We have moved south to the heart of the Ohio Amish and are camped in a very nice campground in Berlin, Ohio. They have free WI-FI, firewood and roomy sites. This area has become a busy tourist destination centered on the fact that a large Amish and Mennonite community reside in the area. Over half of the population of the county is either Amish or Mennonite.
Here you can enjoy the countryside along small roads lined with farms and small businesses, many of them Amish. The fall is now fully coming into season and leaves are turning and falling to the ground. The Amish buggies are everywhere and the tourists, who have come to see this way of life, often seem impatient at the slow pace of this mode of transportation. While the Amish are certainly having their own struggles with remaining “plain” in an ever more complicated world, observing their efforts to live simple and apart lives does remind us that too much rushing around may not be any better.
Of course, when there is any kind of “natural” attraction, this apparently calls for converting any available historic looking structure into some kind of gift shop. How they all can stay in business is a complete mystery to me. We prefer to try to visit those locations where something might be learned rather than money spent on what will almost certainly become basement storage fodder. One of those places here is the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin, Ohio. Here guides will provide you with an over view of their history and lifestyle. This center houses the “Behalt”, which is a 265’ mural depicting the origins of the various Anabaptist movements from the start until now. Well worth the visit.
The State Winnebago Club had its final outing of the year last weekend near Navarre, Ohio on the northern edge of Ohio Amish country. We left Port Clinton to attend this event with other members of our local club since we intended to spend some time in Amish country before heading south in any case.
In addition to the usual rally activities, we toured the area and found the countryside to be beautiful rolling hills covered with both Amish and more traditional farms. It quickly became clear that Amish tourism is growing and perhaps more popular as it can be an inexpensive day trip for many.
We visited a cheese production plant and store, where I saw my first beard cover and lots of tourists’ hitting the free samples. After watching their sanitation habits for a few moments, I opted out of the free samples. There is a very large and unusual hardware store which was a great deal of fun to stroll through. Lots of expensive items are available to create that old country feeling.
From here we will move south a small distance to the heart of Amish country in Holmes County.
Put-in-Bay is the only town on South Bass Island located12 miles north of the mainland town of Port Clinton. I think of this town as having a similar atmosphere as Annapolis, Maryland. Boating and drinking are too of its most popular pastimes. In the summer the harbor is crowded with boats and the main street is occupied with all the basic tourist trap shops, restaurants and lots of drinking establishments.
It also is home to the Commodore Perry’s National Monument commemorating his naval victory over the British just of the South Bass Island. It is a must see on any visit. There is also many other things to do and see beyond the party area. It is a great place for bike or golf cart riding, where you can easily explore the whole island in a day.
We took the fast Jet Express which travels at 40 MPH. You get a good view of Lake Erie and the surrounding islands and the route takes you past one of the most unusual homes on South Bass Island. This home is the forward end of a Lake Erie Cargo Vessel and is located on the shoreline with the bow thrusting out into the lake.
On this trip the town was very quiet as the season is basically over. We have never seen the harbor so empty. This was a bit of a nostalgia trip for us, as this was our favorite port of call when we kept our sailboat “Razor’s Edge” on Lake Erie. We enjoyed lying on a buoy in the harbor and watching some of the crazy activities going on. In the evening, we would take the water taxi into town and walk the docks and observe the wild parties on the power boats and guess who was going to feel the worst in the morning and have the most regrets about the previous evening.
In the Great Lakes it is truly a one of a kind place to visit.
We completed our annual service visit without any surprises and headed to a Good Sam Club rally in Wauseon, Ohio. This rally had around 400 units in attendance. We went to the entertainment each evening and took two of the local tours. Both were very interesting-one to the fire station and the other a tour of a dairy production facility where they produce hormone and chemical free milk and other dairy products. We also checked out some of the farm markets in the area and the rest of our time was spent chatting with follower travelers and just relaxing.
The next stop was the Erie Island RV resort in Port Clinton, Ohio. We were interested in seeing how this facility is doing, as it seemed a bit run down the last time we were here and supposedly has been upgraded. We noticed right away when we headed to our assigned spot that one of the derelict motorhomes near us two years ago was still in the same spot. While they have been sprucing up some areas, the campground still has some very sad equipment in it, which would not generally be expected in a “resort”. That aside, it is still a decent place to spend some time near Lake Erie. We have also been enjoying talking with our neighbors from Australia, Nova Scotia, and Colorado. One of the reasons we came here was to visit Put in Bay on South Bass Island in Lake Erie. So far that has not been accomplished due to threatening weather. Tomorrow will be our last chance as we are moving on Thursday. Forecast is for rain.
Today we went to Sandusky, a once thriving lake port for some great ice cream from Toft’s, which is made in Sandusky and can be enjoyed at the outlet in front of the plant. Very good! The town is hanging on but clearly having a rough time.