Farm Collector Blogs > Aussie Trek Across America

Aug. 2 to 3: Iowa

by Ron Bywaters

Tags: road trip, trek across America, tractor drive, Iowa,

Day 37

Everyone was ready to roll at 7 a.m., but did not make it far before Ron discovered his RV brakes were not working!

Nothing too serious and the ever-ready team had the problem under control in just 40 minutes and back on the road again.

Once out of Dubuque, Iowa, we were again in corn country, but here the plants are noticeably shorter and some have suffered significant hail damage — evidently a very rare event in this part of the country. The soy beans all looked a very healthy shade of green, although again, not very high. Because of the very wet start to the season, many crops have been planted late this year, but the current spate of dry weather is seeing their color improve.

Around 11 a.m. we arrived at the Heartland Acres Agribition Center in Independence, Iowa, at the invitation of Leanne Kay, the museum coordinator. This almost new center has an amazing collection of farm memorabilia, vintage cars and farm machinery as well as an 1869 school house. Ducks, hens and farm animals are there for children to see and enjoy.

When it was time to leave it was discovered that the minor road we should take to Jesup, Iowa, was in fact closed and we were relieved to have Leanne’s husband, Jim, offer to guide us through the back blocks to join on to old Route 20 for the trip to Waterloo, Iowa. On these small country roads it is very easy to get extremely lost, a not uncommon experience, and we were thankful to Jim for his assistance.

Our accommodation at Waterloo was offered by a local, Kevin Kalsen, and the tractors and RVs soon looked very much at home around his large shed. The first of several visitors to the site was Von Ketelsen, farm services director for the local radio station KWMT. Von interviewed Ron by phone at Galena, Ill., on Friday and decided to come and meet up with the group and conduct a couple of different interviews for his broadcasts. The guys really enjoyed chatting to Von and look forward to hearing the interviews when they come to air. Other visitors, International Harvester enthusiasts Bob and Glenda Grant traveled quite some distance to come and see the tractors and the Aussies who drive them.

Day 38

It was not the alarm which brought everyone awake with a jolt at 2:30 a.m., but the severe rocking of the campers.

A sudden but severe storm hit and had us all wondering whether we were going to stay upright, but then came heavy rain and suddenly, it was all over. Had we known that Iowa suffered such heavy damage last year, we would have been even more concerned.

Then it was another early start, another unexpected delay! This time it was a tube in George’s front tire which “spat the dummy” so to speak. Once again the talented lads had the problem fixed in no time at all, and we were off to Clarion, Iowa.

Driving into a small town called Allison, Iowa, it was noticed that all the homes were almost new, which was taken for expansion of the original town. Some team members visited local insurance brokers and were given some firsthand information about the disastrous storms that hit this area in May 2008 and destroyed most of the original homes in the section we had passed.

Records show that 38,000 people were displaced in the Butler and Black Hawk Counties by the tornado and flooding, 18 people died and there were more than 100 injuries. Had we known these statistics, we may not have slept at all!

Soon we were in Clarion and could not help but notice the “traffic stopper” appearing from a driveway on the left-hand side. This turned out to be an International tractor being driven by our host in this town, Larry Maasdam, and he was there to guide us into town to visit the museum of which he is very proud.

Most of the lads were interviewed by the local journalist, Dee Goerge, who had made arrangements to meet us here, then after lunch we were invited to tour the museum. This was a simply amazing experience — the ladies’ feet gave out before the exhibits — but there was more!

Larry had arranged transport to take trekkers to see his personal collection of farm machinery and farm collectibles. As well as several complete collections at the museum, Larry has a whole basement with purpose built display cabinets to house his outstanding collection of every imaginable farm “toy.” Some items are handmade, some are tiny, some are really large, but all are beautifully displayed, along with a library of books and memorabilia, all with a farm machinery theme.

Larry and Melanie have our gratitude for the invitation to visit the museum, enjoy a wonderful dinner, then relish the opportunity to view his private collections.

See photos and read more on Ron’s website,