The first rider to take on the 27th annual Pony Express Trail reride left St. Joseph, Mo., at 4 p.m. Sunday. More than 500 riders and 1,966 miles later, the ride will end June 22 at Old Sacramento's Pony Express Plaza.
About 155 riders will traverse the 403-mile route across Nevada carrying a mochila filled with commemorative letters and personal mail. They will dress in traditional uniform of black hat, red shirt, yellow bandana, blue jeans and boots.
Horsemen and women today are inspired by the bravery and daring of horsemen who, more than 100 years ago, challenged the route of the Pony Express Trail to deliver mail. Though only delivered 18 months by The Central Overland and California Pikes Peak Express Company, the company made such an impression, history was destined to repeat itself.
Members of the Nevada Division of the National Pony Express Association maintain the trail each year for easy passage. But after a long and harsh winter, parts of the trail are beyond mere human repair skills.
"The Kingsbury Grade trail is pretty bad," said Larry McPherson, president of the NPEA Nevada Division. "With the recent weather, it's pretty worn out. We need professional help."
To raise funds for the project, member Jill Andrews has hand-tooled a leather and suede roping saddle to be raffled Sept. 10. Tickets are available from any Nevada Division member for $5 apiece. Winner need not be present to win.
"This is a one-of-a-kind, custom-made saddle," Andrews said. "It's a good, all-purpose seat with padding."
Andrews used more than 27 square feet of flat leather to create the saddle, which also has lettering of the National Pony Express Association tooled into it.
"They can e-mail me for tickets and I'll send them out," Andrews added. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
"There's a lot of history here (in Nevada)," she added. "The money will be used to preserve the Nevada portion of the trail. This will make people more aware of it."
Scheduled arrival times at specific locations may vary by up to two hours, early or late. A rider should arrive at the Rangers Station at Fort Churchill about 6:15 a.m. June 21, on the north side of the cemetery. From there, riders will travel 31.9 miles to Carson City, to transfer the mochila at Third and Carson streets about 11:15 a.m.
From Third and Carson, a rider will head south to Genoa, where they will pick up the trail along Kingsbury Grade, eventually to meet others at Fridays Station at Harrah's in South Lake Tahoe.
The public can keep tabs on riders on the Internet at www.xphomestation.com or by calling the hotline at 783-0462.
Also keeping tabs on the riders are members of the Sierra Intermountain Emergency Radio Association. Ham radio operators follow a distance behind the rider to help transmit their location. They are also available in case of emergency in remote locations, where cell phones may not work.
"They are great people," McPherson said. "I don't know how we got along without them before. They're a great asset to have."
The public is asked to be aware of the rider and drive cautiously when near them.
McPherson will ride both of his horses, Sundown, 20, a Spanish Arabian, and Cheyenne, 12, a Tennessee Walker, over two sections of the trail. Both horses are geldings.
The NPEA pays $280 to the Bureau of Land Management to "use" the portion of trail which runs across BLM property in Nevada, Wyoming and Utah. As far as McPherson knows, it is the only fee the national association is required to pay to complete the reride.
"We are a nonprofit organization that encourages education. This is the second year we've had to pay to use our own land."
n Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at email@example.com or 881-1223.
What a ride
What: 27th National Re-ride by the National Pony Express Association; 145th Anniversary of the founding of the Pony Express
When: Re-ride began Sunday in St. Joseph, Mo., ends June 22 in Old Sacramento
Riders: More than 500
Web site: www.xphomestation.com
Also: Saddle raffle fund-raiser
Tickets: $5 each
Available through Sept. 10
Call: 629-0087; 885-7875; 577-4626
By the numbers
Stops in Nevada: Nine
Riders in Nevada: 155
From: Ibapah (east) to Fridays Station (west)
Miles covered: 403.4