SALEM, Ohio — In just a few days, a Pennsylvania man who set out to drive his John Deere A across the country to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project will reach the Pacific Ocean and complete a 14-week trip that began April 26.
Ivan Stoltzfus, 66, of Honey Brook, Pa., is expected to arrive on the shores of Crescent City, California, Aug. 9. When he does, he will have logged more than 3,500 miles in an antique tractor that averages just 14 mph.
Along the way, he has raised more than $83,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project. He’s also met and spoken to scores of veterans, government leaders, small towns and children.
Related: Our earlier coverage of Ivan’s trip.
One of his best memories was “the heart-to-heart talk with the veterans.” Stoltzfus, who is an auctioneer and retired farmer, did not serve in the military and felt the need to give back.
The theme for his journey was “Changing Lives One Mile at a Time,” and lives have been changed throughout the journey, including his own.
He’s had a lot of help along the way from his sponsors, including one who retrofitted his tractor with a semi-cab to shield him from the weather. And there have been countless volunteers and helpers along the way.
“Everybody wants to help where they can,” he said. “I see so much good in America yet.”
A prime example was when he was driving through the mountains and heard a knocking sound coming from the tractor. He was unable to fix the problem on his own and took the tractor to a John Deere repair shop in Oregon, where mechanics discovered the fly wheel was loose. They fixed the problem and donated their time.
Farm and Dairy caught up with Stoltzfus in May, when he drove through Wooster, Ohio, along U.S. Route 30. Only a few weeks into his journey, he had already built a strong following, and had been featured by some national news networks.
Stoltzfus said his old, two-cylinder tractor did well along the journey, although when he got into the higher elevation of the Rocky Mountains, he had to adjust the carburetor a bit to keep the tractor running smooth.
He also had to keep his eyes looking “straight ahead,” because the steep slopes and narrow roads made him a bit nervous.
Nearing the end
Stoltzfus has actually been close to his destination for several days now and has been “dripping along” at a slower speed, so he can plan out his arrival and let everyone get a chance to see the tractor.
He said “the word is out” and people in Crescent City are getting excited.
When Farm and Dairy last spoke to him, he was working out plans to have some veterans escort him into town, before he drives to a local beach, where he will literally drive the front end of his tractor into the water.
His claim of having driven coast-to-coast will be the truth. When he began his journey, in Manasquan, N. J., he backed his tractor into the ocean and drove it up out, leaving tread prints in the beach sand.
Stoltzfus had set a goal of raising $1 million from his trip, but even after it’s complete, he expects donations will still roll in.
In addition to Ivan’s memories and stories, the tractor will continue to draw attention, and is scheduled to be on display at an Iowa farm show in late August.
Ivan’s daughter, Tina Martin, served as his communications person and has maintained a website documenting the experience and upcoming events at helpamericanheroes.com. The website also has information about making donations.
In one of her latest blog entries, Martin wrote: “The crosscountry trek will be complete, but the Across America for Wounded Heroes mission will continue.”