My surprise encounter biking through Amish Country

Hi, Girlfriends and Guy friends. John and I love to bike.   We travel with two road bikes (paved surfaces) and two mountain bikes (unpaved areas).  The road bikes live on top of our jeep and the mountain bikes are suspended on their own rack attached to the back of our RV.   This past July we were staying at Twin Mills RV Resort in Howe, Indiana, which is surrounded by Amish and Mennonite Farms.  During our three week stay we enjoyed several bike rides in the beautiful surrounding farmland.  On our final morning, July 31st we planned to bike 50 miles. What I didn’t plan on was the BIG surprise waiting for me at the END of that ride. Preparing Our usual pre-biking routine includes scoping out various routes using Map my Ride to find  smooth pavement and little traffic.   Our next task is to bring in our biking bins which contain all our stuff.  Then we check The List-   (Yes. We love checklists.  We have them for biking, hiking, backpacking, and RV set-up.)  Cannot forget the Buttonhole.   Long distance biking requires this anti-chafing cream. What to wearThis particular day I chose to wear my favorite biking jersey.  Across the back is written:  “Support the International FOP Association, In honor of Pat Doerr” We created these special jerseys five years ago.  In 2012 John biked 400 miles in three days to raise funds and awareness for my son Pat’s rare disease- Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progresseva.Heading outWe started biking east for two miles toward Howe, Indiana.  Next, we turned south on smooth pavement for six miles into the town of LaGrange.   Because the Amish religion frowns on it’s members posing for photographs, you won’t see any faces of the individuals we biked passed, but I did manage to snatch a shot of this woman loading her cart at the Miller grocery store in LaGrange.We turned west for fifteen miles then zig-zagged ten more miles toward our rest stop/excuse-to-savor-the-biggest-chocolate-custard-donut-ever at Rise and Roll.  (Thus, negating the calories we burned biking there.)Next, our route took us five miles to the town of Middlebury where we headed north.   Peaceful PeddlingGetting the chance to see life from the seat of my bike is a great shift (pun intended) from the fast-paced world of rolled-up-window-air-conditioned-don’t-hear-a-thing-car-travel.  Biking through Amish country allowed me to down-shift into a happy gear; the slow-down-and-step-back-in-time-gear.  Where else can you experience:

  • sounds from clip-clopping horse-driven buggies
  • the simplistic beauty of freshly hung amish clothing dancing in the breeze
  • the beautiful absence of telephone poles and electric lines
  • the aroma of fresh manure (road apples)
  • dozens of smiling Amish children waving at us   

Hungry AgainOur last stop before heading back home to our coach would be seven miles up the road in Shipshewana.   John and I decided we were hungry again, and propped our bikes outside the Subway in the center of town to go inside to eat.   This is where the BIG SURPRISE happened.  
We ate our sandwich then hopped on our bikes to ride the five miles back to our campground.  After showering and playing with the dog, I decided to check social media and was shocked to see this photo of me: 
It was posted by Dorothy Hostetler.  The Facebook caption read: “Hi everyone-Most of you don’t know me, but our daughter Heidi had FOP and passed away from a drowning 14 years ago.  My niece just spotted this person in our tiny town of Shipshewana and I would love to say hi- does anyone know who this is?”   I immediately responded that it was ME! Getting together We shared a private message- deciding to meet up at Dorothy’s home that day since John and I were leaving Indiana the next day.  I drove four miles to Dorothy’s property, and met her son Tim arriving in his car.  I introduced myself as a mom with a son who has FOP and Tim’s eyes lit up.  He pointed to the back of the property indicating where I could find his mom.  Dorothy, who owns and runs a massive canning business, was working in their commercial kitchen.    I entered the building locking eyes with Dorothy.   We hugged.  Then we hugged again.   Much was said in that embrace. We walked over to their home where I was introduced to Dorothy’s husband David.    We shared photos of Patrick and Heidi.We shared stories. We shared tears and laughter. We shared the hope for a cure of this nasty disease.  (FOP is so unique that it only affects 1 in 2 million people; there are 800 known cases in the entire world.)   That morning I woke up clueless to the surprise friendship awaiting me.  Our rendezvous was as unlikely as FOP is rare.   Ironically, a routine biking day in Amish country shifted me into the Surprised-and-Blessed-Beyond-Belief-gear.  How lucky am I?        

Flu bugs and Cinnamon Rolls changed our RV life.

“How do you feel, love?”John asked.

“The same amount of terrible.” I barked. 


I can be snarly when sick.  


My queasy stomach began Tuesday, January 17th, 2017, around 5 a.m. and unfortunately it was a travel day for us.  Thank goodness it was not going to be a long ride.  A 157 mile drive from Jamul, California to The “Q” (Quechan) Casino in Yuma, Arizona would take us two-and-a-half hours.  No biggie, right?




The stomach cramps that woke me that morning were steadily getting worse as we prepared for departure.  I must have looked silly bent over, holding my stomach as I brought in the window awnings, secured loose items, and locked cabinet doors. 


My sluggish movements delayed our departure.  We finally drove out of the campground by 10:00 a.m. 


I told John I’d sit up front till we got onto the Interstate and then go in the bedroom and lie down while he drove.


Bike Hitch Glitch

About a mile before the Interstate we entered a construction zone – the type where signs direct you onto a temporary asphalt cattleshoot, circumventing the work zone.  John was doing about 30 miles an hour when we crossed the uneven pavement.  All of a sudden…movement in our rear camera caught my eye.  Our bikes (in their bike rack) were swaying side to side like a metronome!  I pointed to the camera and John began braking causing the bikes to swing wildly! Fortunately, there was an opening just ahead allowing us to pull over and inspect the damage.  We were relieved to find only one bike wheel popped off the rack.  Luckily we had two bungee cords to secure the wheel.  Talk about scary. 



We resumed our drive onto Interstate 8 which was my cue to go lie down.   Exhausted, I immediately fell asleep only to be rudely awakened by my rumbling stomach and the taste of bile in my throat.  Facing the inevitable, I knelt in front of the porcelain bowl and barfed.  Uh oh…just when I thought it was over, (yes to be graphic), I was forced to sit on the porcelain bowl while continuing to barf in the trash can.  I managed a perfunctory Lysol swipe of all surfaces and headed back to bed.

I shouldn’t have bothered, since fifteen minutes later I was right back in the bathroom repeating the scenario.


Meanwhile, John is driving 65 m.p.h. and clueless to the events happening in the back of the coach.  


The next two hours were a blur, but I knew we were approaching the “Q” (Quechan) because we were slowing down.  My mouth was dry. I craved a cold Sprite, but knew we didn’t have any in the fridge. 


One night of boondocking turns into three

I didn’t have time to be sick!  We had a schedule to keep.  The plan was to boondock one night at The “Q”.  We hoped to arrive around 10:30 a.m., cross the border to Los Algodones, Mexico, and visit The Purple Pharmacy to replenish our medications.  That evening, John and I needed to put finishing touches on his Physical Therapy presentation.  It was called “Healthy Movement” and scheduled for Friday in Quartzite, Az at the Newmar Motorcoach Rally. Our plan was to leave the “Q” early Wednesday morning in order to have 2 days to explore Quartzite before John’s presentation.  Meanwhile, I was trying to find my own “healthy movement.”


With the coach parked, John came back to check on me.  I told him not to come close to me…I didn’t want him to get the nasty bug! 


There were no soda machines inside the Casino, but John ran into a fellow boondocker (angel!!) who gifted a spare Sprite from their coach.      


Mexico Medicines

With me settled in bed, John drove the Jeep to the U.S. border and walked over to Los Algodones, Mexico to purchase our medicines. When he returned to the coach I begged him to keep his distance.  That freed him to drive into Yuma to replenish my Sprite and find food for himself. 


Glitch #2

As he stepped outside the coach he noted that the Jeep had a flat tire! It wasn’t all the way flat, and John saw the nail sticking in the sidewall.    

So… John drags out our air compressor adding enough air to safely drive to the tire store.  Three hours later, after getting the tire patched, he is back-deservedly exhausted from the crazy events of this day.


But John’s nursing duties continued.  Later that evening, my sweet husband warmed up rice-filled socks in the microwave and laid them on my chest.  Ahhhh…the warmth permeated the achiness.  It’s kind of like when your mom used to rub Vics Vapo rub on your chest-only without the greasy mess.  (Insert: I-love-my-husband-who-brings-me-warm-rice-filled-socks.)

His Turn and Glitch #3

Naturally, John started to feel pukey that next morning.  Fortunately, I was feeling better, so we switched roles and I became nurse.  I suggested John put on his most comfy “being sick” clothes.  As he sat down to change, he felt a “crunch” under his bum.  Yup, I had left my glasses on the bed, and the lens wire broke and out popped the lens.    


Yeesh.  After getting John settled and comfortable in bed, I googled a local Lens Crafters.  Luckily there was a store 10 miles from us.  Off I drove and one hour and $25 later, I had my glasses fixed.  



It was like we were not supposed to get to that Newmar Rally!  I called the organizer of the event and explained that our puking predicament would delay our arrival until Friday.  No problem.  He was thankful we kept our germs far away from the group.    


By late Thursday we both felt nearly normal and prepared to head to Quartzite the next morning.  


Now we could head to the Newmar Rally.  Quartzite’s population may only be 3600 people but each winter it swells to well over 1 million when the boondockers arrive.  We were excited to be a part this Woodstocky phenomenon.


We had a nice time with the Newmar group, and John’s presentation was well received- but the highlight of the weekend had to do with a Cinnamon Roll. 


Yes, a Cinnamon Roll.


A Sweet Payoff 

As we perused the vendor tents John’s sugar radar locked onto the Cinnamon Roll tent.  He had to have one.  Besides, he earned it for what he had endured the past three days. 

We ordered and sat at a picnic table to enjoy the massive roll.  Up walks a nice gentleman and his wife.  He and John get chatting about the gentleman’s recent knee replacement.  Next, this gentleman realized that John is a Physical Therapist Assistant looking for part-time work.  So he says  “You have to go the The Voyager RV Resort in Tucson, because the P.T., Paul Wheeler, is swamped and could use your help!” 


To make a long story short…a week later we arrived at The Voyager and John began working with Paul Wheeler D.P.T., at his onsight clinic. 


In Conclusion

It’s crazy how strange circumstances can end up being a blessing.  For example: 

  • If John and I had not gotten the flu, we wouldn’t have been delayed in our arrival to Quartzite.

  • We would have gone to the Cinnamon Roll booth on Wednesday not Friday.

  • We never would have had the meeting with the gentleman from The Voyager who told us about Paul Wheeler’s busy practice. 

  • John never would have received the best job assignment he has ever experienced! 


P.S.  We are on the look-out for the gentleman who clued us in to the awesome P.T. job with Paul Wheeler at The Voyager.  We want to thank him and, of course, bring him a Cinnamon Roll.The gentleman is retired, tall, has white hair, and recently had a knee replacement.  If you see someone matching this description, please let us know.