Thursday, October 18, 2007

Small-town charm

October 18, 2007 -- Nappanee, IN

Day 2 of our Newmar repair visit. Despite heavy rain most of the night our service tech was here right at 6am to pick up the camper and drive it off to the service bay. Did I mention that it's still dark here at 6am? We headed right downtown to our favorite breakfast spot, the Corner Cafe, and had another wonderful hot breakfast. Today, Dar was curious about an item on the menu called "fried mush". We got there so early, about 6:10am, that the mush was still cookin' and wasn't available for order yet. But after we finished our more conventional breakfast, and after the mush was ready, our waitress brought Dar a sample. I'm sure you're wondering what it could be, as I did. The best way to describe it is "northern deep fried grits" -- it's made out of cornmeal and cooked, boiled, in a pot until any flavor the corn once had is gone. I'm not sure about this part, but I think they add some fiberglass for consistency, let it cool a little, cut it into small squares, and drop it in the deep fryer until golden brown. The little golden-brown square is then plopped on a plate and delivered, pipping hot, to your table along with a big bottle of maple-flavored syrup. The procedure is to dowse the fried mush in maple syrup, and dig in... yuuuummm, yuuummm. Dar loved it. My contention is most people would eat their two-day old socks if they were deep fried and dowsed with syrup. But we can now say we've had Indiana fried mush.

We left the restuarant about 7:30am... did I mention that it's still dark here at 7:30am?... especially on an overcast rainy day? Down the street from the restaurant we found a great hardware store that's got 3 floors chock full of stuff that you either need or will need someday. I could spend hours, no, days!, in a place like this. Now it's 7:30am (and still dark) and they're open! We had some key-blanks from Newmar that needed to be cut so we had a few extra keys for the front door... and figured this place could do it. In we went and ran into the friendliest bunch of guys and had an absolutely great time. By the end of our over hour visit, our three keys were cut, Dar was wandering around all three floors looking for things we "needed", and I was sitting on a stool talking with the guys about everything and nothing. We went in looking to have three keys cut, for which they charged us $1 each. We left with $85.07 of stuff, and felt like it was worth that in entertainment value alone. I love small towns.

One of the things we learned from one of the guys at the hardware store is that Wakarusa, another little town a few miles north, just finished their "pumpkin tree" and the light pole decorating contest was in full swing. By 8:30 or 9am, the sun was finally up and there was a break in the rain so we drove the 4 miles north to Wakarusa. Who wouldn't? And this turned out to be the highlight of the day!

Wakarusa is a very small town of about 1600 people. The downtown is the intersection of two county roads and is exactly two blocks long in both directions. Right in the middle of the main intersection was the pumpkin tree in all it's glory. My friends, you may not believe this, but there were 205 large pumpkins that made up the tree, and it was 52 feet high! Something we'll likely tell our grandchildren about. But if I may be a little more serious for a moment, it did give me a warm "community" feeling -- something I think is not very common these days. Despite the small size of the town, they got enough businesses together for a competition to make the best streetlight decoration, as voted on by those who decide to vote. The decorations were wonderful and creative. Coming from the "big city" the thing that surprised me the most was that there was no vandalism of the decorations. None at all, that I could detect. No gang symbols spray-painted on them, no theft of parts or figures or mums or corn stalks. They were as perfect as the day they were done. I hope to get some pictures tomorrow and get them on the website. I understand that some people in the town weren't happy because the big pumpkin tree in the middle of the intersection made it necessary to prohibit left-hand turns for two weeks. Now there's a small town problem for ya'.

Newmar is pretty much done with our issues list and only has a small area to re-paint on the exterior tomorrow morning. At this point, I don't see anything getting in the way of our leaving on Saturday.

T