Big Bike Solo on the Pony Express Trail (MO, KS, NE, CO, WY)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Sep 8, 2008.

  1. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Just took a ride exploring the Pony Express from St Joseph, Missouri through Evanston, Wyoming. On the way I explored not only the Pony Express, but some of our history as a young United States spread west into the wilderness. I traveled some of the emigrant routes – sometimes the actual two-track of the California, Oregon, and Mormon Trails, checked out some rail and telegraph history, looked into some military operations and Indian wars, and explored the difficult experiences of the early pioneers and settlers as they moved west.

    I did some significant research prior to making this ride. I managed to produce a GPS route about 1500 miles long that takes in around 200 points of interest that I have waypointed. Once I make a few changes to the GPS route, based on some exploring I did on this ride, I will post it for others to enjoy.

    I did the ride solo, so I could dawdle and explore as my curiosity dictated. I had a fabulous ride and learned so much that my noggin still seems a bit overwhelmed.

    You are welcome to ride along in this report. I hope some of the pictures and stories capture your imagination like they did mine.

    Overview of my track.
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    I rode a DL1000 on this trip.
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    Night operations on the Oregon Trail. (Pony Express riders rode day and night.)
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    #1
  2. Hotspice

    Hotspice Satellites not acquired

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  3. Drowsy Dave

    Drowsy Dave Square Peg, No Hole

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    I always love your ride reports. Thaks for taking the time to post'em up.

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  4. JaySoy

    JaySoy Been here awhile

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  5. Rapid_Roy

    Rapid_Roy Rachael's Dad Supporter

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  6. ruh roh

    ruh roh hey Yall

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    :ear

    I'm thinking their steeds were a little slower at night tho :D
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  7. freeflow

    freeflow get in or go in Supporter

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    welcome back. we were thinking of you and awaiting this report of safe return :thumb. :wave :lurk :lurk :lurk
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  8. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Pony Express riders were an adventurous sort, but I think they were more like the motocrossers of their day. They had to be excellent riders to qualify for the job (and had to demonstrate their skills with a riding test before they would be considered for employment).

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    The money was good, but the adventure and status seemed to be most compelling.

    Since many of the riders were young (although some were as old as 40), some lived a long time - even into the 1930s - and were able to tell their stories as Pony Express riders to more modern historians.

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    Some riders suffered more than others. When one rider didn't show up at the next relay station as expected, they went looking for him. They found him dead in a hasty defensive position in some rocks along the trail. He was stuck full of arrows and out of ammunition. Around him lay the bodies of seven of his attackers. He was fifteen years old. He still had the mailbag.
    #8
  9. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    It is taking me a bit to figure out how to get this thing going. Once I get on the trail it will be easy, but I need to work out a little background first.



    The Spot Tracker worked okay on this trip. It was nice to have it when I was way out in the middle of nowhere sometimes.



    Thanks, I hope you enjoy this one!



    Being from Kansas, I hope you get a chance to enjoy some of this as it is in your home area. I will try to get the GPS stuff posted in the next few days.



    Saddle up Roy, we are one our way. :D



    My steed was a little slower at night for sure!

    Actually, the horses see better than the rider and knew the trail between stations pretty well. One rider went over the bars when he rode into a buffalo wallow on the trail. In the confusion, the horse said "screw it" and took off on his own heading back to the station he just left. The rider picked up the mailbag and started hoofing it on his own toward the next relay. Luckily, a stage came by, caught the horse, and delivered it to the walking rider so he could continue on.

    Night was a problem though. With a storm on his heels one night, one rider rode right into a herd of buffalo (a potentially fatal mistake). This startled the buffalo and they took off running with the PE rider in their midst. In this case the rider was able to work his way to the edge of the running herd and survived. Once clear of the herd, he was lost and could only find the trail again by heading back into the storm he was trying to escape.



    Thanks for thinking of me Jeffrey!



    Now, I need to get this thing going. :lol3
    #9
  10. WIthumper

    WIthumper The 610 guy

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    Looking forward to another great ride report!
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    Did you ride the DL from WI?
    #10
  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Took me less than a day to ride from WI to St. Joseph, MO. Took me six days to explore the 1500 miles of my route (with exploring I actually rode 1700 miles on the route). Took me two full days (of dodging bad weather) to get from the far side of WY back to WI. The DL1000 was very comfortable on the highway sections. On the two track it could be a bit more to handle (the DRZ would have been a blast on that). Overall, the big bike was a good choice for this ride, but I could have used a little more ground clearance. My bash plate got a workout.
    #11
  12. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Down and dirty . . .

    The Pony Express operated from April 1860 through October 1861. It ended when the first transcontinental telegraph made it obsolete. They hauled 34,753 pieces of mail during that period.

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    The PE could deliver mail to California in just ten days (record was 8 days).
    Prior to the PE you could send mail by ship or stage coach (on a dangerous southern route) that would take at least a month. In fact, in 1847 the government contracted for five mail ships.

    In 1848 gold was discovered in California. California belonged to Mexico just prior to that. This contributed to a rush of people heading across the plains to find new (and hopefully prosperous) lives. There had been a stream if emigrants unrelated to the gold rush. In 1843, Oregon had 1,500 settlers. In 1859, it had 50,000.

    In 1861, the Civil War was looming. It was important to have reliable and speedy communication with the far west that did not travel through southern territory. It was important to keep the west in the union.

    A major freight company that ran stages and contracted with the Army to haul freight for them (Russell, Majors, and Waddell) dreamed up the notion of the PE to try to prove the central route as feasible and to win a million dollar mail contract. Within four months, they put the whole thing together. This included buying, building, or leasing 190 stations over a 2,000 mile route. Some stations were so remote that feed and water had to be hauled in. They had to buy premium horses, stock all the stations, and hire all the riders and support crew. By the way, the grain fed horses were the best defense for the riders as they were often able to outrun Indian attackers on their poorly fed horses.

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    Mail cost $5 per 1/2 ounce on the PE. (By the way, a six month old newspaper sold for $3-$8 in the CA gold fields.) Mail was printed on special lightweight paper. The mail was sealed in silk bags and carried on a mochila (mo-chee-la) that had four pockets and was carried on the horse's saddle. The weight of the rider kept it in place. They carried about 20 lbs of mail. Three of the pockets were locked and could only be opened at forts along the route. The fourth held a time card (like our enduro cards) that were marked at each of the stations along the way.

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    Some headlines that would have been carried by the PE include:
    Abe Lincoln wins the Presidency.
    South Carolina secedes from the union.
    Jeff Davis inaugurated as President of the CSA.
    Confederate artillery fires on Fort Sumter.

    The period of the PE was 1860-1861.
    Some Indian wars were fought during this time.
    The wild west towns did not exist. The familiar wild west cattle drives and towns were in the 1880s.
    The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869.
    The line of development of the country as it relates to this was pretty much along the Missouri River at the MO-KS border.
    #12
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  13. bg

    bg Monster

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    I was wondering where you were. :D



    :lurk
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  14. rboett

    rboett posser noob 205

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    :clap great!!!

    great theme ride, history , explore,, thought of lewis and clark, but PE is a stroke.
    #14
  15. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University Supporter

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    woohoo another Cannonshot RR! :clap :clap :clap

    Subscribed! (not much productive work getting achieved today!:eek1

    Go Bryan Go!

    hola from Down Under, B!:wave

    S
    #15
  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    St Joseph is a river town. It was the end of the line for the telegraph and the railroad at the time of the Pony Express. It was a major jumping off place for pioneers headed west. More than 100,000 settlers on the California and Oregon Trails passed through St. Joseph. Each winter, people would come to St Joseph and camp waiting for enough grass to be available to support their stock further down the trail. When the time came, wagons would line the streets sometimes waiting for days to ferry across the Missouri River so they could begin their five month journey westward.

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    St Joseph became a center of commerce - outfitting many pioneers as they came through. Many fine buildings and cobble streets came into existence.

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    Many friendly Indians from Kansas and Nebraska shopped in St Jo.

    Lewis and Clark came through this area in 1804. Robidoux set up a fur trading post here in 1826. Eventually he platted the city and sold lots.

    The first wagon train headed west came through in 1844. After gold was discovered in CA in 1848, things really took off. In the 10 years or so preceding the Pony Express, St Jo grew from 800 to almost 9,000 residents.

    Leavenworth wanted the headquarters of the Pony Express. St Jo outbid them though by offering twelve lots, office space, free train fare, and free ferry service. The office space was in the Patee Hotel. The hotel was completed in 1858, had four stories, flush toilets, running water, and gas lights. It cost $180K to build and was one of the finest hotels in the world at the time.

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    St Joseph likes to say they are the place where the Pony Express began and Jesse James was finished.

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    Jesse James, the son of a Baptist Minister, was a notorious outlaw who rode with Quantrill's Raiders during the war. After the war, he and his brother Frank pulled off the first daytime bank robbery in history by getting $60K from a bank in Liberty, MO. When he and his gang tried to rob a bank in MN, his gang got shot up. Jesse's family urged him to go straight. He tried to buy a farm in Nebraska but was short some cash. He then planned to rob a bank to get what he needed and recruited two guys (the Ford brothers who pretended to be his cousins) to help out. In the mean time, Jesse lived in this house (under an alias as the Pinkerton's were after him) that he rented from a city councilman for $14 a month. The $10K reward was too much temptation so as Jesse stood on a chair straightening a picture in this house, Bob Ford shot Jesse in the back of the head in April 1882. The Fords tried to collect the $10K reward but instead were convicted of murder. The Gov pardoned them and Bob Ford was gunned down 10 years later in a Denver bar. For you conspiracy theorists that think this was staged to take the heat off Jesse, DNA analysis reveals that the man in Jesse's grave is 99.7% sure to be Jesse himself.

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    There also seems to be a big cable manufacturing business here. I wonder of some of this cable found its way to the famous Missouri swinging bridges?
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    Anyway, the first Pony Express rider was supposed to leave on a Friday afternoon in April 1860. The problem was that the mail had been delayed back east and hadn't arrived yet. A big crowd was on hand and the rider was ready to go. The rider, Jim Frye, was getting a little angry because souvenir hunters were pulling hairs from his horse's tail. Jim Frye was a young hero himself. Girls used to make cakes and cookies to pass to him when he rode by. After a while they started putting holes in their cookies and cakes so Frye could hold onto them as he rode. The legend says this is the start of the doughnut. :scratch (By the way, after the Pony went bust, Frye took a job as a scout with the Union Army. He was killed in action in Arkansas.)
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    A railroad ran from Hannibal, MO to St Jo. A special train was dispatched to haul the mail to St Jo since it was late and everyone was waiting. This train is very similar to the one that made that extra fast trip that day. Switches were spiked and the tracks were cleared. The engine, tender, and mail car made the fastest run ever to try to make the mail connection. The train ran at speeds up to 60 mph and covered the 206 miles in 4 hours and 51 minutes - a record that stood for 50 years. One wood stop was made in 15 seconds with a gang of men preloaded with wood to heave from a special platform. Keep in mind that this engine has no brakes and weighs 63 tons with the tender. To stop, the engineer would put it in reverse and signal for the brakeman to run across the tops of the cars hand cranking the brakes on each car.
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    At last the mail arrived. OK, lets get this horse out of the barn and get on the trail!
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    #16
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  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Hey kiddo, glad you could ride along!



    As some of you know, I love the riding, but I also lile to explore as well. The ride itself was a fantastic time, but the trip through history along the way was even better. Too often we cruise right past those historical markers (and the like) set on enjoying "the ride". Like many others, I try to enjoy both. There are some strong parallels between adventure riders and some of the pioneers and pony riders. It was fun to relate our modern experiences with the experiences of those who preceded us. Hope you enjoy the history as well as the ride.



    Shaggie, thanks for joining in from down under! Hope you enjoy the ride and some of the history of what was then a young United States.
    #17
  18. ThumperDRZ

    ThumperDRZ Bouncing off Rocks!

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    Nice Cannonshot - been wondering when you would post another report....with a history lesson to boot.....:thumb
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  19. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Hey Gary! You've lot a lot of neat history down your way.
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  20. cube_zombie

    cube_zombie Slave to the Cube

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    I've always wanted to ride the PE...Looking forward to seeing the rest :D
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