I’ve never actually participated in a yarn crawl. I know there are some within an afternoon’s drive of me (Charlotte, Asheville, the Raleigh/Durham area), but I always seem to find out about them after the fact. It doesn’t really bother me, because I’m fine visiting the shops individually. It’s probably better for my wallet, at any rate. Buying yarn at half a dozen different shops would take a pretty large toll on my budget, and if I’m going to save up my allowance, I want it to be for something pretty significant.

I’d say the Greatest Spectacle in Racing is pretty significant, wouldn’t you?

My husband and I have made this trip every year we’ve been together, with the exception of last year, when the timing coincided with a three-week-long class he had in Washington DC. The first three years, we rode up with his family, which made for a pretty short trip, because his dad likes to make a long weekend out of it: drive up after school lets out Friday, head back early Monday. It’s not that it wasn’t enjoyable, but we are our own family now, and we wanted to start our own tradition. For example, we wanted to join some of his extended family for a breakfast picnic on Memorial Day itself, which is something they’ve done for years, but we always missed out on. Last time we went, we rented our own car and set aside extra days specifically so we could go to this mini-family-reunion, as well as just have some time to relax and recover from the 9-10 hour drive.

This year, we decided to add another stop to the itinerary: a day in the city itself. I’d only ever seen it from the Interstate, or from the stands of the Speedway, so I decided we should do it up nice, put on our grown-up clothes, and have a fancy dinner at a fancy restaurant. (I admit, I was influenced by an episode of Parks and Rec.) I figured as long as we were in a major city, I should take the opportunity to hit up a yarn shop, so we stopped in at Mass Ave Knit Shop before driving down to the zoo (where we saw our first of two entirely different sets of protesters, these ones insisting that ZOO = PRISON) and spending the rest of the day walking around the park, the canal, and the city.

Before that, though, we also managed to get to three other LYSes:

  • Kanawha City Yarn Company in Charleston, West Virginia: I love this shop. It’s tucked in behind a pawn shop, and we actually missed it on the first pass, but I’m really glad we found it. There’s a great selection of fiber as soon as you walk in the door, and then another room for the yarn. There’s also a floor loom and a spinning wheel on display, and I wish I’d thought of asking for a demo on the wheel, because I’m still not entirely sure how they work. The selection of yarn was great, the owner was very friendly, and there was a huge map behind the register, with pins that customers had placed in their hometowns. As something of a map geek, I loved it.
  • Always in Stitches in Noblesville, Indiana: This is a knitting and sewing shop, and it’s very spacious and has a nice selection of fabric and yarn. They had a sitting section with plenty of magazines (my husband remarked that it was the designated husband area), and the woman at the checkout was genuinely friendly when talking to us about the race. On a side note, I seemed to wind up in Noblesville an inordinate number of times, with all the riding around we did with my husband’s grandparents, and it seemed like every time I looked out the window, we were there again. But the first time, I went there intentionally, even though I hadn’t planned on going at all, because I set out to go to…
  • The Trading Post for Fiber Arts in Pendleton, Indiana: I’ve been wanting to see this shop for over a year, but their hours are very limited (12-5 two days a week, and evenings by appointment, but there’s no way I’m setting an appointment to go to a yarn shop, because I’d feel pressured to buy something just so I didn’t feel like I wasted their time). I’d resigned myself to not seeing it at all this trip, because our original plan was to drive up Friday, and we’d have to leave extremely early and haul serious tail in order to make it there by 5. However, my husband realized that his class started the 29th, not the 22nd as he’d previously thought, so we decided to leave early Thursday afternoon, and spend Friday hanging out and doing whatever we wanted (which, in my case, was obviously going to be trawling the area for yarn). (Update: Apparently, per their website, they were closed that day for a fiber festival in Ohio, so that’s my bad. How I was able to just walk into a shop that was closed is a good question for discussion, however.)

So early Friday afternoon, we drove out to this place, which is on a farm out in the countryside. We drove up the gravel road, parked, and were greeted (more or less) by two very old, very large white dogs. We went into the shop, which was cluttered and crammed with all kinds of yarn, fiber, books, and tools. I saw several items I wanted to buy. But there was no one there to give my money to, which was sad, because we saw some really interesting stuff. I thought about taking what I wanted and leaving cash on the counter, but I couldn’t really see an obvious place to leave it, nor did I have anything with which to leave a note. (Also, not everything was priced.) I had planned on going only to this shop, since it was much closer than the one in Noblesville, but since dogs can’t operate cash registers, we ended up going to Noblesville anyway.

Sunday, we went to the race. It was a little different this year than usual. We still rode down with his parents, but instead of tailgating beforehand as we usually do, we were forced to park in someone’s yard and go right to the track. This was pretty much my plan all along, because I had set up a meeting with Susie, of the Prairie Girls podcast. She had talked about road trip knitting in a previous episode, and mentioned that she was going to the race, and I popped my head into the forum and said I’d be there too. She suggested we meet up, and I’m so glad she did. She’s such a delightful person, and so friendly (that genuine Midwestern kind of nice), and it was heartening to know that there was someone else in the stands with a knitting project close at hand. (For the record, I only knit up until they started the pre-race festivities, wanting to show proper reverence for the event. Although I did pull it out again during the red flag.) Between meeting Susie, seeing the museum, spotting Helio Castroneves on his bicycle, and the last 20 laps of the race, it was far and away my favorite year to date.

I probably could have finished the ankle socks I was knitting (an orphan skein pair I started back in January and vowed to finish this trip) sitting in the interminable traffic on the way out of town. (Someone made some really bad decisions this year; usually we park in the Coke lot and are back on the interstate within 30 minutes.) However, I was pretty exhausted (and fairly baked, in spite of 4 applications of sunscreen) so I spent most of the time asleep. I did, however, bind off those socks as we passed through Dayton on the way home.

The weekend – and my fiber adventures – didn’t end there. We made an early night of it, instead of watching the replay of the race over weird square Midwestern pizza like we usually do. The next morning, we were up early to go to the breakfast, and I brought with me the ankle socks (for the car) and a spinning project. I didn’t feel confident in my ability to hold up conversations with many near-strangers while I worked on a lace pattern, but spinning is fairly easy to do with an audience, and my drop spindle was a pretty big hit. The added spinning time also helped me work all the way through the first ply of my alpaca silk fiber by the end of the day. The excitement of that milestone, however, was lost in the despair that resulted from dropping and breaking the spindle as I tried to remove the shaft. The end of the shaft that’s below the arms snapped clean off, and while I was thinking about how difficult a fix it might be, I was trying to remove the arms from the ball. This task that nearly required several pairs of pliers, and made me reconsider if I even wanted to fix the blasted thing in the first place. I’ve never used a Turkish before, but I’m pretty sure they’re not supposed to be nearly impossible to take apart. I’d rather spend 30 minutes winding off than 30 minutes tugging for dear life.

We set out for home late Tuesday morning, a little heavier in the stash and feeling pretty fine overall. The trip was perfect by any metric. The only fly in the ointment being that our wonky turn signal was being extra-wonky, although the functional wiper blade and new tires more than made up for it when we hit massive storms in West Virginia. Even without factoring in the fiber, it was still a great time, and I can’t wait to do it again next year. (Hopefully Rav’s Road Trip Planner will be working by then.)