During one of the coldest spells of the winter so far, we climbed aboard a bus with thirty-some members of the Mid-Mo tractor club and, as if it wasn't cold enough here, went north to Iowa and Illinois.
We left the meeting-place yesterday at 6 A.M., bound for Waterloo, Iowa, a town with several John Deere manufacturing plants, most of which give free tours. We only had two days and one night on this trip, so we couldn't do everything. I really appreciate that these tours don't involve walking! I know some people might think that John Deere tours are something only a man could enjoy, but I found it fascinating. My favorite thing at the tractor assembly operation yesterday was watching the robots painting. They are robots indeed, but their movements are human-like. Creepy, kinda. I could have watched them all day.
The tour lasts an hour-and-a-half, and Cliff left complaining that it was too short. There aren't pictures because cameras aren't allowed inside the factories.
The tractors are only built as they get the orders. Every tractor we saw go through the line was built to the specifications of the farmer who ordered it. If you should happen to order a John Deere tractor, they will allow you to go to the factory and follow it along the line from start to finish. You get to be the first person to put a key in the ignition, start it, and drive it off the line.
After we finished the tour, we went to the John Deere museum, also in Waterloo. This wasn't originally on the schedule, but most of us wanted to see it. Unfortunately, some of the men couldn't tear themselves away, so by the time we got to our next destination... Moline, Illinois... it was 7:30 and we were all starving. The museum was worth it, though.
Today we toured the plant in Moline where combines are manufactured. I promise you, it isn't boring. Even if you never saw a combine in your life, seeing them assembled and painted is interesting. The tour guides are retired, long-time John Deere employees and are very knowledgeable and friendly.
We spent last night a the Radisson Hotel on the John Deere Plaza. It was hands-down the best hotel I've ever stayed in, and it cost only $110 including tax.
The worst thing about traveling with a group like this is that the food always seems to be too pricey and not that good. I hate throwing money away on food I don't like, but that's how it goes. Dinner today at the Machine Shed at Davenport, Iowa, didn't impress me; the corned beef on my Reuben sandwich was more gristle than meat. Our late supper last night at TGI Fridays was pretty pathetic, too, but the restaurant is connected to the hotel; with temperatures way below zero, that was a plus.
The people we traveled with are great. Our tractor club folks are congenial and fun to visit with. Some of them are neighbors, and it's nice getting to know them a little better. I will admit that bus trip is grueling, and it makes my knees hurt, but I don't think this will be the last road trip we take with the tractor club.