RVing Brings Unexpected Surprises

Lamb and wool festival from Mike Wendland on Vimeo.

We headed up to Northern Michigan this past weekend to look at the fall colors, which were painting the hardwood forests in bright colors. It was close to peak color on the last weekend of September, one of the earliest times we can remember the color reaching saturation-level. Maybe it's because of the prolonged drought this past summer, and the stress it caused the trees.

But while cruising the backroads of Ogemaw County in our Type B motorhome we stumbled across the Northern Michigan Lamb and Wool Festival.

“What on earth is that?” I asked Jennifer.

lambShe pointed me in to the local fairgrounds without answering. Under bright red maples, with leaves falling all around, a country and western duo sang old country sounds. Food concessions had people munching at picnic tables. So far, so good.

I peeked inside in the exhibition buildings. Oh Oh. It looked like a craft show. I was about to complain but Jennifer must have read my mind and directed me to a booth selling kettle corn. I grabbed a bag. Whatever this thing was, girly as it may be, I'd now be happy. I love kettle corn.

Turned out this is a pretty big deal across the Midwest for those who enjoy hand spinning, or the art of twisting fiber or fleece into a continuous thread by using a spinning wheel.

The origins of handspinning are lost in time, but archaeological evidence goes back some 20,000 years. For much of history it was considered an important skill for practically all girls and women. Today, it's a hobby for people who enjoy making their own clothes, who appreciate natural rather than synthetic, or by artisan spinners who enjoy producing yarn to produce specific qualities in the items they are making.

The slang term “spinster,” who is an unmarried elderly woman, comes from the former popularity of hand spinning.

Today, few people in the developed world practice it out of necessity. But it seems to gaining in popularity, those I talked to said. No one was quite sure why, except that maybe it is somehow tied to those who embrace the environment. I'm told spinning is also very relaxing. Several of the spinners at the event came from rural areas and said they raise their own sheep, to get their own wool.

Jennifer loved it. She pointed out a spinning wheels that was for sale. It  cost $1,185. No way. Besides, it wouldn't fit in the Roadtrek.

There were spinning wheel demonstrations, spinning lessons and lots of hand made items. Some 70 dealers and vendors and exhibitors were on hand. I found it surprisingly fun, especially when we headed out for a pasture tour, driving through the village of Selkirk to visit working sheep farm.

All in all, as the video shows, it was a lot of fun, a great way to spend a coule hours on an early autumn Sunday afternoon.

As such, it again proves my RV theory: All you  have to do is head out there and, if your eyes are open and you recognize serendipitous opportunities , you'll find something cool to see and do.

Between long trips, we're probably out exploring in our Roadtrek two or three times a month. And pretty much every time,  we find an unexpected surprise like the Northern Michigan Lamb and Wool Festival.





  • Budd Westover

    My wife likes to knit. Now she wants to spin her own wool. After seeing how much those spinning wheel things cost in your report, I can now say it ain’t gonna happen. I’ll use the same excuse you did. Too big to fit in the motorhome.

  • Ryan and Ann MacArthur

    Looks like you have a co-star, Mr. Wendland. Keep featuring Jennifer. She’s a natural for the camera. Would love to see her take on this new RV life you have embraced.

  • There are a lot of spinning wheels that cost a lot less than the one you mentioned. My first wheel, an Ashford Traditional, used, was purchased on eBay for under $300.

    Of course, now I have 7 wheels. One is a Hansen mini spinner – made for traveling, takes up about as much room as a shoebox. It’s electric, and you plug it into your cigarette lighter. 🙂