It has been too long since I last filled this space and too infrequent between each Long Beach update. I won’t claim to have been too busy or productive, nor was I playing hard to get. This is a special end of the month, late in the day delivery of your favorite, informally written blog. I’ll try to recap some of what kept me away in April, and explain why this is only the second entry this month. Most of my time here has been a blur since moving. It is hard to believe I’m already past halfway in my initial rent agreement.
Postseason hockey and basketball has begun in earnest and the Blackhawks and Bulls are doing their part to deliver another championship to Chicago. Playoff hockey is appointment television and has moved ahead of football and basketball on my personal likeability scale. With each post-to-post save, each rush down the ice, each bone-chattering hit, the game takes violent emotional swings. Not always having TV access at home meant bringing some of my foolish superstitions to the bar and it probably was not wise to enjoy a cocktail for each period of the Blackhawks/Predators epic triple overtime masterpiece. Thankfully my buzz was worthwhile as the Hawks earned victory well after midnight, central time. The Bulls route thus far has been a bit more bumpy, though by the time this is published, they likely will have dispatched of the Bucks and moved on to face the Cavaliers.
I was also fortunate to attend Clippers/Spurs Game Five in Los Angeles and continue to be amazed at the efficiency and fundamentals of Tim Duncan. Only recently have I heard Duncan referred to as “Old Man River Walk.” Was that always a thing? Am I okay in thinking that’s actually a clever nickname? Does anyone else want to take a flight to San Antonio for a tour of the Missions, ride down the River Walk and Americanized Mexican food? Just me? Okay, moving on…
I escaped to Palm Desert for a quick 24 hour getaway that coincided with the first weekend of Coachella. I’ll blame the bearded, well-dressed, highfalutin hipsters as to why it took three hours to make the 130 mile trek to the desert. A bartender in town told the tale of standing in line at Costco behind someone purchasing $10000 in liquor for the first festival weekend. I’m not hanging out with the right people. However, I got the country club treatment for golf and lunch with relatives before heading back to Long Beach.
Later in the month was another getaway to San Diego. The corporate weekend event at Rancho Bernardo capped off a full week of work/golf. I was recruited to be the ringer teammate in industry events on Monday and Thursday to get my game in shape for my employers’ event over the weekend. Days spent in California sunshine on the golf course are superior to days in the office. But unfortunately I cannot recommend using bourbon whiskey as golf swing lubricant. My game Sunday morning was a little squeaky.
Included in the San Diego trip was a detour to Petco Park for my first Padres game. They played the Dodgers and Petco instantly leaped near the top of my MLB Ballpark Recommendation Destination. The concourses are open and give views of the action. The ballpark is cleverly carved into downtown and the previously decrepit Western Metal Supply building is a part of the stadium. There is general admission lawn seating in the outfield and the Park at the Park that on this night featured Padres Beer Fest. San Diego has a strong craft beer culture and that was on full display between the special Friday night event and the variety of vendors scattered throughout the concession areas. I enjoyed pints from Ballast Point and Mission Brewery while watching pregame batting practice.
The drive back from San Diego to Long Beach was not an easy one after two mediocre nights of hotel sleep and a full week of golf. I jumped in the car and drove north and eagerly awaited couch time for an epic nap. But first I had to navigate the California interstate system and find something for lunch. I stopped in Oceanside and wandered the main streets and the pier and ended up at Hello Betty. I sat at the bar and had tacos and a lemonade (!!), attempting to detox from Saturday night and ending a long streak of sitting at the bar with a cocktail in hand. I will not confirm or deny that I was peer pressured onto the dance floor nor into the photo booth at the company dinner function.
Coming soon: More stories of craft beer and delicious whiskey and whatever else I’m polluting my system with. Thankfully I’m now wearing a pedometer and can keep track of how many steps it takes to get to the bar and how little sleep I achieve every night.
THE SURPRISINGLY SHORT HISTORY OF THE PONY EXPRESS
Given that most have still heard of the Pony Express today, unlike so many other messaging companies long gone, you may think that the Pony Express was once an integral part of communication between the East and West in the United States. It turns out, this was never the case and the Pony Express was around only for an extremely short amount of time.
It all started on April 3, 1860, when two riders, one in Sacramento, California, the other in St. Joseph, Missouri, simultaneously embarked on a mirror-like mission – carry mail across the difficult and dangerous terrain of the American West in the shortest amount of time possible. With each load (including the riders) weighing no more than 165 pounds, the two men reached the others’ starting point in record time: the westbound rider made it to Sacramento in just under 10 days, while the eastbound man reached St. Joseph in 11.5. Together, these journeys marked the beginning of the Pony Express.
The brainchild of visionary businessman William Russell, the Leavenworth & Pike’s Peak Express Company (later to be known as the Pony Express) was born of two desires: (1) people’s need to communicate and (2) a businessman’s need for profit.
By the 1850s, hundreds of thousands of Americans had migrated to live west of the Rocky Mountains. Remember that by this time, California had seen its great Gold Rush, the Mormons had fled religious persecution and were settling in Utah in large numbers, and thousands of pioneers had made the arduous trek of the Oregon Trail over the high mountains to homestead in the West.
Before the Pony Express, it could take up to 8 weeks for a letter from the eastern U.S. to reach these westerners since most mail was shipped by boat. The few letters that went overland only cut that time by half, and then only by taking a southern route for mail service – out of Fort Smith, Arkansas, with stops in El Paso, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona, before arriving in San Francisco, California, three to four weeks later. As you can imagine, anyone who had a need for transcontinental communication was soon frustrated by the extraordinarily long delivery time, and just as long for a reply.
Coinciding with the national desire for speedier mail service was Russell’s need for a new source of income. Together with his partners, William Bradford and Alexander Majors, Russell ran a stage coach and freight business out of Leavenworth, Kansas that by the late 1850s was floundering. While on a trip to Washington, he pitched an idea to California’s Senator William Gwin – to quickly deliver mail via an overland central route that followed the Oregon and California trails.
The key to his speedy delivery was to be a system of hundreds of way stations where fresh horses and riders would be continuously substituted all along the 1,800 mile trail. The route itself began in St. Joseph, Missouri, followed the Platte and Sweetwater rivers, then crossed the Rockies via the South Pass to Salt Lake City, Utah. From there, the riders crossed the deserts of Utah and Nevada, then went over the Sierra Nevada Mountains and finally landed in California – all in about 10 days.
Hundreds of men were hired to manage the way stations where fresh horses (between 400 and 500 total) and riders (about 80) would be waiting to relieve a tired courier. The riders themselves had to be small, under 120 pounds, and the mail bags were limited to 20 pounds, all to keep the weight the horses had to bear to a minimum (which, with equipment and mail, was capped at 165 pounds).
The couriers, who were paid $25 per week (about $640 today), were given a distinctive uniform of red shirt and blue pants, and at first, they blew a brass horn to signal their impending arrival at a way station. This last was soon discarded, however, when it became clear that the approaching hoof beats provided sufficient notice.
For maximum efficiency, a station was placed every 10-15 miles for the riders to switch horses, and then after every 75-100 miles, the couriers themselves would be replaced.
The enterprise was intended to make a profit, and Russell and his partners had hoped Uncle Sam would ultimately subsidize the venture. It didn’t, and even though the Express initially charged $5 per half-ounce of mail (today’s U.S. Post Office charges $0.49 for up to 13 ounces for first class delivery), the Pony Express operated at a significant loss.
Its end came quickly – just 19 months after it started, when it was replaced with better technology. Beginning in June 1860 (only two months after the first Pony Express ride), telegraph lines to connect the East and West Coasts were begun by the Pacific Telegraph Company coming out of Nebraska and the Overland Telegraph Company from California. On October 24, 1861, the transcontinental telegraph was up and running and two days later, the Pony Express officially ended. A great idea, but bad timing.
(via Today I Found Out)