Photos and Story by G.I. Wilson-
Bud pulls the car over and stops. A farmer working with a piece of farm equipment pulled by a team of mules.
My father used this same equipment 80 years ago. Rapid hoof beats on concrete turns our attention back to the highway. A black buggy whips by at 20-25 MPH. A sleek black thoroughbred horse–glistening with sweat–never breaks stride, just like those you see in trotting competition.
The young man, dressed in black and stiff-brimmed hat, allows himself a peek at us without turning his head.
Welcome to Lancaster County, the heart of Amish Country. Who wouldn’t be curious about quaint little towns with names like: Bird-In-Hand, Intercourse and Lititz?
Our stay is in Bird-In-Hand, at the Amish View Inn and Suites. From our fifth floor window we have great views of perfectly groomed fields of corn, alfalfa, clover and soybeans.
A good way for an introduction to Amish Country is a tour in one of the horse drawn buggies.
Next door to the Amish View is Aaron and Jessica’s Amish Buggy rides.
Our driver, John, grew up in an Amish family, but is no longer Amish. He shared inside information on the amount of misinformation in the TV show Amish Mafia.
For the next hour he shared unique insights into the lives of the Amish.
Examples: They are not allowed to have electricity in the home. They may have a telephone on the property for business purposes. The phone is typically in a small building near the road. New wave: young people now have cell/phones. They have added chargers for the phones in the buggies.
They may own a car for business, but do not drive them. John has a business where families hire him to drive–their car–and take them to town for business. “One farmer has a BMW,” John explains. “He wanted a nice car and could afford it. I enjoy driving him places.”
Education: Amish schools go through the eighth grade. The brightest graduates become teachers.
Banking: The Amish have their first bank. It took seven years and $80,000 to get all the necessary permits, licenses and FDIC backing. “How about a business handling millions of dollars, run by a group of eighth grade graduates,” John chuckles.
Contrary to popular belief, not all Amish are farmers. Only 15% are farmers. “Amish have big families,” John explains. “Not enough land to go around for all the kids.”
One could easily spend a week in Lancaster County. My wife Jo has a love affair with covered bridges, having grown up beside one in Pedee, south of Dallas, Oregon. We drove the Covered Bridge Driving Tour. Saw five of Pennsylvania’s most famous in an hour.
Some of the other highlights in the area are: the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum for a look at early life for Germans in Pennsylvania, The Strasburg Rail Road (the oldest short-line rail road in the US), and the world renowned collection of rail cars and history at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
Lancaster County offers families a glimpse into a unique culture that has survived over the years. Opportunities are there, from thrills at places like Dutch Wonderland for old-fashioned, thrill-seeking family entertainment, to farm experiences of milking cows and goats.
Pennsylvania has never been on our bucket list to visit, but good friends, who live there, convinced us to come for a visit.
We fell in love with the Amish country and the rolling hills dotted with glistening white farm houses and manicured crops. Road ways were well groomed and litter free. And the food: fried chicken, biscuits and gravy like my mother made on the farm. Pies and chocolate were to die for.
Travel expenses are going down. So, if you have the opportunity to make it to Pennsylvania, consider the Amish country for a memorable vacation. We felt autumn was a perfect time to be there.
For more information on visiting the area, contact Discover Lancaster at www.discoverlancaster.com or 800-723-8824.