“So.. you wanna go on a day trip?” I asked my friend who had recently just gotten back from graduation. Apparently, Memorial Day Weekend—which I promise to finish soon… not nice of me to leave things dangling, was it?—wasn’t enough to satisfy my wanderlust!
“From here?” she said dubiously. I didn’t blame her; we already lived in a town that would be considered a nice little “day trip” from Chicago for travelers and we’d become desensitized to all things quaint.
Luckily, I’d already done my research and found Amish Country in Indiana, 2 hours from the Chicagoland area. So, on a cloudy Tuesday morning, we buckled down and sped off. First stop: Shipshewana, IN and its famous flea market/auction.
We knew immediately when we stumbled into Amish Country. Carriages suddenly cropped up everywhere, trotting alongside cars on the road. What struck me was that each carriage also carried a license plate, a tiny modern mar on the back.
We stepped into the building and was immediately faced with a man in a collared button-up, suspenders, and the darkest bushiest beard I’ve ever seen. Sitting atop his crooked nose was a pair of old, black, square glasses. I almost expected some electrical tape holding the bridge together in the middle.
“Is… this the auction?” she asked me. We both stood there uncertainly in the doorway, half-holding the double doors open. A waitress walked past. I looked at the letters on the door again, this time noticing the “RESTAURANT” under “SHIPSHEWANA COUNTY AUCTION”… which means the restaurant was named “SHIPSHEWANA COUNTY AUCTION RESTAURANT.” Ah.
We left and headed toward the real flea market/auction. But got easily distracted along the way by a few furry friends!
Shipshewana’s flea market and auction, which includes the auction of livestock, runs every Monday-Wednesday. Unlike the flea markets you’d imagine, where there are gems and cool finds wherever you look, this flea market seemed more like what you’d have lying around the house that you would never imagine anyone to want, let alone pay for.
We walked along the wide gravel paths until something caught our eye. So we decided to go in for a little peek…. and found the largest collection of Amish romance novels I never knew existed!
How could you not be curious about these novels?! So, of course, I googled some of the novels and found a synopsis for Ella Finds Love Again:
Bestselling author Jerry Eicher concludes the Little Valley Series with one more glimpse into young Ella’s Amish world. She loves the widower Ivan Stutzman’s children and enjoys caring for them. Although she is genuinely devoted to Preacher Stutzman and keenly aware of his desire to propose, her feelings for him stop short of romantic love. Yet Ella yearns for marriage and wonders if what she and Ivan have is enough.
When the handsome Englisha stops by and asks about converting to the Amish faith, Ella is intrigued and warily agrees to meet with him. Soon Ella realizes she’s torn between her devotion to Ivan and his children and her growing feelings for the Englisha. With dire consequences at stake, Ella must determine what the truth is, if her feelings are dependable, and how to stay faithful to the will of God.
Talk about a packed plot!
Amish Country, Indiana consists of 7 towns connected by a scenic route called the Heritage Trail. The largest town being Elkhart. Strangely, the website promotes a CD guided tour that is available for pickup at any of the visitor centers in the towns.
“Are we really going to pick up this CD?” my friend glanced side-eyed at me.
“I just want to see what it’s all about!” I inserted the CD into the reader and it started, read by a man who sometimes stumbled haltingly over the words, but who provided some very education facts to accompany our drive. If only they had a guide for both directions you could explore the cities: clockwise and counter-clockwise.
Ah, now this is what we came for! We were promised cheese at the flea market, which we didn’t receive. We found it, however, in all the other stores, which were extremely generous with free samples.
At the end of the day, we headed towards the Iechyd Da Brewing Company in Elkhart.
“Should we just get a flight?”
“Yeah, let’s get a flight.”
We ordered a flight of 9 different beers, unaware that on the side of the menu were IBU numbers. What were IBU numbers? Who cared! We had beer!
“Whoa… that second beer was so much more bitter than the first!”
“Yeah, this is escalating rather quickly…” we looked at the menu again nervously, this time realizing that most of them were IPAs. By the 5th beer, we were cringing with each sip. Beer connoisseurs, we were not.
Finally, we noticed the IBU numbers and googled what it meant. IBU: International Bitterness Units. There were about 5 of them on the list that were over 70 on a scale of 100. At the end, our faces may have been permanently skewed, but we were feeling giddy.