Buggies & Hot Rods

 Posted by at 1:11 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 162011

There are large communities of Amish and Mennonites in this part of northern Indiana, and we always enjoy driving the back roads east of Elkhart, admiring the tidy Amish farms, seeing the horse-drawn buggies, and just enjoying a ride in the country.

Yesterday afternoon, Greg and Jan joined us for a ride out to Shipshewana, the business center of the Amish in this region. It is interesting to see how these people, who live a simple lifestyle  without things we take for granted, such as electricity, telephones, and automobiles, interact with those of us who love our modern conveniences. High spirited horses pull Amish buggies along on the shoulder of the highway as cars and trucks zoom by at 55 miles per hour. Often, young women, and even girls, are holding the reins and controlling the powerful horses with ease and finesse.

Amish buggy caravan

The Amish are hard working, prosperous people, and their businesses, homes and farms reflect that.

Amish farm

Amish barn

On one back road, we encountered a long line of young people on foot and riding bicycles, headed home after a day at school. This is a simple Amish school, usually only one or two rooms.

Amish school

However, even the Amish know that they have to adapt to some technology to survive in today’s world. Do you know what this little building is?

Amish phone booth

If you thought it was an outhouse, you would be wrong. It’s a phone booth. Some progressive Amish sects allow members to have a telephone for business purposes only, but it is never in the house. It is in a shop building or a small structure like this. There is no seat, no heating, or cooling. The idea is that the phone is to be used to conduct business, not to get comfortable and chat.

While we were in Shipshewana, we stopped at E&S Sales, an Amish grocery store, where Miss Terry and Jan stocked up on some bulk items they can’t find at the local Safeway or WalMart grocery. The Amish like their junk food just as much as I do. One fellow’s cart was piled high with Chips Ahoy cookies, and others had Pepsi, potato chips, and other goodies.

When we left Shipshewana, we drove around a little more, then stopped at Das Dutchman Essenhaus, an Amish complex that includes two restaurants, shops, and a conference center. A lot of folks like this place, but this was our second time to eat there, and I’m just not all that impressed. We had the buffet, which was more expensive than a Ryan’s or Golden Corral, but the selection was much smaller and not nearly as good. My fried chicken was cold and stale, and the roast turkey was okay, but nothing to write home about. I’m in no hurry to go back.   

There was a car show going on in the parking lot, and after we ate, Greg and I walked around checking out the nice old rides. I bet these guys go a bit faster than the Amish buggies we had seen all afternoon.

Street rods

Here’s an early VW camper van. Miss Terry had one of these when she was raising her kids. I think she likes our Winnebago diesel pusher a lot more.

VW van

Besides the usual assortment of ‘57 Chevys, vintage Camaros, Mustangs, and T-Birds, there were some oddballs on display. This is a BMX Isetta, made in the 1950s. You open the entire front end to get inside of the micro car. It had a one-cylinder, 13 horsepower motorcycle engine, and was produced from 1955 to 1962.

BMW mini car

And how about this Amphicar, which was just as comfortable on the water as on the road? Manufactured in Germany, 3,898 of these nifty little cars were made between 1961 and 1968. They had a top speed of 7 miles per hour in the water,and 70 on the highway. You could really troll for bass in style in this puppy!

Amfibicar 2

We only have a couple of days left before we leave for Celina for our Ohio Gypsy Journal Rally, and a lot of last minute details to get done between now and then, so we’ll be on the go a lot today and tomorrow. It won’t be long now!

Thought For The Day – You cannot always wait for the perfect time, sometimes you just have to dare to jump.

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Nick Russell

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  4 Responses to “Buggies & Hot Rods”

  1. Did you happen to notice the sun roof on the Isetta mini car? An interesting thing about that is that it was added for safety reasons. If involved in a front end crash, the driver could not get out. So they installed the sun roof as an escape hatch for that very reason. (just a little trivia I picked up somewhere)

  2. Hi Nick:
    Enjoyed all the pictures of the Amish country. I’ve been going there for
    about 25yrs. and really enjoy the neat farms. I was surprised at your
    comment on the Essenhaus food. We were last there in May and didn’t
    know they had a buffet now. The first time we went (several of us ladies)
    we had the family style dinner. However, we realized that we could fill
    up just as well ordering from the menu for less money. Love their broasted
    chicken and dressing. Their sweet & sour salad dressing is delicious but had
    to give that up due to the high fat content. Did you have pie?? Always had
    to braing home a raspberry cream for my husband.
    Hope to see you in Celina.

  3. Nick, you missed one of the best auto displays in the country in Shipshewana. The Hudson-Essex-Terraplane Museum has about 50 cars built from 1909 to 1957 on display. Most of the cars were owned and restored by one man. This museum is well worth a visit. Can’t make the ralley this year, but the last one was great.


  4. I was a volunteer firefighter back in the sixties. There was a volunteer in the next town over (a big man) who responded to calls in an Isetta. He had a sequence worked out where he would arrive at the station at good speed, take it out of gear, hit the door latch and apply the parking brake all at once. The physics of the situation would throw the door open and launch himself out of the car toward the station. The car would sit there with the door open til they returned to the station.


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