Anyone who is a serious RVer knows where Shipshewana and Elkhart are, and has probably passed through this area at least once. Elkhart, Goshen, and Shipshewana are a mecca of sorts for fulltime RVers because most of the RVs (and their components) are made or distributed in this rural area of Indiana. It’s also Amish country and because of those two things it is a fun place to visit and stay while you are getting work done on your RV.
This is only our second visit and this time we scored a campground site right in the heart of things at the Shipshewana Flea Market campground. It’s hard to stress how different this area of the country is, but the sight of huge RVs being pulled next to a stream of horse and buggies might be a clue. It’s an interesting mix of the new and old and I really enjoyed visiting the area and exploring the sites. The last time we came through we got our Mor Ryde system and had limited time to explore but this time we were able to get out and see more things.
And of course the food. It is no exaggeration that I gained 4 lbs in a week eating in Amish country. All the butter and sugar was yummy but the Amish can eat that way and stay slim because they physically work every day. Still it was totally worth it and we ate out several times including the buffet at the Gates Restaurant.
Make no mistake this is Amish country and the stores and restaurants cater equally to the Amish residents as they do to the tourists. This makes for a really interesting mix of stores and restaurants with lots of products that you wouldn’t necessarily see anywhere else. It’s amazing how many products now exist that can be run off a battery and Lee and I spent a ton of time in a local stores that sold many products targeting Amish customers. In particular I found the grocery store interesting because it was a mix of bulk foods, closeout items, and the most varied section of baking products I have ever seen anywhere. Also buggies are everywhere. This calls for careful driving but certainly added to the overall experience for me.
I will say that I am extremely glad we are vaccinated. No one is wearing a mask here and although this is pretty common in rural areas, it is further complicated by the amount of Amish people. Despite the fact that there is no explicit restriction against getting vaccinated less than 10% of the Amish population has received the vaccine and the community at large is generally very resistant. That has led to a large group of people achieving some level of herd immunity as an estimated 90% of households have had COVID. A price has been paid though because death rates spiked to 125% of a four year average, but for this largely healthy group of people that seems to be acceptable.
The problem though is how it has impacted the non Amish who live and work in the area. To be clear I completely respect and appreciate the Amish way of life, but their choice to not wear masks has made things very uncomfortable for the non Amish who live and work with them. Vaccines took a long time to reach all age groups in the general population here in Indiana and the people 50 and below were at risk. We have met people who had severe cases here and in some cases a level of resentment has built up between the “English” and the Amish. It’s always been an uneasy alliance between these two groups, but COVID has exacerbated things.
I mention it because until we arrived it honestly never occurred to me and and this small area is a stark example of the differences in rural and urban populations. We have certainly seen these differences while traveling, but COVID has added an additional wrinkle into things. Even with the variant on the rise, we are still comfortable traveling, but if we were not vaccinated I would not be here. Furthermore I don’t think anyone who is high risk should come here until COVID is resolved. All that being said it is a lovely place and if you haven’t been it is definitely worth the stop.
One of the cool things you can do is stop and see the quilt gardens. They are made up of flowers in a quilt pattern and the couple I saw were really pretty. I also highly recommend going to some of the smaller stores. My absolute favorite was Dutch Country Market where you could watch the noodle making. I bought some of their product and it was deee-licious!!!
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