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Amish Heartland Tours is revolutionizing the way you explore Amish Country. Their newest publication, H.I.T.C.H., will be a new kind of driving directory that will allow visitors to explore all that Amish country has to offer at their own leisurely pace.
"There has been a shift in the way people travel," said Sarah Yoder, graphic designer for the H.I.T.C.H. project. "People have become more independent and want to do things themselves." These people are often referred to as Generation X, or those born in the early 1960s to the early 1980s.
"The Gen X'ers will replace the Baby Boomers in 10-20 years," predicted Yoder and the market will have to evolve with this independent group of travelers.
La Vonne De Bois, of Amish Heartland Tours, took this opportunity as a proactive approach to meet this changing markets needs. The idea came to her as she was working her Information Kiosk in downtown Berlin. "People would ask me, 'Is there a self driving book of the area?' 'Not yet, but check back soon,'" would be De Bois's reply.
"Listen to the visitors. They will tell you what they want," said De Bois. Sitting in her office, she began contemplating how she could give the visitors what they want.
"It's got to have a name. It has to connect visitors to the area. Like a horse and buggy," said De Bois. "Hitch" was the word that came to mind and the acronym was formed from there - Helping Individual Travelers Connect with Holmes County.
She brought her idea to her good friend, Yoder, and the two of them put their heads together in collaboration.
"I worked at a local hotel for seven years and guests would come to the front desk in the morning with a list of several things they wanted to see," said Yoder. "They were places in Sugarcreek, in Mt. Hope and in Roscoe Village and they didn't know how to connect the dots."
Just driving from place to place can take some time and if you follow the main roads, you often miss out on the little businesses and stops that make Amish country unique. "The 'Explore Pages' show you, if you're headed towards Mt. Hope, here are some things you can do along the way," explained Yoder.
Explore is the theme of the book and it's easy to do with helpful guides that help you find where you are and exactly how far the next stop is from you. "In 0.7 miles, on County Road 114, there is such and such business," Yoder explained how the book was carefully mapped out.
"I'm originally from the city and here in Holmes County we have so many businesses that look like houses," said Yoder. "You feel somewhat intrusive going up the lane to someone's house asking for brown eggs."
Having a business clearly labeled in your travel guide may make it easier to find local businesses off the beaten path.
In addition to the explore and travel pages, H.I.T.C.H. features a directory of local restaurants with a snippet of their menu. Visitors can find out what the restaurant serves as well as if vegetarian or gluten free options are available.
H.I.T.C.H. will highlight important stops for public restrooms, ATMs, gas stations and even windmills. "If you following the travel pages, these stops will be indicated with a special symbol," said Yoder.
140 businesses are represented broken out into categories such as restaurants, wineries and churches. Ten different towns and villages are represented along with the connecting roads that get you to each of these places.
"Some travelers will stay at a large hotel, eat at a main street restaurant and shop at the main street shops in Berlin and say they have been to Amish country," said Yoder. "There is so much more to it than that."
Explore small towns such as Maysville and Winesburg. Towns and villages you may have never heard of. You may have traveled to Amish country for years, but if you never venture of the beaten path, you will never experience the true beauty of what lies just past State Route 39 and County Roads 77 and 201.
"The book will be good for two years and retail at $5," said De Bois. "After two years we will know what we need to do to make the book better."
H.I.T.C.H is set to release the second week in June. Order your copy online and have it delivered to your home to make planning your trip to Amish country that much easier. Books can be ordered at www.amishheartlandtours.com or purchased at local businesses in Amish country.
I am so excited about getting the H.I.T.C.H I love coming to Holmes County and hitting the back roads and finding different places to see this will be a big help it will be like a kid in a candy store.