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PostHeaderIcon The Pony Express Rides Again

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Forty-two hours and 668 miles on a bicycle doesn't sound like much of a vacation now that I think about it. It was, however, a worthy and rewarding effort and a week full of more cycling challenges, scenery, and great memories.


One thing I learned about Wyoming while out on the open road on my bike is that Wyoming has done a fantastic job at marking the roads with historic signs documenting the state's history and other useful information. I stopped to read them all and learned a lot of fascinating history along my way. Each nugget was a real highlight to my day. For some strange reason, seeing the signs became very important to me, and I would even double-back to check out a historic marker on the other side of the road. I think I felt a bit like a pioneer, in my own way.

Scheduling the ride for the first week of July was necessary for me to work around the other important things in my life and, as expected, it was a hot week. Dry, but hot.

Thankfully, the high elevation, most of the week was spent at between 6000-8000 feet, kept the temperature below 100F.  Hydration was critical and I went through many gallons of water, stopping to re-fill at every opportunity. But when the temperature outside is 95F so is the drinking water. Refreshing? No, but it got the job done.

As with last year's Phase I ride from Sacramento to Salt Lake City, this year's Phase 2 ride from Salt Lake City to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, was a great success. All the careful planning paid off. But there was a last-minute hitch. After discovering a crack in my bike frame before the start of the ride I was forced to reluctantly use a borrowed bike to make the ride.  However, except for some rear wheel trouble the bike ran very well.  In order to make it to Scottsbluff in a week I had to plan to ride about 100 miles per day.

In the wide-open and remote part of the country there are only a few towns for overnight stops, so on 2 days I rode about 120 miles each day. Combine that with high elevation and hot weather those 2 days turned out to be more difficult than I expected.  I completed those long days, but not without a bit of a struggle the last couple of hours.

The week was full of memorable moments.

My favorite?  Crossing the Continental Divide at about half way through the ride. This crest in the mountains, while very subtle, was symbolic to me and a real milestone. I finally felt like I was truly “crossing the country."

Least favorite? Broken spokes in my rear wheel and the distraction and worry it caused me on days 2, and 3.

Did you know there only 2 bike shops between Salt Lake City and Nebraska?  I actually had included this information in my pre-ride planning, but nothing I could do about a broken bike if it breaks 150 miles from the next shop. So, I limped along very carefully, kept my fingers crossed and kept the positive thinking. It all worked out fine in the end and I left Lander on day 4 with a good wheel and a renewed attitude. I chose to ride alone as I enjoy the solitude, and it's also handy when adjustments need to be made to the schedule.

The downside?  A companion would be nice during those very long days. When I catch myself talking to the bike I realize I need a companion. Next year, Phase 3, will finish my Pony Express ride and end in St. Joseph, Missouri at the Pony Express museum.  It's another 600 miles to St. Joe, but through the flat plains of Nebraska and Kansas. I will start the planning after the New Year and thinking of making the trip in late May or early June of 2014.  For one reason or another the weather is always a consideration and those months may not be the best time to be exposed in Nebraska or Kansas due to tornado season. The adventure continues--next summer. --BC

A little background on the Pony Express Route:

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.

A 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 to 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 to the next rider and so it went. About 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.--Eds.


Last Updated (Thursday, 25 July 2013 17:22)

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