Pony Express upgrades annual re-ride tracker

Rain, mud, and even some snow didn’t stop hundreds of riders on horseback from delivering a thousand letters from Missouri to California in June.

Lisa Agoitia and her horse, Harmony, leave a Lake Tahoe post office. (Photo courtesy Jerry Bestpitch)

The 2,000-mile trek across eight States in ten days was part of the annual re-ride on the Pony Express National Historic Trail, which commemorates the mail service path used from 1860-61.

But now something else hitches a ride inside the mochila with the envelopes: a GPS locator. That’s how people from around the globe track the progress of the route in real-time, 24 hours a day.

The National Pony Express Association (NPEA) and National Park Service (NPS) unveiled new features on the tracker map for the 38th annual event, said NPEA’s webmaster Petra Keller, who has been a re-ride participant eight times.

She said even though there have been different versions of a tracking device for the last few years, they’ve made many improvements to the tracking maps this year, including adding the expected re-ride route, scheduled major exchange locations, and a legend.

The map is also interactive, so you can change the topographic map view and click on the exchange locations to get a detailed schedule of arrival times and places.

A map at www.nps.gov/poex tracks riders carrying mail on the 38th annual re-ride of the Pony Express NHT.

During the ride, there was another map online that showed rider location updates every 10 minutes.

“We have some design changes that we want to do for next year because of some confusion … because it’s not 100 percent intuitive to realize what those numbers [for clusters of rider locations] mean,” Keller said.

They also want to adjust the zoom, refresh, and ping settings, because they are “trying to improve based on feedback,” she added.

NPEA even has a National Pony Express Hotline (1-855-809-8589) that gets updated with reports from the map, riders, support staff, and Radio Ham Operators. Stories, photos, and status updates are also added to a “Reports from the Trail” webpage at www.nationalponyexpress.org.

I just wanted to thank everyone for all you did to make the re-ride so successful. It is all of you (horses included) that made it happen and would not be possible without all your support and hard work. I’m sure there [are] more stories to be told around a warm camp fire, swapping tales of victory and defeat. Tales to tell about ‘When I rode in the Pony Express!’ Thanks for all your dedication and hard work.

– Dean Atkin, NPEA National President

Snow from a June storm remains on the Pony Express route in Nevada. (Photo courtesy Sue Cauhape)

Many of this year’s stories told of the bizarre weather conditions, a bear encounter, a runaway (and soon found) horse, and even a marriage on the trail the day before the couple picked up the mail.

Among the riders in California were a few visitors from Czechoslovakia, who are participating in the 2017-18 Czech-Australian-USA Pony Express international ride. The ride started in Prague in May, and some special letters were forwarded to Missouri for the re-ride from June 5-15. The Czech commemorative mail and some NPEA mail will be transported by boat to Sydney by April 19, 2018.

To learn more about the annual re-ride and international ride, visit www.nationalponyexpress.org/annual-re-ride.

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