The backroads of Strasburg, Pennsylvania, are usually quiet save for the clopping of horses’ hoofs and the occasional group of Amish children playing together. However, at least two times a day, roaring engines can be heard echoing through the rolling hills and valleys.
Strasburg Scooters is, as the name implies, one of the more interesting ways to check out Lancaster County’s nooks and crannies, by way of a two or three-wheeled scooter on a variety of themed tours. Founded in 2012 by Marc and Nikki Crusemire, Strasburg Scooters has remained a legitimate “Mom and Pop” business, with the owners handling most of the tasks alongside a small rotation of tour guides. As I was to learn on my scooter trip, those guides provide the context and knowledge to make the experience more than just zipping around in a tiny vehicle.
Strasburg Scooters offers three different vehicle options for your journey: Single- and double-seat standard scooters as well as the belle of the ball - the Scoot Coupe. While the standard scooters are probably familiar to a majority of people, the Scoot Coupe is in a class all its own. Mustard yellow with two wheels in the front and one in the back, the Scoot Coupe is kind of the obvious choice from the moment you see it.
Tours range anywhere from “The Spooky Scoot,” an October-only jaunt through supposedly haunted places in Lancaster County, to “Scootin’ With Santa,” a Christmas-themed tour led by Old Saint Nick himself. On this humid day in July, though, my cameraman and I would be experiencing the “Covered Bridge Tour,” which serves as the standard tour offered twice daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Since it was a weekday, our tour only contained two other couples, one from upstate New York in a Scoot Coupe, and another from Cincinnati, Ohio, on two standard scooters.
Our tour guide for the day was the jovial and knowledgeable Andy Rohrer, a retired parks and recreation employee who reminded me in many ways of Pete Seeger.
Despite possessing zero knowledge about scooter or motorcycle riding etiquette outside of clinging on tight to the person actually driving, it was very easy for me to get a handle on driving the Scoot Coupe. Even with a trail of just five small vehicles, cars couldn’t help but treat our procession like a sort of parade to be gawked at, which created an intrinsic feeling of safety.
With most roads wedged between swaths of farm lands, it was easy to pull off to the side of the road when Andy wanted to show us something or talk about a specific area.
We were cautioned at the outset of the trip that, at best, our vehicles could go up to 40 mph on flatter roads. Though the steepest of hills lowered us to nearly 5 mph at times, the Scoot Coupe never faced a hill it couldn’t eventually conquer.
It didn’t take long to realize the name of the tour is somewhat of a misnomer – on this “Covered Bridge Tour,” we stopped to take a look at exactly two covered bridges and passed through a third on the way back. This isn’t a complaint, though, as a route connecting even half of Lancaster County’s 30 covered bridges would probably take much longer than our three-hour tour.
Perhaps due in part to a relative lack of bridges, a large portion of the tour was spent learning the essentials about the large Amish community in the Strasburg area. Since tours have been occurring nearly every single day since 2012, the Crusemires have built up a healthy relationship with specific Amish families that allows for tours to drive right up the driveway and onto a modern Amish property.
At one such stop, we were invited to sit in a buggy and sample some fresh lemonade. One of the kids asked our group if we wanted to pick fresh blueberries and, maddeningly, none of the group aside from me was interested in that. Fresh blueberries!
The siren call of a scooter engine is too much to put to the side, I suppose.
It was also at this stop that I first witnessed part of Andy’s charm and probably a central reason that the Amish children were so nice to these strangers ogling their property in the first place – Welch’s fruit snacks. Throughout the trip, Andy would reach into his plastic bag and hand kids a pack if we were at a complete stop, or hurl a handful if we were zooming by.
This only added to the feeling of being in a personal parade. Since he’s a tour veteran, Andy was also great at conveying the impression of freedom when it came to choosing routes.
For example, in the latter half of the journey, Andy presented the option of either taking a longer backroad, or making a pit stop at Down on the Farm Creamery. Not willing to let more delicious food just pass me by, I took a personal stand for ice cream.
Even though we – Ok, I – took longer than expected to finish the sweet treats, we still ended up eventually making it back to headquarters in the previously allotted three hours.
If you’re anything like me, the central problem you’ll encounter on a self-driving sightseeing tour is the pull between wanting to drive as fast as possible and driving slow enough to actually see the sights.
On uninterrupted stretches, I found myself revving the engine and yelling out lines from the “Fast & Furious” franchise before remembering that this is more “Old Town Road” than “Life in the Fast Lane.”
Not every aspect of the trip was “fun,” though this is by design. Some of the in-between stops included an Amish cemetery, one-room schoolhouse and a glimpse of The Clinic for Special Children, a health center dedicated to the treatment of rare genetic diseases often found in Plain communities.
These stops strengthened the idea that the Amish are not aliens to be poked and prodded – they are people in our same zipcode who happen to live a different way.
Like any good tour, I learned a lot more about a subject that I previously thought I knew a lot about. In its own way, the tour combined fun and learning in a way that is incredibly difficult to accomplish. (If high school calculus had included a driving portion, I probably would have retained a lot more of it.)
If you want to see the beautiful sights that the county has to offer with some added context provided by a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide, get yourself behind the wheel of a Scoot Coupe and strap in.
Learn more about Strasburg Scooters here.