Distance: 536.8 miles
There is actually a way to get from Great Falls to Boise that is interstate the whole way. However, this would have involved a passage through the evil hamlet of Idaho Falls, and I was determined that that Loserville wouldn't even get the chance to nick me for the price of a speeding ticket, so I decided to take the high road, US 12 west from Missoula over Lolo Pass. Well, that and the fact that the Missoula route allowed me an overnight stay at the family cabin in the Rockies, but bypassing Idaho Falls for a stupid reason sounds so much better.
Mistake, I guess, for anyone in a hurry, which luckily I wasn't, but it was tremendously pretty, and I got to see a lot of the Idaho sites of the Nez Perce trail.
Spots I wished I could have stopped and fished: 983
The only real drag of this particular trip was a couple of clueless jerks with California plates towing travel trailers. Here's some free McChump travel advice for clueless jerks from California: Hey jerks! Common courtesy in the Western states, of which you are nominally a part, dictates that when you are puttering along a twisty mountain road at 45 mph with your groovin' Shasta or other fine travel trailer vehicle in tow, and there's like 15 autos stacked up behind you because you're going so slow, you pull out on one of those wide gravel spots by the side of the road and let all the other cars go by. That's what those wide gravel spots are there for, you jerks.
Whew! I feel so much better.
I'd arrived in Boise late Tuesday evening, and post time at Les Bois wasn't until 5:00 pm Wednesday, so a patented self-guided McChump tour of the attractions of Boise was in order on Wednesday. Breakfast only killed off so much time, so then I was off to the National Birds of Prey Refuge (or whatever) south of Boise out by the Snake River. It was okay, but I saw more hawks in the wild while driving across Manitoba and Saskatchewan and Alberta. That little side trip completed, I stopped in at the Peregrine Fund's Birds of Prey Center, also south of Boise, where they breed the peregrines and other falcons and California Condors and some South American eagle for eventual reintroduction into the wild, and this was actually quite a worthwhile and educational visit, even for this hopeless racetrack bum of a chump, thanks much to an older tour guide who was very knowledgeable and patient. So kudos to the Peregrine Fund center.
Finally though, it was close to post time, so I headed down to the track.
Les Bois Park is pretty easy to find, located at the Fairgrounds up on the northwest side of town. The only bad part is that most of the decent motels are located some distance away, so I was resigned to not enjoying too many of whatever tasty beer they might have for sale.
Sometime during the two days I'd spent traversing the Rockies, summer had finally arrived in the northern U.S., and it was quite a warm evening in Boise, ringing in somewhere in the upper 80's. My jacket was permanently assigned to the trunk for the rest of this tour, and I actually wished I had lighter clothes than even jeans and the Asb t-shirt to wear to Les Bois.
As of 4:00 pm there were few folks at the track, so I got plenty of free and interrupted time to wander and explore. Parking: free. Admission: $2.00. Track program: $2.00. 16oz Henry Weinhard's beers: $2.75. Hot dogs: beats me.
The Les Bois plant itself consists of a normal size Fair facility, with a downstairs concourse and an upper seating area featuring some of the classic reserved boxes with folding chairs down at the front of the seating area. There is also a newer 2 story standalone glass-enclosed facility known as the "Turf Club" on the clubhouse turn, but I didn't visit that. The track is a 3/4 mile dirt oval with a nice grass covered infield and a small lake, and a nice mountain view in the background. The toteboard is discreetly placed to the right so that one can see all of the racing. Bravo!, Les Bois. There's a small giftshop on the concourse level, but I didn't see anything I wanted. The only negative was a tiny apron area with very little seating, and hardly any tables or anything else to alight on in the concourse area. Kind of a pain.
When I arrived there were simulcasts from the Pleasanton Fair meet and Hollywood Park being shown. I scored a copy of the entries sheet for Pleasanton, and noted that two of CRT trainer Phil Oveido's horses were running at Pleasanton that day. Unfortunately, whoever is in charge of the Les Bois TV monitors kept changing around what track was showing on what monitor, and by the end of the No Cal card, dog racing had even replaced the No Cal horseraces. I was miffed and vexed, and quite upset about having bet races that I didn't even get to watch. Try to be a little consistent, Les Bois.
The Wednesday evening Les Bois card consisted of 11 races, of which two were quarter horse races. Pretty good sized fields, in the 7-8-9 horse range consistently, with 10 entries in several. We had mostly horses who were regular Les Bois horses, but plenty of entrants who had run earlier in the year at Portland Meadows, and at Wyoming Downs, and a few from northern California and Emerald Downs, the requisite snowbirds from Turf Paradise, some from Pocatello, but mostly Boise. These were generally pretty competitive races, and I did very poorly early on in the program, only getting healthy with a couple of nice quinellas well into the card (actually, the damn favorites kept coming in, and I hadn't quite yet learned my lesson about "value").
Purses ran $2200 for $3200 claimers, $2400 for $4000 claimers, up to $5000 added for a f&m race limited to horses still eligible for the Winning Colors Stakes. The pool I recorded had 1969/1336/1550 WPS, with unknown amounts in the quinella nd trifecta pools. Les Bois won a prize as the first track I'd been too on this tour that had neither hearts nor horses racing in it's tag line - instead we had "All You Need is a Hunch to Strike Gold!". Way to display some originality, Les Bois.
Round about the 2nd race I discovered that there were a couple of small outdoor beer stands set up that were selling several specialty microbrews that proved to be mighty tasty, and some Jack Daniels Lynchburg Lemonade stands on the inside, so the standard beer fare was history for the rest of the evening. Then somewhere in the vicinity of the 4th race I noticed something mighty odd: There were way too many people out enjoying the races for a Wednesday evening. Lots of people. Lots of young people. Lots of women. Mighty cute ones at that, in skimpy summer attire. McChump #2 would have been in hog heaven, had he been in attendance. I watched this phenomenon, in awe, for another couple of races, until I finally approached a local and asked him the question that had been percolatin' up from the far recesses of my brain:
"This crowd seems way too big for a normal racetrack. Is there any other sort of legalized gambling in Idaho?"
"No", He answered.
PROOF! I had PROOF! that it isn't too many racing days, or the devolution of the racehorse, or any of that other crap that tries to explain why racing has been losing customers while ignoring the simple fact that racing is no longer the only gambling game in town.
"And", he continued, "It's ladies night - free admission - all the women are here for free, and the guys are all here chasing them".
Still - a very enjoyable evening.
Les Bois Park gets a huge McChump thumbs up, at least on a warm summer ladies night ;-), and the Super 8 motel out by the airport gets a top rating too, for a good presentation, decent prices, and a prime location for making the next morning's escape down the freeway.
Cruise ahead to Episode 8 of this epic saga
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