Thursday, May 23, 2013

Following the Pony Express

Written by Karen.
Highway 50 in Nevada often follows the route that the Pony Express took while in existence for only 18 months starting in 1860.  Called "The Pony", the privately-owned Pony Express carried information and mail over 2,000 miles from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California in ten days.  Despite the high cost - up to $5.00 per ounce carried - the Pony Express was never a money making enterprise.  It was put out of business with the invention of the telegraph in 1861.  A telegram could traverse the same distance in 10 seconds.  

As we meandered across Highway 50, we stopped often alongside the road to read the historical markers and see what was remaining of the Pony Express route.  We saw a mixture of reconstructed wood monuments and jumbled stone remains that marked the various relay stations.  During the time the Pony Express was in operation, there were relay stations (to change horses and riders) established every 15 to 35 miles over the 2,000 mile route. 

At one of the roadside museums, we read the following advertisement from 1860 looking for Pony Express riders:  "Wanted.  Young, skinny, wiry fellows.  Not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily.  Orphans preferred."

If you do the math, there were between approximately 57 and 133 relay stations established across the 2,000 mile Pony Express route.  Each rider would carry a mail bag full of letters and other communication to the next relay station. And then to the next relay station.  And to the next.  And again and again until the final destination was reached.  

It was a different time then.  Today there is instant - and perhaps too much - communication available at our fingertips.  But, as I stand here looking across at the endless vistas that to this day are still devoid of contemporary communication, time does seem to blend seamlessly with the past.  

Although it has been 153 years after the inconceivable notion of being able to receive news and communication within ten days, today I am without cell coverage or internet capabilities on the Pony Express trail.  The years between 1860 and 2013 thus blend together; things have not changed all that much on Highway 50.       


David in SF said...

Ahhh, those wide open skies and open road- nothing like an extended road trip!

Observers of Life said...

Hey David!

You said it! There's nothing like being the only two people around for as far as the eye can see! This is a pretty big country!