After a few days in Michigan, we continued a few hours south to the Michiana area, an area on the border of Michigan and Indiana, about 30 minutes East of the Elkhart, Indiana area. We have spent the last two weeks in Indiana at Howe’s (pronounced How, with a silent E) Twin Mills Resort. From here we day tripped to Elkhart (about 30 minutes West) and to Detroit (about 2 1/4 hours Northeast) to check out some items on our map. We were also in the Shipshewana, Indiana, area which boasts, “LaGrange County and Shipshewana are home to the third-largest Amish community in the nation.”
According to the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum over 80% of RVs are manufactured in the Elkhart area and more than 500 suppliers provide products to those manufacturing companies. There are now a number of surplus companies like Johnson Surplus Sales, Factory RV Surplus, and Bontragers R.V. Supplies, that resells those products, we had a number of visits to local suppliers to purchase some items for the motorhome. They had the odd hinges that we needed to fix a door and some other things like that.
Twin Mills Resort
The resort is part of the Thousand Trails Collection (RV on the Go) so we are using our “free” 2-weeks here under our annual membership. At this park got a 30-amp (barely) electrical site with water, no sewer at the sites. There is sewer available in the park, but not for the exchange rate. The electrical system leaves something to be desired, we know how to manage our electrical loads while on 30-amp and had numerous breaker trips. We also had a number of times we lost power on the entire pedestal and had to move the electrical plugin on the other side of it, only to have to switch back after a while. With all of these electrical issues, the final original electronic part in our 10+ year old rig gave up the ghost, the original television in the bedroom.
The sites here are very tight and you will have to maneuver around very tight but sweeping corners. Some of those corners have a steep ditch next to them because the park has not been filling in holes. Some of the trees are hanging down over the road to about 10 feet off the ground, so expect to have a lot of branches dragging over the top of the rig. Finally, there are a couple of sewer dump stations but they are oddly positioned and you may need to do a multi-point turn around to get into it from your section of the park.
The pool had already been winterized before we arrived here, but it did look like a nice facility. Overall the restrooms and showers were clean, but you don’t get to choose your shower temperature and it was a bit on the colder side. There are several bathhouses throughout the park. The main sewer dump station at the front gate requires you to come in backward against the flow of exiting traffic. There is a dump station by the D-section, so if you are exiting past that one you may want to stop there first.
Even in the off-peak part of the year, they were doing themed programming on the weekends. The weekend we were here it was “Halloween” weekend. A number of the seasonal site families really got into and one whole lane did too. There was pumpkin carving, fright trails and plenty of trick-or-treating too.
Well, this is not the food mecca of the world by any means. We actually were very disappointed by the food options at restaurants here. Once exception was Yoder’s Meats which we mention as an attraction later.
Blue Gate Restaurant & Bakery, Shipshewana, IN: the restaurant is an “authentic” “Amish” and “Mennonite” experience. In the basement is an all-you-can-eat buffet and on the main level a sit down full-service restaurant. We dined in the basement on the buffet and did not find it to be at all worth the expense and it lacked all that “authentic” experience. The buffet area is about volume for the various tourist busses that may come through the town. The bakery did not have much on the shelves and much looked to be “made for” and “packaged for” sort of stuff and not made on site. The average age of the patrons are well North of 70 years of age. There is a full-service restaurant on the ground level that may provide a different perspective.
Pumpkin Vine Cafe, Shipshewana, IN: another disappointing restaurant in Shipshewana. We were very disappointed by the service and the food.
Bill’s Bar-B-Que, Elkhart, IN: We were here on a Saturday at lunchtime, the only people in the restaurant beside one other person taking out. We had the rib combo plater and the brisket combo platter. We were very disappointed by the meats, the sauces, and the sides. Perhaps it would be better for dinner, but lunch on a weekend seemed like a logical idea.
Howe Restaurant, Howe, IN: your classic small-town diner-style feel and menu. The pizza was pretty decent but the shakes were not. According to our waitress, “there is absolutely nothing to do in this town.” She recommended checking out LaGrange, Indiana, which is located about 10 miles South of Howe. There we found Millers Market which had a great produce section and was a fairly sizable store with decent prices.
RV/MH Hall of Fame. Elkhart, IN: we learned that the MH is not Motor Home but Manufactured Housing. The museum brings together many older RVs that have been collected and it is interesting to see how much really has not changed in 100 years. It is true that today we have much more conveniences in our RVs but the basics are still just that basics. There were expansion areas on RVs we now call “slides” on rigs that were 50 to 75 years old, so slides are nothing new.
The museum is self-guided. Plan for about 2 hours to go through the museum. There is a really bad video to introduce you to the museum, you can just skip that to save seven minutes. The “halls” it talks about are mostly small rooms with marketing materials leftover from years gone by and the exhibits are mostly up to the early 2000’s when the museum opened. Some attention really needs to be put into “modernizing” the history with the last decade or more.
This might be an odd “attraction,” but the Yoders Meats and Cheese is a little amazing place in Shipshewana, Indiana. We had some great meats, bakery items and cheeses from Yoders. Unfortunately, we found out in our second week that they ramp down production once the flea markets close. So plan ahead on your shopping.
From the Twin Mills Resort, it is about 2 1/4 hours to Detroit and specifically “the Henry Ford” museum. (Not a typo, it is “the” not “The” museum according to all of their signage.) Much of the museum is about automotive but there are numerous exhibits about American history, including travel and culture. Next to the museum is the historic Greenfield Village. We enjoyed the museum and went out to the village where we got soaked. We ducked into the Eagle Tavern to have a late lunch. The lunch was pretty decent, especially given the prices were not too bad. The tavern is well worth a visit for “period style” dining.