Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Exploring Amish Country, Indiana

Anyone who has an RV knows that things break.  Lucky for us someone had the great idea to build a dwelling on a chassis with wheels so it could be driven down the road.  But, this movable house is bound to have problems just like a stationary house…and even more so when you hit dilapidated roads in desperate need of repair.

May 2017 marked the end of our 2-year warranty on our Entegra Coach motorhome so it was time to go back to th100e factory in Middlebury, Indiana for a few service items we had and our Post-Delivery Inspection (PDI).  (Entegra Coach conducts a pre-delivery and post-delivery inspection to ensure that all of the coach is operating correctly).  So in addition to our items, Entegra found a few items on the PDI that we didn’t know about.  Always thankful when someone fixes things for us for free!

Back to the real reason for writing this blog.  What do you do when your coach is in service for a week in Elkhart County and you are left homeless starting at 6:30 am until 3 pm?   Don’t worry we found plenty to do in the towns of Shipshewana, Bristol, Elkhart, Goshen, and Middlebury.

Day 1, Shipshewana.

Start your day in Amish Country at the famous Rise ‘n Roll Bakery where they make amazing apple fritters and cinnamon covered donuts affectionately known as “Amish Crack.”  Why the name?  Because everyone who tries it becomes addicted.  (By the way the fritters freeze very well!)  In downtown Shipshewana is the Menno-Hof information center which tells the story of Amish and Mennonite people through multimedia and presentations, interactive exhibits, and colorful displays.  A visit to this facility will really enlighten and educate you on the culture, religious beliefs, and daily living of Amish and Mennonite people.  Well worth it.

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Lunch at the Blue Gate Restaurant and Bakery is a great place to settle into a plate of home-style Amish food.  Famous for their fried chicken but the beef or chicken with homemade noodles is also a meal to fill you up – all of which we highly recommend.  Before you leave, wander into their bakery where you will be tempted with fresh baked goods and sweets that send a salivating aroma through the air. 

After lunch meander down N. Harrison and Morton Streets where you will all kinds of boutiques, antique stores, and stores selling homemade jams and jellies.  The Davis Mercantile in downtown Shipshewana has over 20 stores and a very impressive 1906 Gustaf Dentzel carousel which is beautifully restored and one of Betsy's favorite since she loves carousel art.  If quilting is your thing, you will definitely want to stop in the Mercantile and visit Lolly’s Fabrics and Quilts where thousands of fabrics are available for purchase and beautiful quilts are for sale.

A walk on the Pumpkinvine Trail was a daily occurrence for us.  The old railroad has been paved and stretches from Shipshewana to Goshen spanning some 17 miles.  It is a great way for us, and Spirit, to get some exercise and burn off some of the numerous calories we seem to consume while here.  The trail is accessible by many public parking lots and meanders through woodlots and farmlands.  It is a nice way to enjoy the Amish countryside and see the picturesque farms. 

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Day 2, Shipshewana.

Head back to Shipshewana for a day of shopping and more eating.  The Shipshewana Trading Place Auction and Flea Market is the Mid-west’s largest of its kind boasting over 900 vendors with every type of merchandise imaginable.  For serious shoppers and bargain hunters this could be an all-day event.  The other interesting things that go on here are the weekly horse and livestock auctions. 

Now that we’ve shopped and walked for a bit, let’s move onto food.  Adjacent to the flea market is Yoder’s Meat and Cheese Company who’s slogan is “Wholesome Goodness from the Farm.”  The shop has over 150 cuts of meat from a variety of animals, jams and jellies, noodles, canned goods, and over 80 varieties of cheese.  Many of the cheeses and cured meats are available to sample.  Since I am a cheese and beef jerky fan, it is my practice to always keep a cooler in the car so I can load up their products. 

Another fun store to visit is E & S Sales.  This is a bulk foods store that has great bargains and is just fun to walk around.  You can find lots of baking ingredients like flours, nuts, chocolates, and fillings.  This is going to sound really weird coming from someone who spent time in the culinary field, but we really liked their canned beef. It tastes like a roast that you spent hours braising.  I use the tender meat in all kinds of soups, shepherds pie, and for steak sandwiches.  They also have wonderful homemade breads and hand pies.  But if you are looking for baked soft goodness in the form of twisted salted bread….walk across the street to Ben's Pretzels.  Definitely a favorite of ours where we are repeat customers…usually in consecutive days.

Wait, you are not done eating yet!  Head south out of downtown Shipshewana to Yoder Popcorn.  If you like popcorn, this is the place for you.  You arrive to a warm greeting and a warmer bag of popcorn to sample.  Once you start eating you will be hooked and as you walk around the store reading labels you will be amazed at all of the different varieties.  Have you ever heard of “tiny tender,” “large red,” “baby blue,” “sunburst,” or “ladyfinger?”  You can either buy the kernels and cook them the old fashion way in a pot with oil or opt for the microwave packs like we do.  Yoder’s prides themselves that all the corn comes from within a 100-mile radius. 

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Day 3, Middlebury and Bristol
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After sitting around the comfortable Entegra lounge for a few hours, we decided it was time to explore a new place so we drove 10 minutes to Bonneyville Mill County Park in the nearby town of Bristol.  The mill was not in operation at the time of our visit in late April but the mill is part of a county park with hiking trails and picnic areas.  The Bonneyville Mill is the oldest continuously operating grist mill in Indiana and has been producing high quality flour for over 150 years.  The park has over five miles of trails that take you through wooded areas, meadows, wetlands, and along side the Little Elkhart River (much to Spirits joy). 

After the mill, it’s back to downtown Middlebury for a delicious lunch at 41 Degrees North.  Here a burger and glass of porter have become my favorite.  We usually hit this place a couple of times while we are in town and really like the food and atmosphere.  Another plus, they have a full-service bar.  (FYI…The town of Shipshewana is dry so don’t expect to get a glass of wine with your dinner…or lunch.)  I mentioned earlier that I like cheese, right?  Well, just down the road from Middlebury is Guggisberg Cheese where samples are plentiful and the many cheese varieties delicious.  They have windows into the factory where you can catch a glimpse of cheese being made. 

While downtown a fun place to visit is The Old Creamery Antiques for a super cool eclectic mix of antiques.  We spent a good 45 minutes walking around this place that has everything from automotive to dairy paraphernalia (after all, it really was a creamery up until the 1970’s).  What we really like is that the place is filled with antiques and not lots of junk or crafts and it’s open on Sunday when most other places are closed.

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On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Entegra Coach offers tours of the factory in the afternoon.  If you have never taken a factory tour to see how RV’s are built, you should.  It is fascinating!  Elkhart County is known as the “RV Capital of the World” so there are some two dozen factories to visit.  In addition to Entegra Coach, we have taken tours offered by Newmar, Jayco, and Dynamax.  The tours are very informative and helpful to prospective buyers and a great way to learn about quality and build differences between manufacturers.  

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Day 4, Elkhart.

You have to go to the RV/MH Museum and Hall of Fame…even if you are not an RV’er.  This 100,000 square-foot facility boasts hundreds of really cool vintage RVs.  For an earlier more detailed blog post regarding this museum click here.

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There are two good burger joints in Elkhart – Miles Lab Burger Bar and Hennies.  Any place that touts itself as “burger bar” is definitely a draw for us.  Hennies is a bit more of a dive with lounge feel but the burgers are delicious and it is no wonder they were written up in our favorite book (Hamburger America) that highlights the best burgers across the country.   Miles Lab has an interesting story.  The owner is the great-great grandson of Dr. Franklin Miles who founded Miles Medical Company in 1884 whose headquarters were located in Elkhart.  The lab was very successful and is credited with famous products such as Alka-Seltzer.  The restaurant walls are smartly decorated with interesting historic photographs and advertisements pertaining to Miles Lab and their pharmaceutical success.

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If you are like us and have a dog in the car most of the time, head downtown Elkhart where a myriad of paved walkways lead you around downtown parks and walkways along the St. Joseph River.  It is also a good way to burn off your burger calories and let your Labrador retriever get wet. 

Day 5, Goshen.

Downtown Goshen centers around the Historic Courthouse Square.  On the grounds is an interesting police booth dating back to the late 1930’s famous for the Great Depression but also coined the Gangster Era.  The tiny octagonal booth was strategically placed on a street corner within view of three banks so an officer was in clear site, and shooting range, of them.  No bank robberies here.

Hungry and thirsty?  Lets talk food and drink in Goshen.  Goshen Brewing Company is a great place to grab a bite to eat and sample some of their handcrafted twelve great beers.  One restaurant we never miss on a visit to the area is Venturi.  This place has the most amazing Neapolitan-style pizzas and tasty salads.  It’s easy to see why it was voted by Esquire’s readers top 15 most life changing pizza in the nation and one of Yelp’s Top 50 restaurants in the state of Indiana.  Fair warning – the restaurant is very small and popular so plan your visit at odd times or you may have to wait…but it is worth it in our opinion. 

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One of Goshen's oldest and most famous establishments is Olympia Candy Kitchen.  Since 1912 this place has been affectionately known as the “Sweetest Place in Town.”  It was originally a soda fountain but today this locally-owned shop serves up breakfast, lunch, and an assortment of hand-dipped candies made from scratch.  Other claims-to-fame for this place: they served at the Inaugural Balls of Ronald Reagan and George Bush.  Speaking of soda fountains…there is also the South Side Soda Shop and Diner where you can get malts, shakes and over 50 varieties of pies.  (Remember the Pumpkinvine Trail goes through Goshen too in case you opt for dessert!)

We have always enjoyed our time in this area of northern Indiana.  The surrounding Amish farms are peaceful and we love pulling into the grocery store where horse and buggies are parked along side us.  Yes, having service to our coach can be an inconvenience when you live in it full-time but it is a part of traveling and we make the best of it.   Even if you don’t need to come to the area for RV service, consider coming anyway for a visit. 

(This blog is dedicated to Peg who reminded us we were very behind on writing blog posts.)



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