Ricardo Leon of the U.S. Forest Service, based near where this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree was harvested in New Mexico’s Carson National Forest, squeegeed view windows onto the tree’s top at the rear of the trailer ahead of events outside the public entrance to Bridgestone Arena November 21 in Nashville.
Wilbanks Trucking’s Brumbach Stephens didn’t exactly to expect to be where he is today, on the way to Knoxville, Tenn., behind the wheel of a specially wrapped Kenworth W990 and toting the well overlength trailer that currently houses a 60-foot Blue Spruce on its tour across the country. Stephens calls the haul a “once in a lifetime deal,” bound for delivery at the United States Capitol Monday, November 25, and one he was chosen for by virtue of the 57-year-old former owner-operator and small fleet owner’s long trucking experience.
“I had three trucks of my own” in 2013, says Stephens, based in Hobbs, N.M., operating with authority at the time before he sold out to Wilbanks, which serves the oil fields and other industries in the region around its Artesia, N.M., home base. Stephens notes the company specializes in “heavy hauling in West Texas, in the Permian Basin area.”
Since its initial loading on Brumbach’s 57th birthday, Nov. 6, the rig, powered by a 455-hp Paccar motor and an automated transmission, has been under the control of three different operators from Wilbanks, including Josh Rice and Josh Garcia, who made the handoff to Stephens in Atlanta the day prior to arrival in Nashville November 21. Stephens will take it the rest of the way to Washington, D.C.
Ricardo Leon of the U.S. Forest Service has been traveling with the tree since the beginning of its tour across the country. He rode shotgun with Wilbanks’ Josh Garcia from San Antonio to Georgetown, Texas — population about 50K. There, Leon says, it felt like the entire town was there to greet the rig. He says as many as 6,000 people lined the roads as it came in.
Brumbach Stephens’ primary role is in sales with Wilbanks today — though he’s point driver on a haul for the company, he says, once every few months or so.
This theme for this year’s move is “Delivering Enchantment” after the “Land of Enchantment” state motto of New Mexico, where the tree was harvested. As in past years’ Capitol tree moves, a prime attraction for onlookers is the opportunity to sign the trailer.
This scene from the tree’s Nov. 6 harvesting shows some of the graphics on the side of the W990 hood, showcasing New Mexico’s state flag, along with Ship Rock, a 7,177-foot-high mountain rock that resembles a 19th century clipper ship.
On the door and sleeper, the U.S. Capitol Building is shown with a Christmas tree, with the wording: “From the Land of Enchantment to Enchanting the Nation” written above the graphics.
View at the top of the sleeper.
The rig and its lengthy cargo were parked Nov. 21 evening along 5th Ave. South near Broadway for display.
Nashville-based singer-songwriter Lindsay Lawler and a crew of local songwriters performed a variety of Christmas tunes for the crowd outside of Bridgestone Arena as part of the evening’s festivities.
It’s been a few years since the tree stopped in Nashville — revisit the scene from 2016 at the following link: