As a youth growing up in Dauphin I proudly explained to the Ukrainians and Scots of that community that I was of Mennonite heritage. The most common misconception was that Mennonites rejected such conveniences of modern life as electricity and automobiles. It was a challenge to explain to my 13 year-old friends the religious distinctions that made Mennonites, Old Mennonites, Hutterites, Haldemans and Amish different from one another. Having lived in Indiana however I knew that the Old Order Mennonites and the Amish were the ones that rejected that unnatural and pride inducing beast known as the automobile in favour of the lowly horse. I suppose that there is something humbling about sitting in the buggy up close to the ass of the horse that prevents pride from welling up in the breast of the owner.
Many Mennonites have moved so far from their roots that Menno Simons would be appalled that they still identify themselves with him. Most Mennonites have also quite readily accepted the material offerings of modern life making them indistinguishable from the non-Mennonites around. The Amish on the other hand cling to life as it was in the 1700’s and have left a unique cultural imprint on the landscape from Pennsylvania to Minnesota.
Vernon County Wisconsin is Amish country. The roads also make it cycling utopia. Combine the two and you have the perfect setting for a great cycling holiday. While the Mennonites in Tights are addicted to the Red Wing Diner and the Cat Sass, occasionally it is necessary to get out of the comfort zone and experience some new terrain. Three of the Mennonites in Tights and one wife made the trip to cycle and spitzier with the Amish.
Highlites: Cheap cheese curds and top notch Westby sharp cheddar, cheap hotel and some good talks with the owner (Louis from Serbia), cheap gas, cheap Bobby Johns eatery that wouldn’t serve us breakfast or make us coffee, classy Badger Crossing eatery next door to Bobby Johns which gave us endless cups of coffee.
Cheap family restaurant in Viroqua that gave us 5 ounce steaks for the price of a 10 ounce but after much cajoling realized the error of their ways, Phil’s Soggy Bottom Supper Club, a blown Campagnolo Super Record derailleur and a friendly lady from Chicago that gave the writer a ride to his hotel, a fine bike shop called the Blue Dog whose owner provided his own Kona road bike so that the author could complete his riding vacation, hill country (ascending and descending), shady lanes and big hardwoods, Amish farms.
Good cycling companions, friendly drivers, gorgeous scenery, endless route options, and did I mention the awesome downhills.