We’re currently at the Entegra factory in Middlebury, Indiana for our annual motorhome inspection and some warranty work (there will be a post on that later). While waiting, we’re taking time to explore the surrounding area.
Middlebury is smack in the middle of a lovely bicycle trail – the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail — which connects Goshen and Shipshewana. There are a couple of short sections on the road way, but most of it is a segregated pathway for non-motorized traffic. We checked out the Middlebury to Shipshewana section on a breezy Saturday.
We saddled up and hit the trail where it intersects Highway 13 in Middlebury, just south of the City Hall parking area, and next to a (convenient) Dairy Queen. The broad, smooth asphalt path took us through the Amish countryside as we headed eastward. We could see clothing flapping on clotheslines and cows grazing. Amish ladies trotted their buggy horses briskly down the country roads as they ran errands. (The local stores have designated buggy parking!) We passed an Amish school house standing idle during the summer break. We stopped to watch a 6-horse team plowing a field as the driver expertly steered around the end of the row and back. A passing bicyclist tossed out the comment, “It’s like going back in time.” Indeed.
Reaching the small town of Shipshewana, we located a local eatery – the Bread Box bakery and café. My lunch of a half chicken waldorf sandwich, a cup of ham and bacon soup, chips, and a pickle was delicious, filling, and a bargain at $6.95. We couldn’t resist the scratch-made baked goods and snagged a maple frosted cinnamon roll and a pumpkin whoopee pie for later. It’s a good thing we had limited space on our bicycles or we would have left with far more goodies! (The apple cinnamon bread and huge peanut butter cookies looked amazing!)
We had spent a prior day browsing the shops, so after a break, we hopped on our bicycles and headed back west. We stopped at a small trailside lemonade stand, manned by several enterprising young Amish boys. (I carefully did not take a photo of the boys, which is forbidden by the Amish.) The lemonade was delicious, by the way, but we did not try the cookies! This particular farm belonged, I believe, to one of the more conservative Amish sects as they had an actively-used out house nearby!
One of the misconceptions people have about the Amish is that they are all alike, which is definitely not the case. There are a number of Amish subgroups which range from very conservative to (relatively) progressive. While all of the Amish generally do not use electricity “off the grid”, dress in Plain garb, and use horse/buggy transportation instead of cars, there is a great deal of variation in other areas. Dress color, cap style, the use (or not) of indoor plumbing, buggy style, and stance on the use of farm machinery and modern technology all vary according to local district interpretation and member consensus.
Being raised in a Plain denomination (Old German Baptist Brethren) I feel a strong kinship with the Amish. Although I wouldn’t want to become Amish (I like my modern conveniences too much), I have deep respect for the way they live out their faith. The values instilled from my Plain roots — family, hard work, treating everyone with compassion and respect, service to others, and a unwavering belief in our Creator — have informed all of my life choices. While I chafed under my denomination’s imposed restrictions (and ultimately left it), those core values stay with me, always. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
We finished our leisurely ride through the beautiful countryside and capped it off with a Dairy Queen treat. It was a lovely way to spend a breezy Saturday.