June 18, 2008

Tractors on parade: All the way across Wisconsin

One by one, the tractors' front tires kissed Lake Michigan

Some time Thursday morning, 68 antique tractors from around the country will cruise through Racine, most likely coming up Sheridan Road from Kenosha. Well, "cruise" may be the wrong word; these tractors travel at about 13 miles an hour.

In some ways, their visit here is an anticlimax. Their mission was to drive all the way across Wisconsin, having started out in Dubuque, Iowa, on June 15. They completed that journey last night, in Kenosha. A little after 7 p.m. Wednesday, the tractors -- the oldest dates from 1936 -- formed a colorful line from their hotel and drove to a boat ramp on Lake Michigan.

One by one they drove down the ramp into the lake, touching the front tires of each tractor into the water.

This has been the 2008 Tractor Cruise USA tour across Wisconsin, a roughly 400-mile round trip. These tractor collectors have made this kind of trip before: in 2006, they went across Iowa east to west; and in 2007 they went across Iowa, north to south. This year they branched out in our direction. All the tractors, many dating from the 1950s, made the trip on their own power, although some owners trucked them from their homes to the starting point in Dubuque. I spoke to one owner who came all the way from Oregon to make the trip.

Thursday's agenda calls for the tractors to leave Kenosha at 7:30 a.m. and drive to the Case/New Holland tractor plant in Racine for a two-hour tour followed by lunch, and then a leisurely drive to Lake Geneva. They're due back in Dubuque Saturday afternoon.

While their 7:30 a.m. start each morning may seem reasonable, keep in mind most of these tractor collectors are really farmers at heart: breakfast is served each morning starting at 5:30 a.m.

Photo Op by the lake in Kenosha

Note the driver's cheesehead!

What the well-dressed Tractor Cruiser wears

is the Kenosha News' story of their arrival.

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