Indiana and Michigan or Michiana
Jul 1, 2013
|The seventeen days we spent in Elkhart, Indiana went by really quickly, so much to do and see. We stayed at the Elkhart Campground right near the 80/90 toll road in Northern Indiana, just a couple miles from the Michigan state line. Elkhart Campground is another nice campground; we have been lucky on our trip north and have stayed at several good campgrounds. Elkhart is called the RV capital of the world; many RV manufacturers are located in Elkhart and the surrounding communities. You just can’t imagine the number of RV dealers that are located here and what a huge business the manufacturing of RV’s is for this area. Transporting the RV’s from this area to dealers across the country is also big business; some of our neighbors at the campground are transport drivers. Each motorhome or fifth wheel has to be driven or towed individually to the final destination.
All that being said, this is also the place to come for any RV parts or repairs that you might need. Bob has wanted to replace our microwave with a microwave/convection oven and replace our stove and oven combo with a stove top and turn the oven space into additional cupboard space, something you just never have enough of in an RV. When we arrived in Elkhart we decided to see where we could find the microwave/convection oven that we had in mind and as luck would have it, the distributor for these ovens was located in one of the nearby towns……so off we went, got the oven and Bob spent an afternoon making a few modifications to the overhead cabinet to make the new oven fit into the microwave space, and he did an excellent job. So with half of our project done our next mission was to locate a stove top, which we were able to do at a RV Surplus store in Elkhart. Bob spent a couple hours on that project and we are really happy with the outcome that was made possible by making this stop in Elkhart. Just like a real house when you live in a motor home you are always trying to think of ways to make it better or more convenient. I’m learning that there aren’t many projects that Bob can’t do himself; he is a really handy guy.
One of the fun things we did during our stay in Elkhart was to take a factory tour of Jayco, a manufacturer of one of the more popular RV brands, located in Middlebury, IN. After a short video of the history of Jayco we took a trolley ride to two of the many building; one where we were able to see the sewing room where all the upholstered parts of the RV’s, plus bedspreads and drapes, are made and then to another where high end fifth wheels are put together, that is an amazing process and the building we were in produces approximately 6 fifth wheels a day, from frame to out the door. Many of the Jayco employees are Amish, and the RV industry is a major employer in this area of Indiana where there are many Amish communities.
We made two day-trips to Shipshewanna, IN, the first one to go to the Shipshewanna Flea Market, a huge flea market that is only open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It has to be one of the largest flea markets we have ever been to, in fact we couldn’t even see it all in one day. The next trip was to go to the Shipshewanna Quilt Festival, an annual event that just happened to be during the time of our visit to this area. Bob was a good sport and agreed to go to the quilt show and then as it turned out, the show took place at the Shipshewanna Event Center, which also happens to be the location of a Hudson car museum. Dozens of the 200 quilts that were displayed were draped on the antique cars. The quilts show was a judged show so you can just imagine that these were some pretty impressive quilts.
Another thing not to miss if you visit Elkhart is the RV Museum and Hall of Fame an impressive building that houses a collection of vintage RV’s, along with plaques and photos of hundreds of individuals who made the RV industry what it is today.
Elkhart County, the city of Elkhart and several surrounding town has an annual display of Quilt Gardens and Murals each summer. We went to the visitor center and received a map of what they call the Heritage Trail showing the locations of many tourist attractions and the gardens and murals. Although we didn’t follow the entire trail we did manage to see several of the gardens and went to four or five of the neighboring towns to visit their points of interest.
Having spent the last five winters in Alabama we have made dozens of friends that we never would have met if not for our “nomad” life style. One of our reasons for traveling to Michigan this summer beside the fact that we have never been here is that several of our Michigan friends kept telling us how beautiful Michigan is and then insist that we must see it. One couple, our Anchors Aweigh neighbors and good friends, Janet and Norm live just about 20 miles from Elkhart in Niles, Michigan, in the southwest corner of Michigan. As soon as we arrived in Elkhart we let them know and Janet started making plans. Janet and Norm have a sailboat that they dock at a marina on the St. Joseph River and their son John graciously agreed to take us sailing on Lake Michigan. The marina is about 30 miles from Niles so we were given a tour of the area on the way to the boat. Now this wasn’t just a tiny little sailboat, this was one that could sleep six, had a head (bathroom) and a small kitchen, something you could just about live on. That was a real adventure; to get to Lake Michigan we passed under an open drawbridge and also waited while a huge railroad bridge was turned so that we could pass. We spent 2 or 3 hours out on the lake. It was a beautiful day for sailing, something I had never done before and Bob and I enjoyed every minute of it. We spent two other afternoons with Janet and Norm, we went to their house and to lunch at the Old Town Tavern, that claims to be the oldest business in Michigan that is still in existence, the lunch and the company was great. We went to a huge orchard where we bought sweet Michigan cherries, they were fresh picked and delicious. Then we stopped at the church where “The Old Rugged Cross” hymn was first sung publicly in 1913. The church is in the process of being restored and there is a memorial garden there where the hymn plays softly in the background. Another afternoon we went to lunch in Elkhart and spent a few hours visiting at our campground. We saw parts of southern Michigan that we would have never seen; it was great to have our own personal tour guides.
The last Sunday we were in Elkhart we took the short ride to South Bend, Indiana to see the campus of Notre Dame. It’s a beautiful campus and we were able to tour the inside of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the cathedral there. Notre Dame and the Basilica are definitely something to see if you are in this part of Indiana.
We probably could have kept busy in Elkhart for several more days but we had to move on to our next stop Cadillac, Michigan to meet up with more Michigan friends and celebrate “The Greatest Fourth in the North” in Lake City, Michigan