Mennonites In Tights Invade Amish Country

As a youth growing up in Dauphin I proudly explained to the Ukrainians and Scots of that community that I was of Mennonite heritage.  The most common misconception was that Mennonites rejected such conveniences of modern life as electricity and automobiles.  It was a challenge to explain to my 13 year-old friends the religious distinctions that made Mennonites, Old Mennonites, Hutterites, Haldemans and Amish different from one another.  Having lived in Indiana however I knew that the Old Order Mennonites and the Amish were the ones that rejected that unnatural  and pride inducing beast known as the automobile in favour of the lowly horse.  I suppose that there is something humbling about sitting in the buggy up close to the ass of the horse that prevents pride from welling up in the breast of the owner.


Many Mennonites have moved so far from their roots that Menno Simons would be appalled that they still identify themselves with him.  Most Mennonites have also quite readily accepted the material offerings of modern life making them indistinguishable from the non-Mennonites around. The Amish on the other hand cling to life as it was in the 1700’s and have left a unique cultural imprint on the landscape from Pennsylvania to Minnesota.

Vernon County Wisconsin is Amish country.  The roads also make it cycling utopia. Combine the two and you have the perfect setting for a great cycling holiday.  While the Mennonites in Tights are addicted to the Red Wing Diner and the Cat Sass, occasionally it is necessary to get out of the comfort zone and experience some new terrain.  Three of the Mennonites in Tights and one wife made the trip to cycle and spitzier with the Amish.

The 3 Mennos

Menno Invasion

Highlites:  Cheap cheese curds and top notch Westby sharp cheddar, cheap hotel and some good talks with the owner (Louis from Serbia), cheap gas, classy Badger Crossing eatery next door to Bobby Johns in Cashton which gave us endless cups of coffee.  A friendly lady from Chicago that gave the writer a ride to his hotel after he destroyed his derailleur, a fine bike shop called the Blue Dog whose owner provided his own Kona road bike so that the author could complete his riding vacation, bombing the downhills with Rocket Rob, surviving the near hairpin turn after going into a high speed wobble into Soldiers Grove, the descent into Chaseburg, strolling with my honey in Viroqua, shady lanes and big hardwoods, Amish farms.


Badger Crossing yes, Bobby Johns next door no!


$6.50 Chicken Dinner Special


Justin couldn’t make it, he’s at a wedding in B.C. At least I kept my shirt on!

Downers: Cheap family restaurant in Viroqua that gave us 5 ounce steaks for the price of a 10 ounce (after much cajoling they realized the error of their ways and turned 5 ounces into 15), Phil’s Soggy Bottom Supper Club not catering to the public, a trashed Campagnolo Super Record derailleur that was anything but cheap,  chasing Jack Rabbit Rempel up the climbs, the 17% grade on the Apple Orchard road out of Gays Mills after consuming an enormous and delicious sub sandwich, Curt and I almost crashing on the last corner into Soldiers Grove, having to admit that Curt might be correct about the body adding fat when it is being slogged to death on the climbs (I weigh more than when I left!)

Final Impressions:  Another great cycling vacation in Vernon County with excellent cycling companions, gorgeous scenery, endless route options, and the most fun on the downhills since riding in the Black Forest and the Alps.

S Turns on the fast descent down Sveum Road into Coon Valley

S Turns on the fast descent down Sveum Road into Coon Valley


How do you know you are in Wisconsin?


Eve sampling the forbidden fruit!

Eden East-side Road Ride August 27

East-side Road Ride 2016

27 August 2016 • 
La Broquerie, MB

Eden’s East-side Road Ride, Saturday 27 August 2016. This is the second annual 80 km ride for Mental Health that starts and ends in La Broquerie, about 11 km east of Steinbach. We’re all set to go with the second East-side Road Ride. Last year being our first ride, we listened and we learned a few things and we’re looking forward to beautiful weather and riding on a beautiful section of road. This road ride is a fund-raiser to support mental health recovery programs for individuals living in our Southern Health region.

We have a brand new Cyclist’s Manual ready for you to download here. It has a whole lot of detail in it about what we’re doing this for, where we’re going and how you can become involved as a cyclist or as a volunteer. We also welcome your phone calls or e-mails. Connect with us at 204-325-5355 or by e-mail at

If you’re ready to register, please click HERE. You’ll be directed to our secure on-line registration vehicle and it will also give you some really useful tools for your fund-raising efforts.

Eden Foundation recently committed itself to being supportive to a number of programs in the Eden Health Care Services family. These initiatives are outside the scope of what our service purchase agreement with the government is in a position to support.

  • An Aqua-cise program run out of Community Choices in Winkler
  • Buying books and other resources for The Wellness Library in Steinbach’s Eden office
  • Provide resources for much-needed renovations and supplies at Pathway Community Mental Health office in Winkler
  • Re-shingling Wilson Courts apartment complex in Steinbach
  • Artwork at a number of locations including Eden Mental Health Centre.
  • Provide resources for renovations in Enns Courts apartments in Winkler

In addition, we continue to prepare ourselves for the development of another housing project in the region. This will be a major project that will be in partnership with our provincial government. Due to the fact that we’ve recently been through an election in Manitoba, there will be the period of adjustment again before everyone is back in “road gear”. We look forward to being able to share more information with you as things progress.

While you’re on the ride with us, we’ll feed and water you along the way and if you’ve been with us in last year, you know we have a wind-up at the end of the ride and we get fed and watered again. Come join us! The ride accommodates a wide variety of skill levels without any encouragement of competition but rather of collaboration. Gather some friends together from work, your social group or church and register as a team.


ROC Cyclathon August 6th

2016 ROC Cyclathon.
Saturday, August 6

Pete’s Story

On the path to wellness
Hutterite man finds healing on bike
Will Braun
By Will Braun, Senior Writer
Jun 28, 2016 | Volume 20 Issue 14
God at work in Us

Pete McAdams rests beside the road during a long-distance bike excursion in southern Manitoba. (Photo by Hal Loewen)

Popular wisdom suggests the way to deal with mental health issues is to talk them through. Pete McAdams, an uncomplicated, 43-year-old, Hutterite long-distance cyclist, has discovered a quieter path.

While he prefers to focus on biking rather than himself, his decidedly atypical Hutterite last name begs explanation. Having grown up on the “fringes” of a Bruderhof community in Pennsylvania—a group associated with Hutterites—McAdams’ parents went to Crystal Spring Hutterite Colony near Niverville, Man., to assist with translation work after McAdams had left home. When he visited his parents, he liked what he saw of colony life. His parents ended up staying at Crystal Spring and, in 1995, he joined the colony, too. It is no utopia, nor an attempt at utopia, he says, but it is “the best lifestyle I have seen for living out the commands of Jesus.”

McAdams emphasizes the non-rigid nature of the community. I ask how he would respond to the stereotype that would suggest otherwise? “Look at what I do,” he says with a chuckle, sitting at a picnic table in my yard with his cycling gear on.

What he does is ride bike. About 300 kilometres a week. Maybe half that in winter. In good Hutterite fashion, he makes his own recumbent bikes.

“I’m not an athlete,” he tells me. This is not false humility; it is part of his message. Although he pedals a lot of kilometres, he is not particularly fast. He has never won a race. “I’m not competitive,” he says. And until five years ago, he says he was “significantly overweight.” Nothing he says sounds like an athlete’s words.

The story keeps coming back to the bike as a means of healing. As a teenager, McAdams’ temperament—more specifically, his temper—ruled out team sports. He also struggled with depression. Biking helped.

“I always sort of knew that a good ride cleared my head,” he says. “If I spent time on the bike, [the anger and depression] went away.” He did see counsellors a couple times, and while he does not discount the value of therapists for some people, he says “they weren’t of much help” in his case.

Biking was. And it continues to be. What exactly is it about biking that helps? “It’s not going to heal everything,” he says, “but there’s a power that is healing in riding.”

The bike is also a great way to connect with others. James Friesen was riding the highways of southern Manitoba in 2002 when he saw a “mirage.” A guy was riding a recumbent bike down the highway, Friesen recalls, with a bunch of kids behind him. Dresses fluttered in the wind and the closest thing to spandex were suspenders.

It was McAdams on a charity ride with other Hutterites. The meeting was particularly fortuitous, as Friesen is the head of Eden Health Care Services, a Mennonite-based mental health organization in southern Manitoba. The two men continued to bump into each other at biking events over the years. Now, Crystal Spring Colony is a big part of Eden’s annual “Head for the Hills” cycling fundraiser. Last September, Jonathan Kleinsasser, a colony member in his 70s, was the top fundraiser.

This year, McAdams is taking the connection between biking and mental health a step further. In conjunction with the attempt by Arvid Loewen, an ultra-long distance cyclist, to break the Guinness Record for biking across Canada, McAdams plans a parallel ride—Guinness rules require Loewen to bike alone—from Regina to Winnipeg, 583 kilometres, a distance he hopes to cover in 24 hours. He says Loewen put out the challenge and he accepted it. McAdams hopes to arrive in Winnipeg on the evening of July 6, 2016, for a joint rally with Loewen at the Manitoba legislature. Friesen and others plan to ride into the city with him.

McAdams’ goal is simple: Share the message that biking can bring wellness and to bring attention to the good work of Eden Health Care Services. Both McAdams and Friesen see value in formal, as well as informal, approaches to mental wellness. Friesen says research shows that often it is in the unstructured downtime of our lives—time in the bush, splitting wood, riding a bike—that our brains make the connections essential for well-being.

That is certainly true for McAdams. “I found something on the bike,” he says, “and I want to share it.” For those who can’t bike, he suggests finding a similar activity. His dad, in his late 70s, walks. McAdams’ story is not about athletic heroics or even an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. It is about ordinary people doing ordinary things on the path to wellness.

Follow McAdams’s progress between Regina and Winnipeg on July 5 and 6, or for a recap, see his Facebook page.