Skating Through Intercourse: In-line Touring Through Pennsylvania's Amish Country
From behind the window of a freshly scrubbed farmhouse, twelve questioning eyes study him as he rests on the edge of a field that evaporates into the horizon beyond the road.
Running his hand through the moist soil recently turned by the team of horses that pulls the family plow, he takes in the distinctive smell of the earth and newly mowed hay. Cautiously, the mother and her five barefoot children emerge from the house and draw near "The English."
"Why you doing that?" the three-year old blurts, looking down at the traveler's encumbered feet.
"Because it's fun," he answers.
The woman quickly pulls the child behind her 19th-century dress as if to say, "Don't talk to strangers." Richard Barnet's inline skates have made him more than a stranger; they've cast him in a foreign century.
Barnet is one of 25 participants of an inline skate tour of Pennsylvania's Amish Country that commences in Lancaster County known for, among other things, a town called Intercourse, located next to a village called Bird in the Hand. It's three days of visiting one of the most unusual parts of the country and seeing it from an even more unusual perspective: on wheels.
Inline tour companies, once non-existent in the United States, are rapidly
emerging in a number of diverse and unexpected places. Alaska's Inline
Adventures now offers tours of Anchorage and The Wheel Thing Hawaii
offers tours of Honolulu and the surrounding countryside.
At first, Barnet frets that his fifty year-old body may not be up to
the several hours of skating each day. But his fears are dispelled as
people of all ages, body types and physical conditions gather for the
adventure of skating through Intercourse.
Skates are buckled on, helmets and pads are in place, and before taking to the streets, Zephyr tour organizer Allan Wright reminds the skaters to enjoy the scenery and ask permission before snapping a close-up picture of the Amish, who embrace an austere lifestyle, shun technology and ride in horse-drawn buggies.
The days fly by and so do covered bridges, massive white farmhouses, restored colonial homes and cows lazing in the sun. When silos silhouette against twilight, a home-style Amish meal awaits the rollers. In the evening, accommodations are in Doneker's Guesthouse in Ephrata.
The last tour day falls on Sunday. After church lets out, dozens of horse-drawn carriages progress slowly onto the roads. A short time later, Barnet realizes he is sandwiched between two lines of carriages--twenty ahead and thirty behind. This caravan expels no car exhaust or radio bass booms. Together they flow forward over the noise of squeaking wagon and humming skate wheels. Barnet no longer feels different because he is on skates, but leisurely rolling along beside the horses and buggies, he senses a connection to the Amish people and their unhurried way of life.
"The music-like sound of two hundred horse shoes on the blacktop roadway
as children strained to see The English with rolling shoes shall forever
stay with me," explains Barnet. After all, it's not every day you can
skate through Intercourse.
Zephyr Inline Skate Tours
Alaska Inline Adventures
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