Ride Of His Life

Retired Michigan tractor dealer Dave Wolfsen is driving his antique tractor across 48 states on his way to raise money for two charities. Southeast communities will welcome him for about a week later this month.

Published on: Jun 8, 2011

What's a 66-year-old retired International Harvester Tractor dealer to do to keep busy?

Dave Wolfsen's wife, Deb, knew he was cooking up something. But, really – an antique tractor ride across all 48 contiguous states?

Some might think he's falling into dementia, but he's spent many hours thinking it through and planning out an adventure of a lifetime. His hometown community of Fremont is behind him 100%.

"Tractor Dave," a nickname slapped onto him for his lifelong love of tractors, set out on his trek June 1.

Dave Wolfsen
Dave Wolfsen

Each day, traveling 25 to 30 m.p.h., he'll cover about 125 miles. "That's about five hours on the tractor, which isn't too bad," he says. The rest of the time he will seek out the people in rural communities and try to organize evening ag banquets or coffee talks. On his laptop he has a power point presentation on the work of the two missions. Using a network of churches, Tractor Dave has several stops planned, where he will talk, but also listen. He's using an audio recorder to capture these conversations.

"At some point, I have ambitions of compiling them into a book," he says.

He also has a Facebook page that will chronicle his daily adventures in a blog-type format with new albums of photos being posted daily.

At night, through the generosity of others, he hopes someone will allow him to park and plug in his trailer, where he has many comforts of home, as well as tools and few spare parts.

At the time he left, Tractor Dave had about 30 scheduled stops.

"The rest will be fly-by-night," he says.

For the most part, the trip is a solo ride, but there will be some who will tag a long for stretches of the journey. Some will follow him in their own antique tractors while others will occupy the extra seat that he had mounted next to his.

"I have some people who are flying out and will take a taxi to wherever I am to ride for a day," he says.  Foods Resource Bank's President and CEO Marvin Baldwin is one who will join him.

And while he's looking forward to exploring parts of the United States he's never seen, what he most looks forward to is meeting as many people as he can along the way. The trip, dubbed "Tractor Dave Crosses America," has many purposes, but its underlining goal is to familiarize people with and raise funds for two non-profit organizations based in the mid-West that work toward alleviating hunger and respond to disasters around the world: the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (www.crwrc.org) and Foods Resource Bank (www.foodsresourcebank.org).

Tractor Dave will be in the Southern Farmer area started June 17. Here's the Southeast stops on his tour:

June 17

Argo, KY

June 18

Zionville, NC

June 19

Americus, GA

June 20

Thomson, GA

June 21

Tallahassee, FL

June 22

Tallahassee, FL

June 23

Tallahassee, FL

June 24

Dothan, AL

June 25

Evergreen, AL