Right now, Mike Wilson is on the road. That’s nothing new for him — after all, he’s the longtime owner and operator of Whitewood Transport Inc., a carrier located in Billings, Montana. Whitewood specializes in transporting construction, mining and other large equipment for several shippers throughout North America. At the moment, Wilson’s company is moving something very unique: the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.
“We are so proud to be able to be a part of this, and we’re so honored we were asked to do it,” says Wilson. He’s currently in the midst of a 20-stop tour from Montana to Washington, D.C. to share the tree with local citizens and help usher in the Christmas season. “We are taking the tree to a number of cities in Montana to celebrate the honor of having the Capitol tree hail from our beautiful state, and then we’ll be on the road for 10 more days until we finally are due in Washington, D.C. by November 28.” Follow the progress of the tour here to find details about each stop along the way. There is also real-time coverage of the tree’s journey available at Track the Tree.
The 2017 tree is an 81-feet tall Englewood Spruce harvested from Kootenai National Forest on Tuesday, November 7. It was loaded onto the custom trailer of a state-of-the-art Kenworth T680 Advantage, a process that Wilson says took a few hours. Police escorts are accompanying the truck for each stage of its journey, and Wilson has been sharing photos and updates on Whitewood Transport’s Facebook page.
Of course, it takes a very special driver to handle precious, high-profile cargo like the nation’s Christmas tree. Whitewood chose one of its most experienced drivers, Larry Spiekermeier, to make the journey. “We gave this honor to Larry for several reasons,” says Wilson. “He’s been with the Whitewood team for almost 20 years and has had 1.6 million accident-free miles with our company. He was also named Driver of the year in 2009 and 2015 for the Motor Carriers of Montana Association. Plus, he is a stellar individual with a great attitude with lots of knowledge and experience.” Spiekermeier’s wife, Mary Ann, is accompanying him for the first 900 miles of the trip. She joins him on the road from time to time and was his early “pilot car driver” at the start of his career.
Wilson says Spiekermeier is excited about the upcoming tour stops, as he will have opportunity to meet with people from all walks of life and plans to hand out “a few surprises” for kids. At many of the stops, Santa Claus is rumored to be making appearances as well. “This entire experience is a fantastic opportunity for us to reach out to the community and hopefully demonstrate to people how valuable the trucking industry is to our nation. We’re all looking forward to doing our part to help promote the industry and spread holiday cheer along the way,” says Wilson.
Whitewood Transport is a longtime customer of PrePass, but because the Kenworth T680 Advantage is on-loan, it will not be equipped with a PrePass transponder. Although the vehicle is unlikely to be flagged in for a weigh station inspection due to its high profile and the law enforcement escorts, Wilson laughs when asked if he thinks the truck could still be called in for an inspection. “I suppose there’s always a chance of that, especially if the weigh station officers really want to get a look at the Capitol Christmas tree up-close!”
We wish Wilson, Spiekermeier and the entire Whitewood team safe travels and look forward to seeing the Montana-grown tree in its place of honor in our nation’s Capitol this holiday season.