North to Alaska

Joe Bee's high hood joins the Alaska Caravan


Alaska map

You've probably heard about the "Alaska or Rust" Caravan, a group of old Jeeps travelling up the Alaska Highway in summer 2017. They officially start in Dawson Creek BC (the junction just below Joe's left front tire on the map above) on 30 July and finish in Fairbanks AK on 3 August.

Joe Beadenkopf is driving the only CJ-3B in the Caravan, which will also include Hugo Vidal, who was one of the three Boy Scouts from Brazil who drove a 3B to Alaska in 1955 (see Operation Pineapple on CJ3B.info.) Like most of the participants Joe had to leave home a few days earlier to get to the starting line on time.

Alaska or Rust Joe is from Westminster, Maryland and had been preparing for the trip for a while. When he took his 1953 CJ-3B to the Great Willys Picnic in June, he was selling Alaska or Rust T-shirts to help cover costs.

Alaska or Rust Joe says, "I'm a full time auto mechanic and part time firefighter. Here are the main things I had to have ready for the trip: I upgraded the gears for the five speed to a 4:10 with a 33 in. tire. I also upgraded the sway bar for the highway driving. I purchased an M416 trailer for the trip, and I updated the brakes with hydroboost from a Chevy 2500 pickup."

Alaska or Rust The Jeep was already far from stock. Joe makes it sound simple: "I built a custom frame with Dana 44s and a Chevy 4.3 V6 with a five speed." He took it on a long cross-country trip two years ago with a buddy on a Harley, so he knows what he's getting into.

Alaska or Rust According to Joe's report, they spent the first night in Ohio. He made the M416 into a nice little pop-up camper, and it has already been tested by rain.

Alaska or Rust Joe and Emily are travelling in a convoy with Eric Merlin Hanson and Brittany, also from Maryland, who are flat towing his 1942 slat-grille Willys MB.

Alaska or Rust Early on the second day the weather was looking better as they reached Chicago.

Alaska or Rust This kind of traffic and this kind of scenery is a lot different than what they'll be seeing on the Alaska Highway.

Alaska or Rust A little maintenance in Wisconsin, due to a leaking pinion seal.

Alaska or Rust Montana's big sky country -- now we're talking scenery.

Alaska or Rust Joe and Emily in Glacier National Park.

Alaska or Rust Emily and Brittany at Glacier on Thursday morning. According to Joe, "The phone said it's 56 degrees but I can see my breath!"

Alaska or Rust The views around the park are worth it. The Maryland group had planned to allow time for this visit to Glacier National Park before connecting with the Alaska or Rust caravan.

Alaska or Rust Sometimes the MB is unhitched for some sightseeing.

Alaska or Rust Crossing the border into Canada on Thursday. Campground for the night was at Olds, Alberta, north of Calgary.

Alaska or Rust Pulled over by a Peace Officer in Cardston over a "seatbelt issue." The group's verdict was that he was a super cool guy.

Alaska or Rust The bad news is that Bob Christy, the other CJ-3B owner heading for Alaska or Rust, had to give up on the trip. He was riding with Scott Gilbert in a Willys wagon which had major engine trouble. Sorry to hear that, guys.

Alaska or Rust Saturday the surviving Jeeps made it to Dawson Creek and posed at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. Thanks to Marty Tilford for this photo.

Alaska or Rust Joe and Emily are ready for the caravan to Fairbanks to begin. Joe says, "The mood is good everyone is ready to go. The slat grille '42 was having overheating problems but spent the day yesterday working on it and seems OK now."

Alaska or Rust The first day for the whole caravan on the Alaska Highway included a stop to pose on the historic wooden Kiskatinaw curved bridge.

Alaska or Rust "Monday: a lot of rain this morning and it was cold."

Alaska or Rust "But we stopped at the hot springs! We are in the Yukon camping tonight and we saw three bears. Awesome ride today."

Alaska or Rust Emily: "I'm still riding along and trying to stay warm. My highlight of the day was seeing three bears within a mile apart from each other! Only fear is getting taken away by a mosquito!"

Alaska or Rust On the Highway from Fort Nelson BC to Watson Lake, Yukon. Now heading for Whitehorse.

Alaska or Rust The Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake. People have been leaving signs here since 1942.

Alaska or Rust Joe says, "Had to leave something." He posted a sticker from the Winfield Community Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland.

Alaska or Rust Brittany: "We made it to Alaska! As six of us just couldn't wait we went ahead and crossed the border around 8:30 Wednesday night. We saw a little moose family along the way as well."

Alaska or Rust Thursday: Joe, Emily, Brittany and Merlin at Delta Junction, the official end of the Alaska Highway.

Alaska or Rust Three Bee in the midnight sun.

Alaska or Rust Emily: "Nothing like a rainy drive at 2 AM up to the Arctic Circle!"

Alaska or Rust Not only rainy, but muddy!

Alaska or Rust Workin' at the car wash, yeah...

Alaska or Rust Joe's cool photo of the northern lights! He says, "Getting ready to leave Fairbanks... had a great ride with lots of great people for the past week. Made new friendships and people to stay in touch with for years to come. Now back on the road for some more miles and sites to see. I'm around 6000 miles now and lots more to go. Also remember there is so much to see... so get out and do it."

Alaska or Rust Heading south, Joe and Emily stopped near Astoria, Oregon to visit friends and take the Jeep to the ocean. Smoke from the forest fires in BC was hanging in the air. Thanks to Holly Benson for the photo.

When they got home to Maryland, Joe wrote to say, "So I finally added up the miles... 12,347 mile round trip!"

Thanks Joe, Emily, Merlin and Brittany for the photos. -- Derek Redmond

See also Operation Pineapple -- the 1955 Brazil-to-Alaska trip by CJ-3B.

And see more Alaska stories on CJ3B.info: Lil Willy on the Petersville Road and CJ-3B Fire Engine at Nome Field.

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Last updated 29 August 2017 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond