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See the World from a Buggy ---             Aaron & Jessica's Buggy Rides

 

If you want to experience what it's like to see the world the way the Amish do, Aaron and Jessica will be happy to oblige. Jessica? Well, she's the little girl who started it all. Her dad agreed to let her try her hand at giving buggy rides. She liked driving horses, and thought it would be fun to show the beautiful scenery to visitors. She thought it would be great to meet people from all over the world, too.

Aaron? You're probably thinking that must be Jessica's father. Nope. It isn't her brother either, although both have been known to help with the rides. Aaron was the most important ingredient in the buggy ride formula, because you can't have a buggy ride without a horse. That's right, Aaron is Jessica's horse.

Next? What to call the buggy ride business? After a big family meeting, Aaron & Jessica's Buggy Rides was born or, as we locals call it, A & J's Buggy Rides. You know you'll be in good hands because these people have been driving buggies and training horses for a long time. Jessica’s dad says the family settled here in 1757, although he doesn't appear to be quite that old.

Sarah, Jessica’s sister says, "We know you came here more than anything to see and understand how and why we live the way we do. Let us tell you all about it. After all, we live here."

The buggy rides depart from the property of Plain & Fancy Farm, also the home of the Amish Experience. You'll see a little red covered bridge along the side of Route 340, exactly a mile and a half from either Bird-in-Hand or Intercourse. Completely surrounded by Amish farmland, visitors can enjoy one of five different routes.

Joshua, Jessica’s brother likes to stress the non-commercial nature of the rides. "We can take you between the house and the barn on a real Amish farm, on private roads, with no cars. You see real Amish life. We absolutely offer you more!" On the buggy ride you might pass an Amish one-room school, any number of Amish shops and stores, and you'll enjoy talking to the drivers as you go clip-clopping down the road with not a care in the world.

On the ride's website, you can enjoy a "virtual tour" and learn a little about some of the drivers, who come from most of the area's Plain sects --- Amish, Brethren, and Mennonites. Jessica’s dad, who is one of the drivers at the ride, was three years old when he had his first recollection of a horse. He may have driven a carriage more than anyone else in Lancaster County, about 10,000 miles a year.

The children were raised in an Old Order church. There are 2 brothers and 4 sisters. Sarah, who married an Old Order Amish boy who lived on the next road, lives around the corner and drives also. She is the third child in the family and an excellent driver. She is also the mother of the family’s first grandsons, Caleb, Isaac, and Josiah Grant. Jessica now has three little girls, too ---Erin, Ashley, and Hannah. Other family members who help with the rides are Rachel, Miriam, and Caleb.

Breeds of horses commonly used to pull buggies are American Standard bred or American Saddle bred. On your ride you can ask some of your horse questions. I was wondering why horses always seem to be bending a hind leg when they are standing still. The simple answer --- he's just resting a leg like we do when we lean on something and cross our legs.

I also wondered how many people a horse can pull. The answer is three times their own weight. I was informed that since a horse might weigh 1,000 pounds, he could actually pull 3,000. So even with a few people in the buggy, the horse is rarely pulling more than 1,000 pounds. Don’t worry though --- they don’t weigh visitors before they ride.

There is no air-conditioning, but don't be concerned. You'll be more than comfortable with the open buggy and the breeze. Jessica says, "In the summer, it's a great way to cool off. My dad says it's like sitting in the shade with the fan on... 409 air-conditioning... four wheels turning at nine miles an hour!"

Kids love buggy rides, and so this is a perfect activity for the entire family. As one visitor from Long Island said, "This is our fifth time here this year. We love it here. Since my son woke up this morning Aaron & Jessica's is all I've heard." So, if your kids are driving you buggy, let Aaron & Jessica take over the reins for a while!

Aaron & Jessica's Buggy Rides generally operate 7 days a week, rain or shine, from dawn to dusk. (Well, actually, from around 9:00 a.m. The horses have to get breakfast before they go to work!) For more information, visit the website at www.amishbuggyrides.com.

 --Brad Igou, Sept. 2004

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