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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    Not all the stations were burned. One wagon train carrying whiskey was attacked and the Indians were initially repulsed. That night the teamsters dumped their loads and hauled ass in the empty wagons for the next station. With the teamsters, enough people were at the station to mount a successful defense and the indians by-passed it.

    A stage coach driver pulled into a station and heard the news. He wanted to go a bit further down the road to check on his brother at a nearby ranch. People advised against it, but the stage driver insisted. As he pulled out a couple of guys with guns jumped aboard and away they went. Eventually they ran into an ambush of 40 indians and should have been killed. Somehow the stage driver was able to wheel the stage around and sprint back to safety.
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    Some people at this ranch were killed but some surived. The Pawnee Ranch was successfully defended. Many people took off for Marysville, KS and Beatrice, NE for safety.
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    Eventually five companies of local militia were formed and they went on the hunt for the Indians. One account is that there was a significant battle. Another is that the Indians found out they were about to be attacked and left.
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    There was a huge loss of property in this attack. Everyone knew which tribes were responsible but no one could prove it. If they could, the damages would have to been paid by the Indians out of funds the government gave them for their own damages and to be cool with everyone.
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    #61
  2. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

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    I have to agree with you on not finding Kansas boring at all. I stay on back roads going through. Actually pretty neat curvey roads in the western part. The History of Kansas is so great and interesting. Love the little old towns you run into roaming about.
    Thanks for the time and effort of sharing and enlighting into the PE and other happenings there.
    #62
  3. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    You are quite welcome!
    #63
  4. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    One more attack, and then on to more pleasant topics.

    The very first attack on that hot Sunday morning in 1864, happened just a few yards from where my bike is parked at a place called Indian Hollow.
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    Six freight wagons were coming through here with merchandise for a vendor in Denver. They were suddenly attacked and five drivers were killed outright. The sixth, with an arrow stuck in his forehead and another in his body, managed to crawl into a patch of sunflowers and hide. The next day some employees from the next station came looking for them. They found the wounded driver, who soon died, but who was able to tell the story of what happened. The six drivers are buried on top of this hill. The indians cut the stock free and tried to burn the wagons.
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    #64
  5. 65bmwr50

    65bmwr50 Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the detailed response!
    #65
  6. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    A sampling of some of the markers you can seek out along the route.
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    Took a look at the USDA Meat Animal Research Center. Scientists here work on new technology to increase the efficiency of livestock production. Authorized in 1966, the center covers 35,000 acres. Presently there are programs going on with a female breeding population of 6,500 cattle of 18 breeds, 3,000 sheep of 10 breeds, and 700 swine litters per year.
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    Science or not . . it still smells like manure.
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    #66
  7. RblueR

    RblueR Been here awhile

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    Is that a Loobman oiler on your bars?
    #67
  8. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    I took a swing through a former Naval Ammunition Depot just outside Hastings, KS. Six months after Pearl Harbor in June, 1942, the government grabbed almost 50,000 acres from 232 then embittered farmers to build the depot. They chose this inland location because it had good rail service and was equidistant from both coasts. Remember the Homestead Act and the land grants? I guess there is a reverse land grab too.

    The initial construction lasted 18 months. In all there were 2200 buildings, 207 miles of railroad track, and 274 miles of roads. It went up very fast. It was an economic boon to the region. At the peak, 10,000 military and civilians were employed there. At one time this single depot produced 40% of the ammunition used by the Navy.

    Line workers started at 74 cents an hour with a 60 hour week. A store clerk in town was making 24 cents an hour.

    They had four explosions there. One left a crater 550 feet long and 50 feet deep. It was felt 100 miles away and did damage in all of the surrounding towns. Some of the streets are named for the casualties.

    The place closed up in 1966. Some of the land went to the USDA Meat Research Center.

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    Men and women worked in these buildings manually weighing powder and loading shells.
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    Storage bunkers with blast deflectors to keep the whole place from going up.
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    Some of the munitions made here included 16 inch shells for battleships.
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    Although the depot is closed, it is interesting to note that an Army Reserve ammunition unit is stationed here.
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    Any of course, any ammo depot needs a tactical fire truck.
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    #68
  9. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Yep. Crude but effective. :lol3
    #69
  10. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    I mentioned that I will share the GPS route and tracks (once I make some changes) to GPS Central so that anyone else that wants to do this ride, or portions of it, won't have to start from scratch. Once I adjust some of the waypoints, the POIs will be spot on in the GPS file.

    I also have a multi-page spreadsheet (also requiring some changes) that I will be happy to share. It has POIs, confirmed gas stops (important out west), planning mileage figures, potential campsites, and clickable links to web sites that have some information about the POIs (though not a complete list of all sites).

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    I also tried to identify low cost (less than $13) campsites - just for the heck of it. Some small towns have municipal campgrounds that you can get for $5. One had electricity and showers for $8.

    All things considered, these materials could be helpful to area dayriders along the route, or someone that might want to spend six days at once checking things out.

    How many museums you take in or how long you spend there could change your travel time. I didn't hit them all, in fact I skipped quite a few (maybe most?), and I generally move through pretty quickly.

    I'll put a post in this thread once I post the route, etc, in GPS Central.
    #70
  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Stopped in the museum in Hastings, KS. Excellent museum.

    They say that standard issue for PE riders was a Colt revolver and a bible.
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    Some carried a rifle like this one.
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    They were also required to take this oath:

    "While I am in the employ of A. Majors, I agree not use profane language, not to get drunk, not to gamble, not to treat animals cruelly and not to do anything else that is incompatible with the conduct of a gentleman. And I agree, if I violate any of the above conditions, to accept my discharge without any pay for my services."

    Some employees took it quite seriously. Archeological digs at some of the station sites reveal quite a few bottles at some places so I'm not sure what the compliance rate was.

    This is a more common version of a stage coach - probably similar to the one Mark Twain rode in. He told of how crappy some of the stage stops were and how bad the food was (bacon condemned by the Army served at stage stops because they got it cheap.)
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    Hastings is also the spot where Kool-Aid was invented so they had an all thing Kool-Aid exhibit. Is Kool-Aid even around anymore?
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    Kenesaw has a good idea going.
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    Free lots with building standards. Soon they collect taxes off of what was once vacant land.
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    I really lucked out on the weather and the roads.
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    With a little rain, there would have been a lot of roads I couldn't have traveled - especially further west.
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    I came upon a lot of graves from this period. Some were notable. This woman had six kids. While on the trail, she got cholera and died at age 34. Her husband buried her near the trail and sent the kids on with the wagon train while he went back to civilization to get a stone made - catching up later on. There were a lot of deaths along the emigration trails. The number of deaths average out to about 10 graves per mile. Cholera was a big killer, accidents another. Cholera is a bacterial infection that you get from contaminated water. Of course, people didn't know it at the time. Humans are reserviors for this disease. Basically, you crap yourself to death (severe dehydration). At the time, they thought wearing a flannel shirt was a cure - actually it made it worse. So now we have people traveling along waterways crapping deadly bacteria around (with poor field sanitation techniques) contaminating the water supply so that even more people got infected. When people died, they often buried them near campsites which were near waterways which kept the cycle going. You could die within a day, or make it a few days. Sometimes cholera took out a substantial portion of a wagon train. In the modern world, it is treatable (if you move quickly).
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    This museum is huge and is probably Nebraska's #1 tourist attraction. It covers a lot of land and has a lot of exhibits that covers a lot of early life on the plains. I didn't tour it, but I would recommend it to others. It is is Minden, NE.
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    #71
  12. Hodag

    Hodag Native

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    Excellant as usual!
    :thumb
    #72
  13. InfoManiac

    InfoManiac Always Learning

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    Excellent RR CannonShot!


    :lurk
    #73
  14. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Fort Kearney established in 1847 at a point where the trails from the east joined to form the combined trail along the Platte River. The post was in use until 1871 when it was no longer needed. By then the railroad had come through and trail traffic was down. The fort not only protected emigrants, but was also put there to protect the indians and to suppress inter-tribal warfare. Several campaigns were mounted from this fort during the indian wars.
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    This is the blacksmith shop. Of course, any time you establish a fort, there will soon be other enterprises that will establish themselves in the area. In this case a town formed nearby ("Dobytown") which collected riff-raff. Gambling, liquor, persons of ill-repute were common. It was also a place to purchase supplies. General Bill Sherman stopped in (when he wasn't busy burning everything and marching to the sea and stuff) and complained about the lousy whiskey referring to it as tanglefoot. Once the railroad came through, further away, this town was pretty much abandoned.
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    The Platte River was wide and shallow. Often described as an inch deep and a mile wide in pioneer lore. Looking at the river now, there is not much to it. It is a wide and braided stream tangled with islands and undergrowth. I can't help but think it was a bit mightier in the past. Later in my trip I came upon a lot of canals that drained water from the river to furnish water to town and cropland. More on this later. Anyway, the braided stream and islands are particularly attractive to migrating birds. The islands give them a safe place to rest for a while and the nearby cropland provides food. Each year about 1/2 million sand hill cranes hang out around here in the March-April time frame.
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    The Archway Monument and museum that spans the interstate at Kearny, NE. I didn't visit.
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    Before the interstate highways got big, people used to travel the US highways. Back in those days there were many oddities that were roadside attractions. Here is one from the past that it looks like someone is trying to revitalize.
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    #74
  15. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Thanks 'dag. I hope you enjoy some of the frontier military history that is coming up.


    Thanks. I hope you are enjoying the little vignettes of history and "knowledge".
    #75
  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    The indians didn't like the railroad. They didn't like the towns that sprang up along the tracks and they didn't like the increased mobility it gave to the Army as they patrolled the frontier. They knew that track maintenance crews were important to the railroad and they knew that they were vulnerable. Attacks on these crews became a problem. Although the transcontinental railroad wasn't completed until 1869, it was built across Nebraska between 1864 and 1867. In one such attack in April 1868, two wives of section crew men were threated by indians. Fearing for their husbands (the crew), they set out to find them and warn them. In the mean time the indians got to the crew and killed two of them. The third, though wounded, managed to get to a section house. Eventually a passing train picked up the survivors. The two dead workers are buried near here.
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    On this main line, there are about 150 trains a day. Averages to about one every ten minutes or so.
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    I wonder if any of those modern crews ever think about those who went before them. In this spot in August 1867, some Cheyennes led by Chief Turkey Leg (no kidding) wrecked a westbound train. They killed the engineer and fireman and looted the boxcars before burning them. They also killed a handcar crewman and scalped the other handcar crewman alive.
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    If you interested in poking around some military vehicles, stop and check this out. These two guys started by collecting a couple of pieces to bring out of the shed to use in a parade every now and again and it kind of got away from them. Not much new here for me though. :D
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    In August 1864, a 12 wagon train was about to resume convoy operations after camping along the Platte in this field. Nancy Morton was driving one of the wagons. As they started out at about 6 AM, Nancy noticed something coming on the horizon. Turned out it was a band of attacking indians. All the men were killed and Nancy was stuck with two arrows which she pulled out of herself. Her and a young boy were taken captive and began a long and violent journey across four states. After six months, Nancy was ransomed for a horse and some trade goods. She later wrote a book about her ordeal.

    Some other wagon trains and a small detachment of Iowa soldiers actually saw the attack from a distance. The Lieutenant sent a frantic message to Fort Kearney: "Send company of men here as quick as God can send them one hundred indians in sight firing on ox train." (They arrived at 10PM.) The next morning the soldiers buried the dead men in a trench a few yards away from this sign. On her way back east, Nancy went right past this spot and stopped at the common grave.

    Another woman in a wagon further ahead of the main body of this train, hid in some cat tails and survived. She died, insane, a few weeks later at a nearby fort.

    A friendly indian chief bought the boy captured in this massacre and some other children captured at the Little Blue and turned them over to the Army.
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    (The Platte River runs along the trees in the background.)

    It was more difficult riding the loose sand/gravel roads in Kanas and Nebraska than it was riding the dirt roads and two-tracks (for the most part anyway).
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    Getting late. Covered about 370 miles today. Time to find a place to stay.
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    Cozad brags about having the 100th meridian.
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    Well . . . it wasn't at the sign.
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    $5 municipal park campsite (with electricity).
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    End of Day 2. Rock Creek to Cozad.
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    #76
  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    One more thing about the railroads. The guy in charge of building it westward was an ex-military guy. He was getting pretty frustrated with the attacks on his surveyors and work crews that killed some of his best men. He appealed to the Army for more troops and protection. In the end, he took some of it into his own hands. Work trains not only had crew quarters, they also had an armory car with a thousand loaded rifles. More importantly, he knew that the indians relied on the buffalo for much of their subsistence. No buffalo in the area meant no indians. This is the basis for those excursion trains full of hunters that shot the hell out of the buffalo herds. At one time there were 30 million buffalo on the range.
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    I also heard one account that said the Army gave away buffalo caliber ammunition at their forts. This doesn't seem consistent with other policy at the time. I would be more inclined to think that the railroad sponsored this free buffalo killing ammunition project.
    #77
  18. flyingbeard

    flyingbeard Long timer

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    Great RR Bryan!:clap :clap :clap Are you going to finish the rest of the trail out to California next year? I hear the part in Utah is amazing. Thank for sharing.
    #78
  19. Monty_Burns

    Monty_Burns Excellent.

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    Bryan, did you get most of your information on the road through historical marker signs and museums or did it come from your research when you were putting your trip together?

    You are presenting a side of the Story of the West that does not get much attention (or did not get much attention) in my high school history classes 15 years ago. I'm going to have to have Montywife look at this. She use to teach American History to high school students. I don't even know if this stuff was covered in her college courses. It's fasinating! :ear
    #79
  20. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Thanks Mark. Not sure what I plan to do with the rest of this trail. The Utah-Nevada stuff has some great history. Hope you enjoy the rest.
    #80