Jeff Newell and his friend Ron Wachholtz stopped in Delta Junction on Tuesday on their way to Deadhorse from Arlington, Washington. It’s not a trip for the fainthearted, but most who make the trip do so in a conventional form of highway travel. Newell and Wachholtz are making the trip on tractors.
Newell, 56, president of the Newell Corp. in Arlington, has lived with and been treated for juvenile onset (Type 1) diabetes since he was 11 and is making the trip in an attempt to raise $500,000 to help cure the disease. The two men left Washington on July 11.
Newell said he likes tractors and decided to make the trip on a tractor because it’s slow and a great way to see things.
“You are ten feet up and going slow,” he said. “You see things you miss at 60 mph.”
Newell, driving his rebuilt 1957 John Deere 820, and Wachholtz on a New Holland 5030 – each hauling a cargo trailer – stopped in Delta Junction to get a few supplies and fuel before heading up the Richardson Highway. They are traveling close to 150 miles a day and left Tok Tuesday morning. They expected to stop somewhere between Delta and Fairbanks for the night.
Newell said most nights they just stop wherever it is convenient. Their trailers carry all their supplies and give them somewhere to sleep. They also carry extra fuel.
He said since his last trip to Alaska – he has previously made the trip on a motorcycle – the number of fuel stops has changed.
“We noticed a lot of closed fuel stops,” he noted. “The roads are also a lot better.”
On level ground, Newell said they average about 30 miles per gallon. They get less on the hills, though.
The only significant problem they have had is a problem with hitches for the trailers. They took the Top of the World highway, and Newell said the road was pretty rough, and one of the hitches broke. They were able to make do and had them both rebuilt in Tok.
Wachholtz said he was enjoying the trip and the time with his friend.
Jokingly he said, “I’m getting a new number when we get back.”
Both seemed to be in good spirits as they near the halfway point in their trip.
Newell expressed surprise to see so much agriculture in the Delta area. Bryce Wrigley, president of the Alaska Farm Bureau and owner of Alaska Flour Company, had an opportunity to talk with Newell and Wachholtz about local farming. Although Newell doesn’t farm, he does have some land he maintains, and that is why he had the tractors.
A GoFundMe account is set up to accept donations at www.gofundme.com/JohnDeereAlaska.
They expect to be back through Delta Junction on their return trip toward the middle of August.