Having grown up in the New York metropolitan area, I had absolutely no interaction with Amish people and frankly didn’t understand them. What I knew came from reading brief descriptions in textbooks or from hearing what others had to say about them. I was lead to believe that they worked on their farms in Pennsylvania, stuck to themselves and really didn’t want to interact with the “English.”
Because of our unplanned visit to Berlin, OH and the opportunity to spend an evening and the next morning visiting with Leroy and Cinda Yoder, the stereotype I have carried all these years is now history. I was honored to be invited into their home and hope that through writing letters we will be able to stay in touch with them when we return to Vermont.
On Saturday morning, Shevonne and I continued eastward on our journey, cycling through the heart of Ohio’s Amish country, which features beautiful rolling hills. With my new appreciation for the Anabaptists, I waved to every Amish and Mennonite person we encountered (in buggies and on bicycles) and every one of them waved back.
We traveled some 20 miles along US Route 62 to Navarre, where we picked up the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, part of the Great American Rail Trail. This recreation trail is not a rail trail; instead it follows a historic canal, constructed in the 1820’s, that once ran from Portsmouth, on the Ohio River, to Cleveland. Along this scenic trail in the woods, we passed several old locks, had lunch in the historic town of Bolivar and traveled through the site of Fort Laurens, the only Revolutionary War fort located in what would become the State of Ohio. Currently, the trail ends in Zoarville meaning that we had to cycle on a very busy road for ten miles to Atwood Lake, our destination. To us, it seemed as though the entire population of Ohio was camping there – it was crammed with recreational vehicles of all shapes and sizes and plenty of folks driving golf carts. I believe we may have had the only tent in the entire park. The lake is gorgeous and for the first time in months, it was superb to be invited to join our neighbor’s campfire as the temperatures significantly dropped
Our next destination was Weirton, WV (an old industrial steel city) where Shevonne’s sister, Leah, recently purchased a home that overlooks the Ohio River. We could see barges and pleasure boats traveling from our perch in her gazebo. Leah made sure we had a relaxing stay, buying our favorite foods, hosting a picnic and introducing us to the finest ribs in town.
From her home, we had a three-mile ride through Weirton to pick up the Panhandle Trail (the next section of the Great American Rail Trail). The Panhandle Trail, runs along an old rail bed from West Virginia’s panhandle to Carnegie, PA. Apparently, the former railroad transported coal from West Virginia to the steel mills around Pittsburgh. It was definitely a day when our raincoats were on and off. After 20 miles, we turned onto the Montour Trail and after another 20 miles we went from rural country to the suburbs of Pittsburgh, arriving at the Coraopolis trailhead. Thankfully we did not have to ride the last 11 miles into Pittsburgh as there is presently no safe cycling route to the city. Leah borrowed a pickup truck, found us without issue and we loaded our bicycles in the back for the last part of the day’s journey.
Follow us as we spin our wheels