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, classy Badger Crossing eatery next door to Bobby Johns in Cashton which gave us endless cups of coffee. A friendly lady from Chicago that gave the writer a ride to his hotel after he destroyed his derailleur, 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, bombing the downhills with Rocket Rob, surviving the near hairpin turn after going into a high speed wobble into Soldiers Grove, the descent into Chaseburg, strolling with my honey in Viroqua, shady lanes and big hardwoods, Amish farms.
Downers: Cheap family restaurant in Viroqua that gave us 5 ounce steaks for the price of a 10 ounce (after much cajoling they realized the error of their ways and turned 5 ounces into 15), Phil’s Soggy Bottom Supper Club not catering to the public, a trashed Campagnolo Super Record derailleur that was anything but cheap, chasing Jack Rabbit Rempel up the climbs, the 17% grade on the Apple Orchard road out of Gays Mills after consuming an enormous and delicious sub sandwich, Curt and I almost crashing on the last corner into Soldiers Grove, having to admit that Curt might be correct about the body adding fat when it is being slogged to death on the climbs (I weigh more than when I left!)
Final Impressions: Another great cycling vacation in Vernon County with excellent cycling companions, gorgeous scenery, endless route options, and the most fun on the downhills since riding in the Black Forest and the Alps.