Day 152 • July 31, 2012 • Ephrata to Norristown, PA • 44 miles
To anyone who thinks a bike trip like ours foolhardy or an elaborate form of suicide, consider folks like John, the Mennonite gentleman whose family boarded us last night. They ride bikes or drive carriages every single day on some of the worst roads for traffic we’ve seen. They don’t view it as unnecessary risk, but an important part of life that is worth some manageable risk. Just like driving a car is worth substantial risk for most of us, whether or not we admit the risk. I asked John if car/bike and car/carriage accidents were a problem for them. He quickly said no. But then he thought about it and admitted that, yes, occasionally accidents happen, not very often, and gave me a look and a shrug that said to me “duh!—of course accidents happen, but why would that keep us from living the life we want?”
As we were preparing to leave this morning, John casually mentioned that they could drive to market if Zoe would like a ride in the carriage. Was this another trick question? I jumped at yet another wonderful opportunity courtesy of John and his family. Before I could get the trike packed, John and Ellen were waiting with horse and buggy. The market was on our route so Zoe rode with them while I followed in the trike. Going up the hills I learned that I’m noticeably less than one horsepower.
Market was a bustling, chaotic place where horse-drawn buggies mixed it up with big panel trucks awaiting the local produce. I steered the trike around a boy who must have been about Zoe’s age driving a carriage full of people and produce. Carriages were lined up for one of two auctions that were running simultaneously. I don’t know how business was transacted through the din of the dueling auctioneers, but no one seemed to mind. Zoe and I stayed for quite a while, chatting and just watching the activity. Janet was there hoping to score some more prime purchases for her fruit stand, like the peaches we bought yesterday. Zoe and I got the last of that batch.
Eventually we said goodbye to John and Ellen and Janet and headed on down the road. Before leaving the area, we stopped at an Amish/Mennonite welcome center where we ate the lunch that Ellen had packed for us. The Amish gentleman running the place was in his eighties I’d say and told us all about the area. He seemed a little down, I think because his lifelong church had recently closed. The restrictions of a conventional Amish church, particularly disallowing the use of automobiles, had driven local youth to less restrictive churches. As older folks had died with no young people to back fill, the church’s population had dwindled to the point where they decided to close it. He was now part of a church that was much less restrictive about technology. This outcome surprised me a bit. I didn’t detect any particular longing for technology in John’s family—even the young people seemed to be leading fulfilling lives without the aid of automobiles or other trappings of “modern” life. Maybe that’s just what I wish for them.