I feel like I’ve been visiting Amish Indiana forever, but actually it started in 1985. I was a teacher in suburban Chicago, and our staff went to South Bend, Indiana, every fall for a teachers’ convention. At a rest area along the tollway one particular year, my friend Becky picked up a brochure for a country inn near Amish country. She said, “We should do this next year after the convention! We could spend the weekend and go shopping.”
So the next fall, we did just that—and every fall thereafter for a decade. And that began my love affair with Lagrange and Elkhart Counties—Amish Indiana. I came back to visit again and again over the years—at first once a year, then twice a year... I am not fond of driving on the tollways, but I always had one friend or another who was willing to drive.
Sometimes we would stay at the big Amish-style inns, but usually we would find little B&B (Bed and Breakfast) places. It was nice to have a local to ask for advice on where to eat, where to shop, where to find things.
At first I spent most of my time in the shops—but as the years went on, I had more stuff than I needed. Then I started going just to soak up the atmosphere. Sometimes I sat at the Friday morning horse auction for hours to watch them sell the big Belgian work horses and the smaller, sleeker buggy horses. Sometimes I found a rocking chair at Yoder’s Department Store and, hidden behind my sunglasses, I watched the people go by. Sometimes I went to the auction barn, which fascinated me. Sometimes I brought home a piece of furniture or other decor. Sometimes a long drive through the countryside was just what I needed.
And always, there was the food. Good old-fashioned food, like my grandmother used to make. Locally grown beef and chicken… Locally made bread and pies… Snacks that I could find only in Amish country. I brought it home by the bagful.
Then in 2007, a big change—I got married. What would my new husband think of my favorite place? Would he think it was boring, or would he understand what I saw in it? It didn’t take long for him to make up his mind… I think what first won him over was the food. All the rest was just icing on the cake. Now it seems like we’ve always gone there together.
My husband and I hope to retire there in a few years—how wonderful that he shares my love of Amish Indiana! When he first suggested retiring there, I thought, “What? Leave my life in Illinois and start over?” But now I am looking forward to it more than I can say. It suits me. It suits us.