It’s been around 30 years since the Capitol Christmas Tree represented the state of Montana, and now local hero Larry Spiekermeier will be putting more than Sanders County on the map.
“It’s a great honor to be driving the tree to our nation’s capitol,” said Spiekermeier.
Having driven a record 1.6 million accident-free miles, Spiekermeier was named the Montana Driver of the Year in 2009 and 2105 by the Motor Carriers of Montana Association and more importantly the driver of the most-anticipated Christmas tree of the year.
Spiekermeier’s career in trucking began in his early 20s hauling cement, produce, hot oil and logs.
He started trucking to pay for college, however, as he recalled, “I realized I could not make that kind of money in college, so I quit.”
Having a positive attitude, great work ethic, and treating people with respect make him a superior driver to work with. Spiekermeier and his wife, Mary Ann, have three grown children, Mandy, Ryan and Cody.
Though Spiekermeier resides in a beautiful home overlooking the Clark Fork River in Plains, he can’t wait to get on the road.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep, I am that excited to be driving the tree across the country,” he said.
Whitewood Transport owner Mike Wilson is equally as excited as they begin to ready the final details before the specially wrapped truck heads east.
“My understanding is that we were selected because of our exemplary safety record, experience in oversize transportation and our driver Larry Spiekermeier,” said Wilson.
Spiekermeier said he’ll be driving in local style.
“I will be bringing a little bit of Plains and Sanders County with me along the drive. As well as heaps of goodies for the kids and those that stop by the truck to say hello,” he added.
The massive Kenworth T680 Advantage will transport the 53rd U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree from the Nov. 8 tree-cutting in the Kootenai National Forest just outside of Libby to 15 community celebrations during the more than 2,000-mile journey en route to the tree-lighting ceremony in Washington, D.C., in early December.
The distinctive exterior design features the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree — Kootenai National Forest seal, a brightly lit and colorfully adorned Christmas tree and the U.S. Capitol beneath a night sky with the words “Big Sky. Big Tree. Big Journey.”
That’s just what you see on the outside, as the interior will also be decked out for comfort while Spiekermeier travels the lengthy journey.
The 76-inch sleeper is specified with the premium “Driver’s Studio” option package, which includes the Diamond VIT interior, 180-degree swivel passenger seat and rotating table to accommodate two people, drawer-style refrigerator, convenient space ideal for a microwave, premium audio package and swivel mount for up to a 28-inch flat screen TV.
The Driver’s Studio also offers a full-size wardrobe space for hanging clothes, multiple storage drawers, large storage space under the lower bunk, and 8-inch thick, and luxury pocket coil mattress.
Though residents in both Sanders and Lincoln counties know first hand just how bad the recent fire season was, it seems lucky the chosen tree was spared.
In early October the Forest Supervisor Chris Savage told the Lincoln County Commission, “The tree wasn’t anywhere near any of our fires.”
At the time Savage said the true location of the tree all be revealed about a week before it’s cut down. Though he did say there will be two ceremonies as the “People’s Tree” is tucked nice and tight within the Kootenai National Forest.
The Clark Fork Valley Press was pleased to be the first newspaper to also hear that a special stop was happening in Spiekermeier’s hometown of Plains on Nov. 15.
“I was able to pick to my choosing two unscheduled stops on my journey and I requested that Plains be one of them. I knew this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our kids in Plains to see the Christmas tree up close,” he said.
Overly joyed that his request was approved, he said the first call he made was to the Plains School so they had a heads up.
“I’m so honored to have been selected to drive the tree. I couldn’t believe they chose me, but, I guess it proves that working hard can show some great rewards,” he added.
“I’m just a truck driver from a small community delivering a special Christmas tree,” said Spiekermeier.
To get a copy of all scheduled stops across the nation go to http://www.capitolchristmastree.com/tree.html