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. bg

    bg Monster

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2004
    Oddometer:
    8,321
    Location:
    Mayberry, WI
    Just getting caught up and am really enjoying your report Cannonshot.

    Thanks for taking the time to share it in so much detail.
  2. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    35,613
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    I'm back out riding around on the dirt for a while. This is one of those canals hauling water off of the Platte.
    [​IMG]

    I still have to look into this a little. I am a bit curious about it. I think a date on this tunnel work was around 1917(?). Big project for a rural area at that time.
    [​IMG]

    Fun roads . . .
    [​IMG]

    . . . but you don't want to miss a corner.
    [​IMG]

    Wyoming is known as the "Cowboy State" or the "Equality State". Wyoming was the first to allow women to vote, had the first woman justice of the peace, was the first to select a woman judge, and was the first to elect a woman Governor. It is the least populated state in the lower 48 and cattle and sheep outnumber people 5 to 1. Big industries are mining and tourism.
    [​IMG]

    Standing is some wagon tracks from the emigrant trails.
    [​IMG]

    This area wasn't too bad, but when I was further out I always made sure I carried plenty of water. In the event I broke down way out in the sticks and had to hoof it, I had a water filter so I could get water out of a cattle tank or a stream if I needed it. In some areas, there is a lot of alkali around and from the looks of the water, I wasn't too sure about it.
    [​IMG]

    From time to time I would have to push a little sand with that DL1000 on Trail Wings. Not much choice but to ride it out. The sand I encountered would have been child's play on my DRZ.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Dry and rugged as it was, it was still a beautiful area to ride in.
    [​IMG]

    Mary Homsley is buried here. Originally from Kentucky, she moved to Missouri and got married. In 1852, Mary and her husband, along with her parents and ten brothers and sisters (some of which had families of their own) packed up and headed for Oregon. Mary brought along her two little daughters. Back in Missouri, she left the graves of two other children she had that were poisoned by an embittered slave. Mary gave birth to a fifth child on the way out west and both Mary and the baby ended up with the measles. They headed to cross the river at Ft Laramie, probably to seek medical help at the fort. While crossing the river, the wagon overturned and pitched Mary and the baby into the river. Both were rescued, but Mary took a turn for the worse. She died and was buried here (near the fort) wrapped in a feather bed. The baby lasted for a while dying in Boise Idaho.
    Some passing cowboys found the grave in 1925. The headstone was put into the present monument in 1926.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Here is one of those irrigation facilities. This is one of three outflows putting the water into separate channels.
    [​IMG]
  3. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    35,613
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    This son of a gun has been following me around for a while.
    [​IMG]

    I am in Guernsey, WY. The Burlington Railroad laid tracks into here in the early 1900s. They liked the easy grades along the Platte just like the wagon trains did. Now the the BNSF has a pretty significant yard operation here. Mountains are now pretty visible on the horizon (Laramie Peak, 10,247 feet).
    [​IMG]

    There is also a National Guard training base here so you have to be mindful of traffic on the back roads.
    [​IMG]

    Trails ran close to the river (where the trees are in the background). One important reason was that emigrants needed grass to feed their stock. Imagine how mowed off some of these areas were on years when 30,000 people went through. Occasionally, some landform would squeeze up close to the river. That is the case with Register Cliff. Many settlers camped near here.
    [​IMG]

    This carsonite marker shows the trail going right past the edge of this cliff.
    [​IMG]

    From the 1820s on, travelers along this route have been inscribing their names on this rock. It is really neat to take in some of these inscriptions.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    These marks last a little longer than Krylon on a bridge.
    [​IMG]

    Historians trace some of the names on this cliff forward.
    [​IMG]

    One young fellow that playfully inscribed his name on this cliff has a grave about four or five days further down the trail. You never knew when death would strike. Of 55,000 that started out one year, about 5,000 died along the way. That is an exceptionally high mortality rate in any endeavor.
    [​IMG]
  4. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2003
    Oddometer:
    3,567
    Location:
    Jennings, Louisiana
    Super great read and pictures. Keep up the awesome work. BTW , I crossed some PE and Stage Station remains on US 50 in Nevada last Summer on a quick trip to Calif. Spent about 30 mins there taking a break from the DL1000 and just nosing about. Really neat the route those guys took.
  5. ThumperDRZ

    ThumperDRZ Bouncing off Rocks!

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,404
    Location:
    Stinkin' County, MO
    Still going strong Cannon :clap - What an amazing read....it's hard to believe that it was only 150 years ago when these travelers were heading up these trails....shows how young are country really is. I can't believe how visible those wagon trails are...Must have been something to stand in the exact same place where thousands of adventurers passed through to expand this country....Thanks for taking the time for us!
  6. GotDrySocks?

    GotDrySocks? Llego lejos.

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    54
    Location:
    East Texas
    Cannonshot,

    Still enjoying your RR as we sit through IKE here in E. Texas.

    Quote: From time to time I would have to push a little sand with that DL1000 on Trail Wings. Not much choice but to ride it out.

    I see you visited Mary Homesleys grave. I was on a loaded r1200GSA and chickened out and walked the last few yards to the grave in the sand. No one around to help pick up the beast if it burrowed in.

    Your pics of register cliff remind me... There is a name "A. H. Unthank" on the cliff. His grave is about 75 miles (as I recall) west of the cliff. Seeing his name carved on the cliff and then seeing his name on his gravestone was an especially moving experience for me.

    Somewhere I saw a number stated of 10 deaths per mile of the emigrant trail. Doubtless there were more deaths west of Ft. Laramie as the going got rougher. The coyotes, wolves etc. got most of the bodies I guess, but a few grave sites are still marked... special reminders of the price paid for the settlement of the west.

    You probably have pics of the PE station site and the deep ruts in the sandstone near Register Cliff. When I was there last summer the temp was pushing 100 degrees, couldn't resist a dip in the North Platte.

    Great report, keep it coming!

    Larry
    Athens, Tx
  7. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    35,613
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    This thing just wouldn't get off of me.
    [​IMG]

    I stopped to look at the Guernsey Ruts. This is another spot where the soft rock pushed up close to the river (just a very short distance west of Register Cliff) and the wagons had to go over the rocks to continue on the trail. With all these wagons and stock going over these rocks, they wore deep ruts into them.
    [​IMG]

    If you look at Guernsey, WY, on Google Maps you can zoom in just south of town and west of the golf course and sort of see some of the ruts. You might see where a pipleline went through so don't get confused. There is a big tank farm/pipeline operation in Guernsey.
    [​IMG]

    Amazing to sit there and think about the thousands that struggled through here.
    [​IMG]

    This stone is soft, but it isn't that soft. It took some serious hoof and iron wagon tire work to wear these trenches.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Finally the hail started. I was kind of feeling like I was in a rut anyway, so I strolled over to the parking area. I snapped a picture of some hail on my bike seat, casually fished a cigar out of my top case, and ambled over to a very small interpretive kiosk that had a small roof on it. I fired up that stogie and stood there watching the rain. I was very relaxed and very content. I had no schedule to keep and was just taking things as they came.
    [​IMG]

    Finally this thing got off of me . . .
    [​IMG]

    . . . and somebody else was getting the hail.
    [​IMG]

    I checked out some other stuff and continued on my route. I stopped to take a picture, and while I was on the side of the road, this very pleasant and helpful trooper stopped to give me a weather report and see if I was ok. He told me the rain was done ahead and I should have no problems. I got off the bike and spent quite a bit of time talking with the him. I was able to pick his brain about a few of my planned stops, and ask a lot of questions about what it was like living and working there. He answered with a lot of enthusiasm. My route crossed a very nasty rocky ridge out in the boonies a few hundred miles ahead. I wasn't sure I could make it on my DL. I pointed to a big empty roadless white spot on the map and told the trooper what I was concerned about. He new the exact spot, even though it was only a couple miles or less long, and was able to give me detailed info based on his own crossing in his 4WD truck a few years back. By the way, he told me his truck dragged on the rocks much of the way. More on that later . . . Anyway, I felt like I was taking too much of the trooper's time with all my questions, so it was time to push on. The design on the police vehicle won an award for police designs a few years ago. I think he will probably visit this report so "hello". :wave
    [​IMG]
  8. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    35,613
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Thanks, you are very welcome.


    Andy, I think it would be a great ride to follow the trail and the history through Salt Lake and beyond. I was having such a good time on this trip, I was a little tempted (except that it would have been a very long ride home after all this poking around).


    Gary, I too am amazed at just how young we are. I am also humbled. Some of life's little problems hardly amount to anything compared to the struggles that some of these folks went through in pursuit of a better life.


    Thanks Larry!

    That young 49er you mentioned (Unthank) is buried outside of Glenrock. As you probably remember, Glenrock has that big rock in the glen that travelers also carved their names on.

    The 10 graves per mile average is the accepted figure. I got it from some reference myself and included it in this report. It is hard to imagine so many deaths. Childbirth, people accidentally run over by wagon wheels, drownings, disease, and other accidents.

    I hope when you hit the Platte you grabbed one of these lifejackets the fire department puts out up and down the river. :lol3
    [​IMG]


    And as a general note to many of you folks, thanks for the encouraging replies. It is taking a lot of effort to recount some of this stuff in this report and it is nice to get some feedback telling me that some folks are interested and enjoying it. You never know if what is interesting to you appeals to others. Your comments get me back on the job to so I can get this damn thing finished! :lol3
  9. Loud Al

    Loud Al .

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2005
    Oddometer:
    4,188
    Location:
    Forest Grove, OR
    Great repot, thanks for putting so much time and energy into it. I love all the history you are adding to the report:clap :clap :clap
  10. GotDrySocks?

    GotDrySocks? Llego lejos.

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    54
    Location:
    East Texas
    Cannonshot,

    Not to hijack your tread, but here's a combo pic from the cliff and the grave I had handy.

    Attached Files:

  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    35,613
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Well there is one thing less I'll have to cover further on in this chronology. :lol3

    Nice touch with the side by side images.
  12. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Oddometer:
    119,995
    Location:
    right here on my thermarest
    Sure makes me want to be out there wandering the plains.

    :lurk
  13. Q-dog

    Q-dog Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2006
    Oddometer:
    28
    Location:
    Waukesha, WI
    Great ride report, thanks for sharing.
  14. HappyRiding

    HappyRiding Semi-Feral

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2008
    Oddometer:
    10,172
    Location:
    NE 10EC
    Thank you for sharing this with us.:thumb
  15. HOT DAMN!

    HOT DAMN! ♪ ♪ ♪

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,633
    Location:
    Hammond, IN.
    Just keeps gettin' better Cannon! :freaky
  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    35,613
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    I mentioned that the Pony Express served as a vital communication link until the transcontinental telegraph was completed making them somewhat obsolete. Between July 4, and October 24, 1861, a telepgaph line was put in between St Joseph, MO, and Sacramento, CA. This was the first high speed communication between coasts. (These aren't telegraph lines . . . but they look like them.)
    [​IMG]

    This system ran until it was replaced by the multi-line railroad telegraphs in 1869.
    [​IMG]


    Straight, sturdy poles were required every 75 yards. 27,000 poles were needed. As I was riding along, out of curiousity I counted power poles per mile and found that the number of poles per mile was about the same as for the telegraph. I also counted railroad multi-line telegraph poles and found that about twice the number of poles per mile were required to keep the lines separated. This is a pole from the original line.
    [​IMG]

    Poles were often hard to come by as much of the route had few suitable trees around. They had to be hauled in from long distances.
    [​IMG]

    Trees had to be sturdy as buffalo would sometimes knock them down. I don't think the poles were anywhere as good as these modern versions.
    [​IMG]

    A lot of wire had to be strung. After the line became obsolete, some of the wire was salvaged and after having barbs added to it was used for fence wire. One installer was trying to discourage the indians from messing with the telegraph line. He hooked a battery to the wire and had the indians grab it telling them that there was lightning in the wire. They thought that was "big medicine" according to this guy. Batteries were shipped dry as a dry chemical in a container with electrodes - just add water.
    [​IMG]

    When glass insulators were used, they had to put wooden covers on them because the indians would take the glass for ornaments.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    An operator at each station would receive a message, write it down, and then send it to the next station. A very efficient operator sending at 50 words per minute made 750 separate motions with his wrist in 60 seconds.
    [​IMG]
  17. Dratharr

    Dratharr Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    255
    Location:
    Western Nebraska
    Great report my wife and I are really enjoying this one. My wifes mother was raised on the ranch at mudsprings, I think one if the pictures you took was at that site. Many of the pics you took are very familiar to me as I was born near NorthPlatte, and have between Kearney, and Sidney most of my life. A good friend of mine has a farm that lies north of the river, and there is a creek on it, there is an old crossing on the creek that you can still see the ruts, his grand dad told him the rutts are from the Morman trail, they are very cool if you ever find your self in Nebraska again PM me I can take you too them. One more story you might enjoy, when I lived near Gibbon NE if you remember traveling through there. There are hills on either side of the river, the valley is probably 20 miles wide there, one of the graves you had pictures of was south of Shelton "I think" which is close to the area where I lived. One of my nieghbors family was one of the original families to settle in that area I can't remember the dates, but thier farm home is Octogon shapped and is the oldest still in existance in that area. My neighbors great, great granddad settled there and they had an orchard and grew apples and peaches. They were French, when the civil war broke out his G/G/granddad didn't want to fight and moved back to France, then when the war subsided he moved back to NE to the same place! Anyway the story goes there was an old indian who lived in the hills north, and his G/G/granddad and the indian were sitting on the base of the hills looking into the valley. His granddad asked the indian how much he had seen the Platte river flood. The indian responded from here to here, meaning from one end of the hills to the other! Can you imagine that! The flooding would have to have been at least 20miles wide. If you can remeber that area you can visualize how incredible that would be! There are many of the older folks who live in the area that have second or third hand accounts of the past that are amazing to say the least. It seems like alot of this history is lost or soon becoming lost, thanks fror shedding some light on the area to the rest of the world! Keep up the great report!
  18. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    35,613
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Thanks folks. A few more stories are coming.

    Thanks for sharing some great information about this interesting area. The ranch your wife's mother was raised on might be the one that is about 100 yards back on an angle going to the left of my bike and back behind the trees. An anxious dog from that ranch came over to challenge me (but we soon became friends). There were some pretty neat things that happened right there: a Pony Express Station, a telegraph station from the first transcontinental telegraph, and a battle between the Sioux and the Army at the station. All of that in what is now just outside their front yard.
    [​IMG]
  19. Powershouse

    Powershouse Flower Sniffer Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,500
    Location:
    Minn-knee-sooo-taaa
    Enjoying the journey, Bryan!

    Regarding politically correct historical markers - while traveling along the Minnesota River valley I encountered several marker locations with pairs of markers commemorating the Sioux Uprising; both sides have erected monuments telling their side of the story.

    Would you care to share your bibliography for this trip? This would be an interesting topic for my winter reading list.

    Kevin
  20. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    35,613
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    I started by reading these four books.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I also got three interpretive guidebooks from the National Park Service (you can e-mail a request for these). The guidebooks are good, but pretty are pretty brief.

    National Historic Trails:

    Western Missouri Through Northeastern Kansas 25 pgs

    Nebraska and Northeastern Colorado 61 pgs

    Across Wyoming 77 pgs

    Also a pamphlet on the Pony Express Trail from the NPS.

    After I sorted through those, I went to work searching out additional information on the web (this took some time because one thing would lead to another). I have a 3" binder full of web info I took along on the trip. I have a five page spreadsheet (that I need to refine) that pretty much has at least one clickable web link for each POI on my list. When I say "starter" web link, I mean there are often several different sites that have different information so there are often more sources to explore. For example, search "Fetterman Masscre" and you will find a bunch of sites with good info and sometimes varying presentations of events. Once I put up the GPS file to share, I will be happy to share the spreadsheet along with it.

    Once I got going on the trip, I picked up more material along the way.

    I also picked up a book of pioneer women's journals about their trip that I haven't read yet. Probably good information on day to day living.

    Now that I am home, I am still curious about some of the things I encountered so I don't think the research part of this thing is over yet.

    All that for an entertaining motorcycle ride across the plains. . .

    (Hope that keeps you busy for a while.) :lol3