Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tractors and Trucks and Jets, Oh My!

While at brunch yesterday, Melinda spotted a sign for "Elburn Days", which was runing this weekend. Elburn is a small town, population about 5,000 about 10 miles west of us. Looking on their website, we found that today (saturday) was the tractor pull, and since Melinda had never been to one, we decided to go take in the small-town festival.

We arrived about 11:30, about 30 minutes after the listed start time, but they were just getting under way. Even though near midday, we found parking about 100 yards from the action, so not huge crowds. They had a midway with a number of rides, a few carnival games to "test your skill", some local fundraising booths like dunking tanks, and lots of food - none of it particularly healthy - concentrated in the pork food group!

Heading first for the tractor pull, we watched some of the "modifieds" - tractors that have never seen the cornfield side of a fence, oftentimes rated over a thousand horsepower. Realize this is close to 10 times more than when new from the factory! The vehicles pull a sledge with a moving weight - the further you move down the track, the more the weight moves forward, increasing the drag. The sledge also contains a safety cutoff if the vehicle veers off track and a precision odometer to measure how far down the track it has gone. Some of the contests are won or lost by tenths of a foot and the distance is read out to a hundredth of a foot.

The "pulls" assault the ear as well as the eye - motors scream and spew smoke as progress is made down the track. Even though maxium speeds are about 20 mph, drivers wear special jackets, helmets, and the engine compartments are enclosed to contain flying engine parts should catastrophic failures occur. I've seen some radical machines in the past (jet-powered and multiple-engined machines), but this being a small event and perhaps because of competition from other fairs, there were not a huge number of entries, in fact, there were a lot more trucks pulling than tractors. Still a lot of fun while staying within a half hour drive of home.

After tiring of the competion, we headed for the midway and supported the sponsoring Lion's Club by eating at their food stand - a soda and pork chop sandwich - it was great! We then toured the rides, exhibits and crafts booths. I ended up buying some framed and matted pressed flowers and autumnal leaves. We left midafternoon, headed back towards the big city.

I had noticed on the way out to Elburn that we passed the field of the Fox Valley Aero Club - a radio-controlled model airplane group. Today they had model jets flying, and we stopped on the way back to St Charles. The astronomy club in Tucson shares an observing site with a model airplane group west of Tucson, but I had never seen the jets that occasionally fly there. They are quite incredible - accurate to the smallest detail, complete with retractible landing gear, both airspeed brakes as well as wheel brakes - and true jet power flying at incredible speeds. I have no clue what the cost of some of these are, but there was one with a "for sale" sign on it that had been rebuilt professionally after a crash, listed for $7,000. The most amazing demonstration for me was an F-18
model well over 6 feet long pictured here. While certainly well out of my price range, they were fun to watch and I may look for them in the future.

No comments: