BRIDGEPORT — A rider, wearing a red shirt and black hat mounted his horse in St. Joseph, Missouri, June 10 at 3 p.m. and began the 41st annual Pony Express Re-ride.
“This is the 159th anniversary of the Pony Express,” National Pony Express Association president Dean Atkin said Thursday. "The re-ride is an effort to keep the history alive.”
With the mochila saddle bag carrying 1,000-1,200 pieces of actual mail, riders carry the mail two or more miles before passing the mochila off to the next rider.
“We are the only organization, besides the United States Post Office, that can carry U.S. mail,” National Pony Express Association member Jack Davies said.
The route from St. Joseph to Sacramento, California, is 1,966 miles and goes through eight states (Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California), Atkins said. The route was only used for 18 months, from April 1860 to October 1861 when the transcontinental telegraph line connected the Missouri River and the Pacific Coast and put the Pony Express out of business.
The young riders carried mail from home station to home station, with relay stations in between. Riders would change horses about every 10 miles and travel as much as 100 miles a day.
Today, about 600-750 riders take part in the re-ride changing riders and horses about every two miles.
“It’s fun to take part in the re-ride,” Everett Loomis, who has ridden in the re-ride the last 13 years, said.
Riders made their way up from Colorado, north out of Sidney and made their way through Mud Springs, past Courthouse and Jail rocks, through Bridgeport, past Chimney Rock, to the Scotts Bluff National Monument and into Wyoming Thursday.
The riders do not stay on highways, they take country roads, and even follow trails, Davies said. They try to stay as close to the original route as possible.
The National Pony Express Association meets year round and works with the National Parks Service and give presentations in schools.
This year’s national convention will be in Julesburg, Colorado, Sept. 13–14 (for more visit nationalponyexpress.org).
When the Pony Express was in full swing the fastest mail that was delivered was following President Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address. The mail made the trek across country in seven days, 15 hours.
The re-ride will, like the original Pony Express, take 10 days to get across the eight states and deliver the mail to its destination.