Pony Express rider Dean Freitas and his horse, Peppy, cantered up J Street in Old Sacramento on Thursday morning to deliver mail sent from St. Joseph, Mo., 1,966 miles away.
Freitas took the letters contained in a mochila, the lightweight pouch express riders hung on their horses' saddles, and delivered the mail to Rich Tatman, the California Pony Express president, who turned them over to the U.S. Postal Service in Old Sacramento.
That completed the annual "re-ride" in which more than 500 riders re-enact how the mail used to be delivered more than 150 years ago.
The Pony Express was in service between April 1860 and November 1861. Its fastest trip was delivering the text of President Abraham Lincoln's inaugural address from St. Joseph to Sacramento in seven days and 17 hours.
Freitas, who lives in Herald in Sacramento County, completed the 2013 re-ride at the Pony Express statue at 10:30 a.m. - the 11th time he has participated in the ride.
"I'm a real history buff and it's one thing to read about history," Freitas said. "But it's a whole different experience to ride down the trail of history."
Tatman said the re-enactment was started by the National Pony Express Association 34 years ago to "keep the memory alive."
"The Pony Express was so short-lived but it played a very important role in the history of California," he said.
This year's ride began June 17 in St. Joseph. It used 550 riders and 510 stops along the historic route. Each rider covered about four miles. California had 41 stops.
Riders came from all over, said Tatman. The group's youngest rider was 14 and the oldest was 89.
This year, the mochila Freitas delivered held 950 letters, some personal and some commemorative. The commemorative vignette letters detail a specific event, person, or site of the Pony Express, and can be purchased for $5 from the National Pony Express Association. People also can purchase and write personal letters to be sent along the route for $10. Once the letters arrived in Old Sacramento, they were mailed.
Freitas and his horse traveled the final two-mile stretch of the route, from Discovery Park to Old Sacramento, where they were met by a cheering crowd as Peppy made his way down J Street to the Pony Express statue on Second Street.
"It felt great," Freitas said. "Cantering down J Street and carrying the mail. It don't get no better than that."
Call The Bee's Brittany Torrez, (916) 321-1103.