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PostHeaderIcon Danville Cyclist Rides the Pony Express

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It's been described as "The Loneliest Road in America". US Route 50 wanders across Nevada's Basin and Range geography for over 400 miles and is noted in one guide book as "...extremely dry with no shade except for three trees just east of Fallon. You will see occasional vehicles but towns, services and roads are spaced, sometimes, more than 100 miles apart".

June 4, 2012 I will begin a 2000-mile ride, alone on my Trek Madone road bike with just the water and food I can carry, a change of clothes, an Ipad, credit card and a healthy bit of enthusiasm. I will pedal along the Pony Express Route from Sacramento to St. Joseph, MO. I don't know how many others have done this before me, certainly some, but clearly it's not a popular idea even by car.

The first segment of the ride will take me from Sacramento and across Nevada to Salt Lake City. 8 days of riding. I'm always intrigued by the idea of riding the bike in any random direction for any random number of days solely for the experience and adventure but the story of the Pony Express, a uniquely American West bit of history, intrigued me enough to give the ride a bit of purpose; to follow the Pony Express route on my bicycle.

Pony Express 101: The Pony Express was established in 1860 as the first reliable means to send messages across the vast American West. The Civil War was looming and timely news and communication between California and the East was crucial. The Pony Express was, essentially, a relay. A specially designed horse saddle could carry important correspondence in leather pockets. The rider would leave St. Joseph, Missouri, where the railroad and telegraph lines from the East came to an end, and ride his horse westbound at full gallop.

Ten-15 miles later at an established relay station rider and saddle would change to a fresh horse and continue. After a series of horses and 100 or so miles the rider would stop to rest and pass the saddle on the next rider and so it went. 150 relay stations and 10 days later the saddle and its important contents would arrive in Sacramento. During the journey riders were subjected to extreme weather, high elevation, darkness, and particularly in Nevada, serious trouble with Indians.

Of course the Express ran in reverse direction at the same time for returning correspondence. If a series of horses with riders could manage the journey certainly a middle-aged father of two with plenty of energy drink and ambition could manage it? I've enjoyed, for many years, solo long-distance bicycle rides and the experiences, challenges and memories they provide me. To the left, you can see me on one such adventure with the Girls Gone Wild bus and the bike.

It comes with a great sense of accomplishment. This ride won't be my first multi-day solo bike adventure but one week will be, by far, the longest time spent in the bike saddle. I've enjoyed multi-day rides throughout California, Hawaii, Italy and along the Mississippi River. All very unique and equally awesome.

A Pony Express delivery would take about 10 days to complete the 2000 mile horseback journey. At 100 miles per day a strong bike rider should, ideally, be able to complete the same route in about 3 weeks. However enthusiastic my family and the guys at work might seem about this I expect the enthusiasm will fade after being gone for a week, therefore, I will break the ride into 3 phases each about one week long. Phase 1 begins June 4, Sacramento to Salt Lake City to return by train. Phase 2 commences in SLC one year later and Phase 3 in 2014 to eventually end in St. Joseph all along following, as closely as possible on paved roads, the Pony Express route.

With the planning and follow-up story telling this should keep me amused for over 2 years. I'll be 50 then. Perhaps this can be my mid-life crisis. I'm drawn to this sort of thing for many reasons. I like the solitude of the great outdoors best appreciated from the bike. The wind, rain, sun, geology, geography, flora and fauna are all around all the time. I like that.

I believe life is a risk and reward tradeoff. I'm not a risk taker and, as a commercial pilot, my long-time profession has conditioned me to minimize risk in everything I do. Having said that I expect any reward in this case will far outweigh the risk and I'm OK with that.

Most of the Pony Express route and associated structures are long gone. With a few exceptions only a few monuments and museums remain but the desert has a funny way of preserving things so I'm hopeful I will discover a reward or two along the way. It's all part of the adventure. To follow Ben on the road go to: http://bensponyexpress.blogspot.com/ --KB

Last Updated (Wednesday, 30 May 2012 01:12)

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