The 2011 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, a 65-foot white fir, leaves the Stanislaus National Forest aboard the custom-decorated Mack Pinnacle tractor, starting its journey through California and across the country to Washington, DC.
For a number of years now, the Capitol Christmas Tree is hauled from a forest out West and delivered to the grounds of the U.S. Capital in Washington, DC.
For those of you who might not know, the Capitol is among the most architecturally impressive and symbolically important buildings in the world. It has housed the meeting chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives for more than two centuries.
This year, a “cheerfully decorated” Mack Pinnacle tractor is trekking cross-country with a 65-foot white fir tree in tow.
The Smartway-certified Pinnacle Axle Back model sleeper, provided by Mack, is hauling the tree that will light up the nation’s capitol this year as part of the 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree Project.
Selected based on its shape, fullness and color, the conifer was cut down from the Stanislaus National Forest in the central Sierra Nevada Mountains near Sonora, CA, and loaded onto a special trailer with a custom-built cradle to support the tree’s branches throughout its journey.
The 4,500-mile trip will take about two-week. Numerous cities and towns will hold celebrations at stops along the way, giving visitors an opportunity to see both the tree and the rig.
Royal Trucking Company of Concord, CA, is providing drivers and a second truck to transport a trailer supplied by Mack containing 3,000 handmade ornaments and 100 smaller trees for government offices.
After arriving in Washington, the tree will be decorated with almost 10,000 low-energy LED lights and thousands of ornaments. A lighting ceremony on the west lawn of the Capitol will be held on December 6, and the tree will remain lit throughout the holiday season.
The “People’s Tree”
The tradition of the “People’s Tree” began in 1964, and national forests rotate responsibility for providing the tree.
Mack has delivered Christmas to the Capitol before, most recently in 2009, when a Mack truck hauled an 85-foot blue spruce from Arizona to Washington.
Mack also hauled the Capitol Christmas Tree in 2000. That was the year I had the honor and privilege of driving the special rig the last leg of the trip.
I met up with the convoy at a rest area along I-95 in Maryland and drove the rig, which carried a 65-foot Colorado Blue Spruce from Colorado’s Pike National Forest, into the Capital.
Not to brag but, that tree had some 6,400 ornaments made by school children from all of Colorado’s 64 districts, plus 10,000 blue, white, and amber lights.
It was a most exciting drive for me.
It was the first time I had a procession of motorcycle police and squad cars, with sirens blaring and lights flashing, leading me anywhere. Plus, the convoy was tailed by a special armed escort squad to protect the tree.
The police escorting us had a special gizmo that turned any red traffic light into a green light. Consequently, once we got off the Capitol Beltway, the convoy never had to stop for a light.
That was another first for me.
I’ll tell you, a person sure can get used to such special traffic control treatment.