Featured Event: The Pony Express Gravel Dash- by Guitar Ted
The Featured Event for this post is one that has equal parts history and challenge. The name of the event should give you a clue here, but if you weren’t very sharp in school when it came to history, here is a bit of a reminder/primer for you to chew on. This information was provided to us by the Pony Express Gravel Dash folks:
Our goal for the Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash is to provide the Gravel Grinder community with a challenging ride and an opportunity to explore some of the history of the great Mid-West. Modeled after other great gravel rides/races in this area, this event is for the self-contained minded cyclist who enjoys being pushed to their limits. At times this is a remote area but with enough towns along the way to resupply with 3 support crew locations. Experience the rich history of north eastern Kansas by riding 120 miles of gravel through the same territory and small towns as the Pony Express riders did over 150 years ago. There will also be a 75 mile loop for those who wish to ride a shorter distance.
This area was the intersection of 8 historic trails of significance – The Pony Express, Oregon, California, Mormon, Otoe-Missouri Trails, Fort Leavenworth Military Road, St. Joseph Road, and the Overland Stage Coach. Along the way you will cross paths with some of these trails indicated by stone markers and old structures of gone but not forgotten towns, campsites and school districts.
Marysville, Kansas was the first Pony Express Home Station for weary west bound riders after traveling over rolling hills and beautiful valleys. The original barn is now a museum in the downtown area. Feel like a modern day Pony Express rider as you saddle up and ride your trusted steed through the countryside and small towns of this beautiful part of Kansas. “REMEMBER – KANSAS IS NOT FLAT”
We have been an international event for each of the 3 years we have had the Pony, thanks to our friends from the North, including 8 states each year as well
The Origins Of The Pony Express Gravel Dash: I asked Paul Brasby, one of the founders of this event, to give us some background on how the Pony Express Gravel Dash got its start. Here’s what he had to say about that.
In early 2012, I switched over to gravel after decades of being a roadie and was instantly hooked on the beauty and simplicity of the back country gravel roads of Nebraska. With my job, I travel from North Platte Nebraska to Marysville Kansas, about twice a week. I already had a road bike in Marysville, so I slapped on a pair of Schwalbe extra thick tires and road a 1,000 miles of gravel roads that summer. I was blown away with the sheer beauty of the country side and its rich history of the early pioneers that crossed this section of the state. I kept stumbling across historic trail markers, hundred year old school buildings, and old limestone buildings. Large and small, barns and houses, some with rock fences from cleared farm land near the old homesteads. Riding the gravel roads in and around Marysville and Marshall County is truly, “A ride back in time!”
For a couple of years I pondered how I could share this amazing place with my gravel friends. What better way then to have a gravel race I thought! But that’s easier said then done when you live 250 miles away. This is where Brenda Staggenborg and the Marysville Chamber of Commerce comes into play. On a snowy February morning I had a chance meeting with Brenda. As I drove past the town’s Visitors Center, I saw Brenda shoveling the sidewalks in front of their building. I thought to myself, “now or never,” so I turned the car around, introduced myself and told her my idea of a gravel race. A month later Brenda and I had the blessing and backing from the board members and the rest is history! Coming up with the name was quite easy, Marysville has a very proud and rich history with the Pony Express Trail. The oldest building in town is the very first Home Station built for the Pony Express riders and their horses. Now it is a museum and was used for rider check-in the first 2 years of our event.
The next thing I wanted to know was what could riders expect at the Pony Express Gravel Dash. Paul gave me his take here:
We are a unique gravel event, that offers our riders an opportunity to ride back in time. They can experience the rich history of the Pony Express Trail and the trails that the pioneers used to cross this great land in the mid 1800’s. Our riders from year to year can enjoy a wide range of terrain during their adventure. There are tree covered river valleys, rolling prairies, steep hill climbs, canyons, lakes, State Parks and tight twisty roads, including two track and some single track along the way. The road conditions vary constantly from gravel, lime stone, and flint rock roads that make one excited to see what’s around the next bend in the road!
We were excited to have The Pathfinder Outdoor and Bike Specialist from Manhattan Kansas, join us as our main sponsor last year! They’ve been a great addition to our event and for our riders. They even gave away a Jamis gravel bike at the riders meeting! Thank You, Pathfinder!!!
Last year’s route was a big hit with the riders as well. We had so many people ask us to run it again this year. We decided to do a new route for 2017, but are adding some of the highlights that they liked about 2016. So, we are heading back to Alcove Spring Historical Trails Park. (Independence Crossing on the California and Oregon trail) This area was discovered by the Donner and Reed Party. Once again we are heading South, with a twist. We are heading Southwest this year instead of Southeast and adding a back loop for the 120 mile riders. Filled with old homesteads and an awesome stretch of B road that will make even the seasoned rider think twice about riding it!
So, there you have it. The Pony Express Gravel Dash will happen on September 9th this year. If you’d like to learn more you can find the Pony Express Gravel Dash page HERE or check out their registration which opens May 30th. RidingGravel.com would like to thank the Marysville Chamber of Commerce and Paul Brasby for all their help in getting the information and images for this post.