Pony Express Ride – St. Joe to Salt Lake City

  • Post category:Planning
My initial ride collection on Ride With GPS

I’ve set a date for starting my Pony Express Bikepacking trip. My initial plan is to start from St. Joseph on Monday, May 31 and arrive in Salt Lake City sometime around July 15.

(Actually, this is my second plan. My first plan was to scout out the trail from Salt Lake City to Carson City. As I write this, I should be on Day 3 of that ride. Unfortunately, I crashed and broke my clavicle just days before that ride. It should be good to go by May 31—I find out the week before—but I’m setting plans in motion assuming the doctors will give me the go-ahead.)

In any case, I’m giving myself six weeks to ride 1300 miles, give or take, which equates to a little over 200 miles per week, or 30 miles per day. That sounds very leisurely, but I figure it’s going to be like my training rides. I’ve ridden my fully-loaded rig anywhere from 20 miles to 70 miles in a day, often seeing speeds down to 4 mph and approaching 15 mph or more (on a flat road). No matter what, though, at the end of the ride I always end up with an average of around 10 mph. Hilly or flat; cold or hot; short or long; it doesn’t matter. Between coffee breaks and potty stops and whatever the hell else, it always comes up around 10 mph.

By the same token, in order to make an average of 30 miles per day over six weeks, I expect to ride around 50-70 miles per day. That being said, I don’t view this trip as a race, and I am not approaching it as an endurance test. I see it as a (mostly) off-road historical bike tour. As such, my planned pace should:

  • Allow for time to visit historical sites along the way
  • Take into account unforeseeable delays (in particular, rain in Kansas and Nebraska)
  • Enable me to rest at least one day every week to do laundry, re-provision, clean the bike, etc.

Rough itinerary (N.B. All dates after May 31 are extremely malleable at this point)

  • St. Joe, MO to Kearney, NE: May 31 – June 6
  • Kearney, NE to Julesburg, CO: June 8 – 13
  • Julesburg, CO – Casper, WY: June 15 – 22
  • Casper, WY – Salt Lake City, UT: To be determined

To get to the start, I’m taking Amtrak’s Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Kansas City. The downside of this plan is that as soon as I arrive, I need to unbox, then pack my bike and trailer and gear and ride 65 miles from Union Station to my bed and breakfast in St. Joe. Given the riding I plan to do, a 65-mile day shouldn’t be a huge deterrent. Nevertheless, I’m still going to work on finding a better way to get to the start. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

I have been making daily ride plans on Ride With GPS, which you can view or subscribe to here. The rides are all tentative and will no doubt change, both on rwgps and once I actually ride them. But this is a good initial set of itineraries.

If anyone wants to join me for any part of this, please get in touch and we’ll see if we can meet up along the route.

FWIW, I plan to take the rest of the summer off to spend with my son who is going away to college in August (and also not to try riding through the Great Basin during the hottest months of the year), then return to Salt Lake City to finish the ride to Sacramento in September. I’ll post more about that after this first ride, but I’d love to have company on that ride as well if anyone is interested.