‘Wanted: Young skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.’, this is how one of the job recruitment ads back in 1860 read. Would you have dared to apply?
The job of the Pony Express trail rider was one of the most dangerous and heroic jobs in American history. They had to carry the U.S. mail on horseback for 1,800 miles between Sacramento, California and St. Joseph, Missouri. It took them 10 days, on fast horses, during a period when the stagecoach required double the time for the same journey.
But this was more than just a job. It was the adventure of a lifetime set in an age when the conflicts with the Native Americans were common and the gangs of robbers were active. Many of these young men never made it out alive.
Fast-forward 150 years, and the world has changed beyond recognition. In our digital era, the greatest adventure seems to be finding the willpower to disconnect and unplug even for a few hours.
During my travels over the years, I heard people complaining how modernity ruined places to the point adventure wasn’t possible anymore. But I don’t believe ‘adventure’ needs to be synonym with ‘near death experience.’ To each historical period, its own. And for us, getting back to nature, to a serene state of mind, and in touch with our inner selves seems to be one of the biggest challenges we have to face.
That’s why contemporary interior design sees empty space as a luxury and spending a few days wandering around a 17-million acre open-air museum can be the best gift you can possibly give to yourself and your family.
30 years ago, Life Magazine described Nevada’s Highway 50 as the ‘Loneliest Road in America’. They didn’t recommend driving it unless you were totally confident in your survival skills.
Nevada tourism officials, however, took advantage of this negative advertising. And nowadays, if you want to brag about your adventurous spirit, you can request your ‘Loneliest Road in America, Official Highway 50 Survival Guide’ (includes a road map and guidebook) at PonyExpressNevada.com. Of course, your set of survival skills isn’t as vital as it used to be, but you’ll still have to be capable of facing the surreal intensity of the wild, wild West, stare into the endless scenery and let your eyes get accustomed to seeing nothing but sagebrush-carpeted valleys. Do you think this is easy for somebody overwhelmed by information overload? Think again.
In Nevada, The Loneliest Road in America roughly follows the Poney Express trail, and you can find more information about it at ponyexpressnevada.com.
Scattered along the way are rock art sites, old mines and ghost towns that still look as they did more than a century ago. The Great Basin National Park, Nevada’s largest national park is just a short distance off the Highway 50, offering mountain biking, hiking and climbing opportunities. You will spot bands of wild horses and deer running freely. You will find inspiration in the snow-capped peaks. And witness deep blue skies contrasting with the bone white desert floor.
Stop in the five small towns strung along the highway (Fernley, Fallon, Austin, Eureka, and Ely) to get your Loneliest Road map stamped. Mail it to the Nevada Commission on Tourism and you will receive your Loneliest Road survival certificate, a lapel pin, and a bumper sticker so you can brag about surviving this ‘uninteresting and empty’ road.
But as comical it all might sound, the truth is, the real adventure is not missing the hustle and bustle of the city; nor being unable to go to sleep because there are too many stars to count at night. The real adventure is finally looking inward; rediscovering the person you’ve become; accepting it; and learning to love yourself again.
Brought to you by Pony Express Territory Nevada