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Touring Montana 500

By Carl Walden

After years of trying to connect with Rick and Tom Carnegie to attend the Montana 500, last year the right circumstances came together. I had just finished a major rebuild of my 1914 touring engine. A 500 mile run would be a good way to break it in. Also my son Sean and his family were going to vacation with us from Hawaii. Sean has been in the Navy since 1989 and had not attended any antique car events in that time. He was really looking forward to an old car outting. Sean also loves racing, so the Montana 500 promised to be perfect all around. Sean, Nettie and their two sons, Christopher and Trevor, planned to use our 1931 Model "A" Tudor, which is ideal for a family with two little boys. We trailered the cars from west of Spokane to Great Falls, the hub of the 500 mile run. We settled into a nearby RV park, then found the hotel where the tour was based to finish registering and visit. After dinner that evening, we had a drivers' meeting to go over details of the run. Every driver drew a placement number, even the tourers.

The next morning, we drove to the outskirts of Great Falls, where we were sent off one by one under the clock. We who were "tourists" were timed out before the competitors. Since we had never attended a Montana 500 before, we were under the impression we would tour a different route to a viewing area to watch the racers whiz by, then would drive to another place to see them again. We were surprised to learn we were to run the same route as the competitors! The first leg was to Havre and back, which was almost half of the 500 miles. This run proved to me why Montana is known as Big Sky Country. Here the land is flat and windy and very splendid. My '14 with its new motor was pretty slow at first. As the event progressed, we were able to run at a more reasonable rate. Like I said before, we "non-racers" were sent off first. It was fun to have the racers catch and pass us during each leg. To participate in this way was like being in the grandstand and on the speedway at the same time - lots of fun! When the 500 was over, we had another get together to find out final times and winners.

I was particularly proud of Carla Carnegie for driving her dad's roadster the whole way and placing so high in the standings. No one was even sure the car would finish the race! After the official 500 Endurance Run was over, we toured Glacier National Park. Patty and I had the pleasure of chauffering Gary and Kathleen Ebbert through the park. Glacier is a national treasure which words cannot describe! After saying our goodbyes to old and new-found friends, we went our separate ways. Our son Sean, still talks of how much fun they had during those few days in June in Montana. I am looking forward to the day when I can fix a "T" for competition. Unfortunately it won't happen this year. In January I started a new job with a six month trial service time which, of course, includes June. But, like the Jews have said for centuries, "Next year in Jerusalem," so it is for us: "Next year in Montana."

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