Behind every Great Tractor Ride’n man, there is an even greater woman. With the eight tractors we took to the WHO Radio Great Iowa Tractor Ride, this year held in Sioux City, and the eight men drivers, there was a wife or, in my case, girlfriend. In years past, some of the women have ridden along with their husbands for parts of the tour, and some have even taken their turn at the wheel. (We saw plenty of women tractor drivers.) Also in years past, the wives have driven cars out to meet their tractor-dive’n husbands at check points and lunch stops. When this proved too cumbersome (the Great Tractor Ride is on a tight schedule, and rest stops are brief), the ladies just let their men go out and have their fun, while they stayed behind and had their own brand of entertainment. They shopped. And Sioux City has plenty of great shopping outlets. The ladies also played board games — dominoes was a favorite, and Skipbo. Workouts at the motel’s exercise facilities was also a favorite pastime. Of course, there were nice lunches at restaurants. And yakking. Most members of our group were raised in the Monroe area, and even attend the same Baptist church, which made for conversation aplenty.
Contrary to popular belief, the WHO Great Iowa Tractor Ride does not travel clear across the state, like RAGBRAI. Each year, a town is selected, and then loop trips from the town are laid out for the three-day event. Also, the 500+ tractors do not travel in one long string. It would make it too difficult for motorists to pass. Groups of about 50 to 80 tractors each are assigned with different start times.
As a kid, the tractors I grew up on were, for the most part, Farmalls. That’s because in Monroe, there was a Farmall dealer. So, when John Van Ryswyk let me drive a Farmall 560 Diesel, I couldn’t have been more pleased. I still remember the gear pattern, the torque amplifier, and the sound they make. The diesel took a little gett’n used to, with the glow plug and such. But the power! Occasionally, I would get mixed up and, instead of decelerating, accelerate. Yow! But, hey, it’s been over 40 years since I’ve been on a tractor. The Farmall 560 was king when I was growing up, and still is, as far as I’m concerned.