“WANTED: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily.” I meet none of the prerequisites to qualify for this trip as the 1860 handbill advertised. Yet I’m intrigued by the history of the Pony Express Trail and reckon it’s as good a way as any to get to California.
Trip planning begins with an internet search and buying a couple of Pony Express books. There is a published auto tour route that sticks to paved roads, but there is also an unpaved section, mostly in Utah and Nevada. The route somewhat follows the trail and passes near the 184 relay stations spaced about 10-15 miles apart along the 2,000-mile trail covering eight states. I find out that most of the relay stations are long gone and build my trip around those that remain.
My starting point is the Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph, MO, where the original stables were in 1860. There is a ferry no more, so I head west on Highway 36 atop my 2007 R 1200 GS Adventure and cross the bridge over the Missouri River into Kansas. This is a good road with minimal traffic even in the summer, and I pass the occasional big iron cutout of a Pony Express rider silhouetted on the hills along the highway. In Marysville I encounter my second life-size bronze Pony Express statue. Turning north, I stop at a rare Pony Express station at the Hollenberg ranch before entering Nebraska.