For those in St. Joseph, the Pony Express is something that can sometimes seem contained within the city limits, with museums, statues and events dedicated to the mail service synonymous with the Old West. But for Jan Bennett, the Pony Express reaches far beyond St. Joseph, 2,176.8 miles to be exact.
At age 37, Bennet a former biking road racer from Dallas, first made the long trek from Missouri to California along the trail that was originally used by the delivery service in the 1860s.
“I love bikepacking, but I don’t handle the cold well, and the high desert just really spoke to me,” Bennet said about her initial trips to the trail. “I wanted to figure out a route through there and realized that the Pony Express was still largely intact.”
It took six weeks to complete the trail on bicycle, with Bennet carrying everything she needed on her back including a tent, sleeping bag, food and water.
“I’ll just wake up in the morning and have breakfast and get on the bike and ride until, generally I say I’d settle in about 5:30-ish,” Bennet said. “Many times I would plan my days around where I wanted to camp at the end of the day. I’d ride to there, set camp and do it all again the next day.”
The cyclist said she’s always considered herself an outdoorsy person, and the Pony Express Trail gave her plenty of time to enjoy the natural wonders of the stretch.
“It’s just truly remote,” Bennet said. “There’s so much history that’s still visible out there. All the markers along the trail, all the historical markers and all the buildings, a number of them have been restored and are still kept up, but a number of them have just kind of been left to mother nature.”
Bennet said she is always looking to share the experience of the trail with other people through her online map which featured rest stops, hotels and geocaching spots along her log of the long journey. She said she’d like to see more people add their own reports to the online trail log, even if they are only able to tackle a section of the route.
“It starts out in a pretty populated area, so if you’re not real comfortable yet on trips like this, it’s a great way to kind of ease into going into remote areas because you kind of work your way to the high desert.”
While St. Joseph natives may find themselves able to live among the history of the Pony Express without much thought, Bennet said traveling across six states was an experience that gave her a new perspective on the short-lived, yet noteworthy mail delivery service.
“When you’re out there riding it on your own power, you realize there were people 100-plus years ago that were doing it on foot or on horseback, and they were doing it year round,” Bennet said. “So for me when I’m out there, it’s just kind of a wake up to what we’ve come from, where we are now, but at the same time, kind of how quickly it’s all disappearing.”