Mom and I made our regular trip to the Amish area in north central Ohio last week. Last year we’d thought maybe we’d skip in 2012 and go somewhere else, but Mom decided this trip had everything she enjoyed anyhow, so why risk a different destination? And, as she pointed out, she wanted to go again while she could still climb the steps to our suite at Mel and Mary’s Cottages.
We follow the Interstates through Columbus until I-670 ends outside Gahanna, then we pick up State Route 69. The scenery gets more and more rural as we roll along; last week it also got more colorful. Still, I knew the best was still to come beyond the little town of Utica.
To be honest, I’ve never seen the town, which lies west of Route 62. However, Utica provides an excellent location for a pit stop. We turn right onto Mt. Vernon Road, and after a few minutes of barns and cornfields, we arrive at the picturesque grounds of The Velvet Ice Cream Company, complete with an 1817 grist mill and water wheel.
It’s a beautiful wooded spot, with ducks and geese swimming on the mill pond. In the fall, the grounds are decorated with pumpkins and mums. After we take advantage of the bathroom facilities, we stretch our legs a bit and stroll about, enjoying the atmosphere. (We’ve gone into the gift shop, peered into the viewing gallery at ice cream being made, and looked at the old mill stones and ice cream paraphernalia—but we’ve never gotten any ice cream, which is a shame. On the way up to Amish country, we’re waiting for lunch. Coming back, we’re just anxious to get home. Someday we have to time our journey so we can at least get cones.) When we’ve refreshed ourselves, we climb back into the car and continue on our way.
Knowing we can take this break makes Utica a true destination. However, there’s another reason I’m always happy to reach Utica. Just uphill from the Utica crossroads on Route 62, the first “buggy” traffic sign appears, confirmation that we’ve arrived at the gateway to Amish country. (Often, within a couple miles of that sign, we spot the first horse manure along the edge of the road, another confirmation.)
It’s more than buggy signs and horse apples, though. As Route 62 rises out of Utica, it transports the traveler through a countryside that’s suddenly rolling, with vistas of farms, cattle, horses, orchards, and fields spreading first to the left, then to the right. Up until Utica the countryside is not unattractive; after Utica, it’s breathtaking.
Of course, on the way home everything goes in reverse. Driving down Route 62 toward the Utica crossroads, I know we’re leaving the last vestiges of rolling farmland behind as well as signs of Amish everyday life. It’s as if we’re descending back into our own real world; and after the beauty of Holmes and Knox Counties, I feel resigned to the end-of-holiday feeling, even though we still have a long drive ahead of us.
First, though, we stop again at the old mill and the Velvet Ice Cream grounds, our way station where we reorder ourselves to more familiar, flatter landscapes and roads without black buggies and live horses.