Tractor Trek a Journey Through Time

The Walters family

Those on a unique trip across Nebraska don't need GPS where they're going, because it hadn't been invented when International, Farmall, and Allis-Chalmers tractors hit the field.

Now those classic machines head out on the road for a journey that's not only an adventure across the state, but a trip through time.

It's called the Tractor Relay Across Nebraska.

Bob Walters of Guide Rock said, "It's kind of a different kind of vacation on a tractor."

He's in the driver's seat with his wife IJ and his eight-year-old granddaughter Gwyn riding in a trailer behind, quick to point out it's not spelled the way it sounds.

"G-W-Y-N. Usually people spell it with an ‘e' not a ‘y'," she explained emphatically.

Along with the family dog, they're traveling the state. But this is far different than a ride in an SUV at 75 miles an hour.

"Main difference is you're subject to weather," Bob said.

There's no air conditioning, and no cabs, not to mention no satellite radio, no auto-steer, and no GPS.

Traveling this way poses challenges, and already they have had to overcome a mechanical breakdown, as Bob says, they are "kind of flying by the seat of our pants."

The Nebraska Antique Farming Association is sponsoring the 2013 Tractor Relay Across Nebraska from June 1-9, traveling along the Lincoln Highway in honor of the road's 100th anniversary.

They started Saturday, June 1 in Pine Bluff, Wyoming and will end Sunday June 9 in Missouri Valley, Iowa with stops in Sidney, Ogallala, North Platte, Cozad, Kearney, Grand Island, Columbus, and Fremont along the way.

"This is the second year for it. It went east to west last year, west to east this year," Donna Maul said.

Bob Walters said traveling this way has its advantages. "It gives you a chance to see a lot of things you wouldn't see otherwise."

"You see a lot more when you're going down the road at 12 miles an hour on top of a tractor," Donna Wilton of Hastings said.

Along the way, they have frequent stops, where they meet local residents and see area attractions. And swap stories.

Wilton said, "It's just fun. We go on every tractor ride we can get a hold of, if we have time to go and we meet a lot of people with the same interests we have, make new friends."

As they drove through Shelton, some old tractors behind a local shop caught their eye.

"You don't need another tractor," Donna Maul told her husband. "We have enough."

This border to border adventure features a rainbow of machines from Case, Oliver, Allis, Farmall, International, even a German-made Kramer.

"Seen a lot of John Deere, hate to admit that," Wilton said. "I have to put up with a green one because my husband's driving a green one."

Eight-year-old Gwyn was catching on. "Case and Deere, that's all the tractors I know!"

Ed Axman was back for a second year with his wife, who returned despite Ed's comment to this reporter last year, when he suggested his 1961 John Deere diesel's as loved as any member of the family, even his wife.

"A bunch of nice looking tractors, and people are just great," he said.

As for the Walters family -- Bob and IJ along with granddaughter Gwyn are on board for a nine day tour.

Bob says he's a small time farmer, and the couple's grown children have gone into diverse careers. But he wanted to share his farm heritage with Gwyn.

"She's a joy, and we're trying to instill a memory she'll have for a lifetime," he said.