LIBBY, MT… The 53rd U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree – a 79-foot Englemann Spruce from northwestern Montana – began its nearly 3,000-mile journey from the Kootenai National Forest to Washington, D.C., following its harvesting 45 miles north of Libby.
After the cutting, the “People’s Tree” was hoisted onto a specially designed flatbed trailer. Larry Spiekermeier, a 1.6-million mile, accident-free driver with Billings, Montana-based Whitewood Transport, hauled the tree in a Kenworth T680 Advantage to a U.S. Forest Service warehouse. There, the special tree was fitted with a special 80-gallon water bladder to keep it hydrated, carefully wrapped and boxed, before traveling on a tour of 15 community events across Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, and Kentucky.
The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is 76 years old and weighed in at harvest at about 15,000 pounds, according to Sandi Mason, the U.S. Forest Service’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree project leader. “It’s an absolutely beautiful tree,” Mason said. “Despite all of the wildfires that burned in Montana this year, we feel fortunate that the Englemann Spruce chosen in July by the Architect of the U.S. Capitol was untouched by fires.”
The Kenworth T680 Advantage transporting the tree features a distinctive exterior design, with the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree – Kootenai National Forest seal, brightly lit and colorfully adorned Christmas Tree, and the U.S. Capitol beneath a starry sky with the words “Big Sky. Big Tree. Big Journey.” The T680 also sports the logo of Whitewood Transport, a recent multiple-year recipient (including 2016) of the Motor Carrier of the Year from the Motor Carriers of Montana.
The T680 features the PACCAR Powertrain equipped with the PACCAR MX-13 engine, PACCAR 12-speed automated transmission with column-mounted shifter, and PACCAR 40,000-pound tandem rear axle. The T680’s specifications include a 76-inch sleeper with Kenworth’s premium “Driver’s Studio” option, TruckTech+ remote diagnostics system, predictive cruise control, idle management system, driver performance center, and premium GT703 seats.
The tour stops began on Monday, Nov. 13, at the Eureka Town Hall in Eureka, Montana, and ended Nov. 26 at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. The tree was delivered to the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 27. The U.S. Speaker of the House – Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and a Montanan, chosen by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, will light the tree at a special ceremony in early December.
For more information, including a complete tour schedule, visit the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree web site –www.capitolchristmastree.com. Choose Outdoors, a non-profit organization that works with the Forest Service on promoting outdoor recreation and public access to federal lands for recreation, assists with coordinating the annual tour.
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CAPTION: Kenworth - Whitewood Transport Group
From left are: Nancy Wilson and her husband Mike Wilson, owner of Whitewood Transport in Billings, Montana; 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Driver Larry Spiekermeier of Whitewood Transport and his wife Mary Ann Spiekermeier. Photo credit: James Edward Mills / Choose Outdoors