Sunday, July 25, 2010

SHIPSHEWANA, INDIANA

After leaving Cincinnati, we traveled about 280 miles to Shipshewana, Indiana, and stopped only one time to enjoy a picnic inside the motorhome. Just us and the truckers, and it was just too blasted hot to eat outside at one of the picnic tables! We were very happy to arrive safely at the Shipshewana Campground (South), a very clean campground almost in the middle of downtown, and conveniently located to many nice restaurants and Yoder's everything. There are many clues that you are about to arrive in northern Indiana such as peaceful meadows and farmlands as far as the eye can see. Shipshewana is a bustling village filled with shop-lined streets, specialty retailers and many home-style dining establishments.

The Amish in north-central Indiana are the third largest Amish community in the U.S, 20,000 plus. We thought they were friendly and talkative - at farmers markets, the bulk food store and other places they mingle with the English (what they call us). They mostly talk in a German dialect to each other, and English to us. You must respect their privacy as they go about their day to day life - like not photographing them (it is against their religious beliefs).

You must keep a sharp eye out for buggies as you crest hills and round corners. Not once did I notice a horse get spooked - the ones we saw seemed very well trained. Horse drawn buggies clattering down our street, men sporting suspenders and broad-brimmed straw hats, women clad in simple homemade dresses and modest bonnets, and children and babies that were extremely adorable were everywhere we went.

You didn't have to go very far from where we were staying to see the Amish are skilled and disciplined entrepreneurs. At farmers markets and other outlets they sell some of the region's best food, heirloom-quality quilts, furniture and other handcrafted items. The Shipshewana Flea Market, open only on Tuesday and Wednesday, was a hoot to attend, and impossible to see everything! Amish ladies were selling the most delicious baked goods I've seen anywhere - the fried pies were made in front of us, and were delicious. Think Webster, FL on Monday, and multiply that times 10 - no joke!

You better get all your shopping done on Saturday, because the town is closed on Sundays! On Sunday we enjoyed a ride through the country over to Sturgis, MI to guess where?! WalMart!!

We enjoyed visiting some unusual museums - like the Hostetler's Hudson Auto Museum - the most complete private collection of Hudsons in the world! We couldn't believe our eyes!

Later in the week RV and Ray went to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn, IN, and said it was one of the most unbelievable automobile collections they had ever seen. One of the cars on display was formerly owned by Frank Lloyd Wright and was absolutely incredible.  RV said the collection of Auburns, Cords, and Duesenbergs were one of the highlights of this trip as far as he was concerned.  The ACD Museum is located next door to the National Automotive and Truck Museum.  Unfortunately, RV and Ray ran out of time and were unable to view the truck collection.

Because there are so many small towns of significance around this area, we spent an afternoon in Elkhart, IN, at the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum and Library. It was interesting to see so many classic trailers, RV's and memorabilia about Rving.  One of the RV's on display was formerly owned by Mae West, well known actress who made the transition from vaudeville to movies.  We are almost certain that we may have seen the travel trailer that Ricky and Lucy drove across the country!  Do you remember that movie?

After lunch, we left Elkhart to travel over to Wakarusa, IN, a charming town with one of the most unusual hardware stores with its "wall of 1,000 drawers, in business since 1904. And we walked through the Wakarusa's Dime Store, with over 300 nostalgic candies, serving customers since 1903. The Dime Store has the biggest jelly beans anywhere as well as wax lips and wax moustaches which we bought for our grandchildren. On our way home we drove through Nappannee, IN, home of many RV manufacturing plants like Newmar and Gulf Stream,  to name a few. It is also the home of Amish Acres, a historic 80 acre farm, giving you the opportunity to buy Shoofly pie, raisin bread, cherry strudel and sugar cookies (to name a few) made in their kitchen daily.

We're finding we have to pace ourselves. There is so much to see and do. The weather is absolutely beautiful, and most of the evenings we sit outside and enjoy a cool breeze. This is definitely an area we plan to return to - the people make it enjoyable as well as the bounty from the farms all around us. Prices of produce and groceries seem very reasonable to us and not having to pay tax on food was quite a perk.

This trip has given us an opportunity to get to know a group of people we didn't know as much about before. We had visited Lancaster, PA, several years ago, so we were somewhat familiar with the Amish.  In Shipshewana we visited the Menno-Hof Amish-Mennonite Visitor's Center for a very interesting non-commercial explanation and tour to learn accurate information about the Anabaptists (Mennonites, Amish and Hutterites) and their community, beliefs and history. The tour lasted over 2 hours, and we felt more informed about the simplicity and spirituality of the Amish culture and religion.
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