Motorcycling Among the Amish

A captivating adventure ride in mid-Ohio. Text and photos by Jamie Elvidge.

This incredibly interesting ride was recommended to us by Richard Cole, a reader from Twinsburg, Ohio. We'd loosely planned an autumn ride that would begin in Georgia and conclude in Vermont. Cole's ride was penciled in as an alternative side trip if our schedule showed signs of slack.

The window was small, but we took that left in Pennsylvania anyway, certain we could blast through the route, then strategically sneak northeast just as an ugly front hit New England. There was no way to know this ride would stop us in our smoldering tracks. We never made it to Vermont -- in fact, we never made it north of Ohio. The days set aside for our ascent were spent investigating the Amish.

We jumped on Cole's favorite ride in Cadiz, Ohio, birthplace of Clark Gable. A tattered tractor parallel-parked along the curb of the town's courthouse alerted us we were entering The Farming Zone. Following the gently arching U.S. Highways 250 and 36 east did indeed reveal a quintessential farmscape, complete with ancient barns and rolling fields of corn and cattle. We headed north on State Route 93, which is narrow and worn like a first-class back road should be. The dips on this stretch precede blind rises, and a few railroad tracks midcorner deserve some attention. From here on out you can come across horses and buggies when you least expect them.

We were pointed toward Sugarcreek and Cole's promise of freshly-made cheese. We found one of America's "Little Switzerlands" and music from this region was piped throughout this exuberant, small town. We stopped in the local bookstore to research the hex signs we saw adorning the barns in the area, and to seek answers to some questions we already had about the Amish. We'd seen our first familiar black buggy parked in a driveway between a satellite dish and a 4-wheel drive truck. That Sesame Street song "One of these things, is not like the others..." was stuck in my head.

In our browsing, we absorbed enough to understand that there can be a few sweeping generalizations made about the Amish and Mennonite orders of the world. All of the subgroups born to the Anabaptists of the 1500s are Christian fellowships whose primary principle is to practice what is preached. The Amish, sometimes categorized as "Old Order," tend toward a stricter lifestyle and shun things -- such as technology and higher education -- that might fuzz the clear lines of Christ-like living. The Mennonites, in the other cart, often embrace modernization and accept the stress that comes with it.

By the time we broke away from the bookstore, the cheese factories were closed, so we were forced to stay the night. We rode west on State Road 39 and found affordable lodging at the Amish Country Inn in Berlin. That night we gorged on Amish-style eatables at the Dutch Harvest Restaurant.

The next day we took a small backward loop north on State Road 62, then headed south on State Road 515 to State Road 39, toward Walnut Creek. We also looped down State Road 557 south toward Charm and ended up back on State Road 93 below Sugarcreek. We were getting nowhere fast, but it was fascinating to ride among the Amish and imagine what their lives were like. Oh, and we got more than our share of cheese samples. In fact, butter cheese became an obsession and we bought a brick to strap onboard the bikes.

From Millersburg, you can either continue on State Road 39 toward Loudonville, then follow State Road 3 south toward Mt. Vernon, or cut that corner and sneak down the scenic U.S. Highway 62. Either way, you'll intersect U.S. Highway 36. At Coshocton, we wound our way down State Road 83 and jumped on Interstate 70 heading west to catch another of Cole's excellent recommendations -- the State Route 800/26 combination, also known as the Covered Bridge Byway.

While the Amish lifestyle appeared seductively serene and secure, we were happy to be on the run with the butter cheese. What misery of modern life cannot be atoned by a little hell-bent motorcycle riding on a buggy-free byway?

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