Renegade Roads

The Pony Rides Again, 150 Years Later

The Pony began when Johnny Fry rode from Pikes Peak Stables in St. Joseph, Missouri on April 3, 1860.

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Following Calamity Jane

Born in Missouri in 1856 Martha Canary came west with her family, spent part of her childhood in the Montana gold fields near Virginia City and Nevada City, and came of age in Utah following the death of her parents (her mother in Montana, her father in Utah).

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Pikes Peak Or Bust

Searching for gold from Lawrence, Kansas, to Breckenridge, Colorado. Sitting in historic Lawrence, I don’t know why those fortune seekers of 1859 ever left Kansas.

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Looping Across Kit Carson's Southwest

Celebrating his 200th birthday by going full circle from Taos, New Mexico.

A banner whips in the wind over the main drag as I drive into Taos, New Mexico, and I figure that Kit Carson is getting his due. I should have known better.

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Following the Wild Bunch

From Landusky, Montana, to Alma, New Mexico.

Members of the Wild Bunch Gang hopscotched across one isolated region to another where they found refuge from lawmen and posses once they had pulled off a job—whether it was robbing a bank or a railroad payroll.

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Following Charlie Russell's Paintbrush

From Lewistown, Montana, to Great Falls, Montana.

It’s a quiet day in Utica. No practical joker has tied tin cans to a dog’s tail and sent that dog running across the street in front of the General Merchandise, spooking one cowboy’s horse and a flock of chickens.

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Stutterin' Across Jimmy Stewart Country

A centennial trip from Hollywood, California, to Brackettville, Texas.

Crawling along the freeway in Los Angeles, I’m moving about as fast as Jimmy Stewart talked.

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Mapping the Black Hills: Valentine T. McGillycuddy

From Devils Lake, North Dakota, to Wounded Knee, South Dakota. 

Valentine T. McGillcuddy, weak and on the verge of becoming an alcoholic after a stint as a doctor at the Wayne County Insane Asylum in Detroit, started a new career as a topographical engineer and cartographer when he was in his early 20s.

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Following Jack Slade's Stagecoach Trail

From Julesburg, Colorado, to Virginia City, Montana.“A high and efficient servant of the Overland, an outlaw among outlaws and yet their relentless scourge, Slade was at once the most bloody, the most dangerous and the most valuable citizen that inhabited the savage fastnesses of the mountains.

Roughing It, Mark Twain

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Rollin', Rollin', Respectin' Along the Western Trail

I’ve lost count of the museums dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of the Chisholm Trail.

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Tom Horn: Competent and a Killer

Trailing Tom from Memphis, Missouri, to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Incompetence is not a word to associate with Tom Horn, for from his teenage years until his death, he more than once proved he was the opposite. Of course, the area in which he showed the most competence (and for which he is best known) was in killing range rustlers from ambush.

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Filming the Oregon Trail

During the 19th century around 400,000 people traveled the Oregon and California Trails seeking new opportunities, land, gold. They traveled with friends and family, or left all of them behind and truly struck out on a new life.

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Tramping Through Our National Parks With John Muir

From Yosemite Valley to Los Angeles, California.

Tourists that spend their money to see rocks and falls are fools,” a shepherd told John Muir in 1869 during Muir’s fabled First Summer in the Sierra.

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Following Mountain Man Jim Bridger

jun09_renegade_rds_250At the edge of the Red Desert, But situated in a lush valley within view of a mountain range that retains snow on its peaks much of the year, Fort Bridger was strategically located on the route many emigrants and freighters used when traveling across the West.

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Forting Up On the Apache Trail

From Tucson, Arizona, to Lawton, Oklahoma.

Ominous clouds threaten rain as I pull off Highway 80 near the Arizona-New Mexico border at the Skeleton Canyon monument. I debate whether or not I should drive to the actual site where the Apache Wars ended when Geronimo surrendered in 1886.

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Trailing Narcissa Whitman & Eliza Spalding

From St. Louis, Missouri, to Spalding, Idaho.

Narcissa had entered into a marriage of convenience with Dr. Marcus Whitman to fulfill her lifelong desire to serve a mission.

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They Stole Buffalo Bill's House

Tracking the showman and his home from LeClaire, Iowa, to Golden, Colorado.

For the people of LeClaire, Iowa, it was the crime of the century. “Back in ’33,” said the retired  Mississippi River men (customers on my childhood Des Moines Register paper route), “those railroad people came in the middle of the night, quiet as you please. Yes, sir, loaded that big, old house on a railroad flatcar and they were halfway across Nebraska before any of us were the wiser.”

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Journey Through Spanish Missions Country

From San Antonio, Texas, to San Juan Capistrano, California

Tourists—tons of them—walk inside these walls with a quiet reverence.

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A Feast Along the Alferd Packer Trail

From Provo, Utah, to Denver, Colorado.

He was a shoemaker, Army veteran, hunter, guide, scout, miner, convict, harness maker, cane carver, horsehair braider, “jack whacker” and, of course, a cannibal.

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Following Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick

On the trapper trail from Wyoming’s Fort Laramie to La Junta, Colorado.

Irish immigrant Thomas Fitzpatrick signed on with William Ashley to head out West in search of beaver in 1823.

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Northern Pacific's Peaks and Valleys

From St. Paul, Minnesota, to Vancouver, Washington.

St. Paul, Fargo, Jamestown, Bismarck, Glendive, Billings, Livingston, Bozeman, Missoula, Sandpoint, Spokane, Yakima, Tacoma. These are some of the largest towns in the Northern Plains and Northwest, all either spawned—or given a growth hormone—by the construction of the Northern Pacific Railway that went into service 125 years ago.

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