May 21: Erie to Geneva-on-the-Lake, Pennsylvania - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

May 21: Erie to Geneva-on-the-Lake, Pennsylvania

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YOU REMEMBER I wondered if there was a schism in the Amish community, whether some were less prepared to live in the 18th century? I wasn't far off the mark.

Anthony's Cafe is on a corner going down towards the lake in Conneaut, one of those towns visitors never know how to pronounce. There on the table next to us was a man with a magnificent beard that begged to be photographed. I raised the idea and the man who owned it barely acknowledged me. In fact, I'm not sure he acknowledged me at all. Instead, a bright-eyed chap with a far less glorious beard said: "They don't like having their picture taken."

They?

I didn't ask the question but he could read my thoughts.

"The Amish - they don't like it."

"Sorry," I said to Sobersides. "I didn't realise. All the Amish we saw in Pennsylvania had small black beards and dressed in blue. And they were happy to chat." Again he didn't even look at me.

"He's old-school Amish," Brighteyes explained.

"What's that?"

"It means he doesn't have electricity in his home. Some branches have telephones or use a tractor. He's old-school: you can tell from the colour of his hat band."

There are many strange things in the world of religion and I suppose distinguishing your beliefs by your hat band is no odder than much else. I would have liked to ask more but the tone was difficult and I beat a retreat.

Two questions I'd like to have asked were:

[] Who was Brighteyes and why would Sobersides talk to him and not to me?

[] If you refuse to have electricity in your house, how do you justify eating in a cafe that uses it for cooking and lighting?

But, sadly, I can't bring you the answers.

Signposting in the USA is excellent. Just as well or I'd have assumed this was the main highway...
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THE WAITRESS was a lively, bright-eyed girl called Amanda.

"You doing the Underground Railroad or the other route?" she asked. Most people ask how many miles we ride a day; this time we were being questioned by someone with detailed knowledge.

"Oh, we gedda lodda cyclists," she said. "There are two routes and they merge for a while here."

I asked why she didn't have a guest book. I said it would make an interesting addition for the cafe and that it would give a sense of community to those who used it, showing who was a day or two ahead and offering a chance to leave messages for those who followed.

"Hey, that's a really cool idea."

And that's just what the boss said as he came out from the kitchen to say goodbye.

"We'll have it here within 24 hours," he said. "I'm really grateful for the idea."

On the road
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GENEVA-ON-THE-LAKE, by the way, is tawdry. Distinctly upmarket people used to build cabins here. So upmarket that anyone else was riffraff. It is now the riffraff who dominate. The main street is a circus of cheap motels, hamburger joints, restaurants with silly names, anything that makes easy money. Geneva-on-the-Make.

We were glad to ride on to the state park in the neighbouring town of Geneva, which is beyond doubt embarrassed by the hamburger fat and pinball noise up the road. We were charged $25 to camp on a pitch with no water and a quarter-mile walk to the toilets. Every time we pointed out the site's deficiencies to the state trooper (or whatever it said on the side of his car), he said: "Yes, sir, that's what everyone else complains about."

AMERICAN FLAGS SEEN: 250

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