Man driving tractor for Parkinson’s awareness

Shayne Mazur

Mike Adkinson and his famous John Deere tractor chugged down main street last Monday as part of Adkinson’s 2023 Tractor Trip for Parkinson’s, a six-week journey he’s undertaken to raise money and awareness about Parkinson’s Disease (PD).

Adkinson, a 77-year-old retiree from Bellingham, Wash., turned the chore of delivering a tractor to his brother-in-law into an awareness campaign after his brother was diagnosed with PD in 2021. 

“It’s just so hard to deal with because it’s not like dementia where you’re losing your faculties in terms of thinking. Parkinson’s people are really with it; their bodies are just failing. 

“My brother lost use of his legs and he’s got tremors so bad he can’t feed himself. So consequently, that’s embarrassing and then people don’t go out, so they get isolated, and that only makes it worse.”

Adkinson teamed up with the Northwest Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) and drove his tractor 1,700 miles from Bellingham to Perch Lake, Minn. in the summer of 2022. 

With the APDA posting about his route, Adkinson and his tractor became media darlings. Thousands of people followed his progress online. The trip also fundraised $56,000 that went toward education programs, exercise and wellness classes, support groups, resources and research.

Once he reached his brother-in-law, Adkinson decided against selling the tractor in favor of making the trip again. He began his route in Perch Lake this year and expanded his wanderings to 2,600 miles, including a stretch through the Big Horn Mountains, Cody and Yellowstone.

Last Monday’s route saw him moseying down the mountain in hopes of reaching Cody by nightfall.

“The drive all the way down through the canyon, I’ve never been through that. My God, that’s beautiful,” he said.

Adkinson posts photos of his travels so followers can track his journey. He said it’s not uncommon for people to stop him on the road to say hello or donate.

“Families tell me they get up in the morning and get their computer out on the table with breakfast and look to see where the tractor is,” he shared.

His tractor trips have granted him the opportunity to connect with “a lot of special people,” many of whom contend with PD or have lost someone to the disease—which has no cure and remains difficult to diagnose and treat.

“I’m no authority on Parkinson’s; I didn’t know anything about it until I read about it,” he clarified. “But I do understand mental health. I worked as a social worker, and I worked in the mental health field and family counseling.”

He has spoken at rotaries, service groups and Parkinson’s support groups. During one memorable stopover, a Washington speech therapist parked him and his tractor outside the clinic where she worked so he could talk with people coming in for treatment.

“I don’t beat around the bush too much about things, so if I feel like the person wants to talk, I ask pointed questions…because I know what’s happening with their friends. If I didn’t make those connections, I probably wouldn’t do this,” he said.

In an attempt to surpass what he raised last year, Adkinson set his 2023 fundraising goal at $100,000, an amount he admits was overly ambitious. The fund currently stands at $12,268.

“As my friends would say, ‘There goes Mike, his alligator mouth overloading his hummingbird ass,’” he chuckled.

Still, he never gets tired of peoples’ reactions to his tractor or telling the story attached to it.

“I’ll drive miles way out of my line to sit with somebody if they want to talk. It’s not like I have to be to work on Monday,” he joked.

Those interested in following Adkinson’s progress can do so at “Tractor Trip for Parkinson’s” on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. To read more about Adkinson’s 2023 Tractor Trip for Parkinson’s or to donate, visit