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

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    36,870
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Many of you have probably stopped at this Colorado Welcome Center at Julesburg.
    [​IMG]

    There is a concentrated lump of history in this area and a great local loop of points of interest. In fact, there were four versions of Julesburg. I'll only cover a few points. First of all the town was named after Jules Beni. Jules was a station master for the stage and PE station. He may have been a little slippery and may have been ripping off the company. Jack Slade, a regional manager for the company who bragged about killing 23 people in his lifetime, was coming to town to deal with Jules. Jules got the jump on Slade and shot him with a shotgun. Slade retreated back east to get repaired. Soon he came back and killed Jules Beni and cut off his ears. He nailed one to a post and kept the other as a watch fob. Despite being a killer, I guess Slade got things done business wise. Slade got his later on in Nevada. He heard there was a warrant out for him for disorderly conduct so he grabbed a gun and went looking for the judge. A vigilante mob of miners grabbed Slade, told him they were sick of his BS, and hung him. Slade's wife, a character herself, had Slade's body put into a tin lined coffin that was filled with whiskey and had him shipped back to Salt Lake City.
    [​IMG]

    This reminds me of . . .
    [​IMG]

    . . . this.
    [​IMG]

    Lots of markers on this loop. Lots of history as well.
    [​IMG]

    Remember the indian attacks on the lines of communications in 1864? This was the western end of it. There was a fort nearby (gone now) that had a few soldiers in it. In January 1865, some indians attacked a wagon train and a stage coach nearby. When word reached the fort, a Captain there took his small band of troops and chased after the indians. Once they chased them up into the hills, the Captain found out there were about 1000 indians there and that he was nearly surrounded. He uttered something like "Oh my gosh!" and hauled ass. The Captain brought two cannons with him. The troops fought a four mile running battle with the indians to get back to the fort. Apparently the indian commander could not "see" the battlefield or did not have the agility he needed to maneuver his warriors to get between the retreating troops and the fort. The indians should have had them. Being a former artillery commander, I would like to be able to say that the artillery saved the day . . . but I doubt it. I think that the indians had the greatest combat power. Most of the artillery shots seemed to be shots made on the retreat to startle the warriors or break up their formations. Fifteen of the Captain's 33 men, and five civilians, were killed in this running battle. The indians hung around the fort later on hoping to draw the troops out. Eventually the indians said "Fuggedaboudit, these guys ain't coming out. Lets go burn the town". They did while people watched from the fort.
    [​IMG]
  2. Jack_

    Jack_ Addict

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Oddometer:
    300
    Location:
    South Eastern Wisconsin
    Excellent report as always!!!
  3. klrmtn

    klrmtn Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2005
    Oddometer:
    229
    Location:
    Byron, IL
    Of course it is. My kids still prefer grape, just like dear old dad! It is kind of amazing that something like Koolaid has stuck around, and that we are even talking about it.:huh
    Anyway, great report, it has been great. Great pictures, great stories, please keep it up. Looking forward to more.
    Jason
  4. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Oddometer:
    7,301
    Location:
    Mt. Vernon, Illinois
    Hey Brian,

    Man I am enjoying this----I just love all the history you are pointing out---now this is the way history should be taught !!!

    I didn't learn a damn thing in history class as a youngster-----I had a fascination for panty hose at that time---didn't understand them--but wanted too :D
  5. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    36,870
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    I rolled into Ovid, CO, to take a look around. This is a sugar producing area. During WWII there was a shortage of manpower to harvest sugar beets so 400 German prisoners of war were brought in to do the work. They stayed in two of these buildings and some tents downtown.
    [​IMG]

    This little locomotive was used by the sugar company right up until the day they closed.
    [​IMG]

    They processed a lot of sugar here.
    [​IMG]

    This sugar plant was a sweet deal for Ovid from 1925 until 1985 when the owners went bankrupt speculating in the silver market.
    [​IMG]

    A sample of some of the Pony Express markers you can locate.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  6. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    36,870
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Thanks Jack, I figured a bit of this might entertain you. :lol3



    And of course, they had a Kool-Aid stand in the museum exhibit . . .

    (with the Kool-Aid from Hastings, the water canals from the Platte, and that sugar plant in Ovid, I think we are set up for some large scale Kool-Ops)



    Maybe an enterprising guy should start an adult education program based off of motorcycles! :lol3
  7. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    36,870
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Lots of trail crossings.
    [​IMG]

    I went looking for another station site.
    [​IMG]

    This is the site of a PE station, and later a telegraph station from when they first completed the transcontinental telegraph line. There is a spring nearby, and you can pretty much tell the layout - even now. On Feb 6-7, 1865, the Army fought it out here with some Sioux indians. It was quite a place to look around and wonder how it all went down.
    [​IMG]

    The old trail leaving the site.
    [​IMG]

    Had to nudge some cattle out of the way from time to time.
    [​IMG]

    When I passed these rocks, way out in the boonies, I thought about that 15 year old rider that was chased by indians and took up a defensive position in the rocks along the trail. This is the kid that they found full of arrows and out of ammo with seven dead indians around him. He still had the mochila. The Pony Express says they only lost one mochila during their operations. One story I read is that a bunch of indians snatched a rider and his mochila because they wondered what the heck was so important in that damn bag that they were galloping it back and forth all the time.
    [​IMG]
  8. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    36,870
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    These natural formations have been used as natural road signs since the trappers starting working the far west way ahead of the emigrants. This is Courthouse and Jail Rocks. From a distance, and they can really be seen from quite a distance, that is exactly what they look like. They rise about 400 feet above the plains.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Pronghorns started to show up. They got much thicker when I got out in the boonies in Wyoming.
    [​IMG]

    An enterprising fellow could have made a few bucks out here back then.
    [​IMG]

    As we got closer to the mountains, the terrain was getting a little tougher.
    [​IMG]

    Chimney Rock, another famous pioneer landmark/navaid.
    [​IMG]
  9. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Oddometer:
    120,158
    Location:
    right here on my thermarest
  10. Impulse 101

    Impulse 101 Crazy Guitarist

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2008
    Oddometer:
    174
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Cannonshot,
    Outstanding work. I've been reading your thread for the last few days and its been an outstanding education of an area of the country that has just recently become part of my life. I'm enjoy history and much like you I have taken it upon myself to discover it, it's more fun that way.

    My wife is presently working on her masters on-line from the University of Kearney and one of my army buddies just settled his family in North Platte. My wife rides and wants to ride to her graduation (damned good wife, it was her idea!) and were going to make a side trip to link up with my old platoonmate.

    B.T.W. I was army, 1/501 ABN INF, Ft. Richardson, AK for three years as well as an additional 4 year stint in the 32nd brigade as a scout and Co. ops guy.

    JT
  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    36,870
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    When the Burlington Northern Railroad was surveying their way through this area, they came upon a crude grave that was marked with a metal wagon wheel tire. (All these other stones were added later.) They decided to move the right of way a bit so as not to disturb the grave. This grave belongs to Rebecca Winters who died on the trail at age 50. Born in 1802, she was the daughter of a guy that was a drummer in George Washington's Army. Rebecca watched several others suffer and die from cholera on the trail. On August 15, she died herself. A close friend of the family chiseled the words "Rebecca Winters age 50" on the tire.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I went up into a pass to look for one of the sites of the Robidoux trading post. Remember the Robidoux that founded St Joseph, MO? This is a son who headed out to make some bucks on the trails, sort of like his father did when he ran fur trading posts. This is the site of one of his posts. It is pushed up against one side of the pass. Robidoux set up here in 1849. He made a killing on blacksmith repairs, staples, whiskey, and on stuff abandoned by travelers that he added to his own inventory.
    [​IMG]

    This looks from the site of the post back across the approach going into the pass.
    [​IMG]

    Settlers had to work their wagons up this valley. Robidoux had a blacksmith shop as part of his trading post in case repairs were needed. Just because the slope was gentle doesn't mean the going was easy.
    [​IMG]

    Some wagons didn't make it.
    [​IMG]

    Heading over the pass into the sunset.
    [​IMG]


    Robidoux moved his trading post one canyon over and I went to look for it. Nice area to ride in.
    [​IMG]

    The routes and tracks I drew as a draft before the trip were serving me well. Still need to do some after trip refinements though.
    [​IMG]

    I passed some mule deer and headed down the canyon.
    [​IMG]

    Eventually I found this replica trading post. Looks like it could be defended. Robidoux suffered an accidental death near Scott's Bluff.
    [​IMG]

    Rolled into a municipal campground at a zoo near Scotsbluff that cost me about $8. They had showers as well. The only draw back was the buffalo (I think) make loud noises in the middle of the night that sound like elephants.
    [​IMG]

    Made about 360 miles today.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    End of day 3.
  12. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    36,870
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Klay I've got a couple of pretty neat transcontinental railroad stories coming up further down the line that you will probably enjoy.



    I'm glad you are enjoying the ride report. I hope you get a chance to visit a couple of these places on the graduation trip. When you get to North Platte, I hope your buddy takes you over to the Golden Spike Tower. That rail yard is huge and quite complex. They even have a couple of jet engines rigged up for blowing the snow off of trains.

    Thanks for your military service! :thumb (I was a paratrooper for a while myself when I first started out.)
  13. MsSuzieQ

    MsSuzieQ Adventure sister

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2008
    Oddometer:
    78
    Location:
    Fort Worth
    For those of us that have always loved American history, THANK YOU! Imagine how interesting history class might have been with these types of lessons.... Keep up the good work...:clap
  14. Cat Daddy

    Cat Daddy Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2008
    Oddometer:
    991
    Location:
    Azle Texas
    Aw shucks Cannonshot. Your thread inspired my sister the lurker to finally make a post.

    You've opened the flood gate now though, she'll probably never quit posting now......:lol3
  15. MsSuzieQ

    MsSuzieQ Adventure sister

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2008
    Oddometer:
    78
    Location:
    Fort Worth

    Aww the sibling love just flows doesn't it?? :ricky
  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    36,870
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Sort of an honor to draw someone's first post. :D Glad you are enjoying this stuff.



    :lol3
  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    36,870
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    A bit cool this morning. Very cool in fact if you are wearing mesh gear. Got out the waterproof/insulated liners.
    [​IMG]

    While doing my preventive maintenance this morning I came across this in my rear tire. I had been crossing a lot of rugged looking cattle guards. I probably picked up a fence staple along the way. The two holes in the tubeless tire made it clear that I needed to see a blacksmith as a plug job was not going to work. Plus, I knew I was heading into some remote country and I needed a proper repair.
    [​IMG]

    In my pre-trip planning, I worked up a list of cycle shops. There happened to be one in this town. I went over to Staman's Suzuki and they were able to put a tube in my tire right away. I really appreciated their responsiveness! (Sorry about the blurry picture, but that is how it looked to me as I hadn't had coffee yet.) I think I will add a bead breaker and a couple of tubes to my DL1000 kit for when I am out on something like this trip.
    [​IMG]

    Back in action I headed out to check this out.
    [​IMG]

    What point is there to having a bluff if you can't get up on top?
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Looking down at the visitor's center. Last night I was in the next pass over (toward the top of the picture) looking at trading posts. Eventually, someone managed a trail that pretty much went along the highway and snuck through the notch between these two bluffs. The Mormons ran a trail on the other side of Scotts Bluff (behind me).
    [​IMG]

    Here is a map that illustrates some of that.
    [​IMG]

    There are some wagons displayed in the trail notch. It looks like they are placed right about where the trail was.
    [​IMG]

    You know, in every group there is always one flashy dresser. . .
    [​IMG]
  18. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    36,870
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    In 1851, some folks worked out a meeting between indians and whites to come up with a treaty about all these emigrants passing through. Initially the meeting was planned to be at Fort Laramie, but since there was not enough forage there for the horses of the visiting indians, it had to be moved downstream to a better spot. Between 8,000 and 12,000 indians attended this meeting (man they had to truck in a lot of porta-potties for that!). Since some of the tribes had been warring for centuries, some indian encampments had to be kept separated. (Some people think ADV rallies can be difficult. At least they don't have that problem.) There were about 270 troops there to keep order, but all-in-all it was a pretty friendly setting.
    [​IMG]

    The treaty allowed that the indians would get $50,000 a year in goods for fifty years to make up for damages caused by settlers coming through on the emigrant trails. In return the indians would be cool and allow free passage, allow forts to be built, and would try to settle inter-tribal disputes by peaceful means. Well, it lasted until 1864 when the indians staged some major attacks.
    [​IMG]


    These boys came through in the opposite direction, laying out a trail in 1812.
    [​IMG]

    On August 19, 1854, Lieutenant Phil Grattan and is 28 troops went to see some indians about a cow an indian had killed that belonged to some emigrants traveling nearby. I'm not sure exactly what went down, but one story is that Chief Conquering Bear offered to pony up a horse to replace the cow. The interpreter, who was drunk and had some grudge against the indians, was said to have been screwing up the negotiations. In the end, shots were fired and Grattan and his men, the Chief, and a bunch of indians were wiped out. This single incident led to years of hostility and retaliation in the region by both indians and soldiers. In trying to smooth things over much later on, some General explained to the indians that the only person to be blamed in this whole thing was the guy that stole the cow and everyone needed to get past it. It would be nice to know for sure exactly what happened. The spot looks peaceful now.
    [​IMG]

    By 1873, Cheyenne was a center for shipping freight. The North Platte river could be an impediment at times. People were worried that the freighting business might move to other cities along the Union Pacific that didn't have river trouble. Laramie County refused to build a bridge, so the local congressman went to work. He managed to make some political moves to get the bridge built in the name of the War Department. Anyway, the bridge got built in 1876 and cost $10,500. This is the oldest military bridge west of the Mississippi. After Fort Laramie closed in 1890, the bridge was turned over to the county and was used until 1958.
    [​IMG]

    The National Park Service owns it now. King Bridge of Cleveland, OH, is still pretty proud of their bridge.
    [​IMG]
  19. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    36,870
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    I rode across the river and headed over to Fort Laramie to check out some pretty interesting remains of a fort that was abandoned in 1880.

    On the way, I came upon a memorial to a rider and a horse. First, let me tell the story behind it.

    There was a fort further north in Wyoming that was commanded by a Colonel. Captain Fetterman (who was a temporary Lieutenant Colonel at this time) didn't respect the Colonel much as Fetterman had experience fighting indians and this particular Colonel did not. Wood trains were sent out from the fort to cut wood for the winter. A couple of times the indians attacked these trains (wagons) and the trains had to be rescued with troops from the fort. Generally, the trains were in sight of the fort and could easily be supported. In one of these attacks, a lieutenant was killed. The Colonel was a little nervous about some of his men chasing after the attacking indians and put the word out not to do it. Fetterman, who had a high opinion of himself, thought the Colonel was timid or maybe even cowardly. Fetterman bragged that he could defeat any indian force, no matter how large, with 80 well disciplined troops. He also argued about making a pre-emptive strike to keep the indians at bay.

    With only one day of wood cutting left to get the very important wood the fort would need for the winter, the indians attacked the wood train again. The colonel went to send a relief force and chose someone to lead it. Fetterman protested and demanded that he lead the relief force citing his date of rank. The Colonel conceded but gave Fetterman strict orders not to go beyond a certain point where it would be difficult for the fort to reinforce his force if they got into trouble.

    Fetterman left the fort with a total of 80 men, precisely the number that he said he needed to kick any indian force's ass. Fetterman went after the small band of attacking indians who seemed to be taunting his force as they retreated. Fetterman went after them, chasing them up into the hills and beyond the limit the Colonel put on his advance. Once up in the hills, 2,000 indians sprang their trap. They surrounded Fetterman's force and attacked. Eventually all 80 soldiers were dead. It is said that as the final attack was made, Fetterman and his second and command held their pistols to each other's head and pulled the triggers simultaneously. I guess Fetterman's estimates of his combat power were a little off. :bluduh

    Ok, now on to this monument. The Colonel hired John Phillips, a civilian, to take his dispatches to Fort Laramie. The Colonel paid Phillips $300 to ride from the surrounded fort, 236 miles to Fort Laramie for help. Phillips pulled it off on December 24-25, 1866. Despite a blizzard and below zero temperatures, he arrived at Fort Laramie while they were having a formal military ball (or some other similar festive occasion). Phillips delivered the urgent dispatches and the horse died from exhaustion soon after arriving at the fort.

    This monument commemorates the ride and is in memory of the horse.
    [​IMG]
  20. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    36,870
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Of all the forts I passed or visited, this one was the best. Ride in here and take a look around.
    [​IMG]

    Here is a layout of what is left.
    [​IMG]

    This model is how the fort looked when it was in operation. It was abandoned in 1880 and a lot of stuff was sold off or converted to civilian use. Notice the telegraph line coming into the fort.
    [​IMG]

    Cannon with a cannon.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Cav barracks. These were added (outside the main portion of the fort) later on when there was some trouble and they needed more troops out here. Cavalry troops are very mobile.
    [​IMG]

    The troops lived upstairs. Downstairs were the sergeants and other stuff like this dining facility.
    [​IMG]

    Troop billeting area upstairs.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Of course the post had a canteen . . .
    [​IMG]

    . . . and a sutler's store (PX).
    [​IMG]

    Officer's quarters.
    [​IMG]

    Magazine
    [​IMG]

    Post Commander's quarters.
    [​IMG]

    As forts formed, many other enterprises set up nearby. One stage stop had to move their corral because they were contaminating the fort's water supply. Of course the fort itself had a giant latrine that flushed right into the river that many others used downstream.

    Oh yeah, while we are on the subject of Fort Laramie, let me give you a list of some "Ft. Laramie Firsts".
    -1st permanent settlement in Wyoming (Fort William - 1834).
    -1st drunk driving fatality in Wyoming (1841). A Sioux Chief fell off his horse and broke his neck after drinking strong liquor.
    -1st Military Post in Wyoming (1849). A post that became Ft. Laramie.
    -1st school (1856). Classes taught at Ft. Laramie.
    -1st Post Office (1850).
    -1st major indian battle of the Northern Plains Indian Wars (1854). Grattan massacre.
    -1st iron bridge in Wyoming (1875). Military bridge.