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Aussie Trek Across America

Aug. 22 to 25: Colorado, Utah and Arizona

Onward from day 57, Ron Bywaters and the Aussie crew split up into a group of tractors and a group of RVs with plans to reconvene after visiting the Grand Canyon. Below are their separate travels up to day 60. — Ed.


Day 57 — RVs

After an early morning walk through the pristine forest, it was time to head off through the beautiful mountains again.

The route through the Monarch Pass (11,312 feet) to Gunnison, Colo., was again picturesque with a new vista around each bend. A very pretty spot at the Red Creek Campground was a perfect place for an overnight stop. A walk from the camp led us to a beaver pond which, while the beavers were a bit shy of the camera, was a perfect example of their clever dam building habits.

The three tractor drivers who left Loveland have now caught up with Cumber and Jeff in Salt Lake City after a good run across the Rockies, as described in their notes.

Day 58 — RVs

Word from the five tractors drivers is that they have decided to drive straight to Las Vegas and tour to the Grand Canyon from there.

So the plan to meet up with them in a couple of days will not eventuate and we will continue at a leisurely pace, and catch up after we have visited the Grand Canyon. They were heading south from Salt Lake City this afternoon, en route to Cedar City and then Las Vegas.

Continuing the trip through the mountains saw the RVs travel to Montrose, Colo., then through flatter country to the hills of Ridgeway. As we headed west there was a magnificent range ahead of us — the Uncompahgre Plateau.

The scenery undertook a subtle change when we encountered the red hills of Placerville and headed toward Telluride. This village was another recommendation from the lads Andrew and Scott, and our visit there turned out to be a real bonus. Not only was the town very pretty, but there was also a gondola service up and over the mountain to Mountain Village on the other side and return, and this service was, unbelievably, free!

The scenery was magnificent — Telluride is surrounded by mountains on almost every side and has ski slopes down many of these. The shops are touristy but quite delightful and the whole area has a wonderful European feel about it. To finish a really fantastic day, a decision to try out one of the local restaurants was a great success, the choice being Italian.

Day 59 — RVs

The day started out showery but quite pleasant for the drive through the Lizard Head Pass which at 10,222 feet was dwarfed by the surrounding mountains that peaked at up to 14,000 feet.

A visit to the Anasazi Heritage Center was a very wise choice. This center focuses on the ruins found in the area of the Escalante Pueblo people and has a wonderful collection of artifacts as well as screening very interesting informative documentaries about the history of the original inhabitants and their way of life. A short walk leads visitors to some of the ruins which have been stabilized in an endeavour to prevent further deterioration.

Any further plans for sight-seeing were changed when an electrical storm hit the area whilst we were at the top of a 8,500-foot mountain in the Mesa Verde National Park — it was quite spectacular but also dangerous as lightning was striking areas close by, necessitating a hasty retreat. An early stopover was decided at Cortez, Colo., where a complete rainbow gave hope of better weather tomorrow!

Day 60 — RVs

This was the day we traveled through three states in the RVs on our leisurely trip to the Grand Canyon.

After attending to a few calls around Cortez, Colo., we headed south to a winery run by Guy Drew. Guy grows grapes in what looks like most inhospitable territory, but with plentiful water available by irrigation from the nearby river, he has remarkable success. His wines are all very palatable and his gardens are really very pretty. The house has been built from straw and has a wonderful Mexican feel to it and is beautifully appointed.

Many other properties in the area grow grape vines on the ridges of rocky outcrops. The only other crops seen were irrigated Lucerne which is baled for stock feed. The border into Utah was crossed at lunch time and the countryside became quite desert like with only a few oil rigs and rocky outcrops to break the skyline. Then as we approached Bluff, the rocks changed color to salmon pink and looked very fragile, with many breakaways obvious.

The trip through the Monument Valley was absolutely breathtaking — so many rock formations in this Navajo country. No wonder so many movies have been made in this area — you expect to see an American Indian jump out from almost every rock!

We crossed the San Juan River and proceeded to where the Mexican Hat formation was clearly seen. A stop at a Navajo stall gave us an opportunity to see some genuine Indian craftsmanship and a very nice young lady named Marlena was happy to sell us some jewellery.

We crossed the border into Arizona late afternoon and continued to the overnight stop at Kayenta, Ariz.

See photos and read more on Ron’s website,

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Day 57 — Tractors

Already in Utah, Aug. 22, 2009, saw us continue on Highway 40 toward Salt Lake City.

The countryside yet again offered great sights across the lush farming lands. The Strawberry River lead us to Starvation Reservoir — a name that seems to contradict this land that has so much to offer. After enjoying the view and taking a few photos our travels continued.

The view then returned to pines and mountains. At 7,000 feet we came across another large reservoir providing all sorts of boating and water activities for the many folk there. We continued our climb up the mountain to 8,020 feet then enjoyed a very long down grade at 6 percent. Lunch was taken at Heber City, Utah, then it was on to Highway 189 into Provo Canyon, part of Deer Creek State Park.

During this section there was yet another sight to behold — Strawberry Reservoir where there were resorts and accommodation of all types, beaches and boating beyond belief with a backdrop of snow tipped mountains. There were so many folk enjoying the facilities that vehicles towing boats were lined up to access the various launching ramps.

From here the three 9Gs with trailers in tow began the ascent up Alpine Pass to the summit at 8,060 feet. We can only repeat ourselves at this point and say the sights were incredible and our 9Gs did us proud.

A break was taken at the 16-mile level on the descent where we chatted with some campers before continuing on to the bottom of the mountain. We then rolled on into Salt Lake City where we were reunited with the other two 9Gs, so now we are a group of five tractors once again.

Day 58 — Tractors

The day was under way for everyone around 7 a.m.

A number of our ladies took the opportunity to go to Temple Square to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform. In the words of the ladies, “what a beautiful experience to have been able to see this performance.” They also had the opportunity to visit the rooftop gardens above the conservatorium and view where the church services are held in the winter months in the temple area.

After taking in the sights around the city and doing a bit of last minute provisioning, we departed the area in our “tractor train” to begin the next leg of our journey toward the canyons and Las Vegas.

The route taken was Highway 89 through fairly built up areas for approximately 60 miles. Fairview was our chosen destination where we were fortunate enough to be given the permission of the bishop to set up our tractors and campers in the car park adjoining the church. The car park was large enough to be able to form a circle enabling us to set up our tables and chairs and all contribute to our evening meal.

Quite a few local residents came to see us and topped up our shared meal with corn, rock melon and watermelon. As the evening went on the group enjoyed a visit from Geoff, Hannah and their two children with lots of chatter about their work — concrete flooring and foundations — and the trials and tribulations of carrying out this sort of work during the winter months.

Day 59 — Tractors

We were ready to leave our “car park” abode at 8 a.m.

Before our departure we were pleased to once again see Geoff arrive, this time laden with his company T-shirts for the group.

Geoff, Caldwell Concrete Co., we wish you and your family well in the future, and thank you for your generosity and interesting information.

Once back on Highway 89, we continued through Mt. Pleasant, Ephraim and Manti on to Highway 24 then off road for approximately 12 miles, leading us to Highway 62. This took us through Otter Creek on to the very scenic Highway 22.

Highway 22 then led us through a winding path between mountains, then desert terrain punctuated by irrigated lucerne paddocks and green grazing land full of very contented-looking cows.

We arrived at Bryce Canyon, Utah, at around 5 p.m. to a huge RV park nestled in the pines where we all settled in and began preparing for the sightseeing that awaits us here.

Day 60 — Tractors

This day saw the whole group take advantage of the shuttle service provided in Bryce Canyon by going to many beautiful lookouts.

Neville and Peter were our hikers doing a hike of the rim — approximately 1.5 hours. We regrouped at 3 p.m. ready to head out of the canyon and on toward Cedar City. Much to our amazement, whilst we had all enjoyed our time in Bryce Canyon, our departure took us through Red Canyon and it would have to be said that this too was spectacular.

Our chosen route was Highway 12 — followed by Highways 89 and 14 — with a summit of 7,777 feet above sea level and a touch of unsealed road just to keep us happy. On this route we entered Dixie National Forest.

As we traveled along this scenic path, climbing steadily to 9,800 feet, we watched yet another large thunderstorm form in the distance. Around 40 miles from Cedar City, Utah, at Scout Canyon, some 9,960 feet above sea level, we set up a bush camp and enjoyed an evening around a camp fire.

See photos and read more on Ron’s website,

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Aug. 18 to 21: Colorado and Utah

Day 53

Our stay in Loveland was timed to coincide with the 27th Annual Convention of the Oregon-California Trails Association to which Transworld Tractor Trekkers had been invited as special guests.

After a quiet morning at the RV park, the team moved three tractors and personnel across to The Ranch at 4 p.m. to prepare for the welcome reception. Our group was warmly welcomed by Camille Bradford, president of the Colorado-Cherokee Trail Chapter, hosts of this year’s event. Ron had been requested to give a short address and we had hoped to be able to show photos during his talk, but the technology would not work and it took many tries by many helpful people to eventually enable us to show the video of “Tractors Across Australia” which continued on during subsequent speakers and was enjoyed by those present.

After the welcoming speeches we were entertained with a wonderful selection of country songs by Jane Leche and a group of gifted musicians. As a special surprise, Jane had worked up a rendition of “Waltzing Matilda” and, with words on the overhead projector, those present were invited to join in, which the Australians did with pride.

Day 54

Once again the tractors were driven to The Ranch for the opening ceremony of the 27th Annual Convention of the Oregon-California Trails Association.

The proceedings started with a flag ceremony and “Pledge of Allegiance” by the Loveland High School Junior ROTC Color Guard. This was followed by a very touching American Indian blessing and ceremony with Kiowa/Arapaho Elder John Emhoolah giving his blessing in both English and his own native language, which he followed up with a song in his own tongue.

During the morning there were talks on various subjects which were all found to be interesting and informative. After lunch the team members returned to the RV park before heading into the city of Loveland at 4 p.m. for activities outside the restored Rialto Theatre prior to the premiere of a locally produced movie “Pursuit of a Dream.” In this film a group of American children from several states along with three teachers were given the opportunity to relive the experiences of the pioneer families who traveled the original wagon trails to settle this country. The story was told through the eyes of the children who had to come to terms with the difficulties experienced in another time while learning to bond together as a team.

The convention runs until Saturday, Aug. 22, and association members will take various tours to places of historical interest throughout Colorado. This was the first time that this state has hosted the convention, and much work has obviously been done by a lot of people over many months to bring OCTA2009: Cherokee Trail to the West 1819–1858, as the convention was called, to what is shaping up to be a very successful event. The president of the local chapter, Camille Bradford, has to be congratulated on the smooth running of the two days when our group was involved, and our thanks are extended to her, the local committee and the team of volunteers for making us so welcome.

Day 55

On the 20th the three 9Gs that had been taking part in the activities at Loveland departed for the crossing of the Rockies.

At this point in time we would like to acknowledge and thank those at the Oregon Trails Conference who took the time to give considered advice and information on the best route for the tractors to take across the Rockies. The chosen route was 14/40 that being the Cameron Pass. Be assured you were right, we crossed without any issues and enjoyed some of the most magnificent scenery.

During the first part of the day we traveled almost parallel to the Poudre River watching many folk fishing and enjoying the surrounds. At the highest peak during the day we were at 10,276 feet above sea level. The roads were very well maintained and offered pull overs for passing so regularly that there was never a problem with us being a little slower than normal road users.

Throughout the day we enjoyed breaks at the Colorado towns of Hebron and Waldon — the latter allowing for a little shopping time and a special purchase by Anne. We made other stops along the way to enjoy some very special waterways and sights — this country continues to offer spectacular scenery each day.

Our final decent of the day was a 7-mile, 7 percent grade down the western side of the Rockies to the ski resort of Steamboat Springs on the Yampa River. What a truly wonderful sight that was and we have all agreed that it would be great to be able to come back and see it in the snow season.

As it was Dick’s 70th birthday we planned to help him celebrate and decided what better place to do that than Steamboat Springs. We took a stroll in the main area of the town and stopped at the Steamboat Yacht Club situated on the banks of the Yampa River to toast Dick’s special day. Having been asked our reason for being in the town and explaining our “trek” across the USA we were invited to park our tractors and trailers on the lawn adjoining the Yacht Club. Once parked we all cleaned up and returned inside the club for a beautiful dinner together. We thank the owners and staff for their contribution to a very special night.

The two RVs did not leave Loveland with the tractors as Allan was recuperating from a virus infection and had medical advice to rest. Also Ron’s RV was in need of some mechanical maintenance which needed to be carried out before heading over the Rockies.

Ron and Kerry headed into Denver for repairs while Allan and Carolyn remained at Loveland.

Day 56

At 7 a.m. we departed Steamboat Springs, Colo., to continue our journey west toward Salt Lake City.

Most of the day we have enjoyed rolling prairie lands with a wonderful backdrop of ever-intriguing mountains. We have passed through coal mining areas, sage bush covered fields and various crops — even a little bit more corn. An observation by the group was the amount of equipment related to the production and recovery of oil and gas in the area. Today was also a day for seeing wildlife. Prior to crossing the border of Colorado and Utah we visited an information center at Dinosaur. Here we enjoyed a film on the finding of dinosaur fossils in the area which we all found very interesting. Each day we seem to learn something new in this great land.

Once we crossed the border we drove on to the city of Vernal, which was a site to behold — baskets of cerise and white petunias on both sides of the street (some two miles or so long) as well as adorning many, many buildings along the way. This theme continued through the following town of Roosevelt. Whilst we have seen similar baskets at many points during our travels we have never seen anything quite like this.

It was decided that we would continue on to Myton where we planned to spend the night at an RV park but before we reached the park we were approached by a local couple, Kelly and BJ Braithwaite. They very kindly offered us accommodation on their property. We acknowledge your generous hospitality, Kelly and BJ.

We have 150 miles to do to take us in to Salt Lake City where we anticipate arriving around mid-afternoon tomorrow.

Allan was feeling well enough to travel again, so joined up with Ron in Denver and the two RVs headed into the Rocky Mountains. A chance meeting with a couple of local lads, Andrew and Scott, led to a suggestion to stay at the forest camp at Buffalo Peaks Wilderness. No sooner had camp been set up and a fire underway than the lads arrived in their all-terrain vehicle and took the Ron and Allan for spins which they thoroughly enjoyed. This was a wonderful place for a true getaway camp.

See photos and read more on Ron’s website,

Aug. 13 to 17: Colorado

Day 48

This was a day with three seasons — the morning was cool, sunny and quite spring like with all the colorful wild sunflowers along the roadways.

Then the temperature rose and was recorded at 95 degrees on a clock tower in Colorado Springs. This warmth kept up until around 4:30 p.m. when a cooler change came in, and then by 5 the clouds were looking very threatening and lightning was evident in the distance. Then the rain came down for a fairly short time and left the early evening fine but still with heavy threatening clouds.

The fine morning saw the group travel from Limon to Falcon — a relatively short run of 61 miles. During this trip, the elevation rose on every hill, the highest recording being 6,885 feet. Then, after booking in at the RV park and discussing the best sight-seeing options, we were on the road again by 11 a.m. and headed through the very scenic hills to the Royal Gorge, some 70 miles away.

After entering the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park we walked across the world’s highest suspension bridge, an amazing engineering feat which has been inspiring millions of travelers for 80 years. This bridge is suspended 1,053 feet above the Arkansas River which attracts many white water rafting enthusiasts, being one of the best stretches of water available for their sport. We were happy to just watch the cable car cross the gorge, and certainly did not envy those who chose to take the Skycoaster — daredevils who dangle themselves 1,200 feet above the river below and swing back and forth!

As always, time ran away and the planned itinerary was behind schedule. A visit to the Buckskin Joe Frontier Town was curtailed to a late lunch stop and then it was time to head back to the RV park. By this time, the threatening clouds and subsequent rainstorms made the journey rather slow, compounded by the 5 p.m. traffic. Fortunately it was dry at the RV park, but the forecast is rain over the next day or so.

Day 49

The anticipated showers did not eventuate overnight and it was a pleasant surprise to find the day fine, though still quite cloudy.

In order to be at Manitou by 7:30 a.m. to join the 8 a.m. Cog Railway trip to Pike’s Peak, we needed to leave the RV park at around 6:30. It was quite an achievement when we were actually on the road within 10 minutes of this objective, all in the one RV. Dick and Barbara stayed behind after feeling the effects of the high altitude.

The trip to Manitou went well with the help of “Mary,” the friendly GPS and we were in good time for the trip up the very steep mountain. The Manitou and Pike’s Peak Railway uses the Abt rack system to climb as much as 25 feet for every 100 feet it moves forward.

At the peak, the altitude is 14,115 feet and toward the top the clouds made visibility very poor, and then we experienced a light snow fall and extremely cold conditions. Fortunately the Pike’s Peak Summit House is ever ready for cold travelers with hot chocolate, all sorts of goodies and the house specialty — doughnuts cooked on site. It is said that if you were to take one down to the lower altitude, it would look like a flat biscuit, but ours did not have to experience that fate! On the other hand, a packet of potato crisps taken up the mountain by Allan looked like a half blown balloon!

While coming back down the mountain, the rain set in and we were all glad we had seen the wonderful views while it was still dry. These views inspired an American lady by name of Katherine Lee Bates to write a very famous poem “America the Beautiful” which when set to music, lost its bid to become the national anthem to “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1931. Hardy folks actually hike up this mountain, usually staying overnight in a half-way house and there are even foot races held which we were informed are usually won in about the same time or less than the train takes.

While out and about, it seemed a shame not to take in another close attraction — the Garden of the Gods, a drive through the park where some of the most incredible rock formations can be seen, mostly in red rock, all totally different in their form and all very beautiful. The park also boasts a Trading Post which is the largest in Colorado and is a real trap for the shopoholics!

Once back at the RV park, Carolyn and Allan were pleased to meet up with relatives Dave and Maxine Joseph, who had driven from Arkansas to see them. Then there were interviews with TV and the local press before it was time to head north. At a little town named Kiowa our appearance was received with shock and surprise — one local said she thought she was seeing things when the first tractor went by, and was absolutely amazed to find there were three! We stopped to ask directions on the best road to take, and finished up being offered accommodation at the local fairgrounds and enjoyed the company of quite a few of the locals before dining in the local café.

Day 50

The morning was fine and cool enough to enjoy the drive north on CR194 through Bennett, then 79 to Prospect Valley where the sunflowers were blooming profusely.

After turning left into Route 52 then right into 41, a sign to an air museum was seen and the lads could not resist the temptation to visit “for a short time.” Quite some time later they re-appeared saying that the Vintage Aero Flying Museum was “absolutely fantastic!” This museum houses one of the largest collections of WWI, Golden Age and WWII aviation memorabilia in the world.

The next stop was at Wal-Mart in Greeley, Colo., where it is never hard to waste an hour or two. Then the short drive to Loveland where we parked in the grounds of the Convention Center for an overnight stay. Much to the surprise of those adventuresome lads, there was an antique car show on at the center, and they made the most of the rest of the afternoon to have a good look around these masterpieces of a bygone age.

Day 51

The morning was quite cool as everyone headed across to the Road Knights car show — 680 cars of every make and color making a really wonderful display.

The quick look the guys had yesterday did not do the show justice as not all the cars had arrived. As the day warmed up, so did the crowd increase until there was a real carnival atmosphere.

The organizers of the show had invited the tractors to park at the entrance to the show and then requested the crew members to make an appearance at their official opening at 1 p.m. The hall was absolutely packed with 680 teams represented and our group was given a rousing welcome when we all went up front. Neville gave a short talk about why we are in the USA and how much we are enjoying the experience.

For the ladies, there was also a Rubber Stamp and Scrapbook EXPO, selling every imaginable craft kit in either of these two hobbies. Even for those not smitten with such activities, there were lots of craft ideas to buy for the grandchildren.

By about 3 p.m. it was time to leave off watching the vintage cars as they drove away from the show and head to the Loveland RV park. Allan and Carolyn met us there with Carolyn’s rellies Dave, Maxine, Jack and Joyce. They had spent a couple of days together and had obviously had a great time. The park has lovely shady trees which will certainly help to keep the vans cool while we are out sightseeing in the Rocky Mountains tomorrow.

Day 52

The morning started out fine and cool — a wonderful day for our trip into the Rocky Mountains.

Those who had been up to Pike’s Peak remembered how cold the mountains are, so we were all well prepared with warm winter jackets.

The 7 a.m. start gave us good time to drive to Estes Park and have a hot drink before starting up the mountains in an open air 14-seat Toyota 4WD vehicle.

Our first stop was at the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Although we could only see it from the road, we were told that it is America’s third most haunted hotel and was the inspirational setting chosen for the novel The Shining by author Stephen King.

The 4WD Toyota was able to take the unsealed road to the top — many hairpin bends and very steep sides — it did not pay to look down! As we climbed through the three life zones, the temperature dropped quite dramatically. At the Visitors Center at Trail Ridge, we rejoined the paved road to the summit of Mount Evans which is the highest of its type in North America and at 14,264 feet we were well and truly in need of the rugs supplied.

The views on the uphill journey were truly incredible, with a new vista at each turn and we were indeed fortunate to have clear skies at the summit.

During the morning we saw waterfalls, fast running creeks, remnants of last year’s winter snow, regrowth after floods, valleys formed by long-gone glaciers and three of the mountain’s animals — mountain sheep, squirrels and one small animal sunbaking on the rocks. We keep being told that there are numerous animals in the mountains, but they are all very shy of visitors it would seem.

A quick lunch in Estes Park upon our return was enjoyable and then it was time to head back to the RV park for a quiet afternoon. Some members of the group took this opportunity to visit Denver, some 50 miles away.

See photos and read more on Ron’s website,

Aug. 11 to 12: South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado

Day 46

Another of those “let’s get some miles behind us” kind of days.

The forecast was for hot weather after our spell of really lovely mild days and the weatherman had it right this time.

Take off from Rapid City, S.D., was at 8 a.m. and the route was south down Route 79. A short detour into Hot Springs was an opportunity to visit an incredible attraction — the Mammoth Site. This is the site of a paleontology research activity where skeletons of the extinct mammoth, as well as many other animals which co-existed with these giants, are gradually being uncovered under what was once a cornfield.

An excavator unearthed the first bones when clearing a site for a housing development. Once the significance of the find was accepted, the land was purchased for what has become America’s greatest Ice Age treasure. The site is now home to the skeletons of some 58 mammoths, plus 40 other species of Ice Age animals that apparently died in this ancient spring-fed sinkhole 26,000 years ago. A tour of the center gives one a glimpse back into time and tells how these massive animals came to be locked into what has become a time capsule. Students give their time to continue the “dig” and more and more pieces of the puzzle are being unearthed.

Then it was on across the border into Nebraska on Route 71 and to Scottsbluff where the three tractors and two RVs parked for the night at the local Wal-Mart store — an opportunity to restock the larders.

Day 47

Away at 7 a.m. for another long day’s travel.

The weather promised to be hot again but after so many lovely mild days we cannot complain.

We headed down Route 71 out of Scottsbluff, passing some magnificent rock formations, some of which are known as their Monument. A quick call into the look-out at the Wildcats Visitors’ Center just out of town gave panoramic views across the hills and valleys. This is a truly beautiful part of the country and the rock formations are really unusual.

Where crops are planted on the prairies, many are grown with irrigation and giant boom sprays can be seen on some farms. Once again the wind turbines were seen just out of Kimball, Neb., but not in the large quantities seen previously. A stopover for morning tea at Kimball gave the local press the opportunity for an interview with some of the team.

The prairies are flat to undulating and at times quite steep. The GPS registered us as being over 5,000 feet above sea level on two occasions. By the time we crossed the border into Colorado at 10:30, the elevation was becoming quite high and some of the hills fairly steep.

A highlight of the day was a stop at Stoneham, Colo., where a local makes whirlies — wind operated wooden toys of every description from a coyote to tweety birds to a stockman on his horse — all very well made and presented. Inside this display area we also saw lots of garden ornaments and gaily painted tulips. This was a welcome distraction from the heat of the day.

The Route 71 continued on to our overnight stopover at Limon and another press interview — it is amazing how quickly word spreads about the tractors coming to town. After the very hot conditions, all the team were glad to relax under shady trees before heading to the local Chinese restaurant for dinner.

See photos and read more on Ron’s website,

Aug. 8 to 10: South Dakota

Day 43

Four of the men made the short trip to Sturgis, S.D., last night to see what all those bikers get up to.

Upon arrival, their taxi was pelted with golf ball size hail stones which kept them pinned in the vehicle for half an hour. Once the storm had passed they evidently had a ball — most of the offered photos where unprintable on our reputable website!

The decision was made that the best way to see the Black Hills of Dakota was by tourist coach and this proved to be a very wise choice. The hills are steep and the roads quite narrow and as we found, to our dismay, somewhat dangerous.

The day started out wet after showers most of the night, but the promise of clearing skies gave us hope for good sight-seeing. Indeed, by the time the pancake breakfast at the Fort Hays Dances with Wolves film set was over, the skies were blue again.

First stop was at the famous Mt. Rushmore where the four presidents’ heads are depicted in carvings on the mountain — a really impressive sight. The sculpture took shape between 1927 and 1941 under the guidance of artist Gutzon Borglum, but was not formally dedicated until 1991.

Then it was down and around on the Iron Mountain Road, the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, a real feat of engineering. Not just hairpin bends, but also pigtail bends as well. Massive rocks are part of these mountains, and four tunnels have been cut through as part of the road building. Three of these tunnels give glimpses back to Mt. Rushmore, evidently deliberately placed so by the engineer, Peter Norbeck.

We were hoping to see some of the local wildlife, but the only ones to make an appearance were a group of donkeys, so tame that they are obviously well used to tourists coming and offering them “treats.” Then, after a very substantial lunch at the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park, it was time to move on.

By this time the weather had deteriorated again with not just rain, but also quite heavy falls of hail, almost resembling snow where it gathered along the roads. This made the already dangerous bends very slippery and our driver was taking extra care as he edged his way around the Totem Pole Rock which rose up steeply from the road.

Suddenly there was an awful crunch and to the horror of the passengers, a motor cyclist was seen sliding into the rocks, having skidded on the bend and hitting the bus. A second cyclist slid his bike across to the other side of the road and there were fears that both may have been badly hurt. Fortunately this was not the case and although they were removed by ambulance, they were both able to walk.

A rather more subdued group of passengers continued the tour, again through very beautiful rocky outcrops and by the time the next stop at the very beautiful Sylvan Lake came around, it was again fine. Two of the tunnels would have made for scary driving before the accident, but having only 4 inches of free space made for a breath-holding experience. The drivers are obviously very carefully selected for their exceptional skills under these circumstances.

Last on the agenda was a visit to the Crazy Horse Mountain and Memorial. This will be even larger than the Mt. Rushmore carvings and stirs the imagination. Many years or work on this site leave much more to be achieved before this mountain sculpture resembles the models produced by the artist Korczak Ziolkowski.

To complete the tour, a dinner and Western Music Variety Show gave everyone a happy end to a long but very enjoyable day. Guests were treated to the sight of three big orange tractors parked outside the main entrance!

Day 44

Our two missing tractors and their crews arrived at Rapid City, S.D., last night after their visit to Oshkosh, Wis., and it was an opportunity to have new photos of all five tractors and all 14 crew members.

After an early meeting, it was arranged to have all present in uniform for the photo shoot and then to meet at 12:30 to travel in the RVs to Wall Drug, the shopping complex we had heard so much about.

With seven members traveling in each of the two RVs, the trip to Wall Drug took a little over an hour and the crews went their separate ways to see and experience as much of this attraction as possible in 2-1/2 hours.

Wall Drug has been in operation since 1931 and is still run by members of the original family. The early key to success during the Depression was for the owners, Ted and Dorothy Hustead, to give away free cold water to all customers. Word soon spread and this center is now enormous, with all manner of little shops and arcades, but all within the one complex, and with a Western feel which has maintained the significance of this business. Historical photographs are much in evidence and the café alone seats 530 people. As well as the shopping, they have a wax museum and outdoor activities for the children.

This was George’s birthday and a crew dinner was planned for the evening, so everyone made the fairly short trip to Ruby Tuesday restaurant in taxis for what turned out to be a really enjoyable evening. As well as celebrating George’s big day, it was an opportunity for those crew members who had been missing from the team to catch up with all that had happened in their absence.

Day 45

An absolutely perfect day to go sightseeing around the Black Hills of Dakota again.

Six members of the crew (Dick, Barbara, Ron, Kerry, Neville and Peter) took off in the RV for areas north of Rapid City and realized that one would need more than a day to do this area justice, but we did our best!

First stop was for morning tea at the picturesque Lake Pactola where several families of Canada geese were very anxious to help Dick and Barbara dispose of any stale bread. The ranger tried to spoil the fun by asking for an admittance fee, but this was happily paid and gave us the option of stopping at all the various attractions within the Forest Recreation Management’s care, if only we had the time!

A very minor road led us to a fantastic little town named Rockford where we were asked two questions: “How on earth did you come to be in Rockford?” and “Why didn’t you bring the tractors?” The small shop-cum-tavern was adorned with caps, business cards, bras, T-shirts, memorabilia, etc. We could not help ourselves — had to order lunch there and soak up the atmosphere. The rest of the town was comprised of a dear little church, another store, a hall and an assortment of very old, but fascinating buildings left over from the gold rush. This was like a time capsule of American history from another era and we just loved it.

For a real change of scenery, we visited Savoy, just near the Spearfish Canyon, to see the Roughlock Falls and once again, we were in for a treat. The falls were very pretty, if not large, and the scenery was breathtaking — tall cliffs and lovely walking trails down to the falls. This is the kind of place one needs to spend a couple of days, but our hour was certainly enjoyed.

By this time we were running a bit behind schedule and very nearly gave Deadwood the miss — lucky for us we did not! A walk down the main street was like stepping back in time and a visit to No. 10 Tavern to see the 5 pm rendition of the “Re-enactment of the Shooting of Wild Bill Hickok” was very opportune. Not one, but three of our number — Dick, Peter and Ron — were chosen to take part in the play. Dick was the barman, and Peter and Ron were card-players at the table with “Wild Bill.” It was hilarious — two members of the public were roped in as bargirls and managed to look the part as they ingratiated themselves to the card players! All in all, a lot of fun.

Meanwhile, back at the camp, Carolyn and Allan visited the Bear Park and the Underground Waterfall and are reported to have thoroughly enjoyed their visits.

“Cumber” and Jeff’s stop with us proved to be short, as they have arrangements to meet friends at Salt Lake City and our route would have been too slow to get them there on time, so they have headed west. We will catch up again when we reach Salt Lake City around the Aug. 25. Before they took off, Cumber gave a ride in his tractor to a visiting lady, Laverne Leible. Mrs. Leible was so thrilled that she sent us a photo of the event.

See photos and read more on Ron’s website,

Aug. 6 to 7: South Dakota

Day 41

We experienced yet another rainstorm overnight and found a rather damp outlook when daylight arrived — we estimate that we have probably had about as much rain as those at home where it is mid winter!

Between showers, we managed to take some photos of three of the tractors at the “Welcome to Chamberlain” sign, but it was difficult to line them up with a lot of early morning traffic appearing on the scene at 7:15. Then we had to drive southeast to reach Route 44 West, crossed the Missouri River again and continued on that route all day.

The countryside changed quite dramatically during the day. The corn, soya beans and wheat gradually petered out while the first sunflowers were seen. Haymaking has been under way on many of the farms with many large bales in evidence. Extremely pretty green hilly countryside made for pleasant traveling, then the stark hills on the horizon made for a real contrast to the driving conditions of the past weeks.

Heavy storm clouds threatened and the sky was alive with lighting, but fortunately the rain band moved off to the north and only occasional showers were experienced during the day.

The second week in August is when the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is held and this event draws many thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to the Black Hills. Sturgis is just 28 miles north of Rapid City, S.D., and this event would explain why we have seen so many motorcyclists on the roads the past few days and many signs at businesses saying “Welcome Bikers.” The town, which normally only has a population of 7,000, must really buzz during this event.

After a long day’s travel, we were all happy to arrive at the KOA at Badlands/White River, S.D., for an overnight stay before heading up to Rapid City in the morning.

Day 42

Pancakes were on offer at the KOA park at White River and it proved to be a good start to the day. “All you can eat” for $3 a head — our group did not extend past two each!

After having photos taken, it was time to head to Rapid City.

First stop was at Interior, S.D., just a few miles down the road. This is a very small town but with several interesting old buildings — two old churches, which were very well preserved, and the old jail, only about 10 feet square. The whole place has a real “western” feel and has the backdrop of the magnificent scraggy mountains of the Badlands National Park.

At the present time all the hills around this area are alive with the sound of motorbikes — they continue to stream down every road, either still going to or leaving the Sturgis event, which will finish this Sunday.

A stop for a short break proved to be at an interesting spot — there were holes everywhere and on closer inspection, many were seen to be inhabited by prairie dogs which made a hasty retreat as we approached. They really do yap like dogs, so their name is appropriate, although they bear no resemblance to their canine cousins.

Then, not much farther on, a dinosaur was seen to lurk — one never knows what one will see next!

Ron has been the recipient of a gift: a cap with the words “When I Die, Bury My Ashes at Wal-Mart — So I Know My Wife Will Visit EVERYDAY!” Now isn’t that kind? Then, just down the road Carolyn spied a billboard which she said looked like Ron in his new cap! These people are all heart!

After that frivolity, it was on to Rapid City to the Tee Pee Camping area, very close to the start of the full-day tour of the Black Hills and Badlands, which is planned for Saturday.

See photos and read more on Ron’s website,

Aug. 4 to 5: Iowa and South Dakota

Day 39

This was planned as a “make miles day,” so another early start was in order.

We had camped the night at Larry and Melanie Maasdam’s property and they were also up early to make their farewells — an opportunity to again give them our thanks for their wonderful hospitality.

The day started out quite misty but without any rain and certainly cool for the time of the year. Traveling down Route R20, we were amazed at the number of wind farms. Not just a few turbines, but row upon row of them, stretching over a few miles. The sight of a majestic turbine standing directly behind one of the old barns seemed like a conflict in time.

At the lunch break at Estherville, Iowa, a couple arrived, having driven quite a considerable distance — the stories of the tractors and their crazy drivers have appeared in quite a few news articles and radio interviews. The lady, Margaret, was determined not to miss the tractors and phoned to find out where we were stopping for lunch and fortunately her husband was happy to drive her to meet us.

The two hundred miles set for the day was managed successfully and everyone was able to camp up at the Big Sioux Recreation Area at Brandon, just out of Sioux Falls, S.D. The daylight saving in force here in the USA allows for pleasant cool evenings before becoming dark around 8:15 p.m.

This evening we had a visit from Gerald and Carol Smith who drove from Holstein, Iowa, after hearing the radio interview that aired on Monday. They had the opportunity to have a look at George’s tractor and chat to Ron — it is great that so many people have shown an interest in the progress of the Trek.

Day 40

As we had camped at Brandon overnight, it was not a long drive to see the famous Sioux Falls, or would not have been had we not become a bit misplaced.

Actually it was lucky as it gave us the opportunity to drive down Phillips Street and admire some of the sculptures, which were everywhere. This area is known as Sculpture Walk, so it is appropriately named.

The drive to the falls was not much farther and this is a really lovely area. Falls Park is beautifully maintained with green lawns and of course the waterfalls, which are a delight. The old Queen Bee Mill is just a ruin after being burnt out in 1956, but another original building, the Sioux Falls Light & Power Co. hydroelectric plant has been reinvented as the Falls Overlook Café and the view of the falls from its balcony is really splendid. Carolyn found two baby birds that had obviously fallen from their nest and was advised to leave them where she had found them and hope their mum comes looking for them.

Next stop was Mitchell, S.D., and we were able to make it in time to hear the radio broadcast of the interview with Von Keselsen which was taped on Sunday. The chaps did well — no ums or ahs to be heard. They are turning into real radio stars! Then it was off to see the Mitchell Corn Palace — a really different and quite amazing place — its origins go back to 1892 with early settlers displaying their corn harvest on the exterior of a building. Since then there have been three Corn Palaces, and the current one undergoes changes to the huge murals each year. These murals are made entirely of native grain and highlighted by multi-colored corn. This attraction now draws more than 500,000 visitors each year.

Then it was time to head to the overnight stop at Chamberlain, S.D. No one could resist the temptation to visit this town with such a prestigious name! The road into the town weaves up and down through very pretty farmland. The RV park is located on Lake Francis Case, part of the Missouri River waterway, a really pretty place to admire the waterways.

See photos and read more on Ron’s website,