2010 Race 2 Finish travel blog

heading north from Indianapolis

towns are shady and inviting

the highway is rolling and wooded

farm country and the corn is young

some fields are still stubble and haven't been planted yet

few big barns - mostly corn cribs and low sheds

the Wabash River

and the town of Wabash

advertising a play on Stephen Douglas

lots of churches and schools here

Ethanol refinery

the RV Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart

an impressive lobby

outside traffic zooms by on the Indiana Turnpike

the museum is celebrating 100 years of RVing

from these early ventures

to these modern day beauties

the early models were compared to 'yachts'

this was considered a 'streamlined' yacht in it's day

the earliest known 5th wheel

today's 5th wheel

talk about a 'Woodie'!

this early motorhome carried it's own chopper - and they didn't mean...

today they've eliminated the helicopter

there's a name we know and love

the gallery's opening statement

and what a trip down 'memory lane' it is

here's one we all remember - if we're 100 years old anyway

even then you'd only have been 3 years old!

exquisitely made - both outside . .

. . and inside

the smallest Airstream ever built - and a recent museum acquisition

cozy

but functional

the mainstreet of Elkhart, Indiana - July 1998 from a Time Magazine...

a bigger Airstream - with chrome propane tanks

much roomier

with a nice little kitchen - oops - make that galley

now here's a piece of work

a 1931 Model AA Ford Housecar

a fascinating history worth reading

there's that added driver's seat with a back

they forgot to mention it had a wood stove

but wouldn't you love to go camping in this beauty?

an early tent trailer

a little newer but pretty much the same

a pretty little camping trailer

a 1935 Covered Wagon Travel Trailer - with a leatherette roof

in 1935 Covered Wagon was the largest travel trailer manufacturer in the...

 

a primitive galley - but functional

1954 Shasta travel trailer - the company started in California in 1941...

1954 Holiday Rambler

with an army 'stretcher type' bunk bed

and a perky little dinette

a more modern looking tent trailer

1957 Serro Scottie low profile travel trailer

with a drop down space on the floor where a short person...

an early teardrop - all you did inside was sleep

a Mallard

an early Coachmen

the bed rides at the ceiling so you don't have to sit...

 

check out this Mustang

 

the bathroom's in that little closet on the left

and to get to the beds you have to go around behind...

from the back

an early truck camper

a Star Streak 2 - easily the wierdest rig in the collection

it was all looks and no utility

 

if you try and picture camping in one you can see why...

the trailer on the right is a standard manufactured home, but the...

it's a monstrosity called the Spartan Imperial Mansion

and it's 8 feet wide and 41 feet long!

one of Winnebago's early efforts

 

another room and another collection - either donated or loaned

this is a chauffer driven coach made by the studio to lure...

it was her own private lounge car that picked her up and...

it has a back porch where she kept a rocking chair for...

1928 Pierce Arrow Fleet Housecar

it has a sweet little dining area

and a working toilet that a lot of houses didn't have in...

this trailer is an eyecatcher

very slim with the door at the end over the trailer hitch

 

 

this early 'motorhome' has a door at the back end

 

this even older 'motorhome' is ingenious

it took a while to get set up - but it was...

this tent trailer used canvas cots to add beds

this one looks like something the army would have come up with

this truck is towing a 1927 Covered Wagon travel trailer

 

this motorhome is a beauty

elegant inside and out

device for pumping water to the sink

but the driver's seat was an 'accessory'!

this is a sleek travel trailer

a nice interior

and a toilet that folds into a cabinet

leaving the museum we drove to Middlebury - this is the Coachmen...

the majority of the nation's RVs are made right here in Indiana

and a lot of the parts are made by people who drive...

 

Essenhaus where we had a nice family style dinner


Race cars give way to horses and buggies - talk about Culture Shock!

Tuesday

Today we got out early - anxious to get moving again. Our destination; Elkhart, Indiana, a town in the heartland of the nation’s RV industry, and home to the RV Hall of Fame Museum. That Elkhart is also in the heartland of Indiana’s Amish country makes it that much more appealing.

Elkhart is a three hour drive north of Indianapolis. The countryside grows increasingly wooded and hilly as you get into the lower reaches of the ancient glaciers. I grew up in such country and it feels like home.

No peanut farmers here - the cash crop is corn and the farms are small and family owned. The only signs of Agribusiness are the Ethanol refineries, turning corn into fuel. At Wabash we crossed the muddy Wabash River, flowing west on it’s way to become the border between Indiana and Illinois. No evidence of the ‘Cannonball’ though - unless you count the name on one of the bowling allies we passed.

Along Highway 15 we stopped at a roadside stand. It’s early in the season to have much selection, but the tomatoes were red like God meant them to be and the cantaloupe smelled sweet enough to make you dizzy. Even the parking was right - in the shade of two hundred year old oak.

South of the Michigan state line and running parallel to it, is the Indiana Turnpike - and here we found the RV Hall of Fame Museum. The building and grounds are new and impressive, and as cars, trucks, and even a few RVs whizzed by on the Turnpike we took a two hour journey through some fascinating RV history.

The idea of taking your home with you when you travel wasn’t new - pioneers and gypsies had been doing it for centuries, using horses and oxen to provide the muscle. From their example it was a short leap for early motoring enthusiasts to envision covered wagons pulled by engines!

Early attempts date to the turn of the century, when most mobile living quarters took the form of trailers. The variations were many, from canvas tents set upon wheeled platforms to hard bodied chambers equipped with beds, benches, tables and even some rudimentary cooking and sanitary facilities. From these beginnings it wasn’t long until richer and cleverer motorists were designing elaborate contraptions for traveling in style and even comfort. Their enthusiasm led to great ingenuity, and the most skillful of them built vehicles of great beauty and utility.

The RV Hall of Fame Museum has a fine collection of these vehicles, some donated and part of their permanent collection, and some on loan from other parties. From the smallest Airstream ever built, to a 41 foot monstrosity billed as the 1954 Spartan Imperial Mansion, from the most primitive canvas tent on wheels, to a state-of-the-art Class A motorhome - the museum presents a wonderful variety of recreational vehicles, from well preserved relics to brand new units. It was fun, it was educational and it was several hours well spent.

From the RV museum in Elkhart we drove east a few miles to a KOA in Middlebury. Middlebury is home to both Jayco and Coachmen factories. In 2004 we came to Middlebury, to tour the Coachmen factory in anticipation of maybe buying one. We bought a Winnebago instead, and now we are back in our Winnie to renew the acquaintance and spend the night.

Elkhart and Middlebury are in Amish country, and it is more than a coincidence that the manufacturers of motorhomes located their factories in a place where a sizeable percentage of the population don’t drive motorized vehicles. Never mind - they’re not here to sell to the Amish but to employ them. Amish people may make terrible customers for RV manufacturers, but they make excellent employees.

They are honest and hardworking, they are skillful and intelligent, they have a reputation for exquisite craftsmanship - and they don’t need or want insurance! The Amish are self insured, and they neither want nor expect their employers to insure them. You have to admire that kind of integrity and self reliance - and if you’re an employer you have to love it.

We ended the day with an Amish style dinner at a popular restaurant named Essenhaus, and we topped it off with shoo fly pie - a concoction made with molasses, brown sugar and little else besides pie crust. It’s a gooey sweet filling that resembles nothing so much as pecan pie without the pecans. I love it, and Madolyn endures a little of it for my sake. What more could I ask? Life with Madolyn is good!



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