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Monday, August 29, 2016

CLASSIC TRIP - East Coast Odyssey - Holmes County (Amish Country), Ohio

If you want to catch up on the tour, below are links to each stop:

Niagara Falls
Cedar Point
Holmes County (Amish Country)

After the excitement of Cleveland and Cedar Point, it was time to head over to Pittsburgh. Along the way, we thought we'd venture through Amish Country in Holmes County would be an interesting day.

Once again, the rain started to fall, at times heavily. We set out southbound on Highway 250 out of Sandusky. About an hour later the first sign of the Amish was on the road...a yellow diamond-shaped road sign depicting an Amish buggy letting us know to be cautious of these slow-moving vehicles.

Not too long after that, we saw our first buggy, an open-top rig whose occupants were miserably holding an umbrella against the driving rain. We would sporadically see more Amish buggies both open and closed as we made our way across the state. Another hour and a half and we were on the final road to our destination...Sugarcreek, Ohio.

One more little roadblock before we hit the town - an Ohio state trooper stood in the middle of the small two-lane highway blocking traffic. Soon, a couple of buggies appeared and turned up the drive to the adjacent farm. Then a couple more. After that three or four more. The trickle soon turned to a steady flow as about thirty to forty buggies an several people on feet made their way on the highway and then up to the farm. Once the procession was safely passed, the trooper waved us on and asked us to please be careful because there might be more buggies ahead on the road.

Sugarcreek is a small town with a Swiss them aimed at tourists. I never really got the Swiss connection to the town although I really enjoyed the animated paintings above the shops. It reminded be just a little of Solvang - a Danish-style tourist town back home on the central coast of California.

The Locomotive Switch at Baltic

The Ohio Central Railroad makes several trips daily (it appears that the railroad has been bought out and is now strictly a freight operation, too bad - ed) to the nearby town of Baltic with the passenger coaches pulled by an old coal-fired steam locomotive. This is a very pleasant way of touring through the Amish country while getting a running commentary about this unique way of life. The train and the ticket office in the Depot are accessible while the adjacent gift shop and porta-potties are not. There are accessible public restrooms at both ends of the two block downtown area, just ask for directions.

Because of the buggy procession coming into town, we barely made it to the 12:30pm departure of the train (the next departure would be 2:00pm). My wife ran into the depot and purchased the tickets while one of the conductors and I helped Tim onto the wheelchair lift for the train.

The train left promptly after boarding and the rain had cleared up but it was still cloudy. We saw many Amish farms and learned that while the Amish might forgo modern conveniences such as electricity or autos, they employ friends and neighbors to shuttle them in vans or might drive a tractor at a neighbor's farm before returning home to plow their own field with a horse.

Amish Farms in Holmes County

We also learned that Amish children to not attend school after eighth grade with no apparent ill effects on their education...the state of Ohio tested many of the kids here as part of a study and found they scored higher than most kids. They also do not believe in insurance or contracts...a deal is consummated via a handshake.

It was interesting to see the juxtapositions with modern life. Local supermarkets have a rail where buggies can be tied up while shopping. Horses wear ruts down the middle of a lane while in other places auto tires tend to wear grooves on either side. Of course, we already learned that autos better be aware and share the road with the slow-moving buggies.

I asked the conductor about the buggy procession we had seen on the way into town. It was a funeral. I guess funerals, weddings, and other social occasions are reserved for Thursdays (which this day was ) while Sundays are for church. The rest of the week is work.

On Board the Ohio Central Rail Road

After the train ride, we had lunch at the Swiss Hat nearby and had some wonderful comfort food from their buffet. My wife bought a handmade quilt that upon closer inspection later was revealed to be made in China. Oh's still a nice quilt.

Now it's time to head on to the next leg of the trip, Pittsburgh.

Copyright 2001 - Darryl Musick

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