Ivan Stoltzfus of Honey Brook returned home from his second drive across the country on his 1948 John Deere Model A Tractor benefiting Across America for Wounded Heroes.
Sunday, Aug. 6, there was a carefree spirit in the air, a spirit of wanderlust coming home. Like a band of gypsies, they came down the highway. Johnabilt putting up Route 10 proud as he could be, carrying Ivan, Smiley, and Teddy, with Red Rooster leading the parade from Gettysburg. Joined along the way by flashing police cars, their sirens blaring, the roars of veterans’ motorcycles, the cheers of bystanders, the strange glances from Amish in their buggies, he came putting home.
“Hard to believe after 8,300 miles and through 31 states this is the last day I will be traveling and I will be able to see my family and friends in Pennsylvania,” said Stoltzfus.
His journey began in October of 2016, when he had left to bring his dream to reality. He could feel the familiar curves and ruts of the road that led home to 3000 Compass Road.
He had been across America for Wounded Heroes, changing lives one mile at a time.
The roads were happy, sunny and easy-going, if he could catch a shoulder away from the trucks; or treacherous and skiddy with no guard rails as he had climbed through the rain and snow high into the Rockies then down, through the mountain passes.
His mind was jammed with memories. Always the joy, yet always the pain of the veterans’ stories that were poured out to him throughout the states he carried inside him. Followed by the media, adored by veterans and their families, he had held court at state fairs, auctions, stockyards, festivals, national parks, campsites, small towns, and corporate sites. He was always the draw for the curious and the kids. Everyone was in awe of Johnabilt, Ivan’s green John Deere 1948 Model A tractor with the retrofitted cab. Some had followed him cross country on his blog, some chased him down, driving miles to give donations to the fundraising cause for wounded veterans and some to fill his belly with homemade food. Let Ivan tell what the last few days were like.
Aug. 3: Thursday rode Smiley down to my perch on a stone wall in front of a farmhouse to check my e-mails and then 3 miles to make a few phone calls under the shade of the apple tree. While I was there I get a phone call from Steve and Wilma Koser who drove 2 hours to surprise me from Lancaster. We drive into Gettysburg and tour the national battlefield then they treat me to lunch. Next, we visited the famous Historic Round Barn Built in 1914, then drive back to the fair. More visitors from Lancaster County, Bob and Gennie Bell. We visit under the canopy while a heavy rain storm moves through. The sun comes out by 7 p.m. bringing a large group of people to buy books and hats. Then Fireworks at 9:30.
Aug. 4: Friday the sun is out and I’m getting excited about putting east. I expect a large crowd today at the fair, they are remembering our veterans. Color Guard performing at 6 p.m., country singer John Conlee at 7:30 p.m. and Larry Swartz invited me to his house for lunch and to use their WiFi. He is a Pennsylvania auctioneer friend, only lives 1.5 miles from the fair. Things are looking up. I now have a nice patio and cushion chairs to sit on to update my blogging. Thank you, Larry and Chris Swartz, for the fun fellowship and a great lunch. I love sweet corn and stuffed cabbage. Auctioneers helping auctioneers.
Aug. 5: Today Aldie and Judy King come out to south Mountain Fair to visit. We have a wonderful time, Greg and Kim Ridinger came out later and we all sat under the canopy. My last visitor comes by, a 4-H pig that is going to be auctioned off later. Gettysburg Police will meet me at the edge of town. Greg rides with me to meet them. After taking pictures, we head through town with their sirens on, through the square, then south past the National Cemetery to the Pike Grill and Bar where we are invited to a veteran’s event. What a great reception! I stay the night.
Aug. 6: Up early, I head out at 6 a.m. to stop for a cup of coffee and fill my tank with gas at Sheetz. It’s 80 miles to home. I head east on Route 30. Lots of thoughts going through my mind. On through York, very little traffic since it’s early Sunday morning. I cross the Wrightsville Bridge over the Susquehanna River.
Now, I can feel the tears flowing down my cheek knowing this is coming to an end and the same time thinking what a trip. Through many prayers for my safety and Johnabilt running smoothly we are as a team bringing comfort to so many veterans and first responders. So many miracles happened along the way.
As I get closer to Lancaster the traffic gets heavier; lots of stop signs but I’m making good time. It‘s hard to hold Johnabilt back, he’s like an old horse, smells home and wants to run.
After running on Route 462 through York, pick up Route 30 in Lancaster to Bridgeport, pick up Route 340 and stop in Bridgeport to top off my tank, I get a sandwich since I hadn’t eaten all day. Head east on Route 340 past Keystone Wood Specialties and Sam Stoltzfus and his wife (owners) are out waving as I go by. Makes me feel at home. I arrive at Bird n Hand Restaurant parking lot and meet up with West Caln Township Police and 17 veteran bikers to escort me the rest of the way home.
It is a humbling experience. I felt so unworthy, but know it is to bring awareness for so many who fought for my freedom. We ride through the small town of Intercourse where my good friends Dave and Rose Stoltzfus’ whole family are out waving. Route 340 through Lancaster County has a lot of Amish carriages out on a Sunday afternoon so it is interesting to see the expressiveness on their faces as we putt by. Continue Route 340 to the White Horse Luncheonette in White Horse; my sisters and cousins are there waving as I go by. The Wagontown Fire Company with 4 trucks are waiting and take the lead as the police followed behind. Stevie Stoltzfus, who bought my home farm, follows me home from Lancaster on his bike. As I was putted up the last small hill to 3000 Compass Road, Honey Brook, I realize the only way this was possible was through God leading the way.
Approaching the farm with firetrucks ahead, sirens and police in back and 17 Harley’s roaring in front of me, Johnabilt’s putting along knowing he is almost home. As I got close to my driveway I see my four grandchildren holding up a sign “WELCOME BACK IVAN AND JOHNABILT.” So many friends are there to welcome me home. That’s when I lost it and couldn’t hold my emotion in any longer. It was a great trip and I could not have done it alone; it was a team effoRoute I want to thank everyone for all their prayers and suppoRoute I will continue to bring awareness and do fundraising events for our veterans and first responders. Even though Johnabilt is back in Pennsylvania, the mission must continue. Stay tuned.”
To read his adventures and see the photo gallery follow him on www.facebook.com/AcrossAmericaForWoundedWarriors/ and http://helpamericanheroes.com/.