Last week, 11 Australians stepped off a jet in New York City after flying more than 10,000 miles, then anxiously headed to a seaport dock in Baltimore, Md. There, they uncrated five tractors shipped far more miles from Western Australia more than six weeks earlier.
No ordinary tractors, these were restored, two-seater Chamberlain 9Gs built between 1955 and 1966. Made for field work and road-hauling great distances, the Perkins-powered, 60 horsepower tractors will average about 30 mph as they meander toward Los Angeles over the next 10 weeks.
CHAMPIONS ON THE ROLL: Five Chamberlain Champion tractors fresh from Australia roll into Westminster, Md., the official starting point of their Transworld Tractor Trek across America.
Fortunately, the tractors came out of the containers "in good shape," reports Ron Bywaters, the tour planner and leader. In today’s heightened shipping security, "you don’t know what to expect.
"We’ve got a few wiring problems to work out, but that’s all. And there were no drugs or cash to be found in them," he jokes. "Remember, we’re just farmers, farmer has-beens and old tractor enthusiasts."
Meandering across America
On Saturday, the group officially began the first leg of their 6,000-mile Transworld Tractor Trek across America at Westminster, Md., with travel trailers in tow. Communications via headsets and UHF radio will be constant as they journey along highways and byways across America.
REQUIRED: Trek leader Ron Bywaters says, "It’s compulsory; we have to have a good time!"
The trip, nearly 18 months in planning, will take the Aussies across Maryland and West Virginia, then northwest into the Amish communities near Wooster, Ohio. Then, it’s onward into Indiana and central Illinois before wheeling south to Louisville and Nashville.
By week five or six ("Or whenever we get to it," notes Bywaters), it’s onward up the west side of the Mississippi to the John Deere Museum at Moline, Ia., and Oshkosh, Wis. Then it’s westward ho, trekking through Colorado, Wyoming, before turning south to catch the Grand Canyon before heading toward the sundown of their trek at Los Angeles.
The Aussies expect the Grand Canyon to be the high point of their adventure. "I’m hoping we’ll be able to drive through it," says Dick Garnett, the only unretired farmer in the bunch. But that won’t happen unless his tractor is strapped onto a river raft he was told. And that’d be a ride he’d never forget.
This Transworld Tractor Trek will cost about $45,000 a head, estimates Bywaters. "We going to take our time, meet as many people as we can and enjoy every day. It’s compulsory; we have to have a good time!"
By trek-end, the group hopes to have some of their 9Gs and all the travel trailers sold. "Some will be looking for new owners," says Bywaters. For sale? At what price? "Oh, you can’t write about that," he grins with a gleam in his eye.
Follow their trek across America on the Web at www.transworldtractortreks.com.
AUSSIE ENTOURAGE: For these farmers, farmer has-beens and old-iron enthusiasts, this Transworld Tractor Trek across America is a trip of a lifetime.