Boomershoot! - Fun with Two Forms of Internal Combustion

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Shasta Willson

Okay, actually I learned that on a military rifle range, but it works for sidecars too.

At the range, our Ural stood out like a kitten in a kennel. The big dogs sniffed at it gently, inquiring about hunting utility. We calculated the car would easily carry two whitetails or a shedload of geese.

Like a motorcycle training course, our clinic opened at 0800 with a safety briefing and goal definitions. I paired off with a quiet fella named David to shoot steel targets until lunch, then try for our boomers.

When I pulled the old Winnie out, instructor Gene whistled. Most of its bluing was rubbed to silver. The red rubber recoil pad was crumbling. Dad replaced Grandpa's pre-Jurassic Lyman Alaskan scope with a Leupold Vari-X, but I hadn't zeroed it since 1990. When I unscrewed its turret caps, dust snowed off the elevation screw.

David, studiously preparing his custom M1 Garand, politely said nothing.

Nothing for it but to do it. I spotted a few rounds for my partner and we got the Garand onto 8-inch steel at 400 yards, then switched up. With many misgivings, I laid a round into my Model 70, closed the bolt, wrapped its thick leather sling around my left arm and said, "Shooter ready."

"Send it."

We kicked dirt 8 inches left at 400 yards with a 2-minute wind from the right. My old scope had held zero through 19 years and seven household moves. Two minutes of windage adjustment got us a reliable chorus of, "Send it." BOOM! Bong.

I should have packed better excuses, but every miss was mine. Grandpa always did know his gear. I would like to have hunted with him, ridden with him, or been his wingman. I'd like to have known him past kindergarten age.

With David spotting and Grandpa whispering in my ear, we hit targets out to 680 yards in a stout quartering wind, the best I've ever shot. The day was not without glitches. I scope-cut my nose and beat my throttle arm to a livid pulp, but we got our share of boomers and 158 rounds of validation.

At the banquet on Saturday night, we purchased 25 raffle tickets to support Soldier's Angels (www. ) and collected too many prizes to pack. A friend volunteered to schlep them back in his van and we tossed in our rifles, too, Pretty Wife having previously informed me that her chest was not, in fact, a rifle "rack."

Unburdened by schedule or armory, we upped our two-lane percentage to relax the travel hours. Gamboling along at 35-55 per on a curving road with your sweetie in the sidecar is like ice cream on a sunny day.

All weekend, the Ural just worked. It gave zero trouble on-road or off and opened travel options rarely available to standard commuting apparatus, such as chugging straight through a boggy bar pit when I arbitrarily punched out of interstate traffic in favor of a calm frontage road. When curiosity finally wrestled me into pulling the dipstick, it was coated with clear golden oil right up to the Full mark.

It's a better bike than I am a mechanic; a better magic carpet than I am a pilot. The old Winchester is a better gun than I am a shooter, and it just may be that Grandpa knew better than all of us.

At a faux-retro coffee stop in North Bend, an old man stopped by our table to talk. He couldn't take his eyes off the bike out front.

"What's that, about a 1942?"

"Everywhere," she said.

I squinted at the bike, a time-traveling contrivance if ever there was one, decided the front disc brake was probably invisible, and answered on behalf of Grandpa's Winchester.

We were on the right road all along.

"Close: 1940."

"Ah..." The old party smiled a little, out of one side of his mouth, and his eyes crinkled. "They don't make 'em like that anymore."

He put one hand on Pretty Wife's shoulder and one on mine, but never looked away from the bike. "And where are you two going?"

Home, I thought, back to work, back to routine.

But Pretty Wife didn't wait for my answer. She spoke right up, and if she didn't make the old man's day, she surely made mine.

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