On Thursday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) traveled out to Hagerstown Speedway to visit the truckers with The People’s Convoy. He arrived around 9:30 a.m. to speak. Cruz then joined organizers Mike Landis and Brian Brase in the lead truck to roll the beltway. This was the fourth time the convoy has pulled out onto the beltway this week. Landis broke off from the rest of the convoy and drove Cruz to his press conference back in D.C. at around 11:45 a.m. EST.
Landis’ truck carries a WWll flag that proudly waves on its flatbed. The flag had been draped over the casket of a soldier who died in WWll and was hand-delivered to the convoy in Oklahoma by one of the veteran’s grandsons. The flag traveled the rest of the trip into Hagerstown with the convoy.
The convoy moved double-wide on the beltway in areas with more than three lanes and the middle lane when there were only three. The trip usually takes around 6-7 hours round trip to make just one loop on the beltway. As usual, the truckers broadcast their route prior to the convoy lift-off and work closely together to ensure that they and the driving public are safe as they complete the 64-mile loop.
During today’s convoy, according to Bonnie Kelly of AB Kelly Trucking, two vehicles were trying to “mess with the truckers.” One of the vehicles, a white Mazda, was weaving in and out of the convoy forcing the truckers to hit their brakes unnecessarily on several occasions. Kelly said the car led the police on a chase as it took off through traffic.
The truckers work very hard to maintain a consistent speed of 40-45 mph and are generally spaced evenly to avoid the “slinky effect” while in formation. The slinky effect is just as it sounds. Cars weaving in and out cause the convoy to slow down suddenly or break, and it causes dangerous contraction and expansion of the length of the convoy, which can lead to accidents. Often vehicles surrounding the convoy are not aware of how dangerous it can be to jump in or weave in and out of the trucks.
Cruz did most of the talking at the press conference, with Brase speaking for only a few minutes. Cruz emphasized the importance of being informed voters because elected officials often make poor decisions on behalf of Americans. He commented about the mandates and his experience in the cab as he traveled toward D.C.:
“It is amazing. As we drove in, you saw men and women gathered wearing, waving flags, honking, and expressing support as we drove under overpasses, one after the other, after the other. The entire way, virtually every overpass we drove under—crowds gathered, waving flags, saying thank you to the truckers. And let me tell you, these truckers, they are speaking out for the rights of every American they’re speaking out for the three and a half million truckers across the United States. But it’s not just truckers; they’re speaking out for cops and firefighters. They’re speaking out for soldiers and sailors and airmen and marines. They’re speaking out for doctors and nurses, and teachers. They’re speaking out for airline pilots and flight attendants—all the people who have been ordered unjustly and illegally to take the COVID vaccine or be fired. Government has no right to do that.
This was the lead rig in the convoy this morning. And so we started in the convoy, and then we detoured to come down here to bring the voice of the truckers here to our nation’s capital.”
Brase stepped up to the mic, adding his two cents on the Senator’s words:
“It is our freedoms. That’s what this is about, and it’s time to remind the American Government and governments truly around the world even that they work for us. And now is the time for the American people around the country, for the people around the world to stand up for your personal freedoms, for what some would call your God-given rights. Now is the time, and I encourage truck drivers from around the world to stand up. It was important for us to come.”
UncoverDC spoke with trucker Bonnie Kelly today about how things are going at the Hagerstown Speedway. Bonnie and her husband Allen rolled the beltway today, but she has been busy back at “camp” the rest of the week, handling the thousands of donations and volunteers there. Her husband Allen was one of the truckers who met with Senators Cruz and Johnson in D.C. on Wednesday.
Managing the sheer numbers of donations and supplies coming into the Hagerstown encampment is no small task. Supply trucks roll in daily, requiring many man-hours to unload, organize, and distribute. The truckers are extremely grateful for the support they have received. They are also thankful for the core group of local volunteers, some traveling from more than one hour away to show up consistently to help organize the many donations. Perishables must be unloaded immediately, and other supplies can stay on the trucks to save time and labor when the truckers ultimately move on. One donor donated “100 lbs of meat and the freezer with it,” said Kelly. When asked what the public can do to support the truckers, Kelly noted that cash cards are the most helpful. “Many of these truckers came all the way from California and are now starting to feel financial pain from not working for over two weeks. The cash cards help a lot,” said Kelly.
This convoy operation is truly a family affair. Children in the convoy have been recruited to help distribute snacks.
Kelly also said that Chef George Montgomery and his volunteer crew showed up over the weekend to serve the convoy a hot breakfast. Another Chef has been cooking the weekday breakfasts. Others have also shown up to cook other meals in the parking lot surrounding the track. Toward the back of the lot, “a woman has been cooking around 300 meals a day under a tent,” added Kelly.
Hagerstown Speedway has been very accomodating to the crowds, which ballooned to around 3000 vehicles over the weekend of the convoy’s arrival on March 4. Kelly estimates there are currently about 200 trucks and upwards of 300 cars and campers occupying the grounds.
The manager of the Speedway, Lisa Plessinger, has graciously allowed the convoy use of the kitchen and almost every space on the Speedway grounds. Plessinger made sure portapotties were delivered to the grounds prior to arrival. Her father Frank owns the track, taking over in 1981.
Americans are known for their generosity and volunteerism worldwide, and this event was no different. Generous, committed volunteers showed up in droves, traveling great distances and rearranging their busy work and home schedules to pitch in. Multiple local groups contributed manpower and food, especially during the initial weekend at the track. In advance of the convoy’s arrival, Baltimore area resident Tony DeCesare secured both the track and eight showers for the convoy. Showers are a real godsend for truckers who often have to go days without a shower. DeCesare was later recruited to direct traffic at the Speedway entrance the afternoon and evening the convoy arrived. The convoy usually takes about 3-4 hours to fully file into any given venue at the end of the day.
Another group of volunteers organized by some Baltimore area mothers raised funds to donate for food, cash cards, and American flags for the truckers.
One of the volunteers, Kate Sullivan, drove the three-hour round trip several times from her Baltimore area home to ensure that volunteers were organized and donations properly distributed. Another mom, Criste May, bought cigarettes and dip for the truckers. Criste also cooked up some sweatshirts at home with her DIY decal press machine for the volunteers to ensure the truckers knew they were loved. The group of mothers raised over $3000 in cash in a matter of days, $2000 of which was donated by a man in South Carolina.
Phil Hose, Lisa’s righthand man for the Speedway operations, told UncoverDC that in all of his years working for the Speedway, he has never experienced such a large respectful group of people. He said in many instances, people who come to the track grounds do not behave very well. Hose offered his perspective on the truckers:
“These truckers have been the most friendly, honest, hard-working people I have ever met. I was told they would leave the Speedway as they found it, and they have. I have never seen a group that respects someone’s property so well. The trucker volunteers are the hardest workers I have ever seen and are not getting paid for (keeping the grounds tidy.) it has restored my faith that there are still hard-working Americans in this country.”
Hose has helped Lisa at the Speedway since 2014 and has been going to the track since 1968. The track was built in 1946 by Stanley Schetrompf at the former Conococheague Amusement Park.