Day 12 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways
I began the next day of my road trip in Amish country. It started by getting to know Kathy, Doug and Micah who graciously let a stranger park in their driveway last night. While working a horse jigsaw puzzle and enjoying banana nut pancakes and bacon, I learned Kathy has a barn with about 46 horses in walking distance from her house. Micah, her daughter, has two ponies, Tangerine and Cummerbund (Cummerbund is black), a guinea pig named Sweetie, and two fish who seem to have several names.
For work, Doug teaches courses on how to improve sales after having increased his sales at his own IT company. For pleasure, Doug is a sailor and likes to race his trimaran. Just like the horse show folks, he likes to get down south to Florida in the winter (out of the cold) to compete in regattas. Kathy and Micah are Buddhists. I learned the meaning of the Tumba, a Buddhist prayer…another new experience.
Malabar Farm State Park
After breakfast, I took the highway to Lexington, Ohio located in north central Ohio and home to the largest Amish community in the USA. My first stop in Amish Country was Malabar Farm State Park. Malabar Farm was once the country estate of Louis Bromfield and was named for the Malabar Coast in India. It was at this farm house mansion where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall spent their honeymoon.
Louis Bromfield was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, conservationist, and farmer. Bromfield had a diverse background. He studied agriculture for a year at Cornell University, left to operate his family’s farm, enrolled at Columbia University to study journalism, and enlisted in the United States Army Ambulance Service during World War I. He went on to become a reporter, publishing several articles, stories, screenplays, and novels. His third novel Early Autumn won the Pulitzer Prize in 1927.
I happened upon Malabar Farm on Heritage Days which is one of Ohio’s largest free outdoor living history and crafts festival. I would describe it as a combination between Grapefest and Pioneer Days in the Dallas area. Vendors set up booths inside the farm and sold crafts like soap, dried flowers, and confections. In addition, a banjo band played old music while horse drawn hayrides passed by civil war demonstrations and old farm machinery.
It was a big day at the park. Attendants directed a line of cars to overflow parking. I’m thankful I didn’t have to try to find a campground up this way last night, as I likely would have failed. I loaded up with some local Loudonville bologna and swiss cheese for lunch and some jam for my future PB&J’s. Before I left, I met three horseback riders, Pam, Tina, and Sandy. Sandy moved to Ohio from Pilot Point, a town north of Dallas. What a small world!
Mohican Memorial State Forest
Continuing through Amish Country, I weaved along a few back roads to Mohican Memorial State Forest. I walked over a covered bridge that spans the Clear Fork-Mohican River and along a trail toward Big and Little Lyon Falls. I didn’t have a trail map with me and there wasn’t one at the trailhead, so I asked people along the way how far it was to the falls. The responses were as follows:
”it’s pretty far back, ½ mile maybe”
“oh, it’s a ways back, 1/8 mile and rugged terrain”
and finally a better answer, “oh, it’s far, but if you want to get a good shot of a waterfall, you won’t get it there…no water! If you go a 100 yards up you can get to a nice spot on the river though”.
Thankfully I settled on her advice, as I later found out it was a 1.5 mile roundtrip to the falls which would have been hard on my old dogs!
After visiting Mohican Memorial State Forest, Scout, Petey, and I continued our journey through Amish country. As we shared the roads with horse drawn buggies, we passed by farmsteads, white houses, and huge dairy barns in towns such as Millersburg, Berlin and Sugarcreek (aka The Little Switzerland of Ohio).
I expected Amish country to be simple, but is felt like a commercialized tourist attraction to me. It gave me the feeling of walking around the lake at Disney World while sampling different cultures…Germans here, Swiss there. One farm offered produce, pony rides, and buggy rides, while another offered quilt making demonstrations. Perhaps it was just hard for me to grasp German and Swiss villages in the middle of Ohio.
Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center
I did stop by the Amish & Mennonite Information Center to learn more about the culture. The Amish are the most conservative group in the Anabaptist Family. The Mennonites and the Hutterites are additional groups in the family. The Anabaptists differed from popular reformers in that they rejected infant baptism, and they were the first to teach the separation between church and state which was unheard of in the 1500s. As a result, they were driven away from their homes in Switzerland and Germany by persecution.
Schoenbrunn Village State Memorial
From the Heritage Center I continued to Schoenbrunn Village State Memorial, my final stop in Ohio’s Amish Country before resting at a private campground just across the Ohio River in West Virginia. According to Reader’s Digest, Schoenbrunn Village, Ohio’s earliest Christian Settlement, was founded in 1772 as a Moravian mission to the Delaware Indians. It lasted only five years. Today the site is comprised of 17 reconstructed log buildings representing life on the Ohio frontier. ETB
Map of My Road Trip Across the USA
For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.
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