As I mentioned in another entry in this journal, the local CVB has produced a CD tour kit called the "Heritage Trail" which provides an audio accompaniment to aid in your driving experience through the Amish communities of Elkhart & LaGrange Counties. For those who are a bit more adventurous and willing to just go where the roads may take you, I encourage you to do as I did and just get in the car and drive!
My first morning in Nappanee, IN I was up very early knowing that I could not start my tours over at Amish Acres for several hours. It worked out well that I gassed up my car and just headed out of town. Once I was about five miles out, I took the first of what would be many turns to head into more rural surrounds. To be honest, I later found out I didn't even have to go that far out to be among the Amish and Mennonite people starting their day of Sabbath. That said, I was really happy with my choice of initial directions and where the roads took me.
I ventured into one small Amish community that had several merchants and stores that served both the Amish and English communities. Garden shops, cabinet makers and woodworking were all seen in a small area. As the sun rose higher into the sky, I started to see horse & buggies out and about. Most were driven by married men, as evidenced by their long beards. On a couple of farms, I drove past men getting their buggies ready for their trip to church.
In the Amish communities, they hold church service in one of the homes of a local church district member. I was fortunate to drive by a couple of different homes hosting church service on this particular drive.
As the morning got later, I started to see more and more people out walking or riding their bikes . . . presumably to church as well. It was very interesting to see this as in the Amish communities I'm familiar with in Wisconsin, I have never seen folks using any other means of transportation besides their horse & buggy. I later learned that here in Indiana, with the large population of Amish, there are more people in a more densely populated area. There are more church districts with people closer together. In Wisconsin, the Amish farms are spread out requiring they travel greater distances to go to church.
I drove in amazement of all that I got to see on that Sunday morning . . . and later that afternoon including children playing in their yards and driveways. That evening before nightfall, I observed several gatherings of Amish teenagers in fellowship at a local home. One location had the girls bringing baskets of food prepared the day before, to be shared with the group. At another farm that I drove by, there were three or four girls sitting up on the roof of the side building attached to the main house. It appeared that they had climbed out of a window in the house to get up onto the adjacent roof. They could be heard talking and giggling as I slowed down to catch a longer glimpse of them.
I went to bed that night thinking about all of the great things I witnessed and experienced, even if I didn't get photos of most of them. It was a wonderful day!
The next day, I spent time wandering the rural roads around LaGrange County, largely in Shipshewana and Middlebury. As with the day before, I was up very early. By the time I was venturing around some of the Amish farms, many of the ladies had already washed and hung laundry. By 8:00am, school aged children were walking and riding their bikes to school. One schoolyard had dozens of kids playing before classes started for the day. Girls were seen playing volleyball, while the boys were hitting softballs out towards the highway. I drove by carefully so as to not hit the youngsters shagging grounders as they entered the road before me.
As the afternoon arrived there were several young people out tilling the land as spring planting is just around the corner. I saw mostly men working the teams of large Belgian horses, but was fascinated to see one young lady with her blue dress blowing in the wind as she steered her four-horse team and plow through the winter-hardened field.
Throughout Monday, the Amish people were out and about doing their routine whether that was working at home, in the fields or in town; children going to school; or ladies taking the horse & buggy into town for their weekly shopping trip. I saw several older Amish gentlemen riding bikes to work.
I felt so blessed to have been allowed to share in their life's experiences, even if from afar or through the lens of my camera.