The adventure of a lifetime brought German farm mechanic Mathias Lause to the Claas combine plant here Friday. Lause is a third of the way on a trip around the world driving a Claas Ares 697 ATZ tractor.
Lause left the Claas factory in Germany driving a brand new tractor Jan. 13. His goal is to drive the tractor 15,000 miles across five continents and 17 countries, arriving back in Germany in 300 days. The tractor's top road gear is 26mph.
Most of the way, he has also pulled a small trailer behind the tractor where he's spent many of his nights on the road. In addition to the adventure of the trek itself, he is raising money for CARE, an Atlanta-based international organization dedicated to fighting hunger and poverty with education, food aid, health care, agriculture and small enterprise help, and emergency relief.
Lause's arrival at the Omaha site, Claas' North American headquarters, was cause for celebration. In addition to entertaining area media at a press conference, Lause was greeted by two special dignitaries.
Erika Class is the wife of deputy chairman Helmut Claas, and mother of another board member of the family owned global agricultural equipment company. She is also a patroness of CARE, whose food relief packages fed many hungry Europeans after World War II before focusing its' primary efforts on impoverished people elsewhere.
Another special guest was Margaret Lee, a senior director of CARE. Lee told the gathering that CARE is currently helping 55 million people in 66 countries with 901 projects. Donations generated by Lause's trek will go to helping fund school gardens in Lesotho.
Lee said that many adults in Lesotho have died or are dying of AIDS. The children left behind need both food and education. School gardens teach the young people there how to grow food while produce from the gardens provides nutrition to the students.
Lause has been thoroughly enjoying his adventure. Very few people get the chance to live out their dream, he acknowledges. Along the way, he's gotten sunburned on Spanish beaches, dodged kamikaze drivers in Genoa, Italy, gotten hassled by a highway patrolman in Arizona who didn't believe that the German guy he stopped was driving around the world, and he's made a lot of friends along the way.
He's also stopped off to see some of the sights. "Before, I thought the Grand Canyon was just a hole in the ground. Now, I think it is a really big hole in the ground," he says with a boyish grin.
He left Omaha Friday afternoon to angle northwest through the scenic Nebraska Sand Hills on his way to look at Mount Rushmore before crossing into Canada from Montana and heading toward the Pacific Ocean where he will put his tractor on a boat to Australia, parts of Asia, Africa, and back home to Germany by Christmas.
For follow Lause's adventures or learn more about the project or how to contribute to CARE relief, visit the website: www.tractor-world-tour.com.