The Quiet CHARM of Minnesota’s Amish Country

Pat Raines swears there’s always been a touch of “vagabond gypsy” in her blood.

So her plan was to retire, buy an RV and hit the road when she turned 70. Then one morning, she awoke and thought, “Why wait?”

Inspired by favorite author John Steinbeck, she sold her house, gave away her furniture, bought a 22-foot class B motorhome, grabbed Taz, her black pug, and set off to rediscover America.

Since then, she’s been visiting old friends, exploring back roads, being spontaneous and open to adventure, and having the time of her life.

“I’m really having a blast,” she confided. “I can’t wipe the smile off my face.”

One of the benefits of her lifestyle? Stumbling across unexpected attractions along the way.

That’s what happened earlier this year when she found herself in Harmony, Minn., touring the state’s largest Amish community, and loving every minute.

PAT: “I ended up in Minnesota by chance – my air conditioning had broken down and I had it fixed while staying with friends in northern Michigan.

“I was heading south to meet friends in Colorado and I just allowed myself to go where my name was being called. I’d never been to Minnesota before, but I had visited Amish communities in Ohio in the late 1960s, and I’ve always been really intrigued with the Amish, the Mennonites and the Quakers – all those peace-loving people.

“Come to find out, the community in Harmony, Minn., (Fillmore County) had largely emigrated from Wayne County, in Ohio, which was becoming overcrowded.

“It was fascinating to learn how they really harmonized with the mostly Scandinavian residents. They really helped each other, with cooperation going back and forth.

“Today, it’s Minnesota’s largest Amish community, and a place where the past really comes to life. They still use horse and buggies, live without electricity, and educate their children in one-room schoolhouses.

“I wound up staying at a little plug-in park – they just had electric hook-ups – within walking distance of the town. In the time I was there – just three or four days – only one other person pulled in. You paid on the honor system, which struck me as so sweet. Everyone there was very trusting and very friendly.

“One of the highlights of the visit was this great tour, where you could really immerse yourself inside the Amish culture. The two and one half hour tour took you into the homes and kitchens of local Amish families. Some had items for sale – home-made pastries, pickles, jams, baskets, woven goods, furniture and rugs.

“I wound up buying a small rug for my RV, and the colors in it are just beautiful.

“Overall, the experience really takes you back, reminds you how our ancestors lived. I loved it. And there was such a peaceful quality to the rolling farmland, where you see no electric lines, just clothes lines.

“And I can’t imagine being housebound again, returning and setting up housekeeping somewhere. Travel is in my blood. I’m where I belong.”

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  • Pat,
    I just had to send you a note.. I was struck by you saying you had vagabond gypsy in your blood. I have been saying this about myself and almost apologizing for it over the yrs.. I am 59 and am going to embrace my vagabond spirit this yr as my husband who is 71 travel across the US in our newly purchased RV.
    Thanks for the great start to my day!

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