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Amish Travel: From the Driver's Seat

By Emily Rumes • Amish Heartland Contributor Published: October 1, 2015 12:00 AM
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For the past two years, Bret Roebuck has been working as a driver for local Amish families. Each trip is different, but all the people he has worked for have given Bret a better understanding of the importance of family, religious beliefs and the common values that he shares with his Amish passengers.

Bret was brought into the business by another driver and primarily works transporting people for weddings, family visits and occasionally for longer trips or family vacations. As more young couples move out west to newer Amish communities, in places like Idaho and Montana, families require drivers to take them out for a visit.

Bret has been to Tennessee, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, California, Nova Scotia, Florida, the Smoky Mountains, Niagara Falls and the Carolinas. Many trips start before dawn, with groups needing to get out on the road as early as 1:30 or 2:00 a.m.

"I've seen so many beautiful sunrises and sunsets," said Bret, "Getting to see the country with my wife Suzanne, being able to bring her along for some of the trips has been great."

There is a camaraderie and mutual respect among those that drive the Amish. Drivers will give a wave when they see each other out on the road and may get together and chat if they are at the same stop. Drivers who primarily do shorter trips will often ask Bret about how the longer trips are planned.

For longer trips, Bret will meet with the family ahead of time and give them brochures and information. He acts as a sort of travel guide for the journey. This is something that not all drivers will do and it makes his services unique. Once the group picks their destination Bret becomes a part of the trip as the driver. On some of the longer trips the driver may buy a meal for the family as a thank you gesture.

The maintenance of vehicles is the highest priority for Bret. He makes sure that the tires and brakes are all at their best. Nothing is left to chance out on the road. If something would break down during a trip it could take time to fix and if the van is in a remote area it may be difficult to get to a mechanic right away.

Some of the most important things Amish passengers look for in a driver are safety and that the driver takes good care of their vehicle and keeps it clean. Bret provides curb to curb service and makes sure he keeps his daily schedule with him for each trip.

A customer noted that Bret gets you where you need to go efficiently and keeps to his schedule so they could rely on his service.

Each day usually starts with a cup of coffee. Bret makes sure he knows his schedule and has time to pick everyone up. He brings along a book to read and a black bag that holds all his daily necessities for the drive. The van will always have a first aid kit and emergency kit, a tool kit, address books and phone chargers for passengers to use.

Younger people will often bring their smart phones and listen to music. Usually there is someone in the group who will have a phone on the trip in order to make calls or take calls from back home. Bret will often give the passengers his own phone number to use in case someone needs to reach them while they are on the road.

With the early mornings and late nights, Bret usually catches a nap while the family is visiting or at a wedding. He packs his own lunch and brings snacks, but often times, especially at weddings, the family will bring out food to share with the driver.

"They always have traditional wedding chicken, that's the main staple," said Bret. "There are vegetables, real mashed potatoes and pies and they will always make sure you don't go home hungry."

Another main purpose for the local trips is to pick up groceries, sometimes enough for weeks at a time. With a 6x10 enclosed trailer, perfect for keeping everything dry, the van is ideal for shopping trips no matter what the weather. Often the driver will also work in a stop at the bank or other errands that may be needed for his passengers because many of them are also business owners.

The shorter day trips Bret takes locally are mainly to Charm, Farmerstown and New Bedford. Sunday mornings are usually taken up by groups and families heading to church.

"I don't take any chances," said Bret. "I take pride in the safety of the vehicle and the way I drive."

One of the most meaningful trips for Bret was to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for a church meeting. There he enjoyed hearing what the members of the group had to share about their faith. They also sang songs and he felt even more of a connection to the passengers through their shared appreciation for music and their love of the Lord.

"I get to see so much of the country," added Bret. "I've caught Salmon at Lake Ontario in New York and one of the best things has been getting to see my son who lives in Colorado whenever we are in the area for a trip."

September, October and November will have longer trips for wedding season, mostly to Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania. To contact Bret Roebuck for driver services you can reach him at 330-466-5083.

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