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Buice column: Weekend getaway was far overdue

Finally, a sense of normalcy — or so it seemed.

For the first time since the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, we hit the road for an actual vacation. The original plan going all the way back to last year was to be out of town on the weekend of Sept. 19, which had long been circled when Appalachian State’s 2020 football schedule was announced.

My alma mater was scheduled to play at Wisconsin, one of the big boys in the Big Ten, and I wasn’t about to miss this one after not going to Michigan in 2007 when App State pulled off what has often been called “the greatest upset in college football history.”

However, like so many things in this most unusual year, COVID-19 got in the way, and that game was canceled when Wisconsin pulled the plug on all of its non-conference games — which included the one against the Mountaineers — first before the league called off its season for the fall, only to reverse course a couple of weeks ago.

As college football schedules continued to be twisted and turned, that opening was filled with a game at Marshall, but with most early games being played with no fans, I didn’t think it would matter.

Even if they allowed any spectators, I figured there wouldn’t be a chance to get any tickets with the limited capacity requirement. Then a couple of weeks before the game, not even thinking about the aborted vacation, I happened to be on Twitter late one night and saw a sweet tweet — Marshall had put tickets on sale to the general public.

I went ahead and secured two tickets, hoping we could work out all the logistics of trying to clear space in the schedule to make the trip to Huntington, W. Va., for the Saturday afternoon game on Sept. 19. Ah, that same date.

Then I thought, since we were going four hours away for this game, perhaps we could expand the trip into a long weekend vacation. One of our favorite places to visit is the beautiful Amish Country in Ohio, which just happens to border West Virginia.

Hey, I always wanted to be a travel agent, so the wheels were set in motion after we worked out the details. We were going on vacation again — just to a different place.

And if you want a peaceful, relaxing getaway, check out this spot in Ohio where the world’s largest Amish population is located in Holmes County. A couple of years ago we up there and took a tour of an old Amish house, barn and school while learning about their various customs and unique way of life.

The months of September and October may be the busiest for tourists, but the Amish folks seem unfazed. They just keep riding their bikes along with the horse-and-buggy mode of travel.

One of our favorite things to do is sitting on a bench along the main drag in “downtown” Berlin, one of the busiest spots in the area, and eating an ice cream cone while taking in the sights and sounds, and then checking out the wide variety of shops.

Of course, part of the deal in the Amish Country is hitting one of the famous buffets, and we enjoyed quite a spread at Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen in nearby Mt. Hope. Another highlight is driving around the countryside without a road map, going up and down the rolling hills and sometimes needing to pass a slow-moving horse and buggy. It’s a refreshing break from the fast-paced world in which we live.

I’ve always been fascinated with the old-fashioned, simplistic lifestyle and hard-working approach of the Amish people, and even though I can’t see myself transitioning from all the modern conveniences most of us take for granted, I realized that for them everyday life really hasn’t changed.

They just keep doing what they’ve always done — a normal way of living … for them.

Our two days there were great but way too short before we headed to West Virginia for the football game on a glorious Saturday afternoon against Marshall, an old rival from their days together in the Southern Conference.

App State, which finished in the Top 20 and won the Carolinas (beating both North Carolina and South Carolina) last year, had opened the new season in Boone the previous week by beating Charlotte before no fans — thanks to the governor’s order for our state — and climbed into the national polls at No. 23.

We knew going into the game that no tailgating was allowed and that masks were required inside along with proper social distancing for the limited capacity of 12,000 in a stadium that seats close to 40,000 spectators.

That was all OK. It was live football on a sun-splashed autumn day. The band was playing, the cheerleaders were cheering, and the game was being played between the lines.

Sure, the wrong team won on this day (the scoreboard read: Marshall 17, App State 7). Didn’t like the result but loved being there.

Life. Football. Traveling. Getting away. What a weekend it was!

Yes, it almost seemed like normal … for us.