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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. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer Supporter

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    I spent about an hour exploring Cozad this summer. What a pleasant place. This is highly entertaining, right down my alley.

    :lurk
    #81
  2. TexasPrairieRider

    TexasPrairieRider Texan

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    Velcro straps are your friend.
    [​IMG]
    at Lowes

    Rubber bands are not your friend when they get old!

    [​IMG]
    #82
    toypro1 likes this.
  3. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Lots of issues with reported history.

    I did most of my research by reading some books and searching information on the internet. There are a lot of great documents around from the past or good summaries from reasonably reliable sources. The information in the books often leads to side trips to other sources to explore something mentioned a little bit further.

    The historical markers are a great source of information, but they are often just a very brief overview. They are also just isolated markers that are out of context with the bigger story. The markers were good as they recalled information I read about (some markers were new to me though) but the perspective of the bigger story is what made things more relevant. Markers often repeat themselves over and over in different locations with the same information.

    Historical markers are often written with political correctness. Some choice facts are sometimes curiously overlooked. For example, there are facts in existence concerning a certain religious sect's militia murdering a wagon train of settlers and leaving their stripped and looted bodies to rot. This is not usually completely or accurately reported on historical markers.

    Another problem is that some people like Bill Cody hired writers to produce history that was not always accurate but was quite favorable to whatever figure they sought to promote.

    Even in books, there are different versions of the same events. One needs to try to figure out what to accept or maybe just decide it doesn't matter that much and take it as it comes.

    In some cases, there are different versions of the stories I am passing on here. Although my comments are very abbreviated, I am trying to stick with what I think are the facts that will convey a broad picture of what life was like.

    I will say that some of the interpretive sites sponsored by the federal government are fantastic in their ability to allow people to "experience" and understand what the sites are trying to convey.

    Museums were good as you can see real objects, but often the explanations are limited to only a few words on a placard. Again, the background knowledge is what makes the experience in the museums a little richer.

    Obviously I have studied history in school and even as part of my professional development in my career. I read a lot of non-fiction books. Frankly, I did not have a good grasp of the things I learned in support of this trip. I never had to sit down and sort through a relative timeline of history for this region. Now that I have, I am fascinated. . . and I am happy to take the time to share some of this with you all.

    For a trip like this my advice would be:
    -read books and look things up on the internet ahead of time.
    -visit some museums and interpretive sites on the trail to add to the images you developed while reading.
    -read pamphlets, summaries, and historical markers along the way.
    -while traveling, look around, relax, and let it all capture your imagination. :D
    #83
  4. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    I figured you might enjoy some of the railroad history. The only problem with camping at Cozad was that it was close to the mainline and the trains never stopped. :lol3
    #84
  5. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Thanks for the tip! In the sun the rubber bands break down in a day or two. I carry a bag of extras in my tank bag to change them out. :lol3
    #85
  6. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Rained pretty good overnight. Didn't really matter though. Until I got further west into more desert like areas my stuff was wet every morning anyway.
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    This is an original Pony Express station they moved off a nearby ranch and into a park in town. Original stuff . . . but I'm not sure where they plugged that air conditioner in years ago.
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    I had to give this a double take.
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    Both figures are made of wire.
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    This sod house might need a little trimming.
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    Fort McPherson was established in 1863 along the emigrant trail and along an important indian travelway. It was put in place to protect lines of communication and was used as a staging base for indian campaigns in the 1860s. In fact, the 1869 campaign that broke the Cheyennes was based from here. Custer and Buffalo Bill used to hang out around here. This is where Buffalo Bill got his start as a famous character. A pulp writer (Ned Buntline I think) showed up at the fort looking for material for his books. The Post Commander couldn't stand the guy so he pushed him off onto Bill Cody (a buffalo hunter) who was standing over by a wagon scratching his ass or something. It all took off from there.

    The fort was closed in 1880, but a National Cemetery remains. As forts were abandoned in the region, their graves were moved to this cemetery.

    If you have never visited a National Cemetery, make it a point to do so. It is a very humbling experience.
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    Sometimes they are referred to as the Bivouac of the Dead.
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    It is a very peaceful, but very powerful experience visiting here. You will shed a tear or two.
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    Medal of Honor for gallantry in action during the Indian War, October 6, 1874.
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    Sergeant Jordan was awarded the Medal of Honor on two occasions. One on May 14, 1881, and again on August 12, 1881. Both times it was for repulsing a force of more than 100 indians while commanding a detachment of only a few soldiers. Sergeant Jordan was a Buffalo Soldier.
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    Buffalo Soldiers were comprised of African-Americans who had been slaves, freemen, or served in the Army during the Civil War. Blacks had served in all American wars up to that time but previously had not been allowed to serve in peacetime. Out west, about 20% of Cav Troopers were black. They fought 177 engagements. The indians named them Buffalo Soldiers as praise for their tenacity, bravery, and combat prowess as well as for their appearance to the indians on the battlefield.

    Another Buffalo Soldier, Emanuel Stance, was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry while serving as a scout after indians in Texas on May 20, 1870.
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    Walking around looking at markers in interesting. These men died together in December 1942.
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    These three Army Air Corps soldiers died together on June 6, 1944 (D-Day).
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    This soldier was on a recon mission when he detected three Viet Cong maneuvering toward his position. He alerted his comrades and fired on the enemy killing two of them. The third threw a grenade into a position PFC Fous shared with three other soldiers. He shouted a warning and leaped on the grenade, absorbing the blast with his body to protect his comrades.
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    I left in a solemn and appreciative mood. No Ipod. Just some quiet riding for a while.


    The Mormons did a good job developing their own route west. They built their own ferries and supply stations to support their settlers moving west.
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    In fact, they published something similar to a AAA map and guide. I read a few pages and it was a pretty detailed route sheet. Of course they needed mileages so they assigned someone to count revolutions on a wagon wheel to get distance. They tied a rag on the wheel and counted each time it came around. Too boring so the scientist on the train rigged up a roadometer (early odometer) to measure the distance with a series of gears.
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    #86
  7. rokklym

    rokklym one man wolfpack

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    Fantastic ride Bryan! There sure is alot of great history in the plains.
    #87
  8. GotDrySocks?

    GotDrySocks? Llego lejos.

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    Cannonshot,

    Lovin the pictures and your insights.

    I did basically the same ride last summer (backwards) starting in Salt Lake City and riding east to Kearny, Nebraska (where I ran out of time and had to go home).

    You're probably already planning on this, but a must stop is the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper, WY. Some of the park people that work there are real trail nuts and if you can corner one (I did) you can get some great info and suggestions for routes and stuff to see. Also some real good pamphlets etc there.<TABLE width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD id=field_office_text colSpan=2>
    Wyoming has done a great job marking the trails with those cement markers (the cattle love to scratch against them).

    Great RR. :clap

    Larry
    Athens, Tx
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    #88
  9. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Hi Larry,

    Thanks for the suggestions! I did take in the National Trails Interpretive Center. It was much better than I thought it would be. If you knew very little about all of this, they could quickly impart a lot of knowledge. It was one of the excellent resources I was referring to in the comments about sources of information. Like you, I strongly recommend a visit. I'll put up some pictures when I get to that point in the report.

    I was there during the week and it seemed like I was getting 1:1 attention by a BLM employee. They do a great job with that. I was able to pick her brain a bit about some of the things I had on my list. Since we had some recent rains, she tried to discourage me off of some of the backcountry mud roads, but it all worked out fine.

    I relied on the concrete trail markers sometimes when I was out in the sagebrush. Many of those two tracks look the same. In some areas the cattle had knocked them down. I can see why the telegraph crews had so much trouble keeping poles up with the buffalo around.

    I noticed that many poles, markers, etc, that were undisturbed had tires around their bases. The tires must deter the cattle from using the posts?

    Thanks again Larry!
    #89
  10. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    There really is a lot of great history and entertainment there. Hard to believe that some people think it is boring riding around there. :lol3

    I'd ride it all again tomorrow. . .
    #90
  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    I keep in mind that this is an international site of ADV riders.

    Sometimes I wonder how some of this recent history in settling our country reads to others from around the world. There are probably some similarities as to what happened elsewhere as other countries developed.

    Looking forward to more ride reports from abroad with a similar theme!
    #91
  12. Medicine Creek

    Medicine Creek 127.0.0.1 Supporter

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    seems like a pretty lonely place standing there reading that sign.

    [​IMG]



    great report. :thumb
    #92
  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    I stopped in North Platte, NE, to check out the Bailey Yard of the Union Pacific Railroad.
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    There is a brand new visitor's center and observation tower there. This yard is the largest sorting yard in the world. When you dig into it a bit, you see what a technological wonder it is.
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    Some general facts about this 8 mile long yard. By the way, I couldn't get enough of it into a panographic picture to make it worthwhile. Look up North Platte, NE on Google Earth and check it out for yourself. Look west of town in sattelite view.

    2850 acres
    315 miles of track
    985 switches
    2600 employees (round the clock operations)
    155 trains per day (60 manifest, 70 coal, 6 grain/ore, 4 local, 15 intermodal/auto)
    Two humps that sort 3,000 cars per day.

    Car repair facility repairs an average of 50 cars daily. Can repair 18-20 cars/hour.
    10,000 pairs of wheels replaced annually. They can replace the wheels on a car in a little over 10 minutes without ever taking the car out of a train. They just jack it up and swap out the wheels.

    They repair/prepare 75 reefer cars per day.

    300 locomotives are serviced every day.
    750 locomotives are repaired in the repair facility each month.

    They pump 14 million gallons of diesel into locomotives every month.


    Locomotive repair facility.
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    They have an east and a west hump. Each sorts 1,500 cars daily. I watched for a while and they humped about 4 cars a minute. They split the cars from the train on the top of the hump and let gravity roll them dowhill to sorting tracks.
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    In the foreground are the sorting tracks. Cars are switched onto tracks to build trains. Trains can be built so that a single train goes to a single destination (like Chicago) or they can be built so that cars are dropped off at multiple locations. Cars in the front of the train are dropped off first.
    Obviously all this sorting and switching is computerized.
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    Remember those coal trains I was talking about? 120 cars with 100 tons of coal in each one? As I mentioned, last month the Union Pacific shipped almost 1,200 full coal trains out of the coal fields in Wyoming. That is something like 40 full trains a day. Wow. (And that is just the UP, does not include the BNSF.)

    Front half.
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    Back half.
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    Wyoming also sits on the largest natural gas field in North America. Natural gas is cheap in Wyoming because they don't have the pipeline capacity to get it out of state to where it could be used. Some active wells have been idled because there just isn't enough pipeline capacity. While I was there, the Gov was talking about the state getting into the pipeline business.
    #93
  14. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Powerful stuff for sure!
    #94
  15. 65bmwr50

    65bmwr50 Been here awhile

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    [​IMG]

    Back half.
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    Powder River Basin coal - sub-bituminous (very soft) - used for the production of electricity. My wife used to work at a coal fired plant in central IL that burned that coal. On average 2 trains a week, something like 4.5 million tons of it a year. If you are ever going down I-55 in Illinois, where IL-104 crosses under the interstate look to the east. That is the plant. You will see the trains pretty regularly.
    #95
  16. svwayne

    svwayne Been here awhile

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    First - thanks for the time/effort to put this RR together. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

    Second - don't throw away those old inner tubes. They make great rubber bands that won't break down in the sunlight.
    #96
  17. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Faking it/Making it

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    Great stuff, and interesting!

    I guess anywhere is boring when you're trying to get somewhere else, and anywhere is interesting if you choose your path well.

    John
    #97
  18. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Near Sutherland, NE, is one of the few remaining examples of a state aid bridge. Between 1912 and 1936, seventy-seven of these bridges were built, but only 17 remain in use. It may not seem like a big deal until you associate it with that particular time in history. At the time it had to be something special in the development of this rural area.
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    The bridge is an excellent example of the state of the art of concrete arch construction at that time.
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    As I mentioned earlier, the emigrant trails along the Platte ran along the flat land in the wide river valley. Sometimes the wagons were able to spread out even 10 or 12 wagons across. The Mormons ran their trail on the north side of the Platte to avoid conflict with other settlers. In May of 1847, Brigham Young and the boys scouted a route across these soft sand hills that pressed up against the river. The hills caused them to double team and shuttle wagons over the hills in the soft sand. The ruts that are visible here are from the Mormon wagon trains struggling across these hills.
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    Kind of interesting to stand there and visualize those folks running their wagons right where I stood.
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    This is one of those irrigation canals I kept running across. The water in this canal was really moving. There were a lot of these which means that a lot of water is being pulled off the Platte for towns and or agriculture. When I got further west, I ran across this kind of water distribution quite frequently. I even saw some small 3' wide ditches full of fast running water that would wind their way across country following the contours of the hills. Some of the structures I saw indicated that this was undertaken in the early 1900s. I wanted to research this a bit because it was obviously a huge project - especially at the time - but haven't gotten to it yet since I got back.
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    The mainline railroad has sought to close the crossings in many of the small railroad towns along their path. Several times I saw road closures. Since the town was now split in half, these expensive pedestrian walkways were installed.
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    The highway crossings got moved to new overpasses just outside of town.
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    My usual routine was to eat breakfast some time in the morning, maybe grab a snack at a gas stop, and eat dinner at the end of the day. Today I decided to stop of lunch at this attraction.
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    Old Ole shot a lot of stuff in his day. He had mounts all over this restaurant that ranged from polar bears to jackalopes. I had a big drooly moose perched over my table.
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    Yes, I left my tag along the way.
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    Gas stations, restaurants, . . .
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    I swung through Ogallala, KS, which during the cattle drive days was described as the "Gomorrah of the Plains".
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    #98
  19. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    I understand they can unload those trains at the power plants nearly as quickly as they load them at the mines.



    Great tip, thanks!



    I agree John, it depends on your interests at the time. :D
    #99
  20. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Lets poke around a bit and see what we can find, shall we?
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    I step through this cattle guard and take a little stroll.
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    This is California Hill. Between 1841 and 1860 thousands of people climbed this hill on their way west: right here in this rut. Before 1867, about a half a million people traveled the trails in this region.
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    It is interesting to stand here and imagine the travelers coming through.
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    Outside of a few power lines and fences, I doubt much has changed.
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    I added my footprints to the thousands of others that came before me.
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