Best Place to Gamble
Les Bois Live Pony Racing
It's hardly horse pucky to say drinking, smoking and gambling go so well together. The trifecta comes full circle if the correct order of finishing horses is selected, resulting in a huge payoff. The impressive equines at Les Bois Live racing track come from all over the country, and some are homegrown right here in the Gem State. It's easy to get lost in the shuffle of throwing back spirits while sprinting between the grandstands and the betting window. With total handle (wagering) for the 2007 season at well over $2 million, (LesBoisRacing.com), it's big-time here in Boise. At the blast of the bugle, signaling that betting is over, spectators belly up to the barriers to watch the powerful beasts go speeding by on their way to the finish line. The energy in the air is magnetic, matched only by the cigar and ciggie smoke drifting freely about. But it's also a family affair, with children of all ages milling around. Some people like to take a long, hard look at the contenders in the staging area before they part with their hard-earned dollars.
5610 Glenwood St., 208-321-0222
Best Stumble Off The Starting Blocks
Race to Robie Creek
The annual Race to Robie Creek features thousands of would-be mountain goats huffing their way through one of the country's hardest half-marathons. Unfortunately, organizers made Boise runners madder than a marathoner with a corn when they tried to move their entire registration process online. Two days, lots of waiting and rows of gnashed teeth later, runners began to report that they were getting signed up after all, but not before many lost their chance.
Best Social Climbing
Boise State Climbing Gym
As we discovered while roaming the Boise State Recreation Center a few weeks ago, the climbing gym is out of control. When it was built, it was the largest collegiate climbing gym in the United States. With a grand total of 7,200 square feet of space for climbers to scale, it's an indoor playground for the Spidey in you. And it's open to the public.
1515 University Dr., 208-426-5641
Best Human Frogger
Capitol boulevard and Broad Street
For a little afternoon entertainment, we watch pedestrians dodge cars across Capitol Boulevard. Ahh, give us a five-lane road choked with hurried commuters and a couple of unarmed businessmen, and we can't help but smile. We appreciate all of the approaches: The cautious dodge between momentarily stopped cars; the desperate sprint as the traffic light changes; or—our favorite—the run, pause, run between cars, darting from lane to lane to make a desperate leap onto the sidewalk. Sure, this may seem a little sick and twisted, but we feel justified in our perverted enjoyment. It's usually one of the BW staffers doing the traffic dance.
Best Cheap Waterpark
It's all about the hydrotube, baby. Sure, if you have a bundle of cash and a bundle of patience, summer Saturdays at a more ostentatious waterpark are good fun, too. However, for a couple of quick rides down the green dragon, it's all Natty.
1811 Warm Springs Ave., 208-384-4486
Best Dartboard Selection
McCleary's on Overland
McCleary's on Overland may not have the newest, most high-tech, or even the most dartboards. But they have plenty. And since no man plays darts in a vacuum, the cold beer, chatty regulars, friendly staff and TVs at McCleary's make for a fun game. And if anyone says throwing darts isn't really a sport, we know a guy with a giant right arm who's been a dart champion for years. He'll set 'em straight.
604 N. Orchard Ave., 208-342-3007
Best Bike Trail
Shafer Butte Trails
Just 16 miles above Boise and miles away from the heat-pounded Foothills, the Shafer Butte trails stand out for two reasons. One, they're cool. Actual trees line the route of this killer trail network, and when you're above 5,000 feet for most of the route, you're pedaling in dramatically cooler air than if you were grinding it up the Kestrel Trail down by Hull's Gulch. Second, these trails are lovingly built and maintained by local riders. These people don gloves and work clothes on days when the rest of us are pedaling along without a care in the world, and put in some serious sweat equity to make these trails happen, legally and properly. It doesn't hurt that the riding is just plain fun up there, too: There's rolling tight singletrack, interspersed with little surprise obstacles and sweet downhills. In all, what's not to love? Think you're a tough rider? Then do what some nutjobs do, and ride up Bogus Basin Road from town to the trailhead, then drop in. Yeah, you've earned your suds then.
Best Place to Feel Like a Softball Superhero
Batting Cages at Boondocks
Some of us have traumatic T-ball memories. Some of us couldn't hit the ball off that damn stand to save our young lives, never mind our developing egos. But there is a way of getting over these lingering phobias. We're talking batting cages. That's right, a little pocket of chain-link fencing where it's just you, a bat and a machine hurling balls at your head. There's something so wonderfully cathartic about a batting cage. You're not just working out your sports demons—you're taking aim at every stress-inducer in your life. Crack! There goes your boss. Crack! There goes that creditor. Crack! There goes that parking ticket. A dozen swings in, and you've forgotten those pesky little issues and are happily pounding away at a little ball simply for the sake of pounding away at a little ball.
1385 S. Blue Marlin Ln., Meridian, 208-898-0900
Best Place to Recreate on your PC
Flying M Coffeehouse
Does recreating on your PC involve lubrication? Should we wear special clothes that are extra constricting, lightweight and breathable, or stain resistant? And is recreating on your PC legal in the state of Idaho while being under the influence of the purple bean? Can we bring a partner to PC recreating sessions, or is the "sport" one of those things best on one's own? Well, while you ponder how far you're willing to follow us into our world of madness, we'll just give you the name of the place where we think it's done best.
500 W. Idaho St., 208-345-4320
Best Hipster Bike Event
Alley Cat Races
So BW held its second annual Bikes and Beer Alley Cat Race this past July and it was fun. Yep, we're gloating about our own event. Thing is, it would really suck without the peeps at Northstar Cycle Courier. In fact, alley cat races in Boise wouldn't just suck without Northstar, they'd be downright nonexistent, seeing as how these things (kick-ass little get-togethers during which bike messengers and their crews simulate the rigors of messengering in a race format, often with everyone's friend, "Beer," factoring in somehow) are their deals in Boise. If you're more into a crowd with tattoos and fixed-gear machines rather than one sporting matching spandex outfits and corporate sponsorship logos, the alley cat is definitely a bike race that's more your speed. We dig 'em.
Best Spectator Black Eye
Front Row at a Boise Burn Game
These days, we want extreme everything. Extreme travel, extreme eating, extreme hamster racing, etc. There's hardly a more extreme sporting moment than sitting in the front row of an arena football game. With a smaller field and enclosed arena, there are no pesky safety barriers separating you from the game. You are one with the players. And in some cases, your face is one with the ball. OK, so the small field does have a few drawbacks, like the seeming inevitability of a heavily padded player being catapulted into the stands. But, hey, buck up. Some fans would give their eyeteeth to have their chest constricted by 200 pounds of athlete, while nursing a fresh new concussion. Consider yourself lucky.
Best Attitude Adjustment
River Day Trip
All it takes is a short drive and a boat to reverse weeks of stress and frustration brought on by daily life. Just close your eyes and picture it (after you finish reading this, of course): the gentle rolling motion of the water, the blue sky dotted with lazy clouds, the reddish hue of the rocks juxtaposed against the green of the trees. Then, just as you're getting lulled into a sense of peace and security, you hear it: the low roar of an approaching rapid. You tense up, anticipation filling your consciousness. Before you know it, you're in the middle of a wet torrent of white. Then, as quickly as it started, you're back on calm water. There, don't you feel better already?
Best Acre of Outdoor Fun
McCleary's Pub on State Street
BW staffers hear it every summer as we plunk another thermometer in yet another glass of beer for the Coldest Beer in Boise contest. "Gee, how can I get your job?" And honestly, by this point, the innocent bar patron is just lucky he or she doesn't get the thermometer shoved up his or her nose. Testing beers is tedious, and it never seems to end.
Then, once in a while, there's something that shakes us from our monotonous routine. A discovery that makes us stop, look up, and appreciate our jobs once again. One of those rare discoveries was the back yard at McCleary's Pub on State Street. As a duo of testers trooped inside, one of them ventured out a side door. Moments later, she reappeared, eyes wide with wonder. "Look at this," she whispered in a strained voice. Behind the unassuming building is an oasis for the beer-lover. An expansive, grass-covered yard filled with horseshoe pits, an area for volleyball, barbecue, picnic tables and room to run. We can't think of a better way to spend a relaxing summer afternoon than tossing iron horseshoes at a stick in the sand while holding a beer.
9155 W. State St., 208-853-9910
Best Way to Lose an Eye
Biking on freshly chip-sealed roads
How to chip-seal a road: 1. Cover existing pavement in layers of loose rock and hot oil. 2. Let rock sit for several days while motorists kick up mushroom clouds of dust, choking pedestrians and bikers who are unlucky enough to have not only their usual bike commuting or running routes afflicted by this "improvement" but every alternative route as well. The really unfortunate part is that motorists (in an understandable hurry to get back to normal pavement so as not to take a serious dinger in their windshield, paint job or undercarriage) sometimes speed just a little too fast and kick up rocks—in addition to aforementioned dust—which, in not-so-freak accidents, bean bikers and pedestrians, leaving unsightly bruises, welts and in really ugly cases, missing eyes. 3. Days later, squirt some sealant onto the road.
Best Do-It-Yourself Bike Jumps
Illegal Foothills Trail Building
Are the developed trail systems in Boise just not challenging enough for you? Or maybe they lack the thrill and excitement you crave. Seriously bro, sometimes you've just gotta huck yourself off one epic sick-gnar jump.
Fear not, there is a perfect solution—something that combines the thrill of covert operations with the rush of senseless, wanton destruction. Just sneak out under the cover of darkness, shovel and pick in hand, and carve your own jump out of the Boise Foothills. Yeah, baby! All you have to do is pick a hill and hack into the turf and, voila, instant jump. It's a bigger rush than getting a barbed-wire armband tattoo. The hills are just sitting there all covered in grass and weeds, begging to be molded into something more...useful. Why shouldn't it be you to give this landscape its purpose?
Sure, cutting into a hillside and removing the vegetation causes major erosion, but why should you care? You're just being extreme, man. Those bare gouges across the hillside aren't unsightly blights, they're battle scars, dude.
Sure, hikers and dog-walkers will probably yell at you as you hurtle past them, screaming in wild abandon while they dive for cover. Don't worry, they just don't get it. You're way too edgy for them. Or, just too darn stupid.
Best Seven A.M. Hike
So one day this summer, a BW staffer was invited by some rec-minded friends to hike Table Rock at the break of day. Thinking the strenuous trail would provide a quiet, people-free start before a long day in the trenches, she showed up at the trailhead prepared to commune with nature with nothing but the sunrise and her two friends to witness the pre-coffee sweat it takes to get up that hill. People-free it was not. In fact, so many women gathered in the parking lot stretching and chatting before beating feet that she wondered if this were some secret women's hiking group and whether she'd be made to engage in some scary hazing ritual (like, say, drinking beer from a bed pan, as another exercise clan had required of her). But beer—nor hazing of any kind, thankfully—was not a part of the morning's hike. Turns out Table Rock is just a helluva popular trail to tackle before the heat settles in for the day. And for good reason, too. Its all-uphill start gets your blood moving more quickly than a quad-espresso and jumper cables, and truly, the sunrise over the valley ain't a bad way to start the day.
Best Eight-Wheeled Sport
Treasure Valley Roller Girls (aka sassy ponies battling it out in the rink for little more than bragging rights and the chance to knock a girl on her ass just for fun) are tough girls on skates throwing elbows for a chance to get to the other side of the finish line first, and we're giving them a nod simply cuz we're happy to see that B-town finally has a league of its own.
Best 2-4-1 Fun
And the Pedal Paddle's cousin, the slightly zanier 3-4-1 race called Tube, Trot and Trike Triathlon. The trick in these deals isn't just having the physical stamina and mental fortitude to compete in a sport as taxing as "triking," but to be able to do each sport sort of ... concurrently. Pedal with your float device and paddle with your bike. Sounds easier than it is, fun all good fun nonetheless.
Best Sport That's Not a Sport
BW-er RD & fmr BW-er NC used 2 race 2 C who was #1 @ txting. Since NC's dept 2 Chi, BW news ed DD haz stepped up 2 race. Rulz: A&E ed AA gives a sent and the 1st 2 txt it 2 AA wins. Best 2 of 3 is champ. So far, RD's fingerz R 2 fast 4 DD. ; - ) It's no sport, but it should B.
Best Place to Get Something Engraved
Idaho Sporting Goods
We thought a sporting goods store would carry only that. But our publisher wanted to personalize a gift so she had it engraved at ISG. The turnaround was quick, and the engraving was so professional, we started thinking of all the things we'd like to have etched.
1001 W. State St., 208-344-8448
Best Boise Weekly Sport
Cruising by our offices, morning commuters in the downtown area did a double take recently as they witnessed BW staff lined up to take their turn for distance, accuracy and overall spew style. Bashfulness was checked at the door as the competition slowly simmered to an all-out bout of sailing pits. Some went for distance, while others hocked it into a bucket to win fabulous prizes and the fleeting admiration of fellow co-workers. There is a science to everything. It takes just the right angle and force. The projection had to be strong, yet subtle. Some contenders were harder to beat, what with the distance their saliva-greased pit flew from between pursed lips. The result: A good team-building exercise in expectorating.
Best Smoking Ski Runs
Good ol' Baldy, the home of the fabled Sun Valley Ski Resort, is typically described as "smoking" when it's got a good dusting of cold smoke-style powder, or when you've just bombed a run on the fastest set of boards you own. But this summer, the damn thing was literally on fire, for crying out loud, and it was eerie. We liked best the uniquely Sun Valley-style attack on the fires: First, they fired up the resorts' snowmaking guns, spraying water all over the precious mountain. Then, they ran the chairlifts, to keep their cables from getting cooked and melted by lingering over any hot spots on the hill. Oh, and yes, crews were deployed to defend the multimillion-dollar Seattle Ridge Lodge, lest all that ostentatious construction were to go up in smoke. We're hoping more elemental defenses were put into practice: Has anyone at Grumpy's done any early snow dances?
Best Aerial Afternoon
Tamarack Zipline Tours
Anyone who had a zipline built in their back yard as a kid probably still has a scar or two from them. And memories about flying too high and too fast around the yard on a cable and a bit of metal harness material. Leave it to Tamarack Resort to turn such an experience into something you can re-experience, with a guide. Although at BW we constantly wonder how Tamarack is staying in business, and we're aware that times are financially a bit tight up there in Donnelly, their problems won't be because of a lack of creativity. Six different ziplines are set up all over the resort area, and visitors can cruise through the treetops on cables spanning hundreds of acres. It's a heckuva lot more managed than your average backyard line—guides, harnesses and helmets are the norm for zipline tours—but it's also a heckuva lot more fun. What kid had the cash to set up a system this exhaustive? Wish we did.
Best We're Too Old For Toys But Don't Really Care
Remote-Control Car Racetrack at Fort Boise
More than once, we've heard someone say, "Act your age." We don't wanna. We know we can't stay young forever (we know we're not young now), but we're not just going to gently shuffle into old age. We're going kicking and screaming—maybe with a remote control in our hands. We get such a kick out of the RC car racetrack at Fort Boise. For less than the price of a used Hyundai, you can pick up a scaled-down version of a Corvette, a Ferrari or even a monster truck and redline it around the track. Take your friends for a little friendly competition, or even challenge the grade school kid whose endless of hours of Nintendo play have made him a natural at the controls. And when he kicks your ass, toss your head back, laugh nonchalantly, get behind the wheel of your grown-up car (even if it is little more than a rust bucket with seats) and drive away.
Fort Boise, Robbins Road
Best Stretch of Greenbelt
The Greenbelt is a great path to take to get across town on your bike, skates or on foot. Running along the river, it offers gorgeous views and a unique way in which to traverse town. But while much of it as runs between the treeline and the waterline, there's a funny stretch of it that parallels and runs close to Warm Springs Ave. A bit less green than the rest of the Greenbelt, it affords passing motorists a glimpse of serious bike commuters, recreational riders, two-wheeling families and, occasionally, someone on a pair of rollerblades for the first time. If, while driving by, you happen to see someone lose control and biff it, don't laugh. At least that person is out getting some fresh air.
Best bike ride for a non-biker
Behind the VA Hospital
Living downtown and not using a bike as your primary source of transportation is like being a vegetarian clerk at Arby's: People look at you weird, and even you start to wonder what's wrong with you. Though you don't have a bumper sticker on your cruiser that reads, "My other car is a bike, too," and the only time you've ever worn Spandex was when you and your friends dressed up as Motley Crue for Halloween, you can still take the old Schwinn out for a casual ride once in a while. If you're afraid of crossing the bike path of the diehard riders because you have to stop your bike and get off to get your two-wheeler up a curb, try a little ride around the Veterans hospital on Fort Street. The grounds are immaculate (we've even seen rabbits hopping around there), it's all paved and there's even a hill with enough of an incline that though you may not be getting a serious cardio workout, you'll still feel a bit of a burn. Plus, you might get lucky enough to have a resident or two toss you a friendly little wave as you pedal by. Just make sure you're not trespassing.
Best Bike Phenomenon
Admittedly, we do think you're crazy. Having a bike where every rotation of the wheel means your pedals have to rotate too just might be asking for trouble, or at least a few barked shins. But, some of us here at BW ride fixed-gear bikes, and now these people can't imagine riding a bike where you just coast along, blithely unaware of what your pedals and wheels are doing. Yeah, it's an improbably geeky subset of bike geekdom, and we recognize that we're really plumbing the depths of subcultures here when we speak of this phenomenon. But we admit to thinking it's cool that Boise, where bikes do quite well, thanks to flat ground and lots of overly fit people, is seeing such a surge in fixie activity. You might expect this sort of thing in bike-obsessed cities like Portland, Ore., but you wouldn't expect to see it in a state as old-fashioned as Idaho.
Best Sports Press Release Machine
Mike Shuman from Shu's Idaho Running Company.
We get a lot of e-mail here at BW. We don't mind. Really, we don't. But if we gave out prizes for e-mail, Mike Shuman at Shu's Idaho Running Company would get one for sending us more e-mail from one address than anyone else we know. We're proud of Shu's accomplishments, and with all of the communications he sends us (nary a day goes by without at least one e-mail), we feel like we've been there right alongside him through each and every one.
1758 W. State St., 208-344-6604
Best Other Place We're Too Old for But Don't Really Care
PoJo's Family Fun Center
Skee ball. Dance Dance Revolution. Galaga. Centipede. Photo booths. Indoor bumper cars. An indoor carousel. Birthday parties. Prizes. And a million and one ways to win tickets, which you can then trade for cool bouncy balls, candy and boss-annoying noise makers. Need we say more?
7736 W. Fairview Ave., 208-376-6981
Best Skateboarders Helping Skateboarders
Greg and Paul at Prestige Helping Build Up Rhodes Park
Paul and Greg, owners of Prestige Skateboards are two of the best guys we know. They work hard, play hard and contribute to their community. When they saw that skater boys and girls needed some stuff at Rhodes park, they snagged their friend and expert Ryan Neptune, hitched up their pants, buckled on their tool belts and headed over to the underpass park to build new manual pads and a China Banks replica. Good on ya, guys.
Prestige Skateboards, 106 S. 11th St., 208-424-6824; Rhodes Skate Park, 1555 W. Front St.