I guess I left the previous post rather abruptly, but here we are, on our way to Shreve, Ohio!
This post will be the last one of our spring-travels and it's a loooong one once again, so buckle up, here we go ...
Taking mostly highways, we had an easy drive from Jackson, PA to Shreve, Ohio.
Since we were coming up on the Memorial Day weekend and anticipated fully booked campgrounds, we'd made reservations at the Lake Wapusu campground in advance.
Which was a good thing, since they were pretty much full indeed.
We managed to make the somewhat awkward site work for us, by squeezing in side ways, which actually turned out to be a perfect move, since now we were facing away from all the rather crazy activity around us.
The main reason we'd chosen to spend some time here was the fact that we were right on the edge of Holmes county which is made up predominately of Amish and Mennonite communities.
When we started touring the pretty rolling hills of the countryside the next morning, it was immediately evident that we were in 'Amish Country' ... there they were ... our first horse-and-buggies!
I was thrilled to see them! It's one thing to see pictures or TV documentaries, but to see them in the wild ... amazing! I almost couldn't believe they were for real ..
But they are. The people in their old-fashioned outfits, the buggies, the farms without electricity ...
We drove through Berlin, hoping to find the visitor center open but unfortunately they were closed on a Sunday. Just like most shops, and especially the Amish ones of course .. didn't think about that, duhhh ..
One was open though and we took a look inside. This was a sort of tool and antique shop, very interesting all these old-fashioned tools ..
In the back of the shop we came up-close and personal with an Amish couple, looking to have something made for the roof of their house.
Further down the road we came across many unusual shops, like this buggy-factory:
Also some very unusual, but of course very necessary, parking spaces next to shops and restaurants ..
Since most shops were closed we decided to take a tour of an Amish Home, the Yoder's Home, in Millersburg.
This small farm offers tours of the two homes on the property, an old-order and a newer one. A knowledgeable guide talks a little about the history, religion, habits and rituals and their clothing and furniture.
It's a good introduction to the Amish culture.
In the kitchen women are making cookies, breads, and other baked goods, which you can buy at the end of tour.
Afterward you can visit the barn animals. I got to hold this adorable cute baby goat ...
An Amish girl explained a little about farm life and the animals in particular .. and her father (I think) took us for a short drive around the fields in a buggy ..
Touristy yes, but hey, it's fun to actually sit in one of those buggies for a little and get a 'feel' for it ..
There's an old schoolhouse on the property where a young 'teacher' talks a bit about their school system.
I never knew they only go to school until the 8th grade, which they deem sufficient for an agricultural lifestyle. No high school, no college, nothing ...
But although the formal learning is over, the Amish focus on numerous means of informal, practical learning, such as reading, as well as apprenticeships and mentor-ships.
The Mennonites on the other hand, go to the 'normal' US schools and the New Order Mennonites can also go to College and University.
Since we'd worked up an appetite, how fortunate, now was the time to check out some of the local Amish 'cuisine'!
There were a lot of local Amish restaurants to choose from, but we ended up at Mrs Yoder's Kitchen.
A Country restaurant that serves down-home Amish dishes like baked fried chicken, beef casserole, ham and specialties like home made noodles which you eat on top of mashed potatoes, smothered in dandelion (w/bacon) gravy!
Of course we had to try the latter and it was delicious!
We were too stuffed for desert but had to take some home for later, how about Date-nut pudding or Fry Pies:
Or you can go to the ice-cream parlor:
A lot of Amish and Mennonites are from Pennsylvania-Dutch heritage (which, in contrary of what a lot of people think, is not Dutch but German) but quite a few are also from Swiss decent.
The town of Sugarcreek that we visited is a Swiss-looking village, even has a giant Cuckoo clock in the town-center, and there are several Cheese factories in the area that make (and sell) Swiss cheeses.
We took a tour of Heini's Cheese Chalet, where we saw cheese being made, got away with some delicious horse-radish cheese, and James couldn't resist buying a bottle of peanut-butter/marshmallow (!) spread and a jar of apple-butter.
This area, which is Holmes County, is home to the largest Amish and Mennonite population in the world, in fact they make up 85% of this county's population.
Now, the difference between the two religions is not always that clear, tough practice varies, today Amish and Mennonites share values of non-resistance, adult baptism, and in some cases plain clothing.
There are a number of differences between the two groups, especially
when it comes to technology.
Old Order Mennonites generally allow electricity in the home, as well as telephones. They make greater use of tractors as well.
So if you see electricity going to a farm you know they are not Amish.
Colorful dresses are also a give-away for being Mennonite ...
Some New-order Mennonites are driving cars, even the women, but the bicycle or step is an overall favorite with the Old-order ..
The Amish mainly still plow their fields by horse and plow and by hand.
We saw many men, wearing their traditional straw hats and suspenders, busy working their teams of beautiful draft-horses.
Monday is definitely laundry-day in Amish Country, done with tub-style wringer-washers and than line-dried!
I loved seeing all that laundry flapping in the wind on those loooong lines ...
What an interesting couple of days we had! I'd wanted to see 'the Amish' for a long time and it sure was a very special 'encounter'.
It's not such a romantic live as sometimes depicted, life is pretty tough without electricity, but it definitely has it charms ...
But most of us have to live in the modern world, so let's back to it, shall we?
Our next destination was Conneaut, OH, about 135 miles to the NE, all the way up to Lake Erie.
We'd booked our campground, the Evergreen Lake Park,through our Passport America membership again ($20/night), and we had a nice, roomy pull-through site.
The park is only a couple of miles from Conneaut and Lake Erie, so the next day we drove about 14 miles E on Lake Road towards North Kingsville, where we'd booked a round of golf at the municipal golf course.
After a coffee break at Sunset Park, right next to the Lake, we went over to the Village Green Golf Course right across from the park.
Booked through Golf-Now, this was a very nice public course, very well maintained and fortunately not very busy.
After the round we continued touring Lake Rd for a little longer until we reached touristy Geneva-on-the-lake, from where we turned around and headed back to Conneaut.
Most houses along this beautiful road all have a gorgeous lake view, I bet they don't come cheap!
Back in Conneaut we ended the day at the marina at the Breakwall BBQ.
It was a little foggy over the lake so the lighthouse wasn't quite visible but it was warm enough to have dinner on the patio and overlook the little harbor.
The food was outstanding! Good enough to make a fairly large detour for if we had to!
The next day we drove to the city of Erie, just over the state line into New York.
We're not much for cities but we wanted to visit the Presque Isle State Park, which sits on a peninsula that arches into lake Erie, just north of town.
From the peninsula you have a view of the Presque Isle Bay, the harbor and Erie in the distance.
The Park is beautiful, with many different wildlife habitats who attract lots of rare and even endangered species.
A park ranger pointed us in the direction of a free, scenic pontoon-boat tour offered by the park, that takes you into the interior of the island.
Free? Count us in!
The guide was a little bit odd, but the tour itself was quite nice. Floating quietly through the estuaries, we came across a lot of turtles, birds and abundant plant life, while the odd guide explained about the history and wildlife of the area.
That's a beautiful Yellow Warbler there in the middle
Prime sun-bathing log ...
Eleven goslings, geese have big families!
After the boat tour we finished the 'loop' around the island and started to head back.
We came by the Presque Isle Lighthouse, where we walked out to the lake and even got our feet wet!
Back at the mainland it was time for lunch so we stopped at Sara's, another Triple D, Guy Fiery approved diner!
We ordered the Lake Erie Perch-basket. Very good!
This place is crazy busy, it's clearly a locale's favorite but also tourist from around the world visit here and love the old-fashioned diner atmosphere, the great 50's memorabilia and the tasty basic American hamburgers and ice-cream.
Alright, time for a tour of some of the other famous tourist attractions of the region ... the covered bridges of Ashtabula County!
Ashtabula County has the most public covered bridges,
currently 18, of any county in Ohio, which span two rivers, three creeks and more than 100 years of history.
You can do a self-driven tour
by following signs like the one above that are posted in the county.
Since a lot of these bridges are not build for big trucks like ours, we had to adjust our tour a little, to avoid a few that were either too low or too narrow or couldn't hold our weight.
There were still many left to see though, like the one above, which is the Middle Road Bridge, built in 1868 over Conneaut Creek and the one below, the South Denmark Road Bridge of 1890, spanning Mill Creek.
The majority of the bridges are surrounded by Ashtabula's rural landscape, a
mixture of farmland and woodland, with dozens of well-placed wineries
and farm stands. throughout
We spent several hours criss-crossing the countryside, and ended up seeing 12 bridges before a thunderstorm made us quit.
(By the way, Ashtabula has way more covered bridges than the "Bridges of Madison County", the Iowa
locale made famous by author Robert James Waller and actors Clint
Eastwood and Meryl Streep, which has only six).
It was a great tour, seeing these bridges take you back to days gone by, and I can imagine the lovely horse drawn carriages crossing these beautiful structures.
Links or 'crossings' to the past, they call them, and that they are ...
Time to leave Ohio and point the truck to the state that will be our end-destination for the summer, Upstate New York!
Although we were only 124 miles from Buffalo, NY, where we figure we'll end up somewhere, we decided on a detour to Jamestown to pay a visit to some of New York's Amish as well.
(As if we hadn't seen enough of them yet ...)
This is the entrance to the campground and an Amish carriage passing by ..
Top-a-rise Campground, in Falconer, another PA-campground, turned out to be a little outside of Jamestown, in the countryside, on top of a .. rise, indeed!
Going up the steep hill didn't give us much trouble, we just went very slow, but it already had me worried about going down ... oh well, first things first ..
Just like James to have his own town. Show-off ..
Another reason for visiting this town, was the fact they have an honest-to-god 'Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum', if you can believe it! Apparently this is Lucy's hometown. Who knew?
We're not specific great Lucy fans but we always enjoyed her shows and it was just great fun (ha) to see the sets, costumes and memorabilia on display, awards they were both given, and photographs of both their personal and TV live.
They even had a replica of their 'long, long trailer', from the movie we had watched and enjoyed, and which of course is a must see for RV-ers.
Afterward we drove to the town of Celoron, a little further down the road, to see a bronze statue of Lucy:
Funny enough (pun intended) this statue was commissioned to replace another sculpture unveiled
just seven years ago. Critics complained the original didn't resemble
Ball and it soon came to be known as "Scary Lucy."
I mean .. what were they thinking?
Driving home we passed Chautauqua Lake and stopped for an ice-cream in Bemus Point, a quint little village that has a distinct, laid back 'beach-feel' to it.
Here's for another fun fact ... our campground was, literary, surrounded by Breezewood Links, a public golf course. How's that for convenient?
Of course we played several rounds here. Quite a nice course and a full 18 holes!
James almost talked himself into a job here for the summer, but we already had some people lined up in Buffalo, so we 'kept it in the back of our minds' for now ..
And that brings me, once again, to the Amish!
The visitor center of Randolph, a town close by, gives out an 'Amish Trail' map which shows all the Amish
farms, homes/stores (often one and the same) in the area.
Around here, the Amish are considered to be Old Order, which is very conservative.
No electricity, old fashioned farming practices and a more 'plain' dress code, dark colors only, are the most visible traits of this order.
But, like most of the others, they also make a living from farming and handcrafting products for sale.
There are many shops operated from the
Amish homes here, you just follow the hand-painted signs in the yards.
We bought some
preserves and eggs and also some homemade candy along the way.
It being Monday again, clothes were drying on the lines, some on porches, some in the
yards. Gardens were freshly planted, cows and goats were grazing in the
It was like time stood still for a little while..
We saw several men and young boys plowing their fields using horses, and passed many (slowly!) in their horse drawn carts and buggies.
How about this contraption for cutting wood ... not the safest according to James!
Quite often the girls are barefoot, what's that about?
Many girls are working the gardens ..
And guess who is doing most of the mowing around the house?
What an extraordinary life this is! Not easy, like I said before, not even talking about this strict religion, but what a relief to not see hurrying people everywhere, busy traffic, or .. gasp .. any cell-phones!
I'll miss seeing these cute people and their pretty horses and quaint buggies ... I hope they'll be able to keep their lifestyle alive and prosper!
Well, I did it! It's finished! These were the chronicles of our Spring-trip north.
I hope you enjoyed it (whom am I talking to?).
I did, although it was an epic chore, but it was fun reminiscing and sort of reliving the whole journey.
Here's to next adventures, or, to say it with Dr. Seuss:
"Oh, the places we'll go!"