Wagon train buffs travel back roads through small villages, simpler times 75 people ride in rural Carroll

October 05, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

At times, the rhythm of horse's hoofs clip-clopping and wagon wheels creaking along rural back roads in Carroll County take Larry Close and his friends to a gentler era.

"We just want to slow down the pace of life a bit," explained Mr. Close, one of about 75 people who rode a wagon train through northwestern Carroll over the weekend. "It's a chance to get out of the rat race."

Indeed, on a glorious fall day, Mr. Close and his friends escaped the bustle of life in the late 20th century to ride a wagon train along less-traveled roads through pockets of villages such as Bear Run, Mayberry and Pleasant Valley.

"It's just pure enjoyment for me," said Oney Law Sr., a regular rider on wagon train circuits. "I like the camaraderie with these people. It's a chance to visit and see the little ones grow over the years."

The weekend trek was organized by Joe Stambaugh, a heavy equipment operator, of Emmitsburg. The train included about a dozen wagons.

Mr. Stambaugh has participated in wagon trains throughout the country during the past dozen years. The weekend trips are organized earlier in the year. Neither Mr. Stambaugh nor Mr. Close belong to any particular wagon train group. Their trips are independently planned.

"We have about four different rides a year in different areas in Maryland and Pennsylvania," the 57-year-old Mr. Stambaugh said. "You could go on a wagon train every weekend from spring to fall if you wanted to."

Wagon trains, Mr. Stambaugh said, attract people from all walks of life, from police officers and FBI agents to blue-collar workers. Riders range in age from 4 to 82. The latter is his father, Glen Stambaugh of Westminster.

"Everyone is welcome to come and ride," the younger Mr. Stambaugh said.

The only requirements are a wagon or carriage and a mule or horse team, said Mr. Close, a lineman for Potomac Edison who lives on Tyrone Road near the Saturday night campsite.

Driving a boxed wagon made by an Amish man in New Holland, Pa., Mr. Close brought his wife, Diane, a training specialist at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, and his son Chad, a fifth-grader at Westminster Elementary School.

"It's something the whole family can enjoy," said Mr. Close, 40. "We have a lot of families who join us."

Others drove reproductions of Conestoga wagons, carriages or boxed wagons like Mr. Close's. Some people rode horses along vTC the 15-mile journey Saturday and the 10-mile trip yesterday. The riders help warn the modern traffic with flags, organizers said.

Many of the weekend's participants have ridden in wagon trains throughout the region, including the National Pike Festival on Route 40.

"Route 40 is the trail that led West," Mr. Close said. "We help celebrate its rededication every year. These wagon trains help give people an idea of what it was like back then."

Although their modes of transportation were out of date, the accommodations enjoyed by some at a makeshift campsite on a bucolic spot off Cross Section Road were anything but. Several brought along campers or cars. Others went home for the night.

The participants, many dressed in jeans and wearing cowboy hats, enjoyed a potluck dinner under a campsite pavilion. They built a bonfire later in the evening so they could sit around and swap stories.

Yesterday, riders hitched up their wagons and headed south on Tyrone Road and across Benson Road to Pleasant Valley.

Just what do these people do to while away the hours?

"You sit there and take in the scenery," Mr. Close said. "You have your everyday normal conversations. Time does slow down. It's not like you hop in [a] car and go somewhere in a matter of minutes."

Mr. Law, a retired metallurgical inspector from Bristol, W.Va., said Carroll County is one of his favorite spots for a wagon train trip.

"The county has some good gravel roads, which are better for the horses," said Mr. Law, 63. "There's less traffic, too. I love to come to Carroll County."

Mr. Law, who brought his 8-year-old grandson Jason, said he sometimes travels on wagon trains three weekends in a row.

"If it wasn't for wagon trains, I'd be lost," he said. "I don't socialize on Saturday nights like some people do. So, I live for one wagon train to the other. I travel them from Florida to Maine."

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