Jeff Newell blocks the early morning sun from his eyes as he cruises down Highway 530, at a easy 16 miles per hour, on his John Deere tractor July 11 in Arlington. Ron Wachholtz follows behind as the two raise money while driving their tractors to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. They are raising money for the American Diabetes Association. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Jeff Newell blocks the early morning sun from his eyes as he cruises down Highway 530, at a easy 16 miles per hour, on his John Deere tractor July 11 in Arlington. Ron Wachholtz follows behind as the two raise money while driving their tractors to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. They are raising money for the American Diabetes Association. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Slow ride: From Arlington to Alaska on a John Deere tractor

Two friends are making the 6,000-mile round trip at 16 mph to raise money for diabetes research.

ARLINGTON — Jeff Newell is taking in the view from about 10 feet up, cruising at 16 mph on his John Deere tractor.

He’s on a road trip to raise money for diabetes research and education.

Newell, a local business owner, is driving from Arlington to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. He’s making the trip on a bright green tractor he bought at an auction and restored.

“I got the most wore-out one I could find,” he said. “I tore it all down to nothing, rebuilt it. It’s basically a new tractor.”

The rebuild took nine months.

He had a goal from Day 1 to take the tractor for a 6,000-mile round trip.

“I’ve done it before on a motorcycle, pretty much the same route,” he said. “We’re just making it happen this time on tractors.”

His friend, Ron Wachholtz, is driving a second tractor. Both are towing trailers with camping supplies. The load includes motorcycles for any side trips.

The trailers have large green and yellow banners painted on the sides that say “Driving for Diabetes” and have a link to donate online.

At first, Newell had no plans to make the trip a charitable effort. Then he decided if he was going to do this, he wanted to do it for a cause.

Newell, 56, has lived with juvenile or Type 1 diabetes since he was 11. Preventing diabetes and someday curing it “would ease a lot of human suffering,” he said.

He set a goal to raise $500,000. Donations go to the American Diabetes Association. Newell is paying for the fuel and supplies.

“I see a lot of people grow up with diabetes, and they don’t do so well with it,” Newell said. “For some reason, it affects everyone different.”

He wants people to be aware of the signs and get tested. Signs can include hunger, fatigue and excessive thirst.

“Some people hear that you’ve got diabetes and look at you sideways, but it doesn’t have to be like that,” Newell said. “You can live a normal life. There are diabetic athletes and actresses or actors. You get good days, you get bad days.”

Newell left Arlington on July 11 and expects the trip to take up to eight weeks.

He mapped a route that relies on back roads. He plans to cross into Canada north of Oroville, then head up through British Columbia and into the Yukon Territory before he crosses back into the United States at the border with Alaska.

He’s been looking forward to slowing down. Newell lives on the same property he grew up on near Arlington. During test rides on the tractor, even down familiar streets, he noticed how the slow pace and high vantage point changed his perception.

“Most of us live pretty fast our whole lives,” he said. “I’ve done that a lot. You don’t notice all that’s around you.”

He expects to average about 16 mph on his trip, depending on terrain and traffic.

“If you see us, be patient on the road,” he said.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

How to donate

To follow Jeff Newell’s journey and donate, go to www.gofundme.com/johndeerealaska.

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