Highway 50 Association hitches up 57th annual wagon train

More than 100 years ago, before paved roads and cars, travelers on Highway 50 West still faced major traffic delays. The old rutted dirt road that offered passage over the Sierra to California was clogged with people and goods heading west.

Wagon trains from across the country headed to the West Coast were held up on the road for up to three weeks because of congestion.

Saturday, a group of travelers hitched up their wagons and headed out for their own journey up Highway 50 West. They did it not for the destination, but for the journey.

"It's a lot of fun and we think it's important to keep some of the good things about the country going. We do it because it's important for the history of this part of the country to be preserved," said Vi Tara, event coordinator.

The Highway 50 Association, based in Placerville, Calif., puts on the annual ride from Carson City to Placerville, traveling the entire 90 miles by wagon or on horseback.

This year's ride, the 57th annual, is being dedicated to Cactus Bob who served as the brakeman on the wagon train for more than 30 years.

The train consists of a double-hitched wagon pulled by eight Percheron horses and includes several smaller wagons and buggies.

Wagon master Diane Newborn has been participating in the train since she was 4 years old and has made the journey almost 40 times.

"We do it to keep the tradition alive and because we enjoy it," Newborn said.

Jeanette Smart of Cool, Calif., had her buggy ready for her 17th journey over the mountains.

"It's like a family reunion every year. You get to see people you haven't seen since the train the year before," she said.

The train stopped in Zephyr Cove on Saturday night. They are scheduled to stop in Meyers, Calif., Sunday and Strawberry, Calif., on Monday. After a day of rest, the train will depart Strawberry on Wednesday headed for Kyburz, Calif., and will stop in Fresh Pond, Calif., on Thursday and Camino, Calif., on Friday before completing the journey in Placerville on Saturday afternoon.

The other reason for the event is to remind onlookers to help preserve the natural beauty of the states they live in.

"When civilization finishes paving over everything like they did in California, things like the wagon train will be gone forever. It's just something for people to think about," Tara said.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.


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