I’m really nothing but a big kid, which probably doesn’t surprise those of you who know me. Put me on a cart and wheel me through a big factory with lots of noise and shiny things, and I am giddy and overwhelmed – giddy in a manly kind of way, of course. John Deere did it to me this time, which is not the kind of thing you hear from a city boy very often.

John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline, Illinois is a giant factory – some 25 acres or 1 million square feet under one roof – and the only place in the United States where JD makes the giant 70 series STS combines. You can get a stripped down combine for about $250,000 or fully pimp it out for another $100k. (That’s two weeks in a row I used the word ‘pimp’ in a blog, for those of you keeping score at home.) The technology on these machines has gone crazy. The thing can virtually drive itself. If you get the GPS package, GreenStar, you can enter the dimensions of your field, select a pattern you want to follow, and sit back as the machine does the work for you. The cab has a nice stereo, a fancy computer, a comfy seat, and probably comes with a bottle opener, too. According to the brochure, the 70 series will “Chop, drop, size, and spread”, which will lead to improvements in your residue management. I don’t have any idea what that means, yet I’m impressed, anyway.

I would like to tell you about the manufacturing process, but I was so distracted by the happenings inside the factory – and trying to take pictures – that I didn’t hear much of our guide’s narrative. Here’s what I remember: “Can you hear me OK? Keep your arms and legs inside the cart at all times. Metal press…robot…laser…automated painting…laser…welding…dignitaries touring today, too…laser. Hope you enjoyed the tour.” One thing I remember clearly is that Station 22 is where the fluids are added. I know this because our guide was very excited to point it out to us. At the time I just kinda assumed that he had some special relationship with the fluid world that was not for me to judge. But, Station 22 also happens to be the spot where the future owner of the combine gets to jump into the cab and start it for the very first time. Now that’s the kind of excitement I can relate to. If you’re in the neighborhood, take the Harvester Works tour, then tell me how they actually make a combine. I’ll try to pay attention this time.

**The Quad Cities region is covered in Road Tripping Along the Great River Road, Vol. 1. Click the link above for more. Disclosure: This website may be compensated for linking to other sites or for sales of products we link to.

Details: Tours are free but you must make a reservation (800.765.9588). Times and availability vary with production schedules but usually take place Monday-Friday only. You can take still photos but no video, and don’t even think of showing up in open-toed shoes.

As long as you’re in the John Deere mood, get yourself to John Deere Commons in downtown Moline, where you can not only see a completed 70 series STS combine, but you can climb into the cab and pretend you are Mr. Douglas from Green Acres, if Mr. Douglas drove a 70 Series STS Combine instead of a beat up, second-hand tractor. By the way, one of the tractors actually used on the show was a John Deere. They’re everywhere! You can read all about the tractors of Green Acres here. Here’s a cool fact I just learned: the actor who played Mr. Douglas, Eddie Albert, was born in Rock Island, which is right next door to Moline. See – it’s karma.

Today’s Bad Decision: Not paying attention to mergers in the hospitality industry. My preferred cheap motel in the Quad Cities was the Excel Inn in Davenport. It’s nothing special. In fact, sometimes it has a slightly repulsive odor. But, it was almost always under $40/night and had free WiFi. All of the other places in that price range lack WiFi. Well, apparently the Excel Inn chain was purchased by Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and is now branded as a Travelodge, so the same badly scented room cost $10/night more. That stinks. I guess it’s time to check out some new lodging options in the Quad Cities.

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© Dean Klinkenberg, 2008