Craig Alford planned to ride a push bicycle across Australia to raise money for charity, but he hopped on his souped up Hustler Super lawnmower instead.
“This is so much more rewarding,” he said upon his arrival at Sydney Olympic Park on Saturday, the last leg of his 2014 trip, bringing his total kilometers traveled to about 2,500. “And a bit easier on the body.”
Alford, a member of the Rotary Club of Armadale and assistant governor of District 9465 in Western Australia, sells lawnmowers and other equipment at his business. He made his grand entrance by cruising past thousands of Rotarians on the main drag at Sydney Olympic Park. Then he threw down a couple of spins on the mower to get the crowd pumped up — and to open up some wallets. He’s riding for mental health research, prostate cancer research, and polio eradication. Alford hopes to raise $1 million Australian dollars over 7 years, traveling some 15,000 kilometers in the process. He’s raised just under $200,000 Australian dollars so far.
“You come around the corner and see the expression on people’s faces of amazement,” he says.
His journey this year started in Adelaide then went up to Melbourne, on to Tasmania, back to Melbourne to Canberra, and over to Sydney. He’s averaging 200 kilometers a day. Along the way, he’s collecting all sorts of interesting stories.
“One lady had six dollars to her name,” he says, “and gave it to us as a donation because her daughter suffers from depression.”
Others just appreciate the original idea, though they should probably appreciate the execution too. Riding a lawnmower across Australia is a complicated, bureaucratic activity. For starters, he’s not allowed to cut any lawns. Australia won’t allow you to drive a vehicle with blades on roads. Secondly, he needs permits to ride in some Australian states.
“If you’re thinking of riding a lawn mower around anywhere, think hard before you do it because it’s a lot of work,” he adds. “But it’s a great adventure.”
Alford is accompanied on his rides by a support staff of 8-11 people, all Rotarians. So if you see him, give him a wave and a donation. If you’ve seen him in the past, share your stories in the comments field.