After months of planning, hours and hours of Jeep restoration and fix-up, and innumerable emails and phone calls to find rare parts, the Alaska or Rust Vintage Jeep Caravan arrived in Dawson Creek, British Columbia on July 28th. Ten Jeeps and twenty-one intrepid adventurers from around the world took a brief respite before tackling the famous (or infamous if you prefer) Alaska Highway.
We are happy to report that Hugo Vidal and his son Fernando officially made the trip. Hugo is 84 years old and is partially re-living a previous Jeep adventure he and friends made back in the mid-‘50s. Hugo came all the way from São Paulo, Brazil to drive the Alaska Highway once again. After much negotiation, the Vidals scored sponsorship from Jeep-makers Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in the form of a new Jeep for the trip. For the complete story of Hugo’s great adventure in the ‘50s and for all of the background leading up to the Caravan, please see our previous article about the ‘Alaska or Rust’ Caravan.
Saturday, July 29th was a kick-back day for everyone to renew old friendships, meet folks they had been corresponding with for months, and say “Hello” to new Jeepers. Following the hugs, handshakes, and introductions, the group did what all red-blooded Jeep fanatics do – they worked on their Jeeps, making sure that all would be well when it was time to head north to Fairbanks, Alaska. There was the obligatory group photo in front of the “World Famous Alaska Highway” sign at the entry to the highway.
The Jeepers were also kept busy chatting with the local onlookers who gathered to see what was going on. Among the visitors to the motel parking lot – the unofficial Jeep maintenance area – were four of Dawson Creek’s finest police officers. Any disquiet on the Jeepers’ parts soon evaporated, as the officers were there strictly as enthusiastic spectators. They were so enthusiastic that they donated to the Caravan a shoulder patch cut from one officer’s uniform. We hope the officer was not cited for being out of uniform.
David and Ann Eilers decided that their Jeep “Patterson” will need a new paint job after the trip, and Ann had the brainstorm of having participants and visitors sign Patterson’s hood. Patterson now includes the signatures of the Dawson Creek police officers.
Following the maintenance party in the parking lot, the group adjourned to a meeting to discuss the ins and outs of caravan travel and what everyone could expect during the trip. Dinner brought the telling of more tall Jeep tales, and then it was time to hit the hay. The adventure officially started on Sunday, July 30th at 8:00 a.m. We bet it was hard to get to sleep the night before – just like it was for all of us as kids trying to sleep on Christmas Eve.
For daily trip updates from David Eilers, please visit http://www.alaskaorrust.com/.
Bon voyage, Jeepers!
Photos by: David Eilers