Getting no answer at the Konkolville Motel, I left a message and smugly tucked into my chow. We were all the way to fortune cookies before my jacket rang and a cheerful voice said they'd leave our room unlocked with the heat on. Bastards!
Pretty Wife smiled prettily.
Like a condemned man, I backed out into 38-degree traffic, passed a Harley rider wearing shorts, sunglasses and a six-pack on his wrist, and set course for Lewiston in the pitch dark.
Merry as an escaped parade float, the Ural pulled us tirelessly south. Although I had kicked off the right-side manifold for the fifth time, sucking extra air didn't bother it at all. Cutting-edge technology ain't everything. Sometimes, you just need things to work.
Pulling into the Flying J Travel Plaza near the river confluence saw both ambient temperature and my mood rise by 10 degrees. Whistling to warm up my teeth, I fueled the rig, screwed the right intake boot back on and ignored the dipstick as instructed. We were due for a beautiful piece of road, our first of the trip without traffic, snow or rain.
Winding east along the Clearwater, with stars reflecting off the river and the boxer-twin droning like a bomber over the English Channel, was hypnotic. Inside my hat, I sleepily chanted the ground rules: Gas right, slow left, watch for deer...
Ten minutes before midnight we crossed the bridge into Orofino. Stumbling into the motel, we stood rifles in the corner, pulled off each other's boots and collapsed.
Morning blossomed crisp and fair to river sounds courtesy of God's Country and fresh waffles, hot coffee and fruit courtesy of proprietors Joe and Sherrie. Blotting syrup off our riding suits, we took weapons in hand and headed out.
Boomershoot's shock and awe is discreetly professional. Small white signs with neat red lettering led us off the highway at Cavendish toward the Huffman family ranch, where Friday's clinic was getting underway. Waving to the safety scout posted on the approach road, we idled up on a scene of careful organization.
Shooters moved up and down the line with actions open and muzzles reliably pointed downrange under supervision by range safety enforcers. Below a rain fly, retired Special Forces officer Eugene Econ calmly expounded on the subtleties of trajectory, mirage and quarter-minute winds to an attentive group.
These weren't your father's rednecks. Boomershoot draws from every profession (attorneys and tech geeks are over-represented) and social stratum. It's a family event, too. My buddy Ry's adorable daughter wasn't the only kid on the firing line, and some wives outshot their hubbies.
Boomershooters aren't leftover Cold War survivalists. They're serious precision shooters, with gear as refined and carefully maintained as any MV Agusta. Range days are their track days. Boomershoot was race day, and I felt like Little Fauss on a dyspeptic Hodaka. It's a poor craftsman who blames his tools, but only idiots and journalists go up against a roomful of Snap-On rollaways with a rusty Boy Scout knife.
Meanwhile, up at "The Taj," volunteers happily mixed mayhem with Kitchen-Aid blenders. Taciturn Boomershoot impresario Joe Huffman supervised manufacture of enough explosives to level three or four middling Idaho townships. Fertilizer, anti-freeze and disinfectant, sweetened with sugar, stirred (not shaken!) with a twist of lime builds a lovely cocktail flambé, but we couldn't play. Everyone in the chemical kitchen held a BATF explosives license. When your recreation can kill you, it's not actually better to be lucky than good.
So we unqualified amateurs folded thousands of boxes for the cause, to be stuffed with explosives and disseminated for the participants' shooting pleasure. Boomershoot's closest targets are set on a berm at 380 yards. Most are much farther-and they're 4 inches square. You won't hit one by accident or luck.
For closer work, there is the joy of "clean-up." A slight additional fee lets Boomershooters wail on exploding targets from 30 yards out (eye protection recommended).
We left the range by a different route, the vertiginous Old Ahsaka Grade, composed of pea gravel over hard dirt wound around curves coiled tighter than an M16 buffer spring. Partway down, we pulled into an old feedlot to gambol through nearby woods on the sure-footed hack. It's colossal for a dirtbike, puny for an SUV, just right for what it is: distilled escapist pleasure. Pretty good workout, too.
For Saturday morning's ride to the range, I stuffed my ego into the trunk and tooled up the hill in relaxed fashion, rediscovering the Lost Secret of Hackdom: Slow is easy, easy is smooth, and smooth is fast.