Departing from Atlanta to the Amish Country and Beyond

Week of July 4, 1999
Our trip to Amish Country got underway by mid-Wednesday afternoon after we had finally gotten all the supplies loaded. We brought along Gus the golden retriever who is the official Southpoint mascot. Gus had gotten cozy in the back seat from the trip over with the steady sound of the diesel engine, until we went through a big thunderstorm. He wasn’t too thrilled with all that racket and began to shake uncontrollably. The thunderstorm subsided, to his relief, and he settled back to his steady napping. By nightfall, we found our way to Pinecone Campground, in Gaffney, SC. (north on I-85). The campground was peaceful, and seemed to be well managed by an amicable Chuck Hinchliffe, who was quick with a wise crack.
As we drove on, the weather cooperated and the rain held off. We arrived at Long’s Campground in Lexington, VA. An older rustic campground, it was geared more towards campers with small rigs or hunters. Our fifth wheel was crammed in close with the others like sardines. Gus wasn’t crazy about the close neighbors. The slideout of the fifth wheel next door was about 2 feet from our front door. There was also a herd of cattle next to the fence a few feet away. Gus was a little annoyed at all this closeness, especially with cattle, which to him looked like strange big dogs. That night, we drove about 15 miles south of Lexington to Natural Bridge. Natural Bridge is one of the seven wonders of the world. This huge rock bridge was created by nature. George Washington carved his initials in its side. Thomas Jefferson was so taken by it that he purchased it for a whopping $2.50, and built a cabin nearby. We watched a drama there after dusk, which told the story of the seven days of creation complete with lights, sound effects and music.

Sunrise In Virginia Near Lexington

The next morning, I took a trek up the road to take some pictures of the surrounding Appalachian mountains at sunrise. It was a peaceful stretch of road lined with cattle and horse farms. When I got back from my trek, I found out that the electricity had went off throughout the place, as if the campground was telling us it was time to leave. We decided it would be best to load up the truck to go into Lexington to have a look around.

Early Morning In Virginia

Rear of Stonewall Jackson's house in Lexington, Virginia First, we visited the house of Stonewall Jackson where he lived while teaching at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. We walked through the flower and vegetable garden and admired his buggy in the carriage house behind the main house. Next, we visited Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington-Lee University. On the upper floor was a life-sized marble statue of Robert E. Lee resting on a camp cot beside the battlefield. The detail of the statue was so fine you could see the weave of the fabric of the blanket covering Lee. It took four years to actually complete it. Downstairs was an interesting museum of George Washington and Robert E. Lee memorabilia (Robert E. Lee had married Mary, Martha Washington's great granddaughter.) Next to the museum was the office of Robert E. Lee left just as it was when he presided as president over the college. In front of his office is the Lee family tomb. Robert and his wife Mary are entombed there along with several of Lee's relatives. Traveler, the beloved horse of Robert E. Lee is buried just outside the chapel. Next, we visited the city cemetery, where we saw the graves of Stonewall Jackson, Pendleton, and many famous confederate soldiers. Lee Chapel on Washington-Lee University campus
Next, we headed north through West Virginia and Maryland to Pennsylvania. We stayed at Rustic Meadows Campground in Elizabethtown, PA. This was a quiet secluded campground with lots of squirrels and rabbits scampering around. We even saw what we think was a badger ambling through the campground. The prices were a little high but we were able to use our Passport America discount on the weeknights.
We drove out to the Amish country a few miles from Elizabethtown next morning. We ate lunch at Good n' Plenty in Smoketown, PA. We were seated at a long table with several other families. The waitress brought out large platters of fried chicken, ham, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, carrots, home-baked bread and several kinds of pies and puddings. We all passed around the platters like one big family. The food was all very good. We had people from 4 states and 2 different countries at our table. My favorite dessert was the shoofly pie, with vanilla ice cream. There was also a bakery there where we bought breads and cookies. Next, we stopped a couple of miles down the road at Bird in Hand, PA. Here we went to the Farmer's Market where they were selling all sorts of baked goods, meats, cheeses, fruits, jams, jellies, and handcrafted items. Outside, we watched Amish people going by in their buggies and wagons pulled by some of the best-looking horses we've seen. A wagon came by carrying a family with about 7 children. The boys all had their straw hats on. The women wore long dresses and the men wore black pants and suspenders. The children wore the same style clothing as the adults. We watched an Amish man fly by on his foot-propelled scooter on his way home from work. We were amazed at how fast he could make it go with just his foot propelling it. He carried his Igloo lunch cooler in a basket on the front of the scooter. We later saw several children on scooters pushing them with their bare feet on gravel roads. The Amish are allowed to have scooters and roller skates but not bicycles. We attended a benefit that a group of Amish were having under a large tent by the roadside. They were selling ice cream, pretzels, root beer and barbecue sandwiches. They also were selling quilts, saw blades with scenes painted on them and a few other items. There was also a man with a wagonload of corn still in the husk that he was selling 12 ears for $2. We bought some of the corn and can say it was some of the most perfect looking and tastiest corn we've had. They were making the ice cream in an interesting machine powered by a diesel engine. The root beer was homemade and was very strong. Next, we drove around the countryside admiring the farms we passed. We came to an Amish graveyard. Each headstone looked exactly like every other headstone there. They were very simple and had only the person's name, dates of birth and death and the exact number of years and days they lived. There were no flowers anywhere. We also saw several one-room Amish schoolhouses. They were simple buildings with a bell on top and outhouses out back. We passed fields of corn, tobacco, alfalfa and millet. They were large herds of dairy cattle all around. We passed under one covered bridge. Each farm had a large farmhouse of several stories and an even larger barn. There were usually several huge silos close to the barns. Back in 1693, there was a split in the Amish community, and the Mennonites were formed. Amish ancestors originally came from Switzerland beginning in 1727, and later Germany, to escape religious persecution. The Amish have passed down the customs and family and community values on to each generation, a trait which is to be admired in today's world. The Mennonites today have similar beliefs as the Amish, but allow for driving vehicles, electricity, and modern forms of dress. There are over 175 close knit Amish communities located throughout the U.S. The Amish keep up with each community by reading the Budget newspaper, which lists marriages, births, deaths, get-togethers, and other news, and has been publishing for over 100 years. Different communities may have slightly different forms of dress. For example, a Pennsylvania group has one suspender, and a yellow topped horse buggy. Most Amish have ties to 30 families. Two of the most common are the Millers and the Yoders. One trend that is having an effect on the Amish is the attraction of factory work, which has led many young Amish away from farms.

Next Week: On To Gettysburg and Washington D.C.

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