45 miles in Amishland


Rick, Gary, & Doug inspect a giant mushroom

Yesterday we cycled in the annual Pumpkinvine Ride in the Amish country of northern Indiana. We arrived Friday evening at the home of new friends Patricia and Pete, whom I had “met” via Facebook through my cousin Dorothy. We planned on camping in their back yard, but when our air mattress deflated, Pat & Pete unfolded their guest futon without hesitation. We all went out to dinner at the new Goshen Brewing Company, which was cozy and offered great food & beer. Goshen seems like a pretty cool little town!

Weather for the Pumpkinvine was excellent. The skies were overcast until about 11:00 a.m., which kept it from getting too hot. We started out headed to Middlebury with our friends Gary and Rick, who suggested we stop at Krider’s World’s Fair Garden along the way. Krider’s Nurseries were at one point one of the biggest seedling supplier in the country, and Krider’s designed this garden for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933-34. Anyway, it was fun to stop and enjoy the beautiful garden for fifteen minutes instead of intently blasting away on the cycling trail as so many riders seemed to be doing.


Rick, me, Gary, Doug at Krider’s Gardens

At Middlebury we parted from Rick and Gary, who were doing the 61-mile route, opting for the 45-mile “hilly” route. Doug was interested in this route, although the word “hilly” left me disinterested… But in the spirit of getting reading for RAGBRAI 2015’s first day of 74.3 miles and ***4110*** feet of climb (um, more by a couple hundred feet than the Nepal trek from Tikhedunga to Ghorepani, which I thought was harder than my entire first RAGBRAI), I thought I’d better suck it up and get some hill practice. Turns out the route wasn’t *that* hilly! It was mostly rolling hills, with one big steep hill that started around a curve and didn’t give you a chance to gain any momentum for the climb. I usually reserve my lowest gear for extreme emergencies, and kind of pride myself on rarely using it…but I shamelessly used it on this hill.

Then the hard part was over. We returned to the SAG at Middlebury where we ate more sandwiches & potato chips, listened to a lovely band called Back Yard Brass, and chatted with a woman named Joanne who has a Betty Foy set up similarly to mine and also purchased from Dick Denning of Celina, OH. Joanne insisted I ride my Betty next year, and to meet her promptly at 9:00 a.m. for the start. Yes, ma’am!


Elderberries were in bloom all along the route

Turns out I was quite satisfied with riding fewer but hillier miles (subtext: 45 miles was ENOUGH!) . I’m pretty sure this was the first time I ever passed a horse-drawn Amish buggy by bike, and I learned that in Amish country potholes in the roads tend to occur in the middle of the lane where the horses’ hooves strike, rather than on the outsides of the lane where the wheels go. We saw many Amish of all ages riding bikes on the roads and trails in the area. I suspect they mostly had utilitarian purposes for their riding, whereas we were riding for recreation.

Pat & Pete offered me the opportunity to take a nap before driving home, and I zonked out pretty quickly for over an hour. Refreshed, we hit the road, stopping first at the Maple City Market, where my membership at my local food co-op Cityfoods was honored. I was tired last night, but today I feel pretty fit and don’t have any sore muscles.

RAGBRAI is still a few weeks away. I worry about being trained well enough…but I suspect I’m overall stronger at this point than I was two or four years ago for my previous rides across Iowa. I just need to keep riding, and seeking out the occasional hill (or three).


Funky beehive in Patricia & Pete’s back yard, which is full of all kinds of wonderful garden stuff


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