In Search of Local Amish

I call it the “Groundhog Day” conversation, a reference to the movie starring Bill Murray, because I get drawn into the same exchange most times I travel to participate in a group ride.

First the polite question:

“Where are you from?”

Followed by the polite answer:

“Greensboro.”

Then a look of surprise and the abrupt, unfiltered query, “Aren’t there rides in Greensboro?!”

Resisting the temptation of a snarky retort, I explain I enjoy meeting cyclists throughout North Carolina and experiencing more of what our state has to offer while atop the saddle of my bike.

This same narrative unfolded after a recent excursion I undertook with the Clip In & Ride cycling group based in Forsyth and Davie Counties.  Carolyn Reavis Mundt founded Clip In & Ride in January 2012, and after five years of steady growth, membership now exceeds 660 people with the group averaging close to 300 rides per year.

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Clip In & Ride’s current president, Vanessa Mebel, posted an out and back ride from the Huntsville Baptist Church in Yadkin County near Farmington to the Shiloh General Store in Hamptonville (Iredell County), a distance of about 47 miles.  The general store is an Amish owned business that opened in 2004 and sells meats, cheeses, herbs, spices, children’s toys, bulk foods, nuts, dried fruits, homemade baskets, jams, jellies, wooden furniture, and honey during the summer.  A deli in the back offers a daily lunch, and all edible items utilize fresh ingredients with no processed foods being served or found on the shelves.

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Shiloh General Store is sometimes truncated to Shiloh’s OR referred to as the Amish bakery due to the breads, fried pies, and other baked goods prepared each day.  Scratch made glazed doughnuts are available on Saturdays and are an especially popular item.

Another enticing aspect of this ride was the Union Grove district, which includes Hamptonville, is the only Amish settlement currently operating in North Carolina.  The Amish settled here in 1985 from southern Ohio where they adhere to a more liberal interpretation of their faith including allowing private homes to connect to the public power grid.  In fact, during the ride, I saw an Amish man operating a tractor near St. Paul Church Road..

No matter how often you cycle in Greensboro, you will not encounter any Amish or any business like the general store as the Union Grove area remains the sole place in our state where you can go “In Search of Local Amish.”

I had volunteered to be the C group leader for Vanessa’s ride so I arrived about 30 minutes early at the church to prep my bike and meet the cyclists I would be escorting.  C riders average 13 – 15mph and congregate at the back of the pack on most group outings.

However, a problem developed as the posted start time drew near.  Many C riders canceled their plans last minute due to lingering weather conditions like damp roads and cool temperatures, and the two C riders who did come said they wanted to try and keep up with the B cyclists whose target speed for this ride was 15.5 – 16.5 mph.

I was out of a job and jokingly told Vanessa I was promoting myself to sweep.  Being sweep is actually an important function and means you are the last rider on the route who takes on the responsibility of ensuing everyone is accounted for and receives any assistance they may require.   She agreed that this role revision was an acceptable alternative especially as I had driven an hour to be of help.

Cyclists preparing to depart Huntsville Baptist Church:

The ride began with a small number of A riders sprinting ahead at about 20 mph followed by Vanessa’s main body of B riders who would push each other into the 17+ mph range.  This pace ended up being a little fast for one of the C riders who dropped back and kept me company the rest of the way to the general store.

Highlights of this portion of the route included being chased by a mid-sized dog on US-21 South/Harmony Highway who insisted on running ahead of my C rider friend’s front wheel to her general dismay and seeing an Amish woman riding her bicycle down Windsor Road while wearing a full length black dress and matching bonnet.

Entering Amish Country on Hunting Creek Church Road:

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We arrived at Shiloh’s and discovered the business awash with customers after having undergone a major expansion and renovation.  Check-out lines a dozen people deep convinced me to limit my time inside the building, which proved fortuitous as Vanessa’s B group was preparing to leave as I stepped back outside (The A group had departed before my C rider friend and I reached the store).

Cyclists assembling to begin the return trip back to Huntsville Baptist Church:

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The second C rider joined my friend and I for the return trip as he wished to focus on enjoying the scenery rather than maintaining a faster average speed.   Nevertheless, everyone hammered down the flat and downhill stretches heading away from the general store, and I was well to the rear by the time I reached Barnard Mill Road.

Barnard Mill has a bridge over the South Yadkin River that marks the start of a ¾ mile climb that begins with a steep 7% grade (according to RideWithGPS) followed by two longer inclines with less severe ascents.  Perhaps out of kindness to let me to catch-up or perhaps because they needed a blow, I found the main body waiting to turn onto US-21 N/Harmony Highway.

I may be slow, but I can ride a long way without stopping.  As I slipped past Vanessa’s B riders to seize the lead, however transitory, I did an enthusiastic fist pump while shouting (at least inside the confines of my own mind), “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more unto the breach;”  Who says cyclists can’t have moments of literary erudition?

Uneventful is how I would describe the rest of the way as the two C riders and I more or less stayed together for the remainder of the route.  I averaged a little more than 14 mph on this 47.36 mile route with a total gain of 1,502’/1,690’ (MapMyRide and RideWithGPS figures respectively).

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Back at the church, several of us decided to have lunch at a place called the FeedBag.  This eatery, which purports to be the best restaurant in Farmington, is also the only restaurant in Farmington.  Despite this dubious distinction, I enjoyed my burger and fries and would return even if I did not ring their bell to indicate I had been served more food than mortal man could consume.  Then again, I do not expect plow horse portions on an $8 ticket.

The famous FeedBag Restaurant with the mural of Farmington Crossing on the roof.

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Not pictured: Lex.

Good food.  Good  ride.   And we were successful in our search to find local Amish.  Good day overall. Until the next cycling adventure…..

Interested in learning more about the Clip In & Ride Cycling Group?

https://www.meetup.com/Clip-In-and-Ride-Cycling-Group/

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Interested in visiting the Shiloh General Store?

https://www.visitnc.com/listing/shiloh-general-store

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Interested in eating at the FeedBag?

https://www.facebook.com/Feed-Bag-Provisions-291837154191958/

 

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2 thoughts on “In Search of Local Amish

  1. Come back soon, Lex! We’ll be going to a different general store this weekend. The Rockford General Store, which boasts the thickest cheese & bologna sandwiches known to mankind. 🙂

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