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2011 XP - Pony Express Ride - St Joseph, MO - Virginia City, NV

Results by Rider:

1. Karen Chaton - 2040 miles
2. Dave Rabe - 1990 miles
3. Max Merlich - 1915 miles
4. Kathy Neunzig - 1910 miles
5. Debbie Boscoe - 1660 miles
6. Cindy Simcox - 1393 miles
7. Gary Pegg - 1255 miles
8. Janis Rochon - 1230 miles
9. Charlie Cauci -1220 miles
10 - Jacob Cukjati -1190 miles

Complete Results


Results by Horse:

1. Karen Chaton/Granite Chief +/ - 1110 miles
2. Kathy Neunzig/PAR Snickety +// - 1025 miles
3. Tracy Blue/Diego - 970 miles
4. Karen Chaton/Pro Bono D - 930 miles
5. Dave Rabe/Red - 895 miles
6. Chris Herron/Ambersun - 885 miles
7. Terri Tinkham/Oliver Twist - 760 miles
8. Karen Fredrickson/MRR Pyro -755 miles
9. Lynn Rigney/Predictable -730 miles
10. Debbie Boscoe/Scarlet Wind Song - 710 miles

Complete Results

Photos by Tom Noll

NPR interview with Tom Noll - Part 1

NPR interview with Tom Noll - Part 2

NPR interview with Tom Noll - Part 3

Sandy man talks about joining Pony Express ride re-enactment

Berenice Tynan photo
Oregonlive.com - Full Article

August 5 2011
By Special to The Oregonian The Oregonian
Berenice Tynan

On April 3, 1860, the first Pony Express rider left St. Joseph, Mo., with the U.S. mail in his saddle pack, heading for California. A hundred and fifty-one years later, on May 24, 2011, Max Merlich of Sandy, along with 35 other riders, left St. Joseph to re-enact that maiden ride and pay homage to those hardy pioneers.

"I've been asked why I would take on such a trip," Merlich said on his return to Sandy two months later. "I can only say it was the experience of a lifetime."

The 21st-century riders covered 250 miles each week as they rode through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. California was the final stop on the original Pony Express route, but the state denied permits for the modern ride because the route went through wilderness terrain.

"We traveled along the original route through plains, deserts and over mountains as much as possible," Merlich said, "and stopped at the few Pony Express stations still standing." Time and civilization have obliterated much of the trail and stations.

Merlich traveled the 1,900-mile route with a support crew that included his ride partner, Dave Rabe; a lady wrangler; two farriers; a veterinarian; a mechanic for the pickups that followed; and a massage therapist, plus two mules and one horse...

Read more here:

July 31


Earlier this month I finished the 2011 XP when I rode into the streets of Virginia City Nevada. The ride started in Elwood Kansas on May 24 and ended in Virginia City on July 17. For me, the ride started slightly east of Elwood when we rode the horses to the bank of the Missouri River, and for me, the ride ended in Placerville California when we trailered the horses over the Sierra on the Pony Express Trail to the spot that was the western terminus of the Pony Express Trail 150 years ago in July 1861. The ride was an experience that I will never forget.

I hoped to ride every day of the 2011 XP and I did ride every day. Most days I rode shorter distances than the AERC 50 mile distance. I saved the fifty-mile days for when crew access was difficult and riding fifty miles was more practical. Starting the XP, I knew that my horses were unlikely to hold up to day after day of fifty miles on the trail. Frank is a senior horse in his 20s. Whiskey is a younger horse with limited experience and Whiskey has faced chronic metabolic laminitis. Whiskey was very reluctant to stand on his feet in January. However, Frank and Whiskey are my two horses and I chose to recognize their limitations and ride them to their ability. Frank and Whiskey are my partners on the trail and I wanted them both to share my journey from the Missouri River to California.

Before the ride, I asked a friend of mine from Vermont, Cindy Davis, if she would crew on the 2011 XP and Cindy said yes. We talked about goals for the trip and my goal was to get the two of us, the two horses, and my dog safely to Virginia City and then home, to ride many miles on the XP trail, to experience the history of the trails, and to enjoy ourselves along the way. We accomplished all of our goals.

Riding every day gave me the opportunity to experience the full range of terrain on the Pony Express Trail and riding the shorter distances enabled me to have the experience without overtaxing my horses. After riding the XP, I think that the horses can go twenty-five miles or so nearly every day almost indefinitely. Even so, my two horses finished the ride considerably leaner, and considerably fitter than when we left in May. Whiskey no longer seems to have sore feet from laminitis. Riding the shorter distances gave Cindy and me the time to visit various historical sites along the trail, to meet local residents and experience local culture along the trail, and to visit other interesting places such as Carhenge in Nebraska. Riding shorter distances also enabled me to reduce the crew duties for Cindy.

Other riders had other goals. Karen Chaton had the goal of riding her two horses every mile of the trail from Elwood Kansas to Virginia City Nevada. Karen accomplished her goal through a combination of excellent horsemanship, experience, a dedicated crew, two outstanding horses, and a measure of luck. Other riders had the goal of experiencing the adventure by riding a day or so each week. Most riders achieved their goals even if their goals had to be modified part way through the journey. At one time, Dave Nicholson wrote, "If you are planning on a relaxing vacation, riding your horse along the byways of America, when everything is right, you can do that. If you plan on riding every day and are along for the competition, you will need to plan differently." I think that I found a reasonable blend of the two.

Like any adventure, some riders prospered along the trail and others struggled. Some riders dismissed their crews, some crews wanted to dismiss their riders, some riders left early, some riders changed horses partway through the trip, some riders are satisfied, and some riders have some regrets. What I do know is that the riders who made the whole journey from the start to the finish are glad that they endured to the end. I also know that I enjoyed the company the other riders for the entire journey and I wouldn't hesitate to ride with any of them again.

The 2011 XP was an eclectic blend of characters. Some riders are quite well-to-do while others are true gypsies. What everyone had in common is a desire to ride to Virginia City. We combined our skills and worked together on our trip west like the wagon companies did 150 years ago.

I have a professional job with Idaho Power and my coworkers worked with me beginning in the spring of 2010 to insure that I could take over two months away from work. While on the trail, I posted some photos and a journal on Facebook which a coworker has placed on a weblog. The web address is:


and you can see the pictures and read the journal in chronological order starting with the following address:


The whole 2011 XP was an amazing adventure and I am still working to sort my thoughts. What I do know is that I am so thankful that I recognized opportunity and acted. Riding the Pony Express Trail during the past few months has changed my life.

Best Regards,
Tom N

Tom Noll, Frank, and Whiskey
Friday, May 20 2011

En Route - Beatrice Nebraska


Beatrice Nebraska - Today, we are taking a break from driving. After three days driving from Idaho, we are less than 200 miles from the trailhead. We had rain and snow in Wyoming, rain in Nebraska, and head winds the whole way. We are weary from driving almost 1500 miles and the horses need a break from riding in the trailer as well. We took three days to drive what will take about eight weeks to ride.

Along the trip east, we took time to stop at Shoshone Falls and a Pony Express Station in Gothenburg Nebraska. Shoshone Falls stopped the upward migration of the salmon. Standing on the ground, we could feel the ground shake from the water pouring over Shoshone Falls. We spent the nights at fairgrounds in Rock Springs Wyoming and Ogallala Nebraska.

Last night we receive almost two inches of rain from thunderstorms all through the night. The whole experience of the lightning, thunder, and rain on the roof was magical. Tonight, the weather may put on another show, but this morning it is overcast and pleasant with temperatures in the 60s.

Tom N

Read more of Tom's blog...

Karen Chaton, Granite Chief +/, and Pro Bono D
Thursday, May 19 2011


Hello everyone! I'm going to try and update every week or so during the next couple of months. For those that don't know me, I'm an endurance rider who lives in Nevada. I have somewhere around 27,000 miles and have been riding endurance for 17 years. I have two horses that I am currently competing on - Granite Chief, and Pro Bono. Chief is the grey and is a 16 year old Arabian with close to 11,000 miles, and Bo is the bay, just turned 13, has close to 3,000 miles and is also an Arabian. I love riding both of them and look forward to sharing some of our adventures with you!

When you read this, we will be on our way to Kansas for an incredible adventure of a lifetime. We will be riding on the 2,000 mile Pony Express trail this summer. We have been planning this trip for more than a year and I'm excited to finally be on our way. I've got lots of experience traveling with the horses -- and they too are experienced travelers. I got new health certificates just before heading out so we should be good to go through all of the entry ports along the way. We will be practicing good isolation practices to ensure the horses have no contact with any other horses. Fingers are crossed that the current EHV-1 virus outbreak will be well under control in another week and that it will be safe to ride my horses.

I'm really fortunate to have a lot of great support from some of the best companies in the equestrian market in this huge endeavor. I am looking forward to using the products and reporting back about how they are working for us.

Happy trails, Karen

Read more of Karen's blog...

Gary Pegg, Gus' Mountain, Beam's Golden Copy, Janis Rochon, Walking Winds Aspen, and Sam
May 8 2011 (Janis)


The excitement is building… we are almost ready to go! Searl’s truck has undergone preparations, the ”Condo” is finished, the horses are reasonably conditioned and have all been vaccinated. The last thing the horses need is a new set of shoes. Final packing this week then we’ll take another look at the check list to see if we’ve missed anything, and if we did, well, that’s what credit cards are for

May 10 2011 (Gary) Lift off minus one week

A year and a half ago when we first heard about the opportunity to go on the ride, (due to bureaucratic and logistical difficulties this I will refer to this event as “the ride” in these posts), it sounded like a grand adventure, 200o miles in eight weeks, two thirds of the way across the country, fifty miles a day. Someone else to do the planning, all Janis and I had to do was get up, saddle up and get going each day.

It soon became apparent that there would be considerable planning required on our part. Thanks to Janis, a financial plan was implemented that is making the money aspect of the trip itself fairly painless. Initially we bought one entry, one of us would ride and the other drive the truck each day. Then our neighbor, Searl, became interested in accompanying us and volunteered to do the driving. So we began looking into buying more riding days as all the full entries had been sold. We were able to buy the first three weeks from a teacher that wouldn’t be able to join the ride until mid June. Eventually we were able to buy more dates for the end of the ride. Now we have a full 40 day membership plus 29 more days. For the other 11 days we plan to either rest or try and pick up more days as the ride progresses.

The second big issue has been our four horse with living quarters trailer, affectionately known as the “condo”. The condo had been lurking, crippled, in the barn, the victim of a freeway accident. To make repairs required that we totally unload and strip the living quarters, mid tack room and part of the horse compartment down to the frame, which is contained inside the walls, so that structural members could be inspected and repaired. The hollow shell was then transported to a fabrication shop that did a great job in making repairs. In addition to repairing and reinforcing the original structure they added an exterior frame under the trailer. The condo is now stronger than it ever was.

Naturally the stripping down of the trailer, which I thought I could do in a day, ended up taking a week. Then, I told the repair shop I wasn’t in a big hurry, they got jammed on another job, and it was six months before the condo came home. The two weeks I allowed to put everything back together took another couple of months or more. When it was time for our shakedown cruise to Utah last fall I didn’t even have the LQ done yet. That trip did expose some items that we wanted to change or add so when we got home the condo made another trip to the fabricators, this time it was only for a couple days. Because we don’t know how severe the conditions are going to be on this trip, we’ve opted not to have the exterior repainted until our return. We ended up giving the whole interior a face lift, though there will always be a touch here and there that I want to do, we are pretty satisfied with our end result.

As far as horses, Sam and Mack were obvious choices; both have considerable traveling and endurance experience. Aspen and BG having survived the Utah trip are the backup horses. I was concerned about the girls, both have been to the mountains a couple times, Aspen has done a few limited distance rides but BG had no endurance experience. We took them to Eastern Washington for the Home on the Range ride in March to see if they could get through a 50 mile event. It was kind of a hurry up, last minute decision to go. I made all the rookie mistakes, abrupt change of feed, lack of conditioning, new tack. Aspen struggled a little with a belly ache after the first 16 miles, but was able to recover and continue, BG handled it like a champ. Found a few more things to change on the condo.

As the date approaches I’ve been suffering serious second thoughts as the scope of this ride changes from a dream to reality. Decided a fresher truck might be a good idea, we sure didn’t want to get stuck with a broke down rig in the vast wilderness of the Rockies. We found and purchased an ’04 chevy, dually, crew cab, with all the bells and whistles and low miles which we’ve named “Searl’s Truck”. New tires, brakes, hitch, trailer wiring all is ready to go. How much hay and grain do we need on hand? Where will we find more? How will the horses hold up? Can I hold up? I don’t know, I guess we’ll just have to see. If I may quote one of the leaders of this ride “There’s not much that can’t be fixed with enough cash or a credit card with a big limit.”

Oh yeah, the blue truck is hooked up to the Yurt in the barn, I may need one of you to come and get me – I’ll tell you where the credit card is when I call.

Read more of Gary and Janis's blog...

All the Planning - Lauren Horn
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Just 6 more weeks and we will be heading east. There is still so much to buy, organize and plan. It is becoming a little overwhelming and we haven’t even tested out the new rig yet.

Lynn Rigney, who is driving her rig with 2 horses, has the route and stops planned. My son, Chad and his friend Calvin will be my crew members and even my mom, Jeanie is going to volunteer to crew, at least for the first half of the 10 week trip.

The horse trailer is at the shop getting all the “endurance accessories” put on it. Stuff like water tanks, Hi-Ties to tie the horses, bucket brackets and even a modification of the sewer tanks to prevent mishaps.

Read more of Lauren's Blog...