Members of an Internet message board from the Web site antiquecaterpillar.org arrived at Steve Lippoldt's house between Belle Plaine, Kan., and Wellington, Kan., for the group's annual "Spring Fling."
More than 10 states and even Canada were represented last weekend in Belle Plaine, Kan. The reason? To dig some dirt.
Members of a message board from the Web site antiquecaterpillar.org arrived at Steve Lippoldt's house for the group's annual "Spring Fling." Lippoldt has invited members of the online community to his home for the last two years.
This year he noticed a bigger crowd.
"It's grown. We probably had about 75-85 people here. ... It's now an international event. We have people from Canada here today and from the west coast to the east coast of the U.S, down to the southern tip of Texas and many states in between. This is a group of guys who all have a love for older machinery and Caterpillar in particular. We get together and we burn up a lot of fuel and stir up a lot of dirt and have a lot of fun," Lippoldt said.
The group had two objectives for the weekend. The first was to swap stories and enjoy camaraderie among other Caterpillar enthusiasts. The second reason was to work. Together, the group turned a half acre flat piece of land into a pond in three days. Upwards of a dozen machines would work at once.
"I noticed at one point yesterday we had about ten or 11 machines running at one time," Lippoldt said Sunday. "If you get many more than that, it gets pretty crowded in the play area. The land owner was kind enough that he is supplying a lot of the diesel fuel in exchange for getting the pond. That kind of makes it more affordable to all of us."
Many of the travelers took vacation time to attend the Spring Fling. John Rose of Newcastle, Wy., made the 811-mile trip during his two-week vacation. "I work in a coal mine in Wyoming running D10 and D11s. This is my vacation every year. I come down here for therapy and play on the antique caterpillars. I'm trying to keep history alive."
Many who stayed the weekend had little experience as far as excavating. Lippoldt estimated that less than half of the participants had ever been on a commercial site before.
"We've got all walks of life. We have retired bankers, lawyers and mechanics. I'm one of the few that actually does this for a living," he said.
Marneth Weaver of York, Okla., made the 131-mile trip to meet the people she knew online face-to-face.
"I have met several of the people today. A lot are new faces," Weaver said. "There are people I talk to on the bulletin board, but when you come here you get to put a full personality behind their names."
Some of the equipment being used over the weekend was more than half a century old, but the same principles of driving still apply to modern equipment.
Bruce Vinkler of Chicago said, "Most of this equipment, although maybe 60 or even 70 years old, is very much like the contemporary equipment in what it does and achieves. I think that operating this older equipment builds skills for people running the newer equipment. With this newer equipment you can roll out of bed and drive a tractor if you've never driven one before. This stuff here you kind of have to have a little finesse. It makes a better operator I believe."
Lippoldt believes those who couldn't make it to the event might be a bit jealous. Travel was a concern for the international members of the message board. He believes those members would have joined had it not been for the distance.
"I know a lot of those guys in Australia or New Zealand would have loved to come, but it's just not feasible. In fact there were about ten guys who wanted to come but couldn't get off work or had one thing or another come up. It's a lot of fun. There are a lot of good people involved."
Wellington Daily News (Wellington, Kan.)