That’s right: just a couple weeks after finishing the strenuous but enjoyable tour of Ohio Amish country, I went on another Amish-themed ride in northern Indiana. The Amishland and Lakes tour is a typical club-sponsored ride that has been presented for over 40 years by the Michiana Bicycle Association. On each day of the weekend, multiple routes are supported for rides anywhere from 25 up to 100 miles. With hundreds of riders attending and plenty of club and local support, it makes for a very enjoyable event.
The headquarters for the ride was at the Howe Military School in Howe, Indiana — a small town just a couple miles south of the Michigan border (and thus the term Michiana that is often used in those parts). This is a great location for an event like this, as there is a large athletic field for the campers; indoor showers and even dorm rooms for rent; and a dining hall for the meals that are optionally available for purchase.
For once, I was not going on one of these alone. John and Melissa went the camping route, and their tent site became a good place for all of us to hang out in the evenings after our ride while mooching beer and snacks. Dan and Catherine stayed at a hotel that was just a mile or so away, and I also stayed at a hotel just on the other side of the turnpike from them.
Saturday, August 8, 2015
On Saturday, discounting the shorter routes, our choice was between the 63 and 100 mile routes. Since none of us were up for a true century, we decided to do the “metric century” distance. Interestingly, the various routes separated and rejoined at multiple places and there was a suggestion on the route sheet for combining parts of the different official routes to obtain other distances. For example, an option was shown for a 75 mile route that combined portions of the 63 and 100 mile routes, and in hindsight this might have been a better choice given how easy the riding was. But at the start, being unfamiliar with the roads, committing to only 63 seemed the best way to go.
As it turned out, the area of northern Indiana that we went through has a very good network of quiet, low-traffic paved roads. There seemed to be more routes available than there had been in Holmes County, and there were almost no “through roads” or busy highways to contend with. Another big difference was the flatness: there was only one “significant” hill the entire day, and one more on Sunday. The routes were very easy to follow, being well marked by paint on the roads and other signage. Detailed maps and cue sheets were provided, and I had been able in advance to download the GPX files for all the routes and store them in my Garmin Edge. It would have been difficult to make a wrong turn.
With the riding being easy, I was able to look around at the surroundings as we rode through the Amish countryside. One of the most fun sights were the roadside stands set up in many of the front yards where the Amish kids were offering lemonade and various delicious home-baked goods. I was sorry that I couldn’t stop at more of them, but did indulge myself at one stand that featured root beer floats and fresh baked cinnamon rolls. They didn’t have a set price, but I can attest that their donation box was fairly overflowing from all the cyclists stopping by. This is obviously a popular annual event for everyone living in the area!
At the western end of the loop we went through the town of Shipshewana, which is a major tourist destination that attracts tour buses and lots of other traffic. Compared to the more genuine Amish country that we had already passed through, a lot of this seemed a bit contrived and tacky, so after stopping at a place for a late lunch I was not sorry to head back to quieter roads.
Returning to the home base, we hung around John & Melissa’s camp to relax a bit with a few brews. Later, after I went back to the hotel to clean up, I drove back to the school and we all went over to the dining hall for dinner and then more socializing in camp chairs while we swatted away the inevitable mosquitoes. It had been a good day’s ride!
Sunday, August 9
The next day there were again four routes available, but of shorter distances than on Saturday. Our choice was mainly between the 33 and 46 mile options. Again, it turned out that 46 miles would have been an OK choice, but some of us were concerned about being able to get back to the hotel before checkout time so we could shower and change. My hotel had given me a late checkout time, so it probably would not have been a problem to have done the longer distance.
In any case, we decided on the 33-miler and started out on the loop that this time took us north from the school into Michigan in the vicinity of the town of Sturgis, which is located along busy US-12 that used to be the main route between Detroit and Chicago. There were few Amish in this area, but on a Sunday morning the roads were somehow even quieter than the day before and I am not sure if any cars passed me on the entire route!
As on Saturday, there were several SAG stops along the way that were stocked with water, gatorade, fresh fruit, and various snacks. Coming to the stop in the town of Burr Oak, the event photographer even managed to get pictures of all of us as we rode in.
With the roads again being flat and open, we finished the ride and were back at the school by 11AM or so, giving us plenty of time to get back to our lodging, clean up and pack up, and head for home. This is definitely a ride that I would like to do again some year, probably picking different routes to add some mileage and see some more of this enjoyable part of the country.