By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Racing across America on his riding lawn mower, Gary Hatter stopped in Crescent City yesterday for a break.

Topping out at nine miles per hour, Hatter is smashing the previous world record of 4,000 miles traveled and 51 days spent on a lawn implement.

I started out trying to raise money for a third back surgery, but then I thought I may as well break the world record. Hatter said.

Six months ago, Hatter started his engine in Portland, Maine. Hes travelled 10,000 miles since and plans to go 4,000 more to end up in Jacksonville, Florida.

Ill get there just in time to straighten that election out for them, he said laughing.

The 46-year-old truck driver suffered a ruptured disc in his spine five years ago. He said the doctor who operated on it took out the wrong disc.

After a second surgery, his employer denied further liability, dropping his benefits, he said.

I ended up losing everything I had, he said.

So, when his third child flew the coop, Hatter said with no job prospects due to the need for another surgery, he took to the road to raise money.

I started off with less than a hundred dollars. But Ive been selling these checkered flags for five bucks a piece, he said.

In the distance between Brookings and Crescent City Hatter said he was stopped seven times by folks wanting to buy one of the flags. He wouldnt say how much money he has raised so far.

One of the highlights of his trip he said, was wheeling down the streets of New York City.

CBS filmed me coming through the Bronx, it was awesome. I drove that thing 150 blocks down Broadway, Hatter said.

With two huge plastic storage boxes tied onto the back and a hard top canopy to shield the rain, Hatter calls his tractor home.

He hasnt had to camp out at night, however. Hotels have been letting Hatter stay one night for free a long the way. He said he has free rooms reserved from here to Los Angeles.

My goal is to go through 48 states... I could write a book on this, he said.

Hatter, who is keeping a taped journal of his travels and experiences, pulled out his tape recorder to make an entry before wheeling south from Crescent City.

I had me a pretzel with some cheese, a Coke, and Im ready to roll, he said.