Military Vehicle Preservation Association’s convoy rumbles back onto the road with a 2000-mile odyssey

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Bryan Gerould

On a warm, drizzly day, the Military Vehicle Preservation Association’s 2021 annual convoy filed into the parking lot of the Hagerty garage in Traverse City, Michigan. A little weather wasn’t about to phase these owners, certainly not after last year’s plans fell victim to the complications of 2020. This year was bound to be different.

“We have been traveling along the Yellowstone Trail, which a lot of people really aren’t aware of,” Dan McCluskey, the MVPA’s commanding officer, tells WJMN-TV. The group was pressing on to Traverse City from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, on day nine of a 24 travel-day excursion that began on July 28 in Aberdeen, South Dakota. “[The Yellow Stone Trail] was developed early in this century and it runs from Plymouth Rock all the way to Seattle through Yellowstone National Park, so we are celebrating that particular nationally named road and following it from Aberdeen, South Dakota to Conneaut, Ohio.”

That may seem like a lot of mileage, but for these ambassadors, the journey itself is what matters. As part of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, which is 8000 members strong, the convoy cruises America’s iconic byways in historic military vehicles (HMVs) focusing on the flyover country towns, veteran-proud locales that popular culture seems determined to dismiss. This organization pledges to “Keep ’em rolling,” and it exemplifies the motto—History in Motion—down to the letter.

Military vehicle convoy stickers
Bryan Gerould

MVPA convoys have proven their mettle many times over, assembling for some impressive feats of distance. Legendary trips include a re-enactment of the 3100-mile 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, California in 2009, as well as a 4100-mile Alaska-Canada (ALCAN) Highway trek on the road’s 70th anniversary in 2012.

“A lot of people go to museums to see static displays of vehicles. Well, we are out here showing people exactly how they were used,” McCluskey continues. “We’ll be doing almost two thousand miles on this convoy … it’s our way of giving back to the military and to our public, showing them exactly what it is like to drive these vehicles and keep them on the road.”

Military vehicle convoy fronts
Bryan Gerould

The convoys welcome all kinds of HMVs, new and old, from the big boys (5+ tons) down to motorbikes. Arrayed on the rain-slick asphalt, all the vehicles held prestige, but our eyes were immediately drawn to the oldies: a 1918 Dodge Staff Car, a holdover from WWI, and a 1944 Ford Ambulance from WWII. A peek through the Ford’s window revealed a strikingly beautiful dash, which was unexpected yet all the more poetic for a vehicle whose gurney-filled hatch was destined to shuttle the wounded. No less, the convoy contingent was chock-full of countless surprises and personal touches hidden among its ranks. A reverence for these vehicles lingers long after you stroll away.

After a brief stopover in South Bend, Indiana for the MVPA International Convention, the convoy will continue the final leg of its journey through northeastern Indiana and northern Ohio. Festivities at the terminus in Conneaut are set to include the town’s extraordinary D-Day reenactment.

MVPA members are already gearing up for lost time from 2020’s postponement; next year’s route will celebrate U.S. National Parks in the Pacific Northwest, with the Northwest Parks Convoy (NWP’22) traveling through Idaho, Washington state, and Oregon in August.

To learn more about the MVPA, membership, and its convoys, be sure to visit their website at mvpa.org, or consider following the latest route virtually on Facebook.

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