if we had 15 trucks we would be doing good,” Shroyer told Land Line. “We’ve ended up with about 35 that plan on going all the way. That’s a distance of 2,400 miles from Illinois to California.”

The truck drivers – many of whom are OOIDA members – began their journey on Sept. 6 in Morris, IL, and will end their trek on Sept. 15 in San Bernardino, CA, at the Route 66 Rendezvous.

Each afternoon the convoy stops at a TA or Petro. Travel Centers of America is hosting daily “convoy” shows as part of the truck stop chain’s 40th anniversary.

“Spirits are high,” said Tom Mullen, corporate relations for ATHS. “Iowa 80 has a truck in the convoy. It was supposed to end its trip in Albuquerque on Sept. 11, but they’ve decided to send their truck all the way.”

OOIDA Life Member Barry Chesler of Scottsville, NY, is doing the ride with his wife, Gigi. “There’s so much history and lore about 66. …We’ve just gotta do it,” Barry told her after he heard about the trip.

“I think it will be a once in a lifetime deal.”

Barry is driving his “Halfpete,” a 1983 Peterbilt cab on a 1987 GMC chassis. Just for the fun of it, they started counting how many people were taking pictures of their ride.

That ride has taken them to places like Russell’s Truck Stop in Glen Rio, NM, which has a classic car and memorabilia museum. On Monday, Sept. 10, they went to a Route 66 museum in Clinton, OK, that has the history of the route from the beginning. Later they visited what Barry describes as “an ancient Route 66 place” – Harley and Annabelle Russell’s Sandhills Curio Shop in the “little bitty town” of Erick, OK.

Member Jim Skrinar, of Purcell, OK, joined the convoy from Joplin to Oklahoma City. He drove Route 66 about 10 years ago in a car. This time, in his truck, he took the opportunity to snap a photo of his 1979 K100 cabover Kenworth in front of an old Phillips station with the old sign out front.

Florence Good, wife of Member Willard Good, of Denver, PA, said the Route 66 convoy was “definitely something he always had wanted to do.” Willard said he had thought about it for a long time and decided it would be fun to do in a truck.

Willard’s ride is a blue and white 1954 Mack that he bought in pieces and rebuilt. He started refurbishing the truck in 1996, and it has been on the road since the end of 2003. He said it may look old, but it has air conditioning and “power everything,” plus satellite radio.

While Florence declined to join Willard for the trip, he said maybe it is something the pair will do later in a car.

“I love the old stuff … and the ‘old garage’ smell,” said Willard, who has driven segments of the route before. On Friday, Sept. 7, he stopped at an old shop full of vintage tools. “It really took your senses back. The smell of diesel fuel and oil, it must be a truck driver thing that does something to your brain.”

Life Member Ronald Williams, of East Berlin, PA, hit the “Mother Road” in a truck he calls his toy – a 1976 A-Model Kenworth with a distinctive oversized bunk.

“It looks out of proportion because I cut it out and made a single axle out of it,” said Ronald, who put 2 million miles on the truck before he retired it to the garage 12 years ago. The convoy hit rain all day on Sept. 7, and Ronald said the rain poured into the sleeper bed like it was “coming from a garden hose.”

He always wanted to do Route 66 in one of his hot rods, but he didn’t have one that would make it.

“It’s just an old man’s dream. It’s kind of fun to go for pleasure once,” said Ronald, who is making the trip with his brother, Dick Williams. Among their favorite stops so far are Russell’s Truck Stop with its car museum in Clinton, OK, and the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, OK.

“We have no agenda. If we see something, we stop,” said Ronald, who said they pulled over in New Mexico just to take a photo of the truck in front of an old Shell truck stop. “There’s a lot of old places I used to stop at years ago that are closed up and gone. It’s nice to see what it’s turned into. We’re having a ball. It’s a whole lot different doing it for fun than working.”

Life Member Allan Rowe, of St. Augustine, FL, is driving his 100 percent aluminum truck.

“They scrapped a lot of the aluminum trucks and I’ve recycled it,” he said. “The truck has been a fire truck and a road truck. This thing was in pieces in the yard three weeks ago.”

The windshield wipers are air pressure operated. The truck has no air conditioning or radio either, but no matter. Allan says he likes listening to the hum of the motor.

Allan did the Route 66 trip in 1969 in a camper, going east from California. This time, he’s hauling a red 1964 Mustang for his daughter’s birthday.

Allan says the ride is rougher now and much of the original route has been let go, but retracing it still makes for a great trip.

He’s stopped at a couple of Route 66 museums and got a “neat T-shirt at a 66 diner.”

“I’ve been able to travel all over the world. This is one of the best vacations ever. The ATHS people did an excellent job.”

The convoy is in Albuquerque Tuesday night, then travels on to Gallup, NM, on Wednesday, Sept. 12; Kingman, AZ, on Sept. 13; and on to Barstow, CA, on Sept. 14. The plan is to arrive in San Bernardino on Sept. 15.

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