WHERE: near Arcola, Illinois

WHAT: I honestly don’t know what to say about R. Gardens. We saw the place advertised all over town and because we couldn’t find what we were looking for, decided to see what this place was. I’m usually fairly alert about avoiding leftover 1950’s tourist stops – but well … I just don’t know.

This is supposed to be an Amish village of some sort, but we didn’t quite figure out what that sort was.

First, we didn’t eat there – we ate down the road at a pleasant place called Yoder’s Kitchen. So can make no comments on the food at the garden place.

The lady at the ticket desk (which was in a home decor gift shop???) was friendly enough. We walked out to the gardens and hopped in an Amish buggy and got a ride around lots of rocks fastened to poles making different shapes. Interesting, but broken down. The Amish man (he said he was Amish) driving the buggy said someone had bought the place a few years ago and was attempting to bring it back to it’s former glory. The buggy ride was short and … well, short. We drove around a circle, past some buildings that look well done and past some buildings that looked worn out and closed. The playground looked fun. In the middle of the place was a tipi next to a Native American gift shop. (Amish?)

An Amish Museum was remodeled and well done – but not large. We did get in an interesting discussion with the Amish lady at the counter. Right in front of us were a group of German tourists who were there from Germany (cool how that worked out), but now they had left. They came from the same area as the Amish, so when they were standing, discussing in German, some of the pictures and the museum, the Amish lady at the counter could understand everything they were saying – they were very surprised when she answered them. She enjoyed telling us about it.

The day was hot. Very hot and we had miles to go before we slept, so we decided to get some ice cream and head out. An ice cream shop was inside the complex and when we walked in – the clerk told us we were his first customers in 2 and 1/2 hours (busy place).  My change was a quarter, so I decided to put it in the player piano in the corner. The clerk warned us that it was loud and not real melodious.

That was an understatement! We had NO idea what the song was – something that crashed, smashed and banged and did it all out of tune. Kind of reminded me of the munchkins banging on our piano when they were babies.

But then the German tourists came in to get ice cream. A man (their American guide?) was with them and while they were ordering, he asked if we minded if he put money in the player piano. We laughed and told him to “go for it.” He decided to wait until he had the G tourists attention (as if he wouldn’t have had their attention anyhow). And while he waited, he chatted with us and told us he was a piano tuner which we thought was funny considering the piano he was about to play. He put in his quarter and more crashing sounds echoed through the shop. He laughed and whispered to us that he would leave his business card.

And thus ended a very weird visit to a strange place. (Although there were moments of seeing the possible potential.)

KID FACTOR: The playground did look cool and several reviews I read mentioned the playground. The buggy ride could be interesting to kids.

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