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Published July 01, 2009, 08:29 AM

Tractor caravan loops through T.R. National Park

At 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, a caravan of 11 orange, antique tractors set out to travel the 36-mile scenic loop in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Upon the caravan’s exit, onlookers stood staring at the long, orange line.

By: Lisa Call, Dickinson (N.D.) Press

MEDORA — At 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, a caravan of 11 orange, antique tractors set out to travel the 36-mile scenic loop in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Upon the caravan’s exit, onlookers stood staring at the long, orange line.

With a strong passion for Allis-Chalmers antique tractors, the group participates in tractor caravans across the region and into Canada.

“This is kind of a once in a lifetime thing,” said Jeff Bertsch, a truck driver from Oakes.

Organizer of the Medora run, Jim Roney, of Oakes, said he has gone on tractor caravans to Wisconsin, Michigan and Canada.

“I’ve gone on tractor caravans where we go 200 to 300 miles in two days,” Roney said. “I thought ‘what the heck,’ why can’t we go through Teddy Roosevelt National Park?”

The tractors are not allowed on the Interstate and the group travels via secondary roads.

North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa riders hauled tractors in on trailers and semis.

“It is a lot of love for the tractor, we just do this,” said Charlie Strom, Allis-Chalmers collector and restorer.

The group of tractor-lovers organizes caravans and special events via word of mouth and Allis-Chalmers magazine, “Old Allis News,” said Roney.

Some Medora caravan participants had traveled to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada, with Roney in 2004.

“I thought these people that went along to Canada with us, it would be fun to kind of have a little reunion,” Roney said.

With no specific moniker, the group agreed on one when asked.

“Put it down as Roney’s Bunch — you bet,” said Bertsch.

Bertsch said his parents, Clifford and Janice Bertsch, rode in the caravan as well to celebrate their 50-year wedding anniversary.

Eileen Andes, TRNP’s chief of interpretation, said a special use permit is required for this type of activity. “The superintendent has final approval on all special use permits in the park.”

The venture through Medora and the park marked a long-awaited tractor caravan for the group.

“It took me two years to get it done (arrangement of the trip), talking to the park ranger and getting the special permit to do it, to allow tractors,” Roney said.

The caravan then took a spin through Medora, with many people stopping in the streets to watch.

“We are just a bunch of Allis-Chalmers people that like to have a good time,” Roney said.

The Dickinson Press and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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