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Archive for Thursday, May 6, 1993

WAGON TRAIN RIDERS CROSS UNITED STATES

May 6, 1993

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A group of riders in horse-drawn covered wagons re-enacting the pioneers' trek across the Oregon Trail say they're happy to travel in 19th-century style.

"Living the history has got to be the best part of it," said Buck Case of Lewistown, Mont., one of about 20 people riding wagons along the Oregon Trail as part of a re-enactment commemorating the 150th anniversary of the opening of the trail.

The riders, calling themselves the 1993 Historic Trails Wagon Train, stopped Wednesday at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds to camp for the night. They began Saturday in five wooden, covered wagons in Independence, Mo.

The group was to leave Lawrence this morning and pass near Lecompton, Big Springs and Topeka.

They plan to follow the trail for the next several months through Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon. The group hopes to arrive in Independence, Ore., on Oct. 20.

Historic re-enactments and other events are planned along the way.

THE RIDERS passed through Kansas City early this week, and stopped overnight Tuesday in Eudora.

The group, dressed in pioneer-style clothing, travels about 20 miles a day on dirt roads, highways and private land.

"We try to stay as close to the original trail as we can," said Ben Kern, assistant trail captain. "Once we get out in the open more (away from cities), we'll really be feeling it."

The group, based in Casper, Wyo., built the five wagons in which members are riding. Many of the participants are retired or chose to leave their jobs for the ride.

A few motorized vehicles travel with the caravan. Members use those to go into the nearest town to pick up food and other supplies.

"You see those big black pots we've got over there," Kern said. "We have cookouts just like they did in the old times."

THE RIDERS are camping each night in teepees they set up at public fairgrounds, rodeo sites or on private land along the way, they said.

The group invites anyone interested to ride along with them on the trail, even if it's just for a day.

"We've had a lot of people who've shown a lot of interest in this," Kern said. "We're welcoming anyone who wants to ride along."

Ralph Anderson of Ottawa decided to take up that offer after he heard about the group's arrival in Eudora.

Anderson rode about 12 miles from Eudora to Lawrence with the caravan on Wednesday.

"IT WAS GREAT," he said. "The potholes was a little rough on some of those gravel roads, but ol' Ben (Kerns) here, he just smiled."

Kerns said the group would be joined by other groups of historical trail riders when they reach Nebraska and Wyoming.

Sponsors of the ride include Continental Airlines, Land O'Lakes dairy products, the Wyoming tourism board, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

About 350,000 people crossed the Oregon Trail after it was opened in 1843. Up to 10 percent of those settlers died along the way.

The trail passes through Douglas County near the Wakarusa River and past Blue Mound, and north through the city.

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