ENOA — It was nearly five hours late, but the mail went through on Wednesday as the Pony Express rider officially turned the mochila over to California riders at 5:15 p.m.
By this afternoon, the mail should be safely in Old Sacramento after traveling 1,966 miles from St. Jo, Mo.
Despite breaking his back three years ago, Steven Haslam Neilsen, 71, carried the mochila for about a mile outside of Fallon early Wednesday morning.
Neilsen’s great-great-great-uncle, Bob Neilsen, was one of the original Pony Express riders who had ridden through Genoa.
“I get to live my family’s history, and teach living history to the school kids in the area,” Neilsen said of why he loves Pony Express. “Every time we’re doing something like this we’re making history. Not a lof of people can live their family’s history like this.”
His daughter, Jamie Neilsen, has also ridden legs of the Nevada division of the 1,966-mile trip.
“My granddaughter has been vigilantly practicing,” Neilsen said. “She’s got four more years before she can ride with a chaperone. She can hardly wait.”
Traveling across eight states, more than 600 riders participate in the ride.
Many of the 30 spectators at Genoa Court House on Wednesday were riders, some who had been following the ride across an entire state like Neilsen.
“It is part of my duties to escort the riders across the route,” National President Lyle Ladner of Frankfort, Kan. said. “I get to meet and greet the riders and show them some support from the national level.”
After riding his own mile-long strip outside of St. Joe, Ladner has been following the entire ride across the country.
He has been a member of the National Pony Express Association, Inc. since 1995 and has not missed a ride since.
“You just feel good every time you ride,” Ladner said. “You just always feel like a part of history.”