Sunday, May 03, 2009

Boomershoot - the Journey

A few people drove farther than I did to get to Boomershoot '09 - but not many.

I was chased up the mountain to the site by somebody from out of state (Idaho requires front plates, the Chevy duallie following me had none). They had two people in the truck, and I figured they could drive and navigate better than I could solo, so I waved them around, and saw Louisiana plates on the back bumper. Ok, they covered more miles than I did. Someone else drove from Virginia - now THAT's a road trip! And he's apparently done it more than once. (Incidentally, I was right behind him for a little bit on US 12 Monday morning heading out of Idaho, until I pulled off to get a couple of Cokes out of my cooler.)

Anyway, I started Boomershoot '09, after sorting out electrical problems with my trailer lights the day before (when I was supposed to leave), at 7am Central, Wednesday 22 April. I was setting out on the longest road trip (especially longest solo) of my life, and it was quite eventful :)

(All times are Central Time Zone, unless otherwise noted)

Driving from 7am until 3:45pm got me out of Texas. Yes, Texas is THAT big. I'm just glad I didn't start from Houston or somewhere in East Texas.

5:30 saw me into Colorado - I just cut the Northeast corner of New Mexico on US 87, heading to Interstate 25 and a long drive North. This is where I started learning about driving in mountains - it can take a LOT of throttle to maintain speed; altitude hurts horsepower, and once you're out of Texas, the gas sucks. Here at home, regular unleaded is 87 octane. Away from home, I was finding 85.5, and sometimes even 85 octane.

Lower octane means gasoline will detonate, rather than burn - this is what causes a "knocking" engine. Modern, computer-controlled engines have knock sensors, as detonation will destroy an engine very quickly. When the sensors detect a knock, the computer retards the spark timing, thus eliminating the detonation - AND POWER. Combine that with thin air (compared to home), and suddenly my truck was having a hard time getting out of its own way on uphill grades. Not fun, until I finally noticed what octane gas was being sold, and started buying mid-grade to get back to the quality of gas my truck and I are used to. What really got my goat was that the crappy gas on my trip was as expensive as mid-grade here at home; mid-grade on the trip was like buying premium here. Anyway...

I felt pretty good going up through Colorado, but started getting tired of the seat somewhere around Colorado Springs (I think), when I spotted a Gander Mountain just off I-25. Gander Mountain is an outdoorsman's place I've never been, so I stopped to stretch my legs a bit and do some browsing/shopping. I bought a few things I'd meant to get at Cabella's in Fort Worth that morning, except I got to Cabella's on my way out of town 1.5 hours before they opened, and I wasn't about to waste that much road time waiting around.

I left Gander Mountain about 9pm, gassed up in Fort Collins about 10pm, made Wyoming about 10:45, and pulled over at a rest stop in Chugwater about 11:45. 7:00am to 11:45pm driving, I was kinda beat and wanted to catch a couple hours' rest - but the rest stop said "No Overnight Camping", so I reclined the driver's seat and tried to just nap a bit.

No dice - I'd been in the truck so long, I had "ghost vibrations" all through my body - basically, I was feeling the road vibrations in my feet, hands, and my butt even when sitting still. Combine that with plenty of caffeine, and the (very regular) noisy truck idling past me, and a nap was just a dream. So after an hour of (non)rest, I continued north, to a little town whose name I can't remember and didn't write down - where there was a power plant undergoing annual maintenance, and therefore was full of temp workers. No motel rooms available for 60 miles. Fortunately for me, this nice little town had free camping in their town park.

So I set up the trailer (partially) in mid-50 degree temps, and 30-40mph winds, kicked off my boots, and rolled a sleeping bag around me after a few beers to decaffinate myself and get rid of the ghost vibes. Slept WELL, except for when my socked feet stuck out of the rolled, not zipped sleeping bag and got cold. But the trailer kept the brutal winds off me, and I was mostly ok.

I got everything closed back up and put away, and was back on the road at 10am - made Caspar, WY at noon for gas, and hit Montana at 3pm. Billings at about 4:45 for more gas, and shortly after that...


Now, I'm a born & raised Texan. I think I was six years old before I ever saw snow. I'm NOT practiced at driving in it; in Texas, snow is rare, but ice is fairly common. Non-liquid precipitation usually means "Stay the hell home".

But in Montana, everybody just keeps going about their business. If they stopped for snow, they'd have about a 3- or 4-month year, I guess. So I took the right lane and slowed down - and got slushy snow sprayed ALL OVER my truck and trailer by the natives (especially 18 wheelers) who kept doing 75 IN THE SNOW as they passed me. I stopped in Bozeman to crack the ice off my windshield wipers, then crossed the Continental Divide (my first time) at 6393 feet elevation, and got a motel room in Butte at 10pm, just about dark - I couldn't have opened the camper even if I'd wanted to camp in 24 degree temps; it was encrusted by a good foot of ice all over.

Lack of sleep caught up with me in the warm room with a nice bed; it was 11:15am before I was back on the road. Missoula at 1:25pm (with a full-service gas station that I wouldn't let be full-service; I'll check my own stuff, thanks); Idaho at 2:15pm, Orofino at 5:15 after an exhausting drive down US 12 with a mountain on one shoulder, and a river on the other - very twisty road, but I did think "Daddy would would be wishing to take his old bike down this road".

In fact, I stopped at a small town for another Coke not far from Orofino, and the lady at the counter said they often get bikers from Sturgis - and they arrive physically exhausted. I don't doubt it; I was tired from all the narrow switchbacks, and I was in a truck, not on a bike.

6pm Central, 4pm Pacific, Friday, I finally arrived at the Boomershoot site. Rivrdog had picked out the most flat and level spot to set up the trailer; we spent the rest of our daylight setting up, watching the high-intensity end of Friday's Clinic day, and getting together dinner of Texas' Best BBQ Brisket and baked beans with extra bacon. Friday evening was also when I first met Ry and his Dad - great folks.

Saturday morning saw the beginning of my participation of the Precision Rifle Clinic, and my shooting part of Boomershoot. That'll be the next post :)


Blogger Rivrdog said...

Too much driving. Why don't some of you Texans hold something like Boomershoot down there, or make a deal with Joe to put it on there?

9:22 PM  
Blogger Aaron Neal said...

That's a good question.

Personally, I don't want the ATF scope up my butt. Joe's more tolerant of FedGov than I am.

As far as Joe doing a Fall Boomershoot down here... well, now, that's something we may have to talk about. I'm for it :)

10:53 PM  
Blogger Aaron Neal said...

And... yes, it was a hell of a long drive. Three days each way is a pretty long trip, but...


I think that trip was well worthwhile, even though it was extremely long. It was good training, good instruction, good practice, and good company.

I also got to see some of (in my opinion) the most beautiful land in the United States - altogether, a good trip.

I'll be making it again, when Alex is old enough to keep his hard ears on, and bringing him with me.

8:08 PM  

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