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Aussie tractor tour treks through Falcon

Ten Australian tractor enthusiasts – and their three tractors – spent the night at the Falcon Meadow RV Campground in August.The men and women are members of Transworld Tractor Treks, a group that uses tractors to travel across the Australian continent – and now the continental United States.”A lot of us have driven these tractors all over Australia and we were running out of places to go, so someone said, ‘why not the U.S.’, so here we are,” said trekker Dick Garnett.Like most of the team, Garnett and his wife, Barbara, hail from Perth, in the state of Western Australia. Other members of the team are from New South Wales.The group shipped their Chamberlain Champion 9G tractors to Baltimore, Md., from the factory in Perth, where the tractors were built over 45 years ago. The group then flew to the United States, where they reunited with their tractors.The trekkers started their cross-country journey June 27, heading for Los Angeles, Calif., at the tractors’ top speed of 28 mph – a speed that’s too low for the interstate but is allowed on roads such as Highway 24.”It’s not much trouble to cover 200 miles in a day. We’re traveling the by-ways, not the highways,” Garnett said.”We’ve been all over. I didn’t particularly like New York and New Jersey – too crowded.””In New York, it was all ‘honk, honk’ from the yellow cabs,” added Barbara Garnett. “But, once we were away from the city, it’s been wonderful all the way.””We were almost to Toledo (Ohio) then we headed down to Nashville and took a side trip to Memphis,” Dick Garnett said. “Some of us went up to the Oshkosh air show in Wisconsin.”They were originally traveling through Kansas; instead, they decided on South Dakota.”I enjoyed the time around Rapid City, S.D., with Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Deadwood. There’s some wonderful sights all the way across,” Garnett said.So far, just one tractor has suffered a mechanical failure – a blown head gasket.”We were in the middle of a town when it blew, and we wheeled into the closest parking lot, right along side the drive-up window of a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet,” Garnett said. “We had a head gasket with us, and we pulled the motor to bits right there in the parking lot. Two and a half hours later, we drove it out with a new head gasket on it.”Barbara Garnett laughed at the thought of people picking up their fried chicken orders with not much to look at but the backsides (or “bums” as she called them) of the trekker mechanics leaning into the tractor’s engine.That repair was nothing compared to the time the trekkers repaired a bent axle in the treeless Australian desert.”Something went haywire with the steering and completely twisted the front axle. With no workshop or anything, the guys made a furnace,” Dick Garnett said.They hollowed a trench in the sand and filled it with scrub brush containing a hot-burning wax. They laid the axle in it and topped it with metal plates from their barbecues (or “barbies”) and then used a 12-volt fan to blow air to create a furnace.”They heated that axle until they could straighten it, and it’s still on a tractor today, still functioning,” he said.The group bought three trailers, which the tractors tow, and two recreational vehicles, one in Rhode Island and one in Arkansas, that they plan to sell when they get to Los Angeles, and they may sell a couple of the tractors, too.The Garnetts had high praise for American drivers.”Your drivers here are extremely courteous, more so than ours,” Garnett said. “You step off the pavement at home and they’re just as likely to run you down, but here, they’ll stop for you and let you walk across.”After Falcon, the trekkers planned to head up to Loveland, Colo. for the Oregon-California Trails Association 2009 convention.Then it’s on to Salt Lake City, where they’ll join up with the group that split off for the Oshkosh air show, and then head across the desert for Los Angeles, though Garnett wasn’t sure of the route they would take.Garnett had no misgivings about the desert, and said that four or five times a year he and Barbara cross Australia’s Nullarbor Plain, named for its lack of trees.”Deserts don’t worry us, deserts are beautiful. Everyone says the Nullarbor is boring, but I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve crossed it, and every time I see something different. I just think it’s beautiful,” he said.Barbara Garnett agreed. “They call them deserts, but just add water and you’ve got beautiful wildflowers,” she said.In Los Angeles, they’ll pack up their tractors, ship them back to Australia and head home.Dick Garnett doubts he’ll return to the United States for another cross-country trek, as this trek has been quite expensive.”Every day gets better,” he said. “It’s just been absolutely fantastic. You think it can’t get any better, and it does. We’ve seen so much and done so much that it’s hard to put it all together.”For more information on the trek, visit

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