It began with a suggestion to my friend C-- last week that we go hiking in the beautiful autumn air before things got crappy. We outlined a plan to head north, perhaps to a nature preserve. I had visions of rolling hills (well, of finding rolling hills), cottonwood trees, majestic oaks.
Another friend, K-- asked whether we wanted to do anything this weekend, and we told her of our plans. She suggested a drive to Indiana to Amish Country, where we could go to farm stands and markets, etc. She seemed excited about it, so I thought, "Sure, why not? Not exactly what I'd had in mind, but if we're outside walking around, that should be fine." K is the salt of the earth; a good friend, comes through in a pinch, thoughtful, giving. We tend to have dissimilar tastes; she's a picnic blanket and classical music, show tunes on the radio; I'm The Vaselines at the Metro, alternative on the radio. Like most good East Coast kids, I'd been packed on a bus as a teenager with a school group and taken to Lancaster County, PA, to see the Amish and the Mennonites (the main difference, from what I could see, was that the Mennonites were kind of like Amish but had taken some PR classes).
I'd spent that trip being an annoyingly socially conscious 12-year-old, grabbing classmates' Kodak Instamatic cameras lest they take forbidden photos of the Amish. What I remember mostly were beards, bonnets, carriages, and shoo fly pie.
Cut to this morning: K-- is driving; J- is in front, C-- and I are in back. Show tunes play until I beg K--to kick it up a bit, and she relents. OK, Bryan Ferry and Haircut 100 are not exactly what I'd wanted, but they were better than Peggy Lee and the Nelson Riddle orchestra.
We shout "WOO!" as we cross the Indiana state line, toy briefly with the idea of stopping by Michael Jackson's old home in Gary, decide Gary is not calling us, and keep heading on. I'm sitting, enjoying being a passenger, thinking back to my Amish experience so long ago. The clothing, the beliefs, the customs.
"Hey," I said, "has it occurred to anyone that we are heading to Amish Country...on a SUNDAY?"
"So?" asked C--.
"It's the Sabbath. Nothing is going to be open."
We rode in silence for a bit. I felt like I had to salvage something.
"But hey, there will be non-Amish places open, I'm sure, and we can enjoy walking around!"
We found the Visitors Center in Amish Country. I assumed the staff in the shops was not Amish. The lack of bonnets and the fact that they were doing work seemed a confirmation. J--wanted to watch the free 20-minute video on the Amish, and asked about it. The bored man behind the counter informed us it was shown on the bottom of every hours. We'd just missed it.
Apparently the Amish had not heard of a button called "auto replay."
One of the things the Amish are known for is excellent craftsmanship. Everything is made manually; no trips to Sears for some Black and Decker. Furniture, quilts, candles, you name it, the Amish do it right. So it was a bit disappointing that instead of fine handcrafts we gazed upon Amish snow globes, tacky ornaments...a lot of junk made in China, even the apple peeler.
"If some foreigner came and were unfamiliar with the Amish," grumbled C---, "this crap would give them no idea."
We drove on, and on, and on. Pretty countryside, the occasional Amish buggy, but otherwise nothing. The only moving things were farm animals in the pastures we passed. Small town were closed. We began to get hungry, but could see nothing. We tried the quilt gardens only to find they were closed for the season. I thought wistfully of Wisconsin.
We finally ended up in Elkhart near Mishawaka, and I recognized the commercial strip I'd visited with Marilyn when I'd stayed at her land. I found the diner we'd liked, and we all sat down to a good, friendly meal.
All in all, it wasn't a bad day, but I was sitting for most of it. I'm participating in an organized bike ride next week, and the guy giving me a ride apparently has a cabin in Wisconsin. I pray he's normal and sane and wants to be invaded by a group of nerdy women.