On the Pony Express Trail: One Man's Bikepacking Journey to Discover History from a Different Kind of Saddle

On the Pony Express Trail: One Man's Bikepacking Journey to Discover History from a Different Kind of Saddle

by Scott Alumbaugh
On the Pony Express Trail: One Man's Bikepacking Journey to Discover History from a Different Kind of Saddle

On the Pony Express Trail: One Man's Bikepacking Journey to Discover History from a Different Kind of Saddle

by Scott Alumbaugh


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The Pony Express has a hold on the American imagination wildly out of proportion to its actual role in the history of the West. The system of transporting mail to California by a relay of lone riders on swift horses ran less than eighteen months in 1860-1861 and failed by every measure of success. Nevertheless, it has become the most iconic symbol of the West.

Scott Alumbaugh was so taken with the Pony Express that at age 62 he bikepacked 1,400 miles of the trail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Salt Lake City, Utah. Alumbaugh’s journey took five weeks on a route that was mostly off-road, sometimes through remote territory. Along the way he came to see the celebrated Pony Express as a collection of fables based on a few historical facts and reshaped into a symbol of the spirit that “won the West.”

On The Pony Express Trail: One Man’s Bikepacking Journey to Discover History from a Different Kind of Saddle recounts Scott Alumbaugh’s experience bikepacking the Pony Express Trail during the summer of 2021. The narrative follows his day-to-day experiences and impressions—the challenges, the sites he visited, the country he rode through, and the interactions with the people he met—while taking a fresh look at the real Pony Express in the context of mid-1800s historical events along the trail: The Mexican-American, Utah, and Paiute Wars; the California and Pike’s Peak gold rushes; the overland emigration of hundreds of thousands to Oregon and California; the exodus of tens of thousands of Mormons to Utah; and the increasingly contentious fight over slavery along with the looming threat of civil war.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781493068692
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 06/01/2023
Pages: 314
Sales rank: 1,042,996
Product dimensions: 6.03(w) x 8.82(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Scott Alumbaugh is an avid cyclist who has ridden numerous ultra-distance events. His short fiction has been published in StoryQuarterly, Kestrel, Hunger Mountain Review, Black Fork Review, and Meat for Tea. His stories have been read onstage by professional actors at Stories on Stage Davis and Stories on Stage Sacramento. Before realizing his true passions lay far outside the courtroom, he practiced business litigation in Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Each year, hundreds of bicyclists undertake long-distance trips. Most never leave paved roads. A few, however, choose the lesser traveled dirt and gravel byways. But even among those few, many never take the time to really explore and appreciate the history of the country they are traversing. The destination rather than the ongoing experience takes precedence. Scott Alumbaugh is a rare exception. His prior research into all aspects of the Pony Express plus his willingness to absorb everything around him as he travelled this historic route is most apparent. You can't help but be drawn back into an earlier time before modern conveniences made transcontinental travel safe and routine. The dust, the scorching summer temperatures, and the wind - the constant wind - are ever present as Scott brings you with him on his adventure.” Don Weinell Author, Bicycling the Oregon Trail

"Scott Alumbaugh’s entertaining account of his six-week bikepacking trip along the Pony Express Trail isn’t just for cyclists, but for anyone who loves adventure and American history. The author skillfully interweaves his biking experiences with Pony Express history and the geography of the trail between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Salt Lake City, Utah. The real highlights... are the author’s stories of cycling the trail and of the personalities he met along the way. Like the covered wagon emigrants who shared the Pony Express Trail corridor, Alumbaugh found himself bogged in sticky Kansas mud, battled swarms of fierce mosquitoes, struggled with labor-intensive water crossings, sometimes lost his way, and made on-the-spot routing decisions that he came to regret. Also like those emigrants, he met generous, caring people along the trail who offered meals, shelter, and companionship. These heartwarming encounters are 'chicken soup for the American soul'." —Lee Kreutzer, retired federal archaeologist and author

"On the Pony Express makes readers feel like they’re tucked into Scott Alumbaugh’s saddle bags and along for the ride on the iconic mail route. He chronicles his adventures and missteps through the west’s expansive landscapes, extreme conditions, and complex historical legacy with a healthy dose of mirth and heart. You’ll laugh out loud, groan at the setbacks, soak in the kindness of strangers and marvel of all that’s transpired on this rollicking ride through the American West." —Ally Johnson, Executive Director of Bikepacking Roots

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