Meet America at 30 miles per hour - July 2, 2009
July 9, 2009
<i>The following was written by Sgt. 1st Class Mark F. Ounan, an Active/ Guard infantry Soldier currently assigned to the 324th Military Police Btn., Chambersburg, Pa. Ounan is also the only current Soldier and Military Vehicle Preservation Association member taking place in the 2009 MVPA Convoy. Here's an exert from the journal he's keeping as he travels cross-country.</i>
Today was our longest day. We left Murray, Utah, at 6 a.m. Part of our trip was to take us through Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, an Army installation that takes up a large section of the western Utah desert. Usually no one is allowed to go through there even though the old Lincoln Highway cuts right through the base. The convoy got special permission from the government to not only drive through the installation but to stop there for lunch.
The public affairs office staff on Dugway was very excited to see us. They had been working on this project for a couple of years, and even found old pictures of the 1919Transcontinental Convoy. They took us to the places on the base where those original pictures were taken and took new photos of the area today.
We had lunch on the parade field in front of headquarters building and the installation commander came out to greet us.
On the grounds of Dugway is an original Lincoln Highway bridge that dates back to the 1919 convoy and is on the national Registry of historic places. The public affairs officer asked me to drive my car onto the bridge so they could take some pictures. I was happy to, and we got some great pictures of the car and a group photo on the bridge. From there on we headed out into the wilderness.
The rest of Dugway Proving Ground is all dirt roads. It was really a challenge for the Dodge and most of the other vehicles too. Many of the roads were corduroyed, which means they are very bumpy and the car vibrates and moves from side to side. Some of these roads shook the car so hard that we vibrated from one side of the road to the other and Harry and I got one bumpy ride.
Then it started to rain. At first I was happy; a little rain was keeping the dust down, but soon the rain got heavier and the dirt roads we were on turned to some pretty incredible slick, sticky mud. It reminded me of the mud in Diyala Province, Iraq, in January. The kind of mud that acts like thick glue and sticks to everything and makes your feet feel heavy. This mud got flung all over the vehicles. Before long we were covered in it. It was splashing up and sticking everywhere.
At one point, I pulled to the side of the road to check the front wheel on my car and everything was fine. But when I got back in and tried to pull away, the shoulder of the road collapsed. And I ended up stuck in a sloppy, muddy ditch. Luckily a three-quarter ton command car was right there to help me. I quickly jumped out, hooked up my tow strap, and he pulled me out in no time.
We drove over 130 miles of dirt roads. This took many hours, and a lot longer than we thought. We also had steep hills to climb. There were long stretches of baron, muddy roads before we the next paved road. By then it was already dark and still raining; we got the word that it was another 40 miles to our destination, Ely, Nev. At 30 miles an hour that's a long way.
We were supposed to arrive in Ely about 7 p.m. We arrived in the pouring rain, about 10 p.m., soaked to the bone and freezing. The people of Ely waited for us and were standing in their yards in the rain to wave and cheer. They fed us a spaghetti dinner and put on a show. We all stayed to watch even though we were exhausted. We spent over 15 hours driving today, but we didn't want to let these folks down.