Stop #7: Amish Country
I'll lead with this: had our family been Amish, I assure you that we would've lived a Struggle Buggy life. When I think of the many things the Amish are gifted at and known for--simplicity, farming, raising animals, and crafting high-quality handmade goods--there isn't a single one of those things I'm good at. Had we been Amish, my poor family would've been up a creek.
That said, I've always revered the Amish. Their devotion to a simple life of faith is world-renowned, as is their reputation for impeccable craftsmanship. I have always wanted to visit the Amish Country, and our visit did not disappoint.
As we drove into town, Careese noticed an adorable little bookstore.
"That's great! We should stop there first." she said.
"Why? Is there a particular type of book you're interested in?" I responded, obliviously.
It took me a little longer than it should have to remember the following fact: a big reason we're on this trip is to give away copies of Struggle Bus to local bookstores.
"Oh, riiiiggghhhhttttt. To give them copies of my book."
I'm quite possibly the world's worst book promoter.
Anyhow, we stopped in, gave away a few Struggle Bus books, bought several other books, and headed across the street, following the distinct aroma of pretzels in the air. We quickly found the aroma's source: a lovely little bakery selling handmade soft pretzels. I bought a few of these pretzels for our family to share and walked out of the store. After tearing off small pieces for everyone and after we'd all taken bites, I reversed course, walked back into the little pretzel shop, and bought more pretzels...because the pretzels we had just eaten were the best pretzels any of us had ever eaten...possibly the best pretzels any human had ever eaten.
Our main stop of the day was a little working farm, complete with a little market and petting zoo. As we looked around the market at the dizzying array of goods, I realized something. There's only one other place in the world where I'd experienced this feeling...a feeling of simultaneous joy and anticipation and gluttony coinciding with a checking of my allowance money balance on my phone. Bucc-ee's! I think this place is what Bucc-ee's would look like if it were built by the Amish. Oh my goodness, we just stumbled upon Amish Bucc-ee's! This was going to be a great day.
The peaches out front looked rather tasty, so we bought a couple and bit in. I want to be careful not to overstate this. Those peaches were the best-tasting peaches that have ever come forth from the ground of this earth.
That's all it took. The peaches kick-started an Amish Market buying frenzy even more ravenous than my Bucc-ee's buying frenzies. Here's a list of things we bought: chocolate milk, cheese (3 kinds), beef jerky, a dozen apples, a dozen peaches, beef & cheddar sticks, sausage, pistachios, honey roasted peanuts, dried mangoes, barbecue potato chips, homemade ice cream, gummy bears, an oatmeal cream pie, and caramel corn nuggets. Each item was tastier than the last. Holy moly do the Amish ever know how to make some food.
I also bought a couple leather belts and a magnet. The wonderful Amish farm folks threw in a free hand-crafted leather fly swatter because we spent so much.
After the market, we spent a great deal of time at their petting zoo. To say that the kids loved it would be an understatement. You can see the pure joy in the photos below.
And now, some marriage advice. At one point, Careese and I were looking at a momma pig and her 8 piglets. Poor momma pig was trying to get some sleep, but the piglets were crawling all over her. As I sometimes do, I spoke before thinking. I said something like, "I think this is one of those exhibits where the art is imitating your life!" Careese responded laughingly: "I'm going to need you to replay that analogy in your mind a couple of times and see if you can figure out where you went wrong here."
Me: "Oh dear. I'm never going to hear the end of this, am I?"
Careese, rather enjoying the moment: "Probably not."
Thanks for the memories, Amish Country. You were all I hoped you would be and more. We'll be back again.
On to the next stop: Cincinnati, OH and The Ark Encounter. Probably. There's a small chance that you neither hear nor see from us ever again. If you need anything, just check the pretzel stores near Berlin, OH or Hershberger's Farm and Bakery. Look for a guy who looks a lot like me, but is about 100 pounds heavier with a large smile on his face.