Gold Rush (USA Day 78)

Probably the toughest aspect of cycle touring is that even on days when you want nothing to do with a bike, you have to sit on top of one for hours. We minimised this today by planning a short route, but it was halfway up the first and only hill (a nine mile, 2000 foot belter out of Ennis) that Amy announced,

“I’m so bored.”

That’s the fascinating thing about our legs now. Hills aren’t tough anymore; they’re just dull. Maybe that means we should be going faster or something. Feel the burn. Build up some delicious lactic. But our route through Montana is typified by flat valley roads between big mountain passes. There’ll be another in two days. Now that hills aren’t painful anymore, I think we need something else to add some spice. Any suggestions for how to make them fun?

We reached the top without fanfare and plummeted down in the freezing wind to find ourselves in a time machine. Virginia City has hardly changed since its inception in 1863. It was a goldrush town, filled by ambitious miners hearing of the nearby gulch and its shiny filling. Within months it was the territory’s capitol, and buildings along the main street almost literally sprung up: they’re hastily built of basically just logs and spittle, and thanks to some friendly locals, they’re now fully explorable and filled with old tat like antique canned corn and rusty carts. We trotted happily around town pretending to be gold prospectors, visiting each shop in turn to do our imaginary groceries. Our only actual purchase was some incredible ice cream (one of the top ten in America, if you believe the flyer). Coconut and cardamom, double chocolate orange, espresso and really fresh mint. We sat in the Montana sun, licking away, wondering if we were allowed to feel proud of twenty three miles. We decided yes, and retreated to our hosts’ gorgeous farmhouse for barbecued lamb, s’mores by a fire, a boisterous trampoline party with the kids and a bed in a barn loft, sleeping directly above two excellent horses.

There wasn’t much cycling today, by design. Sometimes you need to get your kicks another way.