A City with a Heart – Elkhart, IN
A popular myth of how the city of Elkhart got its name is that native American indians noticed that the shape of Island Park, within the city at the confluence of the Elkhart and St. Joseph Rivers, resembled the heart of an elk. However, the city was actually named after the Shawnee indian chief Elkhart, who was a cousin of the famous Shawnee chief Tecumseh. Today, the town is dotted with painted Elk on parade, celebrating its namesake.
Elkhart is known for two things – “RV Capital of the World” and “Band Instrument Capital of the World.” Since we are of the RV persuasion, we chose to check out the 80,000-square-foot RV museum that pays homage to the industry. During our visit, we viewed a collection of 52 vintage RVs dating all the way back to 1913 and chronicling Americans’ century-old penchant for hitting the road with the comforts of home in tow.
This 1916 “telescoping apartment” is the precursor of the current slide out. Both side cabinets slide in and the rear section then “telescoped” into the main compartment and was secured for travel. The industry has gone a long way since then, as slide outs are now fast and easy to operate with just a push of a button.
We always appreciate and follow any walking tour that a city offers. Elkhart is no different, as they have developed the Elkhart Gateway Mile, a walking tour around town connecting all three unique districts; Arts and Entertainment, Garden and the Riverwalk.
We enjoyed our walk around town, particularly fascinated by the windows and architecture of restored buildings, colorful murals and summer blooms coloring the area. The locals consider the Riverwalk a gem, as it winds around downtown, with some intermingled features to explore. It includes bridges connecting to Island Park, whose shape has been compared to an elk’s heart.
And some other colorful murals around town:
These adorable critters were hanging out by the river to cheer us along:
After working up an appetite wandering around town, our tummies were growling and we remembered LuAnn’s of Paint your Landscape recommendation for a great place to eat and quench our thirst. So, off we went to lechyd Da Brewing Company, a local restaurant, to savor their yummy pizza drizzled with balsamic vinegar and covered with arugula. Yum!
After gobbling up the tasty pizza, we took a walk around our park at Elkhart Campground (see Steve’s review here). We had a chance meeting with Carla (who recognized Steve from our blogs) and Jerry of Cozybegone, and after chatting for a while we invited them over for a happy hour the following day. Over good eats and drinks we got to know each other well and we were able to learn more about the area, as they had already been at this campground for two months. That’s what I love about blogging – we get to meet such cool people!
On another day we ventured further out of Elkhart and drove to Indiana Dunes State Park within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Indiana Dunes consists of 2,182 acres of primitive, beautiful, historic and unique Hoosier landscape. Large sand dunes, located beyond the entire shoreline, have taken thousands of years to form, and tower nearly 200 feet above Lake Michigan.
It was about an hour away, and we used our time there to meet the “3-Dune Challenge”. This hiking challenge is named for the trio of dunes – called the Tremonts – which highlight the length of the trail. Mt. Tom, Mt. Holden and Mt. Jackson are each nearly two hundred feet above lake level, and believe me our calf muscles were burning after hiking over all of them in deep sand!
The trail was described as the most difficult in the park, rugged and challenging with 40-degree slopes. The description did not lie, as it was the toughest and longest 1.5 mile hike we have done!
On the way home we swung by the pride of Southbend, Indiana – the University of Notre Dame – which was founded in 1842. It resides on 1,250 acres and is well known for the quality of its physical plant and the beauty of its campus. We drove around the campus, from the collegiate Gothic architecture and park-like landscape to the exquisite outdoor sculptures and breathtaking views. Not a bad place to go to college…
We were also able to arrange a tour of the Entegra motorhome factory while in town, which made Steve very happy. These coaches are “the next step up” from Betsy, and we were happy to get a private tour of the factory floor. As usual, pictures were not allowed – but our mouths were hanging open for over an hour as we watched them building these beautiful rigs. We never get tired of factory tours!
And that’s how we spent our busy week in the city of heart.