Eastbound Day 19 – 177 miles – Bedford to Lancaster

Wednesday, 13 April 1994

The weather, uniformly beautiful from San Francisco as far as Little Rock has been distinctly changeable ever since. We wake up in sleepy Bedford to pouring rain and it continues, on and off for most of the day. Our Californian Cadillac rightly takes exception to this and refuses to start but the how-to-start-a-recalcitrant-Caddy trick I learnt at the Grand Canyon does the job once again. The other fault the car is starting to develop is blowing oil out of the dipstick tube, which then burns off on the hot exhaust manifold. I’ve made a plastic cap from a bottle top to try and seal off the dipstick but a better solution is needed.

Caddy in Amish countryLancaster is the heart of Amish country and it’s a curious cultural collision. We’re here at a quiet time of year but this is a heavily touristed locale. Very heavily touristed. And why do people come here? To see the Amish of course. Do the Amish benefit from all this tourist interest? Apparently not at all. The end result is two highways, cutting through the Amish country, liberally dotted with shopping centres, restaurants, motels, tourist shops, Amish inspired ‘attractions’. By shunning the modern world the Amish have managed to create a major tourist industry with all the worst tourist excesses, all of it dedicated to watching them. One wonders if they won’t get fed up with it and move away, leaving the Amish-watching-industry without Amish to watch.

Still we’re dedicated tourists so we visit a Lancaster county museum (mostly wax work models of local history with an Amish barn raising thrown in for good measure). And an Amish house and farm (a quite interesting but very long-winded tour which would have been much more enjoyable if the tour guide was a little more succinct). Then we drove round some of the back country roads in the rain (yes they do drive around in those neat and tidy horse carriages). Stopped at a bank to get some money (where to my amazement an Amish stopped to negotiate with the drive-in ATM, just like a postcard I’d chuckled at earlier in the day). Finally we conclude the day with dinner at a family-style restaurant. Family style seems to mean each batch of arrivals are sat down together at a long table, the food is put on table to serve yourself, and there’s plenty of it. It seemed hokey but actually it’s rather fun and the food is simple, honest fare; we don’t even miss a glass of wine.

Driving through Pennsylvania we’ve come to the conclusion it has more useless stores than anywhere else we’ve been in America. Every other shop seems to be dedicated to antiques, presents, tourist goodies, candles, Christmas doo-dahs or other items of no discernible use.