Coast-to-coast tractor ride: Honey Brook retired farmer embarks ‘on trip of a lifetime' for Across America for Wounded Heroes

Submitted photo Ivan Stoltzfus with his tractor, which is now in storage in Avondale, due to the snow. He will ride his tractor from coast to coast.

There are John Deere fan clubs and country songs about tractors. Farmers love them. Organic hipsters dig them. Kids collect model John Deere tractors, and men wear caps with the well-known leaping deer logo. John Deere green is a popular Pennsylvania color, and the tractors putt across fields and farms throughout the state.

However, until now, tractors mostly remained in fields and farms. They parked in barns, with the antique tractors sometimes handed down through families, generation to generation.

A Honey Brook man is making plans to break the norm as far as tractors are concerned, and he’s doing it in a big way.

C. Ivan Stoltzfus – a 66-year-old auctioneer, real estate broker, and retired farmer who divides his time between Honey Brook and Sarasota, Fla. - will be embarking on what he calls “the trip of a lifetime,” riding a two cylinder 1948 Model A John Deere tractor coast-to-coast, upon the roads of America, kicking off in April.

Ivan’s plans have their roots in his childhood, and they started not only with the John Deere tractor his family used to farm in Morgantown, but also with stories told to him by his father.

“In 1937, my father traveled from the east coast to the west coast, working on farms, driving dirt roads, and crossing the Mississippi River on a swinging wooden bridge,” Ivan said.

The seeds of the story were planted in Ivan’s mind, and the idea grew as he moved through life. As an adult, he often spoke to friends of his crazy wish to travel the country on a John Deere tractor . . . but then life and work got in the way.

“I recalled my father telling me in his later age, ‘Ivan, if you have a dream, don’t wait until you are too old and then regret that you didn’t do more.’”

Ivan wrestled with his idea, deliberating the pros and cons, and trying to decide whether or not to take the trip. He turned to his faith and he prayed. Finally, he made his decision and decided to take the leap. He set the date – April of 2014 – and he started to make plans.

“After I made my decision and set a date, it was like a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders. I knew it was what I was meant to do. I didn’t know how exactly it was all going to happen, but I knew it was what I was supposed to do,” said Ivan.

Word started to spread about Ivan Stoltzfus’s plan, and friends and local businesses started to hop on board.

“I am so humbled with all the companies and people who are stepping up and contributing and helping make this trip possible,” Ivan related.

A local John Deere club, the Waterloo Boys, assisted him in finding and servicing a 1948 John Deere model A for the trip. Another company, Earl R. Martin Inc., owned by Ivan’s son-in-law, worked at finding and retro-fitting a 1984 Peterbilt cab for the antique tractor.

Additionally, Ivan’s cousin, Earl Stoltzfus of Stoltzfus RV in West Chester, donated a 22-foot camper for him to tow behind the tractor and to serve as both home and headquarters for Ivan during his trip.

Ivan nicknamed his new tractor-with-cab-and-camper “The Johnabilt.” He bought a shiny bright yellow scooter for those times when he might have to leave The Johnabilt behind for a quick jaunt. Stoltzfus named the scooter “Smiley,” to the delight of his four grandchildren.

Stoltzfus decided that his trip needed a mission. He wanted to use his journey as a means to bring awareness to a cause and to help others. He realized that he’s often taken his freedom in America for granted, and that he now wanted to bring recognition to those who had fought for that freedom. Ivan chose the Wounded Warrior project as his mission, and the dream was launched.

A friend developed a logo featuring the name of his adventure, “Across America for Wounded Heroes.” Countless others also contributed their time, skills, and materials to get everything ready for the cross country journey. “I have a wonderful team of people helping with the details of the trip. They are incredible. I never dreamed it would take so much work and preparation.”

But Ivan Stoltzfus says that all the work and preparation will be well worth it if the team is able to fulfill the dream to bring support and awareness for Wounded Warriors.

Ivan’s dream is now not only to cross the country on his “Johnabilt,” but to raise $1 million for the Wounded Warrior fund in the process. He and his tractor appeared at the Pennsylvania Farm Show a few weeks ago, and Ivan says that the support of fellow state residents is positive and encouraging. He has already raised close to $9,000 for Wounded Warriors.

The man with a tractor and a dream now has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. There’s a website – http://helpamericanheroes.com – with a countdown until the journey begins on April 26. Ivan has followers, a blog, and people are watching and waiting for Ivan’s journey to begin, with the dipping of his tractor tires in the Atlantic Ocean in Manasquan, N.J.

The town of Manasquan is thrilled that Stoltzfus will be kicking off his cross-country trip in their Monmouth County town, and a Main Street Parade is planned.

With a fresh coat of John Deere green paint from Irvie Martin of New Holland, the Johnabilt is raring to go. And so is C. Ivan Stoltzfus.

From the little boy who always loved the putt-putt of a two-cylinder John Deere to the man with a crazy dream, Ivan can hardly believe that in less than 100 days, the webcam will activate and his trip will begin.

Linda Oatman High, Narvon, is an author, journalist and playwright (www.lindaoatmanhigh.com) who has written news and features for many newspapers. She has an Master’s in Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College.

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