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Man rides route in wheelchair

by Christina Nelson

Kerry McDole of Gardnerville trailed behind Pony Express rider Don Hellwinkel as he made his way from the Sierra Nevada Golf Club to Genoa. McDole followed not on a horse, but in a motorized wheelchair the entire 3-1/2 miles.

“It was just fun,” said McDole, who has multiple sclerosis. “The weather was perfect.”

His wife, Sue, followed the two men in her car to make sure passing cars would see them.

Hellwinkel passed the mail to his wife Marlena at about 7 p.m. Thursday, almost six hours behind schedule. The delay was caused by two lost riders, one in Utah and the other in Eastern Nevada.

Delays like this add authenticity to the historic re-enactment that has been going on since 1975, organizers say. At that time, only part of the trail was traveled. Three years later a division of the National Pony Express Association was added to Nevada.

Bob Moore, one of the founders of the Nevada division, rode from Tramway to Harrah’s at Stateline. His love of Western history has kept him riding with the program for 21 years.

“The original Pony Express only lasted 18 months. It kept California and Nevada in the Union,” said Bob Moore, a 20-year participant in the program.

“The Pony Express closed the loop of communication between the East and the West.”

The Pony Express was more of a courier service than it was a mail service, he said. Usually only bank and government documents were sent by the service which cost users $5 an ounce. The 2,000- mile route’s tenure was ended by the telegraph, a cheaper and faster form of communication.

“The Pony Express trail was never an official trail,” Moore said.

The organization worked with the California Trails Association to get the trail recognized as a national historic trail. In 1993, Congress granted the request.

Every year, the association assists the National Parks Service in marking the trails.

The association is a non-profit educational organization that awards savings bonds to kids who write exceptional essays about the Pony Express. It hopes to be able to give scholarships to students planning to major in Western United States history in college. It took the 120 participants nearly 60 hours to cross Nevada.