Part 13: Bicycling the Continental Divide—Mexico to Canada—Pony Express
By Frosty Wooldridge
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. [i.e. watching television for endless hours] Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” — Steve Jobs
(Wayne, Dave and Gerry ready to ride each morning.)
Without a doubt, Jobs proved that we live on this planet for a very short time. As you can see from all the quotes in this series, each author pens something of himself or herself to bring their wisdom to your life. Get out there and live your adventures that benefit your well-being, fulfill your heart and make you happy.
One of my friends loves to play a lot of golf. It consumes him. He said, "There is always another great adventure waiting for you whether pedaling, writing, advocating or playing with Sandi. Can't see how you could pack much more into your 'earth time'. I recommend never taking up the game of golf as it will suck the will to live right out of you!"
Actually, I support any activity that consumes any person because it makes them happy. I honor all paths and choices to adventure. The key: get on your path, passion and joy. It may be macramé, cards or painting. Good! Go for it!
Next morning, Gerry and Dave pedaled up to our campsite on the plains in the early morning hours. Wayne and I packed our bikes and stood ready at the pasture gate where we camped last night.
“Morning mates,” Gerry said. “Did you see that sunset last night?”
“Sure did,” said Wayne. “Lots of pictures, too. Are you ready to ride?”
“Let’s make some miles before the wind kicks up,” said Dave.
(Wayne, Gerry and Dave riding into a slight headwind across a high plains road.)
We pedaled along high plains with antelope grazing and young ones tagging along with their mothers. We immediately summitted another Continental Divide pass crossing at 8,000 feet.
We enjoyed a fabulous gravity-powered descent into an enormous valley with views over 50 miles in the distance. Again, we climbed up and crossed over the Continental Divide for a second time in the day. We reached Muddy Gap where we turned into a gas station for water. The entire joint sported signatures from patrons on the ceiling and all the walls.
(Water stop at Muddy Gap. Bikes lined up against the building. If you want to feel like the old pioneers, mountain men and explorers, a bicycle provides the next best rendition on what it was like to explore the old west in the 1880s.)
We headed north from Muddy Gap with rolling hills, clear sky and 20 mph headwinds. We met a Swedish couple pedaling coast to coast.
We stopped at Split rock where the Pony Express once housed a horse stable. Buffalo Bill rode for the Pony Express and narrowly escaped with his life at one point taking a 322 mile ride with a double shift when the other rider fell ill. Bill saw Indians chase him, but outran them on his swift “Express” horse. The Pony Express ran from 1861 to 1862.
“The Pony Express provided a mail service delivering messages and mail from St. Joseph, Missouri across the Great Plains, over the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada to Sacramento, California by horseback, using a series of relay stations. During its 18 months of operation, it reduced the time for messages to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to about ten days. From April 3, 1860 to October 1861, it became the West's most direct means of east–west communication before the telegraph was established and was vital for tying the new state of California with the rest of the country.”
The 1,900-mile (3,100 km) route followed the Oregon and California Trails to Fort Bridger in Wyoming, and then the Mormon Trail (known as the Hastings Cutoff) to Salt Lake City, Utah. From there it followed the Central Nevada Route to Carson City, Nevada before passing over the Sierras into Sacramento, California.
The Pony Express Mail service existed briefly in 1860 and 1861. The Pony Express mail cost $5.00 to send a 1/2 ounce letter. During his route of 80 to 100 miles, a Pony Express rider would change horses 8 to 10 times. The horses ran at a fast trot, canter or gallop, around 10 to 15 miles per hour and at times they were driven to full gallop at speeds up to 25 miles per hour.
“At 15 years of age William Cody was employed as a Pony Express rider and given a short 45-mile run from Julesburg to the west. After some months he was transferred to Slade's Division in Wyoming where he made the longest non-stop ride from Red Buttes Station to Rocky Ridge Station and back when he found that his relief rider had been killed. The distance of 322 miles over one of the most dangerous portions of the entire trail was completed in 21 hours and 40 minutes using 21 horses.” Wikipedia
(Frosty standing with John Wayne at the only bar in Jeffrey City, a ghost town that dropped from 6,000 people to 47 after mines closed.)
You can still see the remains of the stable and the trail cut into the plains by the riders from where we stood on the overlook at Split Rock. I can’t help but mention how cool it felt to be pedaling through history.
From there, we pedaled into an abandoned mining town of Jeffrey City, which once held 6,000 people, but today, only 47 and they mostly inhabit the single bar in town. We struck camp at an abandoned pavilion with picnic tables and roof over our tents.
(Gerry with John Wayne. Don’t you think they make a handsome couple?)
Frosty Wooldridge has bicycled across six continents - from the Arctic to the South Pole - as well as eight times across the USA, coast to coast and border to border. In 2005, he bicycled from the Arctic Circle, Norway to Athens, Greece. In 2012, he bicycled coast to coast across America. In 2013, he bicycled 2,500 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Continental Divide, 150,000 vertical feet of climbing and 19 crossing of passes. He presents “The Coming Population Crisis facing America: what to do about it.” www.frostywooldridge.com . His latest book is: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge, copies at 1 888 280 7715/ Motivational program: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge, click: www.HowToLiveALifeOfAdventure.com
Live well, laugh often, celebrate daily and enjoy the ride,
6 Continent world bicycle traveler
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