Paul Neil of Huntington Beach, Va., and his wife, Jackie, have a traveling arrangement. When it rains, Jackie works the windshield wipers on the 73-year-old Ford Army Jeep — manually.
“These are hand-operated windshield wipers,” said Neil, showing how the small wipers work on the Jeep.
Neil noted that his World War II-era Jeep runs a top speed of 45 mph. And he and his wife got caught one day in the rain on I-85 in the old Jeep. He said it was harrowing with 18-wheelers passing by as his wife rapidly worked the wipers.
But the Neils are far from alone right now as they make the 29-day trip from Washington, D.C. to San Diego, California. The two were part of a huge convoy of WWII-era vehicles pulling into the Madison County Recreation Department Sept. 24. The convoy of trucks, cars and motorcycles included plenty of Army green and lots of red, white and blue. Local residents walked by the vehicles and took pictures with their cell phones as the drivers took about a 30-minute break in the recreation department parking lot.
The group is riding across the country drawing attention to veterans and the military and to retrace the largely forgotten Bankhead Highway, which was named for Alabama senator John Hollis Bankhead. In 1916, Bankhead pushed through legislation to establish a highway that eventually ran through nearly every state in the South and to California. The route was over old wagon tracks and dirt roads until a 50-vehicle 1920 Motor Transport convoy constructed many roads and convinced many municipalities along the way to help pave the roads.
The 3,400-mile convoy is scheduled to end Oct. 17. After a brief break in Madison County, drivers honked and waved at local residents as they turned onto Hwy. 98 headed for the Golden State.