Friday, 30 October 2009


When we arrived in the former Gold Rush hotspot of Nevada City, California, Daniel’s aunt Patricia explained that she was a bit worn out. She had spent the last three days with friends from British Columbia, bicycling about 40 miles on each of those days.

Daniel calculated that we had done some 40 paces on each of the last three days.

Exercise is one thing that slips by the wayside when you’re on a road trip. At least, it does for us. I guess we could use having kids as an excuse, but it’s probably a combination of laziness, a sometimes desperate need for a sleep and the fact that many parts of the US are set up for being in your car.

So you really have to make an effort to get exercise, setting aside time each day for it. Not like in larger cities, where walking to tube stations, running to catch buses and carrying bags of groceries home can be enough to stay reasonably in shape.

Here, though, there is an amazing array of drive-thru options: drive-thru pharmacies, ATM machines, coffee shops…and – get this – national parks. If you have limited time or just don’t feel like hiking, The Badlands, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks all have paved roads with signposted stops, from where you can get out of your car or even just lean out the window and take photos.

You do have to get out of the car to visit national monuments like Mount Rushmore and Devils Tower, though.

So in cities, we lose weight, while in the countryside, we gain. Comparably speaking, we got tons of exercise in Nevada City.

Patricia took us on a tour of the town, which is a good place for culture, thanks to its theatre, wineries, historical buildings and many preserved mining relics. We walked the whole thing, and got extra points for hills – of which there are many since the town is in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Later in the day – after a healthy lunch – we walked even more when we visited Empire Mine State Historic Park, one of the area’s most successful gold mining businesses. Shut down in 1956 after over 100 years of use, the park includes well maintained original mine features including the main shaft, assay house and the scale model the company itself used for extending its reach further and further into the earth.

Empire Mine differed massively from the silver and gold mining towns we had visited in South Dakota and Nevada, in that it was an orderly place employing an impressive health and safety record -- as opposed to a lawless chaos where murder, prostitution and gambling were the order of the day.

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