Official Montana 500 Website


by Susie Carnegie

-A Timer's Perspective-

I know, I know, the title caught your eye and you are all geared up for Model T timers and how they work, etc. Well, this is about Model T timers and how they work, only they're the kind of timers with two legs that you'll spot at the beginning and end of each leg of the Montana 500, and are not necessarily attached to your Model T. You'll first notice a team of timers at the beginning of a leg. There are generally at least two, one with a stopwatch in hand, the other a clipboard and pen. They're the ones who get the show on the road by working on lining up the T's in the order they need to be timed out, then send each T off in 1 minute intervals, just enough time to say howdy and briefly kabitz with each driver before the timer holding the stop watch brings her arm down and a flagger waves them out with a green flag. Once all of the T's are on the road, this set of timers hop into their vehicle and follow behind enjoying the beautiful Montana scenery, wildlife, and watch for T's to root them on with their firsthand glance at where each T is, and how close or far apart the T's are as they pass them by. Taking the back seat to all of the action is the trouble trailer driver who has the greatly appreciated task of rescuing any T's that have mournfully broken down.

At the end of each leg you'll find another team of timers who time and flag the T's in. They rush ahead to locate a safe spot to park and time the T's in. These timers, like most of the T drivers, are not necessarily familiar with the routes and face the challenge of being sure they reach the intended destination in plenty of time to find a good place to park and be ready to spot the first T, get its number, and write its time down as it screams by and heads on in to the first gas station. Once all of the T's are timed in, these timers check in with the other team of timers, checking the stop watches to be sure they're in sync, and give the order that the T's were timed in. They then take off to their next destination and prepare to time the T's in again. I have timed T's out, timed T's in, flagged T's out, flagged T's in, and one year I even road along in the trouble truck. Each position has its own flavor of perspective. As simple and uneventful as the task of a timer may seem, timers from over the years could most likely share a story or two of humor, craziness, or maybe even toe curling things they have experienced or witnessed.

Just to mention a few: While riding along behind the T's one year, we timers and flaggers in a modern iron heard a big BANG! A good sized bird had gotten off course and hit our front windshield head-on causing this horrendous noise and leaving behind unpleasant evidence of the hit. For some reason this has stuck with me. I suppose its because I was busy talking and didn't see it coming, so it took a moment to realize what had happened and get my heart out of my throat and back into its intended position. Then there was the time we were driving ahead of the T's to find a place to park and time the T's in. Using a GPS we found ourselves a nice little nesting spot, but somehow it just didn't feel right, it seemed like we should have further to go. Fortunately we had someone who had driven along in a separate vehicle who graciously drove ahead to scope things out while we watched for T's, ready to time them in, just in case. The GPS had failed us, we had a ways to go to be where we actually needed to be. We quickly headed out and made it to our true destination with very little time to spare (even though we rush ahead of the T's in modern iron, it doesn't always mean we have lots of time on our hands, its amazing how quickly they follow behind us).

The forces were with us another time when the last leg of the 500 involved driving a relatively short loop out of town and back again. We were to drive down the main highway to a certain point, turn off onto a side road and loop back around joining up to that highway again, then tour back in to town. The timers who timed the T's out were also going to time them in, so after the T's were on the road these timers then set up at the end of the leg, a short bit before the T's would come to the stop sign on the side road to get back on the main highway. Meanwhile, the other team of timers were driving the route ahead of the T's. When we reached the point where we needed to turn off the highway and onto the side road we discovered unexpected road construction blocking our path. With the trouble truck driver's assistance, it was quickly decided to wave the T's as they arrived to turn around and head straight back. This meant we, the timers there at the scene, needed to race back to alert the other timers that they needed to move from their current position (on the side road, a ways from the main highway) and get to the main highway to time the T's in before they could reach that point. We did it! What a rush! Yes, the Montana 500 timers, flaggers and trouble trailer drivers have a history of their own. Over the years the timers have endured rain, sleet, snow, and sun scorching heat. They have maneuvered around a variety of road hazards and dodged wildlife…or not. They have enjoyed their front row seat to view the goings on of T's enroute as they'd strive to reach the front of the pack. They have experienced countless mishaps and kabobbles that go with the territory. And some have dutifully acquired a Montana 500 gray hair or two.

The Montana 500 is Sanctioned by The Montana Cross Country T Association.