Tuesday, May 21, 2013 5:31 PM
Photo courtesy of Linda Blachly. Travel writer Linda Blachly had often written about the Amish Country Bike Tour in Dover, Del., but this year, she also biked it.
Published on: Saturday, October 08, 2011
By Linda Blachly
A few years ago when the doctor told me I had arthritis in both hips, I thought my days of outdoor activities were about over. For three months I couldn’t even walk the dog. That Christmas I remember it was so hard for me to walk and get in and out of the car; I went to a local strip mall and did all my shopping there. That way I only had to endure the pain of getting in and out of the car once.
What to do? Well, at age 50, my doctor said they didn’t like to do hip replacements in patients under 60, so I had to manage the pain for 10 years. How, I asked?
“Cycling,” said my doctor. “Build up the muscles around the hips and you can slow down the degeneration from the arthritis.” That sounded like a plan to me!
At first I cycled on my stationary bike, but that soon became very boring. As my strength increased and the weather warmed, I got a bicycle and began exploring some of the bike trails around my neighborhood. A few miles at a time, I discovered the adventure they call cycling.
Photo courtesy of Linda Blachly. An Amish buggy shares a Dover, Del. road with 1,750 cyclists during the annual Amish Country Bike Tour.
Last month I participated in my first bike tour, the Amish Country Bike Tour, in Dover, Del. As a travel writer, I had written about this tour for a few years. This year, I said, I was going to do it. I had built up my endurance so that I could comfortably do 10-15 miles, but I decided to challenge myself and I actually made 25 miles!
The day started out around 8 a.m. when I met up with 1,750 other cyclists from around the region. We gathered behind an Amish buggy and were off! I tried not to look like a “newbie,” and at first decided I should do the 15-mile trail. But, right before the trail split off for 25 miles, I decided to go for it!
I have to say that the Kent County Tourism Office did such a great job of organizing this event. The trails, which were 15, 25, 50, 62 and 100 miles, were carefully laid out with both written directions and maps. There was even a rest stop at an Amish schoolhouse and three other stops along the way for those traveling the longer distances. At the end we were treated to an awesome BBQ dinner.
Even though I wasn’t part of a group, I never felt alone. There were so many delightful people to chat with as we biked along. Of course they all passed me by, but that was OK. I wasn’t there to race through the day, I wanted to take my time and enjoy the ride through the Amish country.
The first thing people say when I tell them about this ride is that they weren’t aware there are Amish people in Dover. I’m here to tell you, yes there is. And what a beautiful community it is. I saw Amish farmers cultivating their crops using horse-drawn machinery to cut and bale corn, fields of crops and farm animals, and farmers and their wives working out in the yard.
The thing I found most amusing was the attention we attracted! When most people visit Amish country it is usually the Amish people who are on display. This time, we were the main attraction! And I’m sure it was quite a sight to see as 1,750 cyclists invaded their countryside.
Amish children watched us from roofs, porches, and sitting on crates at the end of their driveways. They hung over fences to get a glimpse of us. Whole families sat in porch swings and watched us. One enterprising young man along the way set up a stand and sold vegetables and fruit for a quarter.
When I got to mile 18, I remember thinking, oh man, how am I ever going to make it? I stopped along the road to rest and a bike tour van pulled up behind me. “Are you OK?” the driver asked, offering water and seeing if I needed repairs. Just then another small group of cyclists stopped to rest. After a five-minute chat, I regrouped and was on my way. Maybe it had something to do with that 80-year-old man who was cycling the same trail as me. If he can do it, so can I!
Another time I stopped and texted my kids. “Go for it, Mom, you can do it,” they encouraged. And so I did.
I’ve often heard it said that life is not about the destination but about the journey. For me this adventure was both. What an awesome ride!