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West Like Lightning, The Pony Express

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

  1. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    Thanks for sharing. That was a time consuming error.
  2. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    I didn’t know that about mountain lions. I have seen one in the wild. The guys hunting were after antelope, I stopped and asked.

    You are right, a mechanical problem was a thought going through my mind from time to time while alone. Glad I was on a month old 1250 GSA.
  3. mtncrawler

    mtncrawler Long timer Supporter

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    Joining late....fantastic read and route. I do all solo touring now and can appreciate those long, empty stretches, and some of the mind games that go on...but's it's SO worth it! Carry on...:thumb
    LewisNClark, ajayhawkfan and Ladybug like this.
  4. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    Thanks for joining. Perfect description, mind games. And it is worth it!
  5. Get_Bent

    Get_Bent Long timer

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    Sorry Ed! I'm late to the party here.
    As mentioned I was lucky to be invited along on this adventure of history, travel, hearty travelers, mud, snow, and the shame of horizontally positioned motor bikes.

    Brant and I were unable due to life, the plague, and time to not be able to start in St Joe like the proper KC gentlemen of our troupe. Our part of the adventure started in Minnesota and a quick back-road and gravel run to the Bad Lands.

    Lucky for us, we did find a spot to squeeze in our tents at Sage Creek. That campground is rustic and unregulated. You setup where you fit and you will have neighbors. Prairie dogs, bison, people that snore with gusto.

    The trip there is fairly uneventful save for the acceptance of a "Performance Driving Award" and realizing that camping in the Bad Lands would be sparse on a holiday weekend. On this trip I played with a newer service called Relive. There are a few bugs to workout yet but so far it makes for a handy way to present both the feel and a few key images of a day's trip.

    So for us, here's
    Day One's Video Summary:
    https://www.relive.cc/view/vMv8Vpyx1N6

    Day two was a treat. We started early to brisk temps and picked up part of the South Dakota Adventure Trail. Through dusty creek beds, sketchy baby-head trails, and wild horses we rode. Picking our way through and giggling the giggle of the blessed as we cleared each minor adventurous obstacle of the morning. Thank you much to Jack Backer for putting the TSDAT together.

    At the end of that section it was off to Custer state park and a bit of lunch. The temps dropped along with spatters of rain across my dusty visor so it was time to break out the electrics. Few decadent sins has man created than that of toasty warm electric gloves and jackets.

    I had never been to Needles highway and glad we detoured up to do it.

    On the way from Needles to our eventual destination "Scottsbluff" the wind picked up, aggressively so. For some it was a pushing and yawning side wind. Other times a tail wind comfortably enough that I could stand, at well beyond posted highway speeds, with almost no wind buffeting.

    Nebraska, bless its heart, has long stretches of straight, flat, open road which leaves one with time to ponder in one's helmet. A thought occurred while buzzing around the twisties of the Needles highway that was to become a frequent topic of discussion over Bloody-Mary's in the nights to come.

    A Thought Experiment: Assume a highway, curvy as we like and two vehicles, "M" motorcycle, and "C" a car. The highway, closed track, whatever is measured exactly middle of the track/lane at 10km. Assuming M and C may maintain the same speed, we are not racing for time, but instead use their most efficient line given their vehicles relative size difference (width). What will the odometers read on each vehicle? My contention is the C will have an odometer reading higher than A. That difference X would be a ratio between the vehicle width of the M and the width of C multiplied by the number of directional changes of our race track. Discuss, but somewhere else please, don't hijack this thread with my mental nonsense. :)

    Day Two's Summary
    https://www.relive.cc/view/vevYDpQGnJq

    On to day Three and Four:
    Snow. no matter how delightful your electrics can be, snow is the damper of all occasions. While we were out enjoying the Nebraska nightlife, enjoying one of Ed's forced marches, go on a "walk" with him sometime and you'll understand, the snow started. The temps dropped and despite liberal consumption of fermented beverages the wise decision to sit it out a day was voted on and seconded. The day off allowed the working among us to catch up on emails, ponder politics and policy, and most importantly to you good reader, should chicken fried steak be served with brown gravy? It was a very philosophical day.

    When snow had melted and the temps returned to something reasonable, the adventure continued.

    A quick look around the Scotts Bluff monument to get our "riding legs back" and it was off to the Pony Express trail proper for Brant and I. As you have already seen in previous posts, that proper trail was a snowy muddy mess of smiles.

    Of even more interest to you the reader I am happy to report the TrailMax rear tire performed admirably in slick ruts of slop. The rear mind you, I was running a Wild 3 knobby up front. Happy to report my trip up the muddy hills was mostly uneventful aside from a slight muscle sprain from all the "puckering". I also owe a few minor deities apologies for all the blaspheming as I naturally assumed mechanical carnage was about to occur. It didn't, at least not for me.

    Having traversed the worst we "dusted" ourselves off, and rode on into Rock Springs.

    Day Three/Four's Summary:
    https://www.relive.cc/view/veqzGQjDrBv

    Day Five.
    A good day of riding has wide open views, historic sites, good food, challenges, and notable destinations and day five had them all. We were on the most rustic bit of the Pony Express that Brant and I would have time to do. Complete with washouts and the interesting problem of how to traverse muddy tires and smooth galvanized steel. My solution of "forward momentum" and no directional changes worked out for me. Please note that statement should not be considered advice.

    Historic stops along the way, forts, and snow covered roads slowed us down and required some rerouting but no one complained. A good trip has all of that. Temps were all over the board, one moment you shed your electric heated gloves for comfort and the next moment you wish you hadn't. Snow and gravel, sun and twisty canyon carving new blacktop peppered the day until we rolled into Salt Lake City. Having never been I was deeply impressed with that particular city. It'll be a stop in the future for sure.

    A day like that required celebration and so we did. For Brant, Chris, and myself it was our last day on the trail. Personally one of my favorite.

    Day Five's Summary:
    https://www.relive.cc/view/v4OGj8jx7mv

    Day Six and Seven.
    All good things come to an end, the trick is making the end pretty good too. Brant and I left early as we are inclined to do. Both of us enjoy seeing the sun rise on some beaucalic vista. A hearty breakfast of Jimmy Dean Sandwiches and gas station food and we were off to a long day. Our ambitious thought was to reach Buffalo WY. It would be a haul and wouldn't have much time for fun roads. Thankfully we had a few spots of mountain and canyon enjoyment.

    I had plans to treat Brant to a fine lunch at the Jackson Lake Lodge just south of Yellowstone, a slight detour but worth it. Covid, being what it is, wrecks havoc on plans and while my research showed that the restaurant at Jackson Lake Lodge was closed didn't set off any warning bells as I was doing said research at 11pm at night. What I didn't see online was that Jackson Lake Lodge was closed for the season. Sorry Brant....

    We re-routed and I took the second position (sweep) in well earned shame. We did find lunch much later and it was tasty.

    Eventually we arrived in Buffalo and found lodging. Cocktails at the Occidental Hotel and a damn fine BLT and we prepared ourselves for the slog that would be day 7.

    Day Six's Summary
    https://www.relive.cc/view/v1vjAPBjPYq

    Day Seven.
    After my culinary failure with the Jackson Lake Lodge I spoke glowingly about Talley's Silver Spoon in Rapid City. While it was open there was a 45 minute wait for a table. Again in shame I rode sweep. Gas Station burritos for breakfast.

    After that, what to say, 700+ miles from Buffalo across SD and home. We opted for highway instead of interstate. I finished an audiobook "A Gentleman in Moscow" (I recommend it)

    All in all what a memorable trip.
    More photos here: https://www.instagram.com/entropywrench/

    A blessing in my life is being able to attend and participate in scenic rides like this with people you can trust and rely on.

    Thanks Ed, Brant, and Chris.
    DYNOBOB and ajayhawkfan like this.
  6. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    @get-bent The Relive is a nice addition to report. Thanks.

    Thanks for the summary.
  7. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    Sept 13, 8th day riding, 9th day on the road.

    Today the temperatures were comfortable all day. The morning started in mid 60 and warmed to mid 80 with low or no humidly.

    I went north to pick up the pony express trail. I turned onto the route. There was a kiosk and farm road going in all directions. The tracks going west were on were not on my map. I started to follow and they quickly turned to sand and then deeper sand. After about half a mile the track never improved and I was still not on a named road. I decided to back track to Highway 50 and pick up the Pony Express trail down the road. I didn't realize I would be on blacktop all morning.

    First stop was old telegraph repeater and maintenance station which serviced this segment of the Transcontinental line, which was complete between Sacramento and Omaha in 1861. The line was abandoned in 1869.

    [​IMG]

    A little further west along this road was the Cold Spring Pony Station.

    [​IMG]

    In it's day an important stagecoach station on John Butterfield's (1861-1888) and Wells Fargo and Company (1866-1869) Overland mail and stage companies historical line along the Simpson route between Salt Lake City and Genoa Nevada. Fresh horses, blacksmith services and wagon repair facilitates available here. The Pony Express Cold Springs was constructed in 1860.

    Next Middlegate Pony Station. The station is now a cafe/bar and a small motel. It was a great place for lunch.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Next station, Sand Springs located at Sand Mountain. The station was also a stop on the California trail and stage stop.

    [​IMG]

    Sand Mountain is a 1 mile wide, 3.5 miles long and 600 foot high sand dune.

    [​IMG]

    The black dots on the dune are side x sides:

    [​IMG]

    At Fallow, NV I'm able to got off the black top. For the next 35 miles I'm on sand and not another soul around. Some of the sand is powder. It is a long slow ride at times. I believe it took over 2 hours to go the 35 miles. I exit this stretch of sand at Buckland Station.

    [​IMG]

    The building above is was built in 1870 from lumber taken from Fort Churchill when it was abandoned.

    Mr. Buckland purchased land here in 1859. In 1860 he build a large log cabin and became a stop on the overland stage. In 1860 Buckland because a remount station for The Pony. The same year the station because a assembly point for volinteers that took place in the Pyramid Lake War.

    Around the corner from Buckland station are the ruins of Fort Churchill.

    [​IMG]

    After the Pyramid Lake War a fort was needed to protect The Pony Express Riders, early settlers and a supply depot. It was built in 1860 and last until 1869. Average strength was about 200 soldiers.

    After the fort it was another 15 miles of gravel and sand until meeting up with blacktop. A stay at Virginia City for the night.

    Virginia City is not on the Pony Route however I have read so much about the Comstock Lode. I wanted to check the area out. The silver and gold coming out of this area was incredible. You can see the richness in the homes and buildings.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    St. Marys in the Mountains Catholic Church. This build was build in 1876 after the great fire of 1875 burned the second church that was built in 1870. The 1870 church replaced a church that was built in 1864 because a large influx of Irish. The 1864 church replaced a 1860 church that blew over two years later.

    [​IMG]

    A mile down the mountain from Virginia City is Silver City is the Gold Hill Hotel and Saloon:

    [​IMG]

    The Gold Hill Hotel is the oldest continuously operated hotel in Nevada. I wanted to stay here but they were full. I did visit the restaurant and bar (above).

    In 1862 Mark Twain began writing for Virginia City’s newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise, in 1862. “Virginia City had grown to be the ‘livest’ town, for its age and population, that America had ever produced,” It is said his favorite bar was the one at Gold Hill Hotel, then know as “The Riesen House”.

    Total miles today 293
    bomose, liv2day, Cannonshot and 8 others like this.
  8. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    While walking from Virginia City to Gold City the sun was setting though the smoke from the California wild fires.

    [​IMG]
  9. LewisNClark

    LewisNClark Long timer Supporter

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    Good to see some Pony Express station preserved but sad to see others that probably won't be visible in 100 years.
    From what you saw do you think something think a smaller bike (WR250 or BMW G310GS) with enough extra gas and water, would be advisable bike for the route?
    Thanks for sharing the Ride.
  10. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    It could be done on a smaller bike. However, It would not be my first choice. I own a WR250. Much of the off blacktop route would be easier. However, there are stretches that the blacktop is the same route as The Pony and and that would get uncomfortable for me.

    Another consideration is time and miles. When riding my WR, any day where I ride over about 180 miles it starts to gets tiring. On this trip, I rode 2200 miles in 8.5 days. I did as few as 226 miles and as many as 381 (through Nebraska). I would not want to do that many miles in the same amount of days on my WR.

    My friends and I all have above average big bike skills. I would not recommend this route to someone with limited off road skills especially if they were going alone. That same person may not have any problems with a smaller dual sport bike.

    To me, A 650 would be a very good choice for most riders with some experience off road. It is lighter for the gravel and sand and misc. obstacles but powerful enough for the backtop.
    MizzouRider and LewisNClark like this.
  11. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

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    Sept 14, 9th day riding, 10th day on the road. Last day on The Pony Express.

    Today started off cool in the mountains in the high 50, warmed to high 80 around Tahoe, cooled again as I climbed the mountains in California and warm again at Sacramento.

    I'm sorry to report today's part of the Pony Express Route is covered by blacktop.

    Over the years I have collected 1000's of waypoints. I would read something, find it interesting and make a waypoint. Sometime I have to visit the waypoint to remember why I saved it. Years ago I was reading an article that listed the oldest bar in every state. I mapped everyone of the bar listed and try to visit while traveling. Today's route took me past the oldest drinking establishment in Nevada, Genoa Bar and Saloon, established in 1853.

    [​IMG]

    The Pony riders when right past this place and didn't have time to stop. Mark Twain drank here as did Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. Raquel Welch visited and left her bra. I'll have to come back because it was closed when I rode by.

    I rode up and over the mountains and by Lake Tahoe and disappointingly didn't see much because the smoke from the wild fires. During this part of the trip I never saw any mountains although I was in them.

    My first stop in California was Moore's (Riverton) Station. This was the sight of the first remount station east of Sportsman's Hall (below).

    [​IMG]

    Next stop Sportsman's Hall. Part of the building below is original.

    [​IMG]

    The original Sportsman's Hall. It was a hotel, restaurant, stage stop and a home station on the pony express.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The information on the plaque states, “This was the site of Sportsman’s Hall, also known as Twelve-Mile House, the hotel operated in the latter 1850s and 1860s by John and James Blair. A stopping place for stages and teams of the Comstock, it became a relay station of the Central Overland Pony Express. Here, at 7:40 A.M., April 4, 1860, pony rider William (Sam) Hamilton riding in from Placerville, handed the express mail to Warren Upson, who, two minutes later, sped on his way eastward.”

    Due to the gold mines of the Mother Lode and the Comstock Lode of Carson Valley, Sportsman’s Hall flourished. Every man, wagon, and stage going either way that did not divert through Pleasant Valley, passed directly in front of Sportsman’s Hall. The Hall became noted for its superior quarters for teams and teamsters. Seven daily stages stopped at the “Hall” to change horses. As many as 500 horses could be stabled there with more in the corrals. The dining room could accommodate as many as 150 people. Hundreds of freight schooners often camped along the road, lining it from the Hall to the bend west of the Hall. Sportsman’s Hall was a home station of the much romanticized Pony Express.


    At times when freight was delayed due to storms, as much as two tons of bullion might be stacked in sacks in the hotel.


    A goal I has for this trip was to see Sutter's Fort. I did get to see the outside but it was closed do to Covid. I was disappointed.

    [​IMG]

    The pony pass right in front of the State Capital in Sacramento while it was being built. Ground breaking was Dec. 1860 at an estimated cost of under $75,000. 16 years later if was completed at a cost over $550,000. Not much has changed when Government give a cost estimate. Note the haze in the picture from smoke.

    [​IMG]

    My goal! The B. F Hasting and Company Building built in 1852-53, the end of the Pony Express or beginning if going East.

    During April 1860-May 1861, the Alta Telegraph Co. and its successor, the California State Telegraph Co., were the agents here for the Central Overland Pony Express, owned and operated by the firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell. The first overland journey eastward of the Pony Express was begun from this historic site on April 4, 1860.

    [​IMG]

    The mail did continue on boat from here to San Fransisco but officially the this was the end/beginning location of the Pony Express.

    Across from the building is a Pony Rider Statue:

    [​IMG]

    My dirt covered 2020 1250 purchased 1 month before the ride. When I got home 15 pounds of dirt was washed off.

    [​IMG]

    Total Miles 155 today.

    Total Miles for the entire trip from St. St. Josephs to Sacramento 2200.

    It took 8.5 days of riding. The Pony's goal was 10 days. Total 9.5 days, one day in Scott's Bluff because of snow.

    The first half of the trip was with friends, the second half solo.

    This was a fantastic trip. I enjoyed the ride itself, the history, the scenery and the people I met along the way. I also enjoyed the time with my friends.

    Now it is time to read and prepare for my next historic tour. As mentioned I'm considering the Butterfield Stage but also Zebulon Pike's (Pikes Peak) trip west to the Colorado Rockies and then south into New Mexico. A couple other ideas, retracing the battles of General Grant and Daniel Boone's life. Riding east to Burks County PA where Boone was born and follow his path as he went west to Defiance, Missouri where he died would be interesting to me because he was my first boyhood hero.
  12. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer

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    Very good RR. Thanks for taking the time to post it. Enjoyed following along. Good way to break in a new bike. Not sure I’d take my GSA through that deep soft sand for 35 miles. Might be picking it up a few times too many.
  13. Aces 6

    Aces 6 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Over

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    Excellent RR!
    Great ideas for future rides. Safe travels and keep them coming!
  14. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    ^^^ Great capture @ajayhawkfan, what a fantastic shot of the open terrain. Really enjoyed day 6, great riding and some very cool history on what happened between the Mormons and the government way back when, appreciate you pulling in content from Twain too - what a great add to the report!

    I like reading statements like these in reports, always adds more of the adventure element to things - especially when you're flying solo and services aren't around. That trek though the desert sounds fantastic.
  15. LewisNClark

    LewisNClark Long timer Supporter

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    Your description is most interesting

    It took 8.5 days of riding. The Pony's goal was 10 days. Total 9.5 days, one day in Scott's Bluff because of snow.“

    100+ hp Bike compared to all the Pony Express horses in about the same number of days.
    liv2day likes this.
  16. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Just finished the report, good on you for making the trek all the way! What a seriously great piece of our history to experience and see parts of first hand.

    Appreciate the time and effort you put into crafting the report, especially all the historical pieces - that adds so much value when reading through each of the days.

    Keep the knobby side down on your future rides @ajayhawkfan :D :D
  17. ryno23nv

    ryno23nv Been here awhile

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    Enjoyed the ride report.
    Sand Mountain just outside east of where I live.
    LewisNClark likes this.
  18. gagnaou

    gagnaou Long timer

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    excellent RR, makes me want to go out and ride now...
  19. LeeSch

    LeeSch Adventurer

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    I very much like how you bring together history and motorcycling in your various rides. I hope to be in a place to have these kind of adventures in my life at some point. I'm not bright enough to come up with my own cool themes, so I'll probably just blatantly re-trace your tracks. Thank you for providing waypoints on your reports.
  20. Aces 6

    Aces 6 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Over

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    Ordered book after reading your RR.
    Looks like a good read.
    Recommend Grant by Chernow and Grant's autobiography before your ride.

    Kids were less than enthused at the same statue 6 years ago....
    DSC06539.JPG


    Of course they weren't digging the Little Bighorn on the same trip...daughter was learning about the indigenous genocide etc....timing wasn't optimal.

    DSC06512.JPG
    MizzouRider likes this.