Ten years ago the call went out;
Pony riders to your mounts!
The mountain had slid and the road was down
The mail needed to go through but only a horse could make it around.
A contract was signed and the riders sworn in
The Pony Express riders would carry the mail, once again.

James Swigart

1983 Slide Ride

In April of 1983 a unique and historical activity took place. The Pony Express was commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service to carry the mail. That galloping exchange of mail, from rider to rider, along the original Pony Express trail was to become known as the Slide-Ride.

On April 9, 1983, an avalanche of tremendous proportions crashed down along California's American River Canyon. Dirt and rocks dammed the river and smothered U.S. Highway 50 between Whitehall and Kyburz, about 70 miles east of Sacramento. U.S. 50 served as a vital link along the main East-West corridor between the Sacramento Valley and South Lake Tahoe, The ensuing 76-day closure of the highway adversely affected the small mountain communities of Pollock Pines, Pacific House, Kyburz, Strawberry, Twin Bridges and Little Norway. Millions of tourist dollars were lost and public services were disrupted.

One important service impacted by the slide was postal delivery. From Pollock Pines, a 115-mile detour was necessary to bring mail to the towns located above the slide. Following an innocent conversation between the Pollock Pines Postmaster and an NPEA member (carrying the mail by horseback seemed only natural, as the old Pony Express Trail by passed the slide) the Pony Express was off and running in less than 48 hours.

Slide Ride Envelope With a contract between the U.S. Postal Service and the National Pony Express Association, Malcolm McFarland was the first rider to leave Pollock Pines on April 15 carrying 300 letters in a mochila. Since their first day in the saddle was April 15, the riders' most important missives were income-tax returns from the outlying towns of Kyburz, Strawberry, Twin Bridges and Little Norway.

The riders left every morning at 8 o'clock on horseback six days a week for the sum of $2 a day. Although up to 13 riders per day riders volunteered for the job, they had to have an amount to write into the contract with the Postal Service. They settled on $2 a day. The riders carried an averaged of about 1,000 pieces of mail a day.

In the end, some 62 riders from the California and Nevada Divisions participated in the Slide Ride of 1983. More than 60,000 letters were safely delivered during the six weeks that the Pony Express was activated. Of that amount 40,000 pieces of the Pony Express mail were sent by stamp collectors and postal history buffs and were stamped with a special commemorative marking.

Hiway 50 Slide Ride
April 15 to May 28, 1983

California Riders (Days Rode)

  • Malcolm McFarland (15)
  • Chips Franklin (4)
  • Lyle Hosford (38)
  • Jerry Stark (16)
  • Sean Cook (4)
  • Walter Allen (17)
  • Curt Mecham (16)
  • Cody Glenn (9)
  • Ron C. Fritzemeier (7)
  • Paul Melee (37)
  • Rob Fritzemeier (7)
  • Rollie Barton (13)
  • Karl Schlener (4)
  • Larry Hull (1)
  • Jon Wetmore (3)
  • Eric Glen (3)
  • Jack Franklin (1)
  • Pat O'Halloran (6)
  • Larry Stark (6)
  • Ray Riehle (7)
  • Judd Lowry (1)
  • Davey Wiser (17)
  • Tim Bell (4)
  • Jim Peters (11)
  • Ted Smith (6)
  • Larry Piatt (7)
  • John O'Leary 4)
  • Pat Smith (4)
  • Ed Hagen (9)
  • Dough Albright (9)
  • Rick McElwee (6)
  • Terry McCormick (1)
  • Keith Bassett (17)
  • Raymond Riehle (2)
  • Steve Hopkins (2)
  • Clarence Eldridge (1)
  • Jim Moore (1)
  • Howard Glenn (3)
  • Bill Davis (1)
  • Joe Wiens (1)
  • Potato Richardson (1)
  • John Queirolo (1)
  • Rick Stevenson (1)
  • Tim Smith (1)
  • Ron R. Fritzemeier (1)

Nevada Riders (Days Rode)

  • Neil Rose (5)
  • Rocco Youse (7)
  • Don Morrison (2)
  • Byron Clark (9)
  • Rick Wegman (5)
  • Kelly Clark (1)
  • Boyd Mitchell (3)
  • Al Case (3)
  • Bill Nabors (3)
  • Bill Arant (1)
  • Tom Ruddy (1)
  • Jim Rankin (1)
  • Gene Graves (3)
  • Bob Sanders (1)
  • Bruce Piper (2)
  • Dale Ryan (2)
  • Darryl Peterson (1)
In recognition of this historical event, which was viewed world wide, a re-enactment was held on April 24, 1993. Members of the NPEA carried 1000 Commemorative Cards in a mochila over some 24 miles of the original route between Pollock Pines and Silver Fork.