After yet another night of Sharon getting stranded at Walmart by the snowstorm yesterday, I can feel thankful that at least she stayed safely at the store this time, rather than repeat last months fiasco. So now, I have an opportunity to get at least partly caught up on the story I started in early October.
As I related at that time, our first outing was rather unproductive, due to a late start, road construction in Elkhart, and other things. On our second day, we decided to hit the RV salvage place first. They didn’t have the shower base I wanted without special ordering it, and their price was too high on the door latch I wanted, but Sharon’s sister did find a nice folding chair. They did give me a tip on a trailer manufacturer with a nice parts showroom, though, and I was able to get the hard-to-find cam bar hasp I needed. After a nice lunch at Cracker Barrel, we did find our way to the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum, which was really our main goal in going to Elkhart.
The part you see in the picture above is the main entrance as seen from the west parking lot. The extension to the right houses the showcase of newer vehicles, while the museum itself is both behind the extension as well as behind the huge atrium you see in the picture. Behind that is another huge atrium housing the convention center.
The lower level of the atrium is mostly a gallery of photos and smaller exhibits of RV’s and motorhomes from their earliest conceptions to modern day vehicles. The upper level is a gallery of the important people in the founding of the RV industry, along with libraries and meeting rooms.
In the library, on top of the bookshelves, there are many smaller displays, including some hand-crafted wooden miniatures, such as this tear-drop replica and a towable park model trailer and tow vehicle.
There’s an elevator available and the entire facility is ADA accessible. One of the doors from the upper level leads out to a balcony, from which you can get a good overview of the lower floor of the museum.
The main floor is laid out like a road through the history of RV’s, starting with some of the earliest concepts, and winding it’s way around to the more modern ones. To the right of the wall in the above picture is a separate room, showing some of the newer RV’s as well as an overflow area for a few classics.
For those who thought slide-outs and tip-outs were a recent discovery, you will be interested to know that a Model T Ford was built with a rear slide-out that also contained two additional side slide-outs…back in 1916! This double combination slide setup was WAY ahead of it’s time!
There are many forms of early “house cars” on display, becoming newer and newer as you follow the road through the museum.
One of the most unusual was this “home built” model using some parts from an early Cadillac. There were only two of these ever built.
Please excuse the picture quality, as the lighting was not good in this part of the museum, and I was having a hard time seeing what was in focus. This is yet another good reason to have a nice SLR camera where you can look through a view-finder, rather than rely on a LCD screen. We will own one when we get out traveling full time!
They also have on display a few old “boat-tail” RV’s, the nicest of which was this 1935 Bowlus Road Chief, of which there are less than 50 remaining in existence.
In the other room, was the very first motorhome that Fleetwood made…a 1969 Pace Arrow.
We spent a good two hours in the museum, and I could have spent even more time there. If you have any interest in seeing the history of RV’s, I would suggest allowing three hours to go through everything. There is a minimal charge, but it is well worth it. It’s an easy exit off the Indiana Toll Road on the eastern side of Elkhart, and the entrance street is very RV friendly as is the ample parking. The grounds and convention center also host other events, so if you really want to see enough to make it worthwhile to spend a day there, I would suggest checking their web site or calling ahead to check their event schedule.
When we got there, the entire grounds (roughly 20 acres) were covered with new RV’s, but unfortunately, it was intended as a dealer showcase for dealers attending the convention, and was not open to the public. But I’m sure they host many other shows which ARE open to the public. Also, County Road 6, which runs east and west at the next intersection south of the museum, also has many places where RV’s are on display. There are many dealers and manufacturers all over the Elkhart area and beyond, many of which offer factory tours, so you can certainly fill your time in this area with everything RV related.
If you need special parts for your RV, there are also many suppliers of new parts, as well as new but discontinued parts, at the salvage places scattered around the Elkhart area. If you can’t find it in Elkhart, you also want to check out surrounding communities, like Goshen, Middlebury, Bristol, Nappanee, and Shipshewanna. While in the “Shipshy” area, you also want to check out the huge flea market held there. It is also one of the main hubs of the Amish lifestyle, and there are many things to see and do in the area relating to that, from the world-famous Amish Acres at Nappanee, to Das Dutchman Essenhaus Restaurant and the cheese factory at Middlebury.
After leaving the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum we set out toward Middlebury to see some of the famous Quilt Gardens that are scattered along a heritage trail through several communities, and in the process, stopped at the city park in Middlebury to visit the War Memorial where Sharon’s father and uncle are memorialized on one of the monuments.
During the rest of the week, we visited Beverly Shores along Lake Michigan to see houses that were moved there by barge from the Chicago World’s Fair, a famous ice cream parlor in Valparaiso, and a world-class model train layout. All of this will be covered in the next few posts, so stick around, there’s a lot more to see.
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