I’d established a love-hate relationship with ‘US-212 East’ that reflected the necessity of using this highway and the efficiency it brought in getting through Montana but also the mundanity of being on the same road for days; hundreds of miles. So I’d grown used to it and accepted it was our highway out to South Dakota. Until today. Today was actually very different from the previous on US-212 but not in a good way!
We knew in the morning from the local news and various road signs that there could be problems with the route – we had seen a fire in the distance when we stopped yesterday and there were reports of several large (one a hundred thousands acres) fires in and around Lame Deer, which was to be 15 miles into the run today. We set off in good spirits with Heidi and Mike crewing and hoping the reports were correct that we should be ok to pass through. Justin had a sore back and so we were all staying together at an easy pace. As we got to Lame Deer it became clear the road ahead was closed. We were met by Deputy Anderson of the local Sheriff dept who, after establishing we were ‘those runners’, explained that we couldn’t go on through to Broadus on US-212 as the road had caved in when the fire melted the asphalt. Oh.
You might have figured by now that there really isn’t much in Montana (though we have been running through Indian Reservations for the last few days and I keep forgetting to mention them!), and roads seem to be few and far between, like the towns they serve. So we stopped our watches (for the first time mid-run) and had a conference in the Roadrunner to decide what to do and where to go. Mike M drove down one route to see if it was open and Mike S was pouring over the map. I was really impressed by how Mike S kept his cool – remember this is a route he’s planned over the last 3 years; driven, ran or cycled the entire route over the 2 months before we started and here we were having to change course from pretty much the only decent road through Montana. But Mike M came back with good news – we could head south and not be stopped by the fire. Though that said we did run through some pretty smoky areas that I’m hoping have calmed down tomorrow.
I was really impressed today with how many people driving passed stopped and asked if we were ok – possibly because of the fire and more likely because we look like crazy people. Some shared their stories of the fire and it was clear that our worries were pretty small compared to others’ houses burning down (about 11 houses burned I think – though there’s not many out the in the first place) and the fact that a massive area – over 100 square miles – was without electricity.
So we decided to make it a 36 mile day (originally 45) and restarted for the final 21 miles. Justin still wasn’t feeling good so he stopped at mile 23; the first time any of the group has had to leave a marker and finish before the stage ends, he’s feeling better now and restarting from there in the morning. Though he’s 13 miles behind (and theoretically I’m beating him now…) I’m sure he’ll make it up quickly.
Because we went south that means we’re staying in the only town that’s nearby… an hour and a half drive away in Sheridan, Wyoming; yes not Montana!! This evening after a great dinner at Country Kitchen we all sat down and Mike explained the new route – going more south and east than previously but returning to the original route in South Dakota. That does mean we’ll miss the Black Hills in SD that Mike’s raved about but we have no option – to go back up north now would add on too much mileage to be sensible. There’s some hotel re-arranging to be done but we should be back on track in a few days.
So a anxious, nervy day is over and we’ve now got a plan and route that hopefully will be trouble free – though much of it will be on dirt, gravel roads for the next few days so it’ll be dusty and tougher than (the now molten!) tarmac of US-212. I guess it’s all part of the adventure!