Enjoy a bike ride in Elkhart County whether you have nerves — or legs — of steel or not

Yup's Dairyland is one of the potential rewards of a bike ride along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. (Photo by Sara Wakefield)
Yup’s Dairyland is one of the potential rewards of a bike ride along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. (Photo by Sara Wakefield)

 

By Sara Wakefield

I am a nervous biker. My bike-related anxieties include but are not limited to: biking close to other people, biking close to ditches, biking close to traffic, changing gears on hills, and people opening car doors for me to run into.

One of my favorite things about living in Elkhart County is how bike-friendly it is. There are so many well-groomed bike trails far away from traffic. Even a weird nervous biker like me can enjoy — and even look forward to — long relaxing bike rides here.

A view of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail (Photo by Sara Wakefield)
A view of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail (Photo by Sara Wakefield)

My favorite trail is the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail — it’s so smooth and wide. On the Pumpkinvine, I get to enjoy all the things I like about biking: being outside, hearing the soft crunch of gravel under my tires, feeling the air rush past my face, and seeing all the views. It makes me feel like a kid. It’s really fun.

Motor vehicles are not permitted on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. (Photo by Sara Wakefield)
Motor vehicles are not permitted on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. (Photo by Sara Wakefield)

I love the Pumpkinvine so much that last summer my boyfriend and I decided to take the Pumpkinvine trail from downtown Goshen all the way to our favorite ice cream place, Yup’s Dairyland in Middlebury. The round trip was 29 miles — 19 miles longer than I had ever biked in one day. We did not own bike clothes. We did not own road bikes; I had my vintage Schwinn and my boyfriend had his dad’s heavy (but adorable) bike from the ‘60s. What could possibly go wrong?

We got on the Pumpkinvine in Goshen’s Abshire Park and followed it all the way to Middlebury. It was warm and sunny, the trees were rustling in the breeze. We saw an indigo bunting — the prettiest, bluest bird ever. The corn fields were downright majestic.

We knew the Pumpkinvine didn’t go all the way to Yup’s, but we had directions. Had we known how busy (so many trucks!) and hilly that last on-road leg was going to be, we probably wouldn’t have tried it. The last 3.3 miles felt endless. We kept thinking Yup’s would be right over the next hill. I, of course, worried that I might accidentally weave into traffic and die at any moment. My boyfriend biked all the hills, I walked my bike two times. We both considered turning around.

When we finally arrived, sweaty and triumphant, we bought three bottles of water, one large iced tea and three ice creams (two Reese’s Cup flurries and one Boston cooler). As we made our way to the picnic tables, arms full of water bottles and ice cream cups, we passed my cousin and her husband waiting in line, looking so … normal. They had driven from Goshen, like you do.

After resting and rehydrating, we headed back.

Once we were back on the Pumpkinvine, it was heaven again: Wildflowers! Silos! Shady tree canopies! Bison! For the rest of the trip we were basically Kermit and Miss Piggy in that bike scene from “The Great Muppet Caper.” It was really romantic. When we got home, we celebrated our perseverance with a couple of gin and tonics. It was a fantastic day. I was converted — I wanted to do it all again, as soon as possible, but without the hill-biking-with-scary-trucks part.

And now there’s a brand-new guide that lets me (and you) recreate that afternoon over and over without any unintentional biking with trucks. Carefully researched and thoughtfully written, Biking and Walking in Elkhart County 2017 organizes the trails and paths into three biker/walker categories: casual, confident but cautious, and strong and fearless. It includes detailed descriptions of each category, so you can really know which trails are going to be the most fun for you. I know it wasn’t made for me, but it’s exactly what I need. (Thank you Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau!)

The Biking and Walking in Elkhart County 2017 guide is free — you can download it here, or copies will soon be available at select local bike shop or the Elkhart County Visitors Center. (And you should – there are so many trails in the guide that I had never even heard of.)

Bicyclists can find joy on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. (Photo by Sara Wakefield)
Bicyclists can find joy on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. (Photo by Sara Wakefield)

As a fun companion to the new guide, the Elkhart County Visitors Bureau has put together three self-guided Bikes, Brews, and Beyond tours — everything you’ll need for a perfect afternoon of biking and beer tasting in Elkhart, Goshen or Middlebury. This weather’s not going to last forever — pick a tour, get your booty on a bike, and soak up that summer!


Sara Wakefield is a freelance writer based in Goshen, Ind. She wrote this for the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau.


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