Rural Pennsylvania and the Amish Country of Ohio
Departure Day was foggy, with a dark sky that promised clouds when the fog eventually burned off. There was rain in the forecast to the south, but nothing we hadn’t dealt with before. I installed the ragtop on the hack, tucked Barley safely inside, and said my goodbyes. Tamara, my long-suffering BMW widow. Kazoo, my gentle giant who carried a slipper and made worried sounds. And Tulliver, my red dog, my Velcro dog, who had learned over the years that when the rig was packed like it was today, Dad was going away for a while.
Showers caught us in Waitsfield, Vermont, less than an hour from home. I’d expected it, so had my rain liner in place under my protective gear. I pulled over to let Barley pee, then zipped the ragtop windows shut to keep him dry as we pressed on. The rain lasted no more than an hour, and shortly before we crossed into New York State it stopped. By the time we reached Pennsylvania the sun had come out; fluffy clouds scurrying past created patches of sun and shade.
By late afternoon we reached Tioga, Pennsylvania, gassed up, then took the dirt road that led to the camp owned by our friends, Linda and Dennis. Barley stalked frogs in their pond as we caught up on things.
The next morning we were on the road shortly after sunrise, traversing familiar turf along PA 6, then angling southwest along rural backroads through the Alleghenies. At some point north of Pittsburgh we crossed into Ohio on a back road. There were no signs or welcome stations, just a change in the road markers. We switched to a state highway and moved west quickly, moving back to secondary roads when we noticed signs of the Amish.
During one of our rest stops I accidently bumped my left hand mirror sending it spinning around on its mount. I dug through my tools but as luck would have it, the wrench needed to lock it back in position was the one I had failed to pack!
By that point we were near New Philadelphia, which had a BMW dealer, so I plugged the address into the GPS. We arrived at Mathias BMW Motorcycles mid-afternoon. The staff took care of us immediately, refilled our water bottles, and wished us well. As we were saddling up to continue our way, a couple on his and hers Beemers pulled in. “Is that Barley?” asked the woman, lifting the front of her modular helmet.
We spent the night in Uhrichsville with a couple we’d met on ADVRider.com. We didn’t get to chat much as Mark, a police officer, was on duty till late at night and by that point both Barley and I had had the radish. With my medical background I had a connection with his lovely wife, as she was a nurse working full-time while studying to become a nurse practitioner. But she began to feel ill as the evening wore on, and eventually retired.
We set out early in the morning, planning on exploring backroads in the Amish Country and ending up near the Indiana border. It was really pretty country! We found ourselves on dirt roads so narrow the brush often caressed both sides of our rig, populated by Amish who rarely see tourists so far off the beaten path.
I was surprised by a couple of things this day. First, in addition to buggies, bicycles were a common mode of transportation. It was not at all uncommon to see people, the women with head coverings and long skirts, pedaling on the side of the road. The other was that not all Amish were averse to being photographed. None would pose, but many had no objections being photographed while working. It pays to ask.
By midday the weather was very pleasant, so I removed Barley’s ragtop and replaced it with his tonneau cover so he could feel the wind in his fur. This made him much more visible, and many of the Amish we passed laughed and waved. Even among the Amish, Barley was able to spread good cheer! Later in the afternoon, just before we turned onto a state highway to press west, we came to a T-intersection. I heard a delighted, “Awesome!” in a young boy’s voice, then six boys of elementary school age – all in Amish garb – raced out of a nearby house to check out the dog and his rig. “Awesome” was not a word I associated with the Amish before that day.
We stopped for the night in Defiance, Ohio, had dinner at a local Mexican joint, then settled into our hotel room after checking the rig and covering it for the night. Barley curled up next to me on the bed, lay his head on my shoulder, sighed deeply and started snoring.