Pony Express rides through Carson

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"Rider coming!"

The words rang out Wednesday as the Pony Express rode through Carson City and into its third century.

The 21st annual Re-Ride of the Pony Express took off Tuesday from Sacramento on whirlwind 10-day ride of the old Pony Express trail.

The express riders came through Carson City about 15 minutes ahead of schedule on their 1,966-mile journey to St. Joseph, Mo.

Dale Ryan, president of the National Pony Express Association, said the group covers about 200 miles a day, each volunteer riding about five miles.

"If you're going to get to St. Jo in 10 days, you've gotta run hard," Ryan said.

His grandson, Justin, wistfully watched the riders Wednesday. Riders must be at least 14 years old, and Justin has one more year before he can join in a family tradition. He, his family and others will follow the riders across the state and many will travel the entire trail by horse and car.

Bob Moore, of Gardnerville, and his horse Whisky brought the mail mochila carrying commemorative letters to the Capitol.

"We're trying to preserve a little bit of history that we're fast losing," Moore said of his 21st year on the ride.

The commemorative ride draws around 550 riders, many of whom will ride more than once. Some of the riders traveled a long way to experience the Old West.

Peter Kwoka brought his daughter Diana and friend Wolfgang Kruschka from Berlin, Germany, to ride the Pony Express trail. Peter Binhack from Prague, Czech Republic, also joined the group.

Kwoka is president of a Pony Express Club in Germany.

"I love it," he said. "When we were little boys we played cowboys and Indians. When I grew up, I got interested in the history of the West."

He has collected "everything to do with the Pony Express" since he joined the German Pony Express Club in 1983. On a trip to Virginia City one year, he met some Pony Express riders who invited him to come on the re-ride. Kwoka has missed only one American Pony Express ride since 1987.

He was the only German to ride with the American group carrying the Olympic torch to the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. He rode about a mile with the torch in Nebraska.

"I can't name the feeling," he said. "It was once in a lifetime, and it made me very proud to be part of the history."

Every year, Pony Express clubs in Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic ride from Hamburg into the Czech Republic, commemorating the American Pony Express.

"We recreated this in the Czech Republic," Binhack said proudly. "Western riding has become popular and some people just said, 'We'll carry the mail.' Then we found out the American people had remade this. I wanted to see it just in the original state. Nevada is mostly in its original state."

This is Binhack's fourth ride with the Americans, and he always rides in Nevada, he said. Wednesday, he rode in Carson Valley and plans to ride again today somewhere around Austin.

This is a first American Pony Express trip for both Kruschka and Diana Kwoka.

Diana Kwoka is studying to be an aerospace engineer and said she doesn't know when she'll have another chance to join her father on a ride. She took her mother's place to ride.

"I wanted to be a part of the re-ride at least once," she said. "The year 2000 seemed like a good year to do it."

Riders are expected to carry the mochila into St. Joseph on June 23.

The Pony Express started in April 1860 and lasted until November 1861. It was never a financial success and was replaced by the railroad and telegraph. The national historic trail runs through California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.


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