I love Yellowstone National Park. It is beautiful at any time of the year, but with the first new snow, it is very striking. I have been through the park in cars, on snowmobiles, and a motorcycle … and now, a tractor.
I also love tractors, and have a collection of more than 30 antique models. My fastest one is a 1937 Graham-Bradley, which will go 22 miles per hour. (Most tractors with road gears travel at speeds ranging from 13 to 17 miles per hour.) My Graham-Bradley is the only one I know of in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Last fall, it made its debut tour of Yellowstone.
A proper servicing seemed a good starting point. I removed the front and rear wheels and packed the wheel bearings. For added stability, I also reversed the rear wheels so the rear track was 7 feet wide. I made three modifications for the Yellowstone trip: I removed the "hard mount" seat and installed a seat with a large spring and shock absorber; I installed a seat belt; and I installed after-market headlights and taillights to make the tractor "street legal."
On the morning of Oct. 9, a friend and I left Rexburg, Idaho, with the tractor in tow and traveled 75 miles north to the park's west entrance. By 7:45 a.m., I was on my way along the Gibbon River through the Norris Geyser basin, and then the Grand Canyon. It was 24 degrees, there was snow along the side of the road, the sun was just barely up and it was going to be a beautiful day.
To keep warm, I wore a snowmobile suit, including full-face helmet. After viewing the 304-foot drop of the Lower Falls, my friend drove up the Yellowstone River to Yellowstone Lake. By then it had warmed up to 35 degrees, and we had lunch at Fishing Bridge. Then I drove down to West Thumb and on to Old Faithful. From West Thumb to Old Faithful, the road crosses the Continental Divide twice in 10 miles (at the highest point, the altitude is 8,391 feet above sea level).
The tractor performed well and only on one hill did I have to shift down to third gear for about a mile. There was, however, a noticeable decrease in power at the high altitude. I covered more than 80 miles before loading the tractor for the return trip home.
We saw several herds of elk along the road, and at times I had to stop to allow buffalo to cross the road. During stops at various points of interest, like Old Faithful, we visited with lots of people surprised to see a tractor driven through the national park.
I would say there were at least two "firsts" on this tour. It was the first time a tractor was driven through the park as a "tour" vehicle, and the first time a seatbelt was installed on a Graham-Bradley. One thing I should have installed: a rear view mirror.
This year, I'll again tour Yellowstone … in a 1924 Dodge Brothers four-door open touring sedan.