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West Like Lightning, The Pony Express

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by ajayhawkfan, Sep 21, 2020.

  1. ozarksrider

    ozarksrider Adventurer

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    At Fort Laramie there was this stove in the general store. It's exactly what I want for a cabin I'm fixing up. Looks like a great place to set a pot of beans on top of for day while I'm smoking a brisket.

    stove.jpg
    #61
  2. ozarksrider

    ozarksrider Adventurer

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    This is a map that shows the various forts, Laramie/Kearney/Bridger, in relation to each other.

    forts.jpg
    #62
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  3. ozarksrider

    ozarksrider Adventurer

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    Here is a pic from the top of Scotts Bluff.

    western nebraska pic.jpg
    #63
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  4. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    I was in the country all weekend with limited internet access. I'll add to the report tonight.
    #64
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  5. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    September 10th, 2020 Riding day 5, 6th day on the road

    Morning 38 degree, get to a comfortable mid 50 and then drops to about 36 as we get to town.

    Today was one of the more frustrating days while traveling because of a snow drift causing us to turn around and having to do more blacktop than planned. The location is noted on the tracks.

    The routes for The Pony and the trails leave Casper area and have a climb all the way to South Pass. Much of the route we are riding is on top of or very close to the exact trail. Seeing what the riders was is one of the reasons I like following history. Once we leave the the city we are on gravel roads quickly.

    Prospect Hill is about 25 miles outside if town all along the Famous Pony/Oregon Trail. It rose 400 feet in elevation in a mile.

    [​IMG]

    I doesn't look like much for the horses of the Pony and the Oxen and Mules for the overlanders it was a substantial climb. From the top of the hill, emigrants looking from east to west along the southern horizon saw the Pedro, Shirley, Seminoe and Ferris mountains, as they are now named, and the Sweetwater Rocks to the southwest.

    Next seen is Independence Rock (Pic taken from Wyoming Start Park Website). The rock got is name because if was a major landmark on the trail and the emigrants should reach the rock by July 4th if they wanted to beat the first snowfall. On Aug. 1843, John C. Fremont. He carved a large cross in the rock that was later blasted off by Protestants who considered the cross to be a symbol of the Pope and Catholicism on July 4 1847. Fremont was a Protestant.

    [​IMG]

    Five miles from Independence Rock The Devil's Gate, It is a gorge cut by the Sweetwater River. None of the Historic Trails were through the gap. In 1856 Mormons brought the suffering members of the Martin handcart company to this location before continuing to Salt Lake City. The Mormons have visitor center here. I was wanting to visit the center but it was closed because of Covid.

    [​IMG]

    Not far from Devil's Gate along the Sweetwater River valley was the Three Corssing Pony Station. It was located along the base of the far mountains.

    [​IMG]

    This valley is where Buffalo Bill Cody did his famous 322 mile ride at the age of 14. Here is the story: Buffalo Bill Famous Ride

    Our bikes at the Sweetwater River overlook:

    [​IMG]

    The days started out so well. Lots of great roads to this point. We head west about 30 mile to a spot where we turn off the black and get much closer to the actual route. Are are going along a fantastic, scenic stretch of gravel and we hit a snow drift that covers our route as far as we can see. There is no going thought. We have to go back and take highway through the South Pass and to the ghost town of Atlantic City:

    [​IMG]

    Atlantic City is a good place to stop and check out the historic structures and go to the cafe/bar for lunch. Get_Bent got a slice of apple pie and said it was fantastic. I know my sandwich was as well.

    South Pass crosses the continental divide. If this pass was not there, the US may never have had enough citizens cross the divide to lay claim to the far west states. The South Pass is a relativity easy route from the east to the west. For those wanting more information on the South Pass: South Pass Info

    Atlantic City has a population of 37 so not quite a ghost town. It has had a number of booms and bust over its 150 + years. It started as gold mining camp in 1867. It boomed to a town of about 2,000 people but the gold soon dried up. In 1884 it boomed again a French engineer started hydraulic mining and hired 300 people to work the mine. He build 25 miles of sluiceways to provide water for the operation. The engineering was not done properly and the water had too much slope and destroyed the equipment and spilling water and gold along the way. The company went bankrupt in 1893. The last boom was in 1933 when a mining dredge operated on the streams near Atlantic City. Some $700,000 worth of gold was discovered along 10 miles of Rock Creek. During the depression a few miners moved in and starting working claims as a few of the mines reopened. Like the other booms, this one was short lived and by 1950 only a half dozen people lived in town.

    It looked like storm were heading our way after a late 3:00 lunch. We decided the best course of action was to blacktop it to town for the night. We only get a few raindrops because the rain passes in front of us. The road is wet and temperature drops to to a damp 36 degrees. Everyone want to check in quickly and take a cold shower.

    Total 285 miles of which 185 was blacktop.
    #65
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  6. McB

    McB Long timer

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    The 'Muraski from KC' called and told me the story yesterday.
    #66
  7. McB

    McB Long timer

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    Great ride and story, Eddie.
    #67
  8. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    They are a nice family but it sure was a surprise seeing him.

    Thanks Barry.
    #68
  9. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    Thanks for taking us along the PE trail, great stuff. You guys certainly did not have an easy trip with the weather.

    I was just reading the link you posted about Buffalo Bill. It says that ride was way shorter than 322 miles. And he actually never rode it either, just made up the story. A fascinating character, Bill. Quite the life he lived.
    #69
  10. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    Thank you.

    Weather made this part of the trip a true adventure.

    I appreciate you indicating you read the link. I didn't know if people would. Because of the book, West Like Lightning, and the information about this ride and the way he promoted The Pony, I purchased his autobiography. I'm sure it will be a fun read. I wonder how true it will be.
    #70
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  11. LewisNClark

    LewisNClark Long timer Supporter

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    When I did part of the PE trail 3 yrs ago I did stop at the Mormon Welcome Center (more like a museum) that had some great displays of oxen harnesses and actual carts that the Mormons used. Highly recommend if anyone goes by the site.
    #71
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  12. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    The museum was closed but the grounds were open. To think about pulling a cart 1000 miles to a new world is mind blowing to me.
    #72
  13. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    and I very much appreciate you adding the links :-)

    With the background information, something like Independence Rock comes alive, rather than just being a landmark in the scenery. Realizing the significance of making it there in time, gives a whole new dimension to the place. Like you said in your other post, mind boggling when you think about what sort of journey they set out to.

    any idea or any numbers on how the odds were that one would make it successfully?
    #73
  14. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    It is estimated 400,000 used the trails west with about 20,000 deaths. That works out to 10 dead per mile or one death every 176 yards. The majority of deaths were from disease, accidents were next and then Indian attacks.
    #74
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  15. LewisNClark

    LewisNClark Long timer Supporter

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    Ajay - hope you dont mind me posting these... Carts at Mormon Welcome Center /Museum and Buffalo Bill's Ranch/Museum:

    Replica of Mormon hand pulled carts:
    DSCN1756.JPG
    Wagon 1: Conestoga wagon
    DSCN1777.JPG
    Wagon 2: Conestoga wagons were very heavy, could partially float across a river, and were desirable due to keep cargo staying relatively dry. The wagon box was what they attempted to make waterproof. There were 3 or 4 main wagon manufactures each wagon with a name.

    DSCN1780.JPG
    Blacksmith Shop: Believed to be all original tools from the era. Gradually blacksmith and wheelwrights were setting up shops about 2 days apart from each other. Most of the first towns started up where blacksmith shops were setup...and visa Vera. A really good wheelwright could make one wagon wheel a day. Broken wheels were always repaired with a new spoke(s)...just to hard to make one from scratch. Wheel bearings were not thought of until many years later. Grease for wheels was usually from boiling down a bears carcus to extract a thick grease for wheel shafts. Everyone carried a small bucket of grease for wheels...almost like lubing a motorcycle chain. Apparently most of the blacksmiths made all their own charcoal to create hot fires to melt steel to repair or mold new parts.

    Most “wheelwrights” on the PE trail could not make a wheel from scratch, but knew now to simply repair them....making an entire wheel took a lot of math and craftsmen skills.

    If you have 20 minutes to waste here is a link to how to be a wheelwright, it is impressive...but this wheelwright has the benefit of automated tools.



    DSCN1782.JPG
    Wagon 3: I would bet these wagons would approach 2,000 pounds, with the steel rim wheels it’s easy to see why the wagon wheels left deep tracks across the prairie.

    DSCN1785.JPG

    Wagon 4: It was believed that all the wagons had inter-changable axels and wheels irregardless of manufacturer. Normally the only thing that broke were (wooden parts) wheels and axels. Better wagons had larger wheels in the rear to help distribute the weight towards the front of the wagon.

    DSCN1786.JPG

    I was borne in the wrong century.
    #75
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  16. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    Thanks for posting.
    #76
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  17. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    Sept 11th, 6th day of riding. 7th day on the road. The weather is cool in the morning and comfortable all day.

    Because of potential weather we pulled off the Pony route and went to Rock Springs, Wyoming for the night. We take blacktop and intercept the route about 35 miles NW of Rock Springs. Once on the route we are following IN the hoof prints of The Pony and ruts of the emigrant trains that came before us.

    [​IMG]

    The route went on like this for almost 20 miles. There were no intersections, no houses, no cattle. It was a morning of great riding. I could find no Pony stations along this stretch however there had to be some. The only signs seen were these every mile of so.

    [​IMG]

    The crew:

    [​IMG]
    @ozarksrider, @dajuice, @Get_Bent and me

    [​IMG]

    I have been leading the group the entire time. Leading is not always the place to be when road conditions change. We were riding along on roads similar to what you see here and I see a muddy rut. I have gone through 100's of muddy ruts to this point so didn't think much about it and through it I went. Or I should say I entered the rut. The next thing I know I'm on the ground. It felt like the front wheel locked up with mud or the front wheel hit something buried that stopped my forward momentum but I don't know what happened. I still don't know what happened. It could be as simple as I was not paying enough attention and down I went. I did bang my knee pretty hard that for the rest of the week I could not use that let to get up on my pegs. Once up I was OK but trying to stand hurt. It is 18 days later and my knee still hurts. I'm very grateful I was wearing Klim protective gear. That get-off without the gear could have ended the ride.

    I'm a little more cautious after kissing the ground and come across this 15 minutes later:

    [​IMG]

    This caused a problem for everyone. It does not look like much in the pic. There is a decline into mud before the culvert (see some footprints in mud), the culvert and then a steep incline after the culvert. I, still leading, should have stopped and check the line. I didn't. I when through on right side of picture. My front wheel went trough the mud and up on the culvert. My rear tire, in the mud, could not grip the slick aluminum. I stopped and the bike fell over. I didn't have enough speed. The next two rides stalled getting up but the rest of us were off the bikes and pulled the bike up the steep incline. Only @Get_Bent made it up without any assistance after seeing everyone else's approach.

    We should have stopped and displaced the mud with large flat rocks. If we did there would have been no problem getting over the slick aluminum culvert.

    Next Granger Stage Station:

    [​IMG]

    Granger Station was built in 1850 and served as a stage stop along the Overland Trail. In 1860-61 it was a Pony Express Station. Horace Greeley pasted though Granger on July 1859 and stated the following, “White men with two or three squaws each are quite common throughout this region, and young and relatively comely Indian girls are bought from their fathers by white men as regularly and openly as Circassians at Constantinople.” He notes there are a few old mountaineers living in the area that are prosperous by trading with the emigrants. The emigrants need to trade old tired horses and oxen for fresh ones whenever they can and the mountain men make a good living doing the trading.

    Mark Twin passed though here in 1861 although didn't mention it in his book Roughing It.

    After we get thought our morning our next stop and a place I have been wanting to see if Fort Bridger. Fort Bridger, started in 1842 as a trading post by Mountain Man Jim Bridger. With the arrival of the Mormons disputes arose between them. In 1853 Mormon militia went to arrest Bridger for selling arms and alcohol to Indians, against federal law. Bridger escaped going east. The Mormons took over the fort, stating Bridger's partner sold it to them. Bridger denied the clam.

    The recreated main building of Bridger's trading post:

    [​IMG]

    It was a small trading post with a stockade fence around a couple building.

    Relations between Mormons and the US Government deteriorated. President Buchanan sent the army to install a new governor to replace Brigham Young. To prevent the trading post to be occupied by the US army is was torched on Oct. 7 1857. The army wintered at his location that year. In 1858 the US Army established Fort Bridger.

    The officers quarters are impressive:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The fort was a Pony Express station. The stable is still standing.

    [​IMG]

    Mark Twain's comments from Roughing It (they are more fun to read then mine): "At five P.M. we reached Fort Bridger, one hundred and seventeen miles from the South Pass, and one thousand and twenty-five miles from St. Joseph. Fifty-two miles further on, near the head of Echo Canyon, we met sixty United States soldiers from Camp Floyd. The day before, they had fired upon three hundred or four hundred Indians, whom they supposed gathered together for no good purpose. In the fight that had ensued, four Indians were captured, and the main body chased four miles, but nobody killed. This looked like business. We had a notion to get out and join the sixty soldiers, but upon reflecting that there were four hundred of the Indians, we concluded to go on and join the Indians."

    Our route after Fort Bridger started out as a wonderful, scenic gravel and dirt road. After 25 miles of travel we hit a locked gate. We backtracked a bit and headed west as soon as possible. We had to got on I80 for a little bit but got on a blacktop side road though Echo Canyon. When I got home I researched a possible route. It is on on the tracks in red. The red track is closer to the actual trail however, Echo Canyon is also worth seeing.

    The route, once entering Utah is blacktop to Salt Lake City.

    [​IMG]

    There are fast twisties up and down the mountains once you enter Utah. I'm not a canyon carver, now my friends are more then willing to lead us into Salt Lake City. There were lots of bicycles riding up and down these roads. Looked fun going down but up, no so much.

    We stayed in a nice place in Downtown SLC and had a good dinner and drinks and toasted a fun trip because it was our last day together. Tomorrow morning @Get_Bent and @dajuice head back to the Twin Cities and @ozarksrider will work his way home to KC. After 1000 miles of company, I'm sorry to see them go. The next 1000 miles, the rest of the way to Sacramento, I'm on my own.

    236 miles. Great weather all day. No more snow or mud after today!
    #77
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  18. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    Sept 12, 7th day riding, 8th day on the road.

    Weather low 40 in the morning and warming quickly to the mid 80s. Very pleasant riding temperatures.

    Salt Lake City is about halfway between St. Joseph and Sacramento. It was enjoyable riding with friends for the first half of the trip. I'm riding along from now on.

    The Pony goes through the heart of SLC and then south. I was going to stay as close to the orinional route though town but the stop and go traffic was too slow. I grabbed a highway south and picked up the trail a Camp Floyd.

    From SLC until I reach California I will be traveling in the Great Basin. The Great Basin is an area of square miles where water flows into the area but does not leave. In other words, it is a bathtub without a drain.

    [​IMG]

    At Camp Floyd, stage coach and pony stop, I picked up the Pony Express Trail National Backcountry Byway.

    Backcountry.jpg
    I was looking very forward to this part of the route with a slight bit trepidation. Most of my motorcycle travels have been solo but they were not in the desert along a route with almost no services (there was water at one Simpson Springs and at the National Wildlife Refuge I assume I could have found water as well), no facilities and I expected almost no traffic. I was wrong about almost no traffic. The first 1/4 of the route had some traffic. It was the first day of antelope season so there were some hunters and campers until Simpson Springs. After Simpson Springs I don't believe I saw another person until the very end of the route.

    The route is 133 miles but you must have enough fuel to travel at least 200 miles because there is no gas at the beginning or end of the route.

    Today's ride will have to be continued tomorrow.
    #78
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  19. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter Supporter

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    Good stuff Eddie:D
    #79
  20. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    Thank you.

    One of these day we have to run into each other and I hope it is soon.
    #80