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"MTR - Ride to a Slower Pace 2010" was appropriately dubbed in the literature and on the jerseys for this year's rally. Even so, the descriptive did little to prepare one for the wonders we were to see with beautiful horses grazing and running in pastures, and immaculate buggy after buggy pulled by spirited horses on the rural byways. We even saw a young boy riding a surrey. I'm nearly embarrassed to say that we have had thoughts of skipping MTR but this is one year the thought should never have been entertained!
Something is to be envied here as our weekend spent in the Amish country of rural northern Indiana, although a mere snapshot in time, pulled us away from the hustle and bustle of daily life causing one to pause and reflect on what it is really all about.
There are approximately 3,700 Amish households in the local 3 county region and with their large family size they number about 18,000.
OUR ONLY TRAINING RIDE WITH THE GIRLS SINCE CANDISC A FULL MONTH PREVIOUS
Sue, the girls' mom, is deeply involved with PTA, on it's executive committee and heads up many other school activities and volunteers for other functions when the need arises hence her saddle time has declined. As the girls' social lives have evolved, riding with them has increasing challenges with everything from softball, soccer, volleyball, strings, band, choir, scouts, etc. soaking up about every spare minute.
Our MTR Chronology is always a fun reflection as time keeps slipping by with the kids continually growing, getting wiser, and also sassier! All total I've done 14 MTR's. 1994 was our introductory year, before kids, with 1995 missed from doing PBP in France, 1997 missed with Courtney being born, 1999 due to PBP in France once again, and 2000 missed, the year Natalie was born.
We've managed to ride MTR every year since 2001 with Julie, AKA "Mighty Mouse" adding the needed muscle whether it be on a triplet, quad or quint. The flexibility of coupled bikes provided many options during the years when Natalie was very young, particularly useful when Julie and I wished to hammer another loop in triplet mode with Courtney while Sue and the little one hung out at the lunch stop.
THEN: MTR 2002, MARK, SUE, JULIE, COURTNEY NEARLY 5, NATALIE AGE 2
Julie and I typically do 2 week long tours each year with the girls, Biking Across Kansas and CANDISC in ND, and we do these rides with less than ideal training preparation, due to time constraints on the kids' part. Various BAK and CANDISC stories are found here. While on the tours Sue gets a break from the normal hectic schedule giving her time to catch up on everything at home. Julie and I continue to do Hotter'n Hell Hundred in TX and joked about it being our final training ride for this year's MTR! Enuf history and digress.
We pointed the old 282,000 mile Ford van east on at 5:15PM on Thursday with the plan of spending the night in Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer country (Hannibal), which worked out very well. We arrived in Shipshewana late Friday afternoon and although tired and with the daylight waning, we mounted lights onto the quad and fought the wind on the 21.2 mile ice cream ride.
DAY 1 - FRIDAY - ICE CREAM RIDE
We started out on the route and chatting with friends managed to miss the third or so turn. Miles, the MTR professional photographer, for as many years as I can recall, drove by and hailed us letting us know we were going the wrong way. He said he had been looking for us and drove ahead to his chosen picture spot of the evening. He should know by now that our ice cream rides are usually done with the setting sun!
NOW: 8 YEARS LATER, MARK, JULIE, COURTNEY NEARLY 13 AND NATALIE 10 - HARD TO BELIEVE!
AND.... 2005 MTR GRAND RAPIDS, MI
We pushed into the westerly wind taking in the new sights and becoming accustomed to the countryside and all the stimulation it had to offer.
We made it to the Dairy Queen destination in Middlebury but the chilly strong westerly winds from the tropical storm Earl and setting sun caused us to forgo the sugar and fat load. We did take time to shoot photos of the Amish buggies hitched up at the Dairy Queen before clipping back in. Natalie was not too keen on skipping the ice cream, which is an understatement!
RETURNING TO SHIPSHEWANA WE WERE TREATED TO A RAINBOW AS THE SUN WENT DOWN
The return was fast with the tailwind assist and darkness settled in quickly but no matter as we had our lighting system ablaze front and rear. We seemed to rock and roll over the hills enjoying the quad momentum that only comes with a tailwind. I requested they all take it easy and have something left for the morning!
We checked in at America's Best [BIG MISNOMER!] Motel. The water source was from their own well and the stench that went with it was a bit much. Needless to say it was undrinkable, by us.
DAY 2 - SATURDAY
It was morning and we were tired but rousted ourselves and the girls out anyway. There was no hot water so only one braved taking a shower and the foul smell further diminished any inclination to do so by others.
It was a chilly morning in the low to middle fifties and with the wind blowing there was a distinct chill on the skin. We grabbed breakfast at McDonalds and drove from the MI border to the start in Shipshewana. Our lodging was 25 minutes away resultant of being remiss in registering early, as usual.
A large gathering of tandem teams across from the host hotel was our first clue that we were short on time. A few stragglers scurried around in the lot as we hurriedly unloaded, pumped tires, used the restroom, donned all the gear and plugged in our intercom system, a must for a bike this long! It was 9:03 as we rolled out with nearly 500 tandems off in the distance to the south. The leaders must be over a mile away was my first thought trying to peer towards the front of the line.
Everyone was motivated and anxious to get warm. The girls had on jackets while the adults braved the chill. We heated up quickly as we charged south in pursuit, passing the cars trailing the end of the police escorted herd of tandems. Courtney warmed up early and stripped off her jacket while on the fly being wary of the fast moving cranks and chains.
We hugged the left side of the road as we worked our way past hundreds of riders, one of the joys the girls experience with each rally and from a practical stand point our improved position later is directly proportional to the lunch line length and the port-a-potty line too!
A VERY COMMON AND STATELY SITE
AN AUCTION IN PROGRESS
THE 2ND SAG
The sags provided a welcome break and a chance to load up on more calories. We had a 19.4 average upon arrival, soon to drop from the increasing wind.
WE HAVE A TOPEKA AS WELL IN KANSAS!
Someone years ago told me that in Indian speak that the word meant potato. I've never verified the statement for accuracy however.
THE TASTY LUNCH AT WHAT APPEARED TO BE AN AMISH COMMUNITY CENTER HOSTED BY THE AMISH
The attention to detail and craftsmanship drew my eye. The walls and ceiling were a mosaic of various types of woods, all of the same width but different lengths and colors. The ceiling was remarkably finished in the same manner.
Despite 4 port-a-potties, the line was extremely long necessitating sneaking Natalie into the 'employees only' inside restroom.
Several Amish were building this structure as we rode by. They did have a small front end loader to mover the cinder blocks.
The Amish traditionally hand dig graves for their deceased. We saw three or four men hard at work with picks and shovels in a cemetery on our last leg of the day.
IT SAYS, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, "THE CREEPING MEATBALL" JUST BELOW THE DRIVER'S WINDOW!
The wind swept away our reasonably high average as expected. We were tiring now and the crosswinds hurt us terribly on the quad as all draft advantage was lost. All in all we were in good shape and in good spirits rolling in. The lightly rolling terrain was perfect for tandems and we thoroughly enjoyed the day.
ICE CREAM, NO EXTRA CHARGE! VERY NICE!!!
MINIATURE BUGGY IN REGISTRATION AREA HITCHED TO A BICYCLE
DINNER AT MARIA'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT IN STURGIS, MICHIGAN
YODA CONTEST, NATALIE ON THE LEFT WINS!
DAY 3 - SUNDAY
Awakening within 3 minutes of the same time as the previous day it did not take a math wizard to figure out we needed to get moving, and quickly given we ran a bit short on time the day before.
We did have hot water to shower with after yesterday's ride and even though the stink remained at least it had that warm soothing feel.
Yesterday's breakfast and ride prep steps were identical aside from we had about 5 minutes to spare due to increased efficiency.
The police escort took us north and west initially on the same route as our earlier Friday ice cream ride. We knew Miles would be waiting at the same location so we managed to find a gap in the crowd so he could shoot a clean photo. We really made the effort for this to happen given he somehow missed several of us on Saturday.
SAME SHOT LOCATION AS FRIDAY BUT WITH SUNDAY'S MORNING SUN
The legs were certainly less perky today after yesterday's long route and team effort. We paced along and would pick up a draft now and then, for which we were thankful.
AWESOME VIEW OVER THE FIELD TOP
We were in hopes of riding the long route and being able to do so seemed very promising with it being a much calmer day thus far.
After a quick conference it was decided we would roll by the first sag. Three other tandems running a speed we could ride with in their draft made the same choice. We hung with them for a while until reaching a grade that was a bit too long for the effort so we let them go. We followed them for a short distance as they made a left taking them further south. Up to this point I had been watching both car and bike traffic and particularly other bike wheels closely hence I had no idea what the arrows looked like for the day.
The teams followed some pumpkin route arrows unrelated to this ride. We rode a mile and consulted the map as they turned west on a major highway seemingly oblivious to the error. We retraced our steps adding only a mile to the day's adventure and wondered when they would figure out that they had taken a wrong turn.
Shortly after getting back on course we were greeted by an MTR person making sure all turned onto a trail. It was new and smooth but not a rail-trail given the bends and rises were not railroad compatible.
END OF THE TRAIL, LITERALLY
We rolled into the 2nd sag which also served as the lunch stop. The line for lunch was incredibly long given many people had opted for the short route on this beautiful day. Rather than wait one hour for lunch we decided to check out the long loop while having a nagging worry that the food would be gone upon our return.
We started out with 3 or 4 tandems but with the gradual climb out of the valley and light headwind, we soon lost contact with them. Very few tandems were seen on the long route as most must have opted for the shorter venues which likely had something to do with the rigors of the day before.
The route was scenic and we enjoyed the tailwind on our return to the grist mill and park area. The line had vanished although the shelter was nearly full of people eating. Our fears, based on past MTR and other rally experiences, were confirmed as they had run out of sandwiches and were offering tomato and cheese on a bun, with calorie free lettuce. Nice to ride the long distance, burn tons of calories, be in need of calories, and have none available. This was a bit of a bummer but resolved as within 15 minutes ham sandwiches were available instead of the promised barbeque chicken. Oh well.
THE WORKING BONNEYVILLE GRIST MILL, ESTABLISHED 1832
We toured and learned about the Bonneyville Mill. It is powered by an efficient horizontal water turbine by comparison to a typical waterwheel.
FLOWER PICTURES TAKEN BY NATALIE
SUNDAY AMISH PICNIC AT THE MILL
We finished the day's adventure feeling good about the accomplishment and having been rewarded with good roads and scenery. A change of clothes and we were off to visit the Amish Museum but learned it closed early on Sunday making it impossible for us to visit it on this day resultant of having chosen the long route. The Hudson Museum was open however and it happened to be at the same location as the evening banquet.
ONE OF THE CARS IN THE LARGEST HUDSON COLLECTION IN THE WORLD
As related to me by the museum personnel, Mr. Hostetler was born Amish but at an early age knew he would not remain so. He invented water and feed systems for the poultry industry, holds about 60 patents and sold the business at market value to 2 of his 3 sons. He apparently donated his entire Hudson collection, aside from four cars to the local township. The third son oversees the museum operation. It was well worthwhile to view this fantastic collection particularly since the MTR attendees were treated to a discounted entrance fee.
We sampled the hors d'oeuvres setup for the banquet before starting our trek home. It was sad in a way to miss the banquet as the kids always enjoy them. Attending was not in the cards for us given our 14 hour drive and with the time crunch of them returning to school on Tuesday.
We departed for home with plans to drive until dark. Avoiding Chicago on the way back was a priority so west and south we went towards Lafayette. With the assistance of our GPS we located a tasty Mexican restaurant and found lodging nearby.
Monday dawned and we were over 500 miles away from home even though we had bitten off a chunk of the trip the evening before. Avoiding Chicago and all of its congestion was the best stress relieving decision made! The trip home was good with local law enforcement out in hoards. A bit of road construction that narrowed to one lane on I-35 coming into K.C. from the north did mess us up for a while.
We arrived home ahead of a line of thunderstorms and at a reasonable hour so the kids could settle in and get ready for school in the morning.
THE EDGE OF A STORM MOVING INTO KANSAS CITY AS WE NEARED HOME LATE MONDAY
The rally was awesome, as many have been. The riding was great and the scenery and culture experienced were a very big plus. Many thanks to the HOOTS of Indiana for a great and memorable rally. It was a real joy to have a rural start as compared to all that goes with those that have started from a city center.
Next year's MTR is in Ann Arbor, MI, a mere 750 miles for us. Being on the fringe distance wise for the geographical center of typical MTR's makes us pay the price in time and gasoline.
Most likely we'll see you in 2011.
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