As I sit in the humble family-run restaurant inside the Scottsbluff Regional airport waiting for my flight back to the rainy state, my bruised shoulder reminds me of how I spent my last full day in Torrington, WY: Target shooting a 30.06 and .22 rifle.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been pretty down these past few months while Andrew has been out here (over 1,200 miles from Seattle) for his med school clinical rotations. Knowing there is an end in sight helps, but I still can’t help but feel like a puppy with separation anxiety. So, I was lucky to get the gift of an early birthday present from my parents to fly to Torrington, (AKA “The middle of nowhere”) Wyoming to help alleviate the hard time of being apart for 12 weeks. (Thanks mom and dad!)
Luckily Andrew was able to get a few days off from the hospital and clinic to be able to enjoy my visit more than we had originally anticipated. When Andrew asked one of the doctors he works for for their suggestion of ‘things to do around here’, the first response he got was: “You could drive to Rapid City and go see Mt Rushmore”. (Rapid City is over three hours from Torrington. Apparently, the doctor figured we would need to get out of town in order to do something ‘fun’.) So, we figured we should take the docs advice and get out of dodge once I arrived…
In order to fly into Torrington, you have to first fly into Denver, and then transfer planes to a 19-seat Great Lakes Beechcraft that takes you to the small regional airport at Scottsbluff, NE (the closest airport to Torrington). Anyone who knows me well, knows I am not a fan of flying. I was better when I was younger, but my fear of take off and landing has gotten worse with age for whatever reason. Ultimately, I have to have pharmaceutical assistance on board with every flight.
(Nice view for someone who only thinks about the idea that those things may stop turning…)
The flight to Scottsbluff was, needless to say, a little nerve wracking for me. But, knowing who was waiting for me at the end of the bumpy ride helped immensely. (See, I have been on a float plane before and small planes a handful of times, but never more than once before was I by myself. Either Andrew or my mom have usually been there to have their hand squeezed to complete numbness by their wimpy co-passenger.)
The plane landed in Scottsbluff, and I couldn’t help but laugh, as I looked out the window and saw that the runway was completely surrounded by endless rows of corn fields. Any remaining flight anxiety was depleted as soon as I was happily seated in the familiar Tacoma with my husband in the drivers seat.
The hottest day of my visit was the day I landed: Just shy of 100 degrees Fahrenheit was the high. (Again, anyone who knows me well, knows I prefer colder climates. Hence, why winter steelhead fishing is my favorite time of year. I’m a northwest girl who loves her fleece, down, and rain gear. I hate being hot. Fun fact about me: I don’t like hot tubs or saunas. Yup. I’m some sort of anomaly of a Korean. Hot spas and humid climates are in my blood. Well, it didn’t stick apparently once I came to the U.S. as a baby.)
After a grueling night of trying to sleep in the 80+ degree non air-conditioned room at Andrew’s “temporary home” in the form of a 1960’s style townhouse (which smelled like it hadn’t seen new carpets or furniture since then either), we decided that we needed to take our mini road trip ASAP.
We left that morning for Rapid City, SD in search of Mt. Rushmore. (Or as my good friend Krystal coined the national landmark when she was a young girl: The “Face Rocks”. A term that stuck with me as a 30-year-old. Ha) I booked us a hotel room in Rapid City for two nights, and driving there from Torrington felt like a scene out of a Chevy Chase movie. Minus the wood-paneled station wagon and all the other unlikely and unfortunate mishaps featured in the famous National Lampoon movie from the early 80’s, Andrew and I had a fun adventure of our own driving across what seemed like never-ending wheat field after wheat field, followed by a few open pastures with cattle and horses. Not a river, mountain or open body of water in sight. Which clearly meant: No steelhead or salmon. Andrew said he has never realized how much he misses being near the Puget Sound, rivers and ocean as much as he has since being in Wyoming these past few months. You can discover beauty everywhere you look, but not a lot of places in this country can compare with the wilderness of the Olympic Peninsula and all that encompasses it. Or the fresh salty air of the beach on the San Juan Islands. Or the smell of the lush green forests– ok, you get the point. We both love the Pacific Northwest.
Alas, we made the best of our time together in SE Wyoming and nearby cities. We got ourselves to Mt Rushmore and didn’t even stop at Keystone where hundreds of shops and tourist attractions tried to do just that: attract any and all consumeristic tourism into its kitschy store window attractions with the promise of leaving with a tye-dye t shirt with “I visited Mt Rushmore” boldly stated on the front. “No thank you” we both said outloud as we continued up the hill to see what these “face rocks” were all about…
Waiting in line to pay the fee to get into the parking lot behind RV’s and tour buses filled with– well, tourists– made us chuckle as we paid the fee at the booth and watched as people hung out the windows snapping photos of the landmark beneath their matching visors as the mountain continued to come closer to view with every foot the line of vehicles worked their way to the entrance.
(Managed to get a successful “selfie” of us proving our touristic abilities)
We took our necessary photos with the ‘big guys’ on the hill, and once we walked the “Presidential Trail” (all 0.6 miles of it) below the incredible mountain faces, we were ready to head back down the hill.
Feeling dizzy from the crowds of tourists and dehydration, we decided a beer was in order before heading back to Rapid City. Like my brother told me, “if beer-thirty doesn’t work, try beer o’clock”. (Best words of wisdom tend to come from older siblings)
That night we went “out on the town” for a nice dinner at a local favorite steakhouse called Del Monico.
(Pretty sure the rest of the cow was supposed to come too)
The delicious steak and potato dinner was the beginning of an even healthier dining streak that would follow the remainder of my visit. (Granted, nothing was open in Torrington besides McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Arbies… So we had no choice but to force down French fries and pizza for three days).
After a couple nights in Rapid City being tourists happily drinking beer at the local brewery and consuming two gut bomb breakfasts at the “best breakfast” spot in the city, we were ready to head back to the small town of Torrington and rest our heads for the last two days I was there.
As I said before, the actual town of Torrington doesn’t have a lot to offer for locals visiting for the long weekend, so we decided it would be a good time to practice target shooting. I have shot a few different guns in my lifetime, but the ‘big game’ rifle (Andrews’ 30.06 savage 116) was one I knew I needed to try.
Monday morning we had a healthy breakfast of leftover pizza from the previous night, and we were off to the “shooting range” (aka an open piece of public land in the outskirts of town out of earshot to anyone within 10 miles.)
I have shot a 12-gage shot gun a few times when duck hunting, and a few pistols and rifles against targets… I figured, what would be so different with a 30.06? I can handle it. (Sometimes I think I’m a lot tougher than I really am).
Andrew set up the targets so they were approximately 100+ yards away from where we would be shooting from, and I waited patiently with the guns and ammo… Sweating profusely in the 98+ degree sun in the middle of a dry, cactus filled field in the middle of nowhere… Eventually I got bored and decided to put the unloaded rifle on my shoulder and test out the scope. (I take pride that I have good “muzzle control”, so I made sure to aim away from where Andrew was setting up the targets and just crouched down in the spiky field to find my own targets until he came back).
Finally it was time to shoot for real.
We started with the .22 because it is the ‘milder’ rifle of the two. Smaller bullets and less “kick”. I shot 5 rounds and felt confident. “That was a piece of cake!” I exclaimed. Andrew just smiled at me and loaded the 30.06. He shot it 3 rounds to give me an idea of how it would compare to the .22.
When he handed the Savage 116 over to me, I was ready. I was confident….
I found the target through the scope before releasing the safety, and once I had the bullseye marked as best I could, I put my finger on the trigger and took a deep breath. Sweat was pouring down my face and into my ear muffs… Within seconds I was bathing in my sweat under the hot, unforgiving sun. I pressed the butt of the rifle into my shoulder tightly, as Andrew taught me, to help keep it steady when I pulled the trigger. I took a deep breath and as I slowly squeezed down on the trigger, I just started to exhale when the bullet suddenly was out of the barrel, and a split-second later, I felt like I had just shot a grenade launcher. My head flew back from the unexpected power (thankfully not from my eye hitting the scope, which is not as uncommon as one would think.), and I just looked at Andrew who was smiling at me like a teenager who just got his drivers license or had been kissed for the first time. “Holy s____”, was all I could say, as I wiped the sweat from my forehead and looked at the large weapon in my shakey hands that had just knocked me into some sort of oblivion for a moment. Andrew said “Are you sure you want to shoot it three times?” I initially needed a moment to think about it, because it was definitely an unexpected jolt that left me a little shaken up. Then, no more than 2 minutes later, I suddenly had the urge to pull that trigger again, like a roller coaster you only thought you could ride once… I ignored the sweat building up in my ear muffs and falling off of my brow into my eyes beneath the safety goggles, as I nodded at Andrew and cocked the empty shell out and loaded the second one. At that moment, I felt like a badass- not gonna lie. I shot that 30.06 two more times. Taken aback from the power every time. When we went to retrieve the target, we were both surprised to see all three bullets had not only marked the paper, but I had a bullseye!
Bragging rights for days 🙂
Despite keeping the rifle snug against my shoulder and my eye a safe distance away from the scope, you can’t prevent the strong kick that thing makes when it releases a bullet. As I slung my purse over my shoulder with my boarding pass in my hand, I winced a little at the reminder of where I had rested the rifle the day before…when I had shot my first 30.06… When I got my first hundred yard bullseye.
Sometimes all it takes is allowing yourself to get out of your “comfort zone” once in a while in order to put your life into perspective. I have a good life. And it wouldn’t be life at all, without the ups and downs, so I am thankful for it all. I guess I just needed to shoot a rifle to slap the sense back into me.
When in Wyoming…
Thanks for reading,