Our first “formal” stop on the way to nowhere/everywhere this summer was a Bluebirds Rally in Shipshewana, Indiana, in the heart of Amish AND RV country. A “Rally” is a bit like all the meetings and conventions Liz and I attended over the years…50% business and 50% social. In our new existence, the “Business” parts are about fellow Bluebird Owners/Mechanics , who sit around drinking coffee (early) or beer (later) while discussing Mechanics. The social can range from Pot Luck dinners to, well, as you will see as you read, some pretty unexpected stuff.
But, before the rally, friends Karen and Tom offered us their (half) hospitality. I say half because they only allowed the front wheels of the bus onto their property. Obviously, there is more to the story…
(That part went unsaid),
(and associated culvert over the ditch)
is perhaps a bit narrow….”
To be fair, They OFFERED their hospitality AND their driveway, but this was before we met them for lunch and a flite at the Tapistry Taproom in Bridgman. There we got “The Look.”
We have described “the look” before on these pages. It is the obvious external manifestation of the internal conflict going at first sight of the bus in all its 33’ and 30,000lb glory in the face of a previous offer of hospitality.
Tom had seen the bus before, on the street in front of our place in Chicago. But that was 3 years before and with no risk to personal property! Now he was faced with it entering his driveway! Hence, the look!
As we pulled up in front of their home, he (and we) felt the bus would not be able to enter the driveway as planned. A matter of making the turn from a narrow country lane onto a narrower, raised driveway with culvert over the roadside ditch.
Good chance of a tire off the edge, which would be far from optimal!
Plan “B” was to park on their North Lawn area, which could be directly accessed sans-culvert by the neighboring farm’s access road (already approved by said neighbor). HOWEVER, walking the path as I always insist on doing first, we agreed the north lawn was a bit soft (not to mention beautifully manicured). Tom was perhaps a little afraid we’d become the world’s largest lawn ornament if we pulled fully onto it.
SO the solution: HALF hospitality — we left the rear (drive) wheels on the access lane; figuring this arrangement would allow the mighty(?) Caterpiller Engine to yank even semi-sunken front wheels out of the Reepmeyers’ personal space.
The bus may have been offered only half-hospitality, but the Harrises were treated to the FULL MONTY — an evening of lively conversation, good food, a craft beer (or several!). And friends Wes and Betsy, who have a place not far away also turned up to enhance all of these. And later that evening there was quite a thunderstorm, with more than a little water on the lawn (making it even softer!).
The decision to accept only front-wheel-hospitality meant we backed out successfully, and did NOT turn the Reepmeyer’s beautiful grounds into something reminiscent of the muddy aftermath of a tractor pull.
Tom and Karen were smiling as we pulled away; another look we have grown accustomed to
(I THINK I behaved myself; hmmm…).
So, onwards to Shipshewana. The area in Northern Indian is famous for a few things. It is the heart of Amish country, so there are lots of shops, food, crafts and wholesome entertainment options, etc. It is also the heart of RV country – nearby Elkhart builds a very significant percentage of all RVs on the road. Put the two together and you get the makings for a GREAT Rally Destination for folks with old Buses. “How so,” you ask?
Well, there are RV Surplus places in the Shipshewana area. These places are essentially RV Junk Stores. By junk, I mean AWESOME STUFF. These places buy up factory remnants, so you can buy a door, or the weather strip for around the door, or a latch for the door, or a light for over the door, etc. And that would be just the “door” stuff. There are cabinets, and fittings and fasteners and valves and so on. Most of the places have row upon row of boxes with stuff. Sometimes the staff can point you in the direction of the particular thing(s) you might need, but often you just stumble on things.
Now, we have VERY limited space for “Stuff,” so while there were lots of cool things to be had, I was mostly in “looking” mode. But I DID find gas struts for a new storage cabinet I am building on the back of the bus, and for a GREAT price. I did NOT find a replacement outdoor light…
Speaking of the outdoor storage box…Liz spotted an Amish Aluminum Fabricator, and I suddenly NEEDED aluminum panels for the aforementioned storage box. It seems the online company I had ordered from lied to me when they PROMISED to ship in time for panels to reach us in Shipshewana. When you travel continuously, arranging such deliveries can be complex!
Well, at least they called to say they would not be able to deliver, but this was leaving us high-and-dry-aluminum-less.
In contrast, the totally honest and trustworthy Amish guy who stood across the counter from us (no “online” in Amish Country!) looked at the dimensions, offered a price that was a few dollars BETTER than the best I could do online, AND said, “I can have these for you in 10 minutes…”
I told him I was on bicycle, and drove a Smart Car (He needed that explained…) but I thot I could get someone at the rally to help me. He said he’d just leave the panels outside the door for us to pick up later in the evening. And he did, we did (thanks, Muscoda-Gary!) and they are perfect!
There is also a HUGE Antique Auction/Flea Market at Shipshewana on Tuesday and Wednesdays. We went. Observed, enjoyed and acquired nothing. And, every day, donuts from an Amish Bakery magically appeared for the collected BlueBird Mechanics/Rally Attendees to eat. Amish Crack, they called them, because they are impossible to resist!
Over and above the wonders of the Shipshewana area, the rally organizers had also arranged some social events and happenings. One night, a fellow attendee BBQ’d chicken for the group (potluck side dishes). Another night, the owner of the RV Park offered FREE ICE CREAM from the shop on the premises to all of the Bird Brains. We went to the local Amish-Mexican restaurant (for the record, NOT good, but company was great). Several of us went Kayaking/Canoeing on a neighboring creek.
I was not aware of this activity in advance, so I had no Kayak (it was, apparently, B-Y-O-K). Of course, had I BEEN AWARE, I still have no Kayak. As it turns out, there was one Canoe, and friend Gary (of Muscoda fame) needed an Ass for the front seat. He thought of me IMMEDIATELY — Not sure if I should be pleased and honored about that, but the afternoon was great!!!
My main responsibility was to keep the front of the canoe down, which I did with aplomb. Additional effort was expended helping to empty the cooler.
The last evening of the rally, there was a party at one of the attendee’s place — in nearby Elkhart. “Party” does not really do justice to the magnitude. You see, we soon learned that Rowland has a two-home-three-large-shed compound. One house, and one of the sheds are completely full of ARCADE MACHINES. (The other sheds have motorhomes, vintage cars, etc. etc.). Everything you have ever seen in an arcade — Pinball, Bowling, target shooting, full-motion-shooting machines, flite simulators. UNBELIEVABLE.
Collecting Arcade Machines, and keeping them working (he has two of many of the machines – one for parts), has been Rowland’s hobby (more of an obsession, really) for many years. Similarily the old cars and motorhomes. Anyway, all of the machines were on, free, and begging for players. With pizza, left-over chicken and potluck sides and a slew of desserts.
Rowland’s wife Joann said it best: “Folks may come here old and staid, but they definitely leave as Teenagers.”