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   Out There, Among the Amish  

By Alan Ira Fleischmann

The smell of manure is heavy in the air. Springtime in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Miles and miles of naturally fertilized farms are the backdrop for a wonderful weekend of cycling. With the exception of the highly commercialized Route 30, the Amish countryside offers picture postcard sights, each one prettier than the last. Miles and miles of lightly traveled roads make for a truly memorable riding experience.

The terrain, though not without hills, is mostly gently rolling. Covered bridges and craft and antique shops are everywhere. The Amish, famous for their farming, carpentry, quilt work, and horse-drawn buggies, are a wonderful, gentle, and friendly group (all eighteen thousand of them), who wave, smile, and offer directions if you're lost.

It seems that every second mailbox contains the name Stoltzfuss, King, Lapp, or Fischer:  four very common Amish names in this very family-oriented region. Most Amish have maintained traditional values, shunning electricity, cars, farm machinery, telephones, television, and higher education. They have, however, flourished and grown, in spite of the technological encroachment of the 80's and 90's.

Stop for ice cream or shop for antiques without locking your bike. Ride at your own pace along roads that make right angles around fields and silos. Pass dozens of herds of cows, lazily grazing or returning to the barns for milking. Watch an Amish farmer guiding a six-mule team pulling a twenty-foot plow. Every church has a plaque that announces:  "All Are Welcome."

Park your car and stay at a motel or campsite. In the evening, eat at one of the many "family style" restaurants in the area, or at Miller's Smorgasbord, offering the biggest and best selection of traditional and contemporary foods (including shoofly pie) I've ever eaten. Hundreds of outlet stores allow you to "shop 'til you drop!"  Quaint antique and craft shops offer everything in locally made gifts and souvenirs.

My favorite part of this country, however, is the cycling. Spend a few hours on two wheels in this nearby slice of true Americana, and blow off a year of stress.

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