Friday, August 13, 2010

world's longest yard sale

It was an adventure. I had two goals in mind: have fun and don't use a porta-potty. I was wildly successful with both. Basically, several years ago, someone in Jamestown, Tennessee decided it was a real shame that people were not using some of the scenic back roads in the state. After a brainstorming session, I'm assuming, the idea for a yard sale along Route 127 was born. Needless to say, the idea caught on and the 2010 yard sale stretched from Gadsen, Alabama to Hudson, Michigan. It happens every year on the first weekend in August - incidentally also tax free weekend in many states (the only reason that matters is because we were curious how the residents along Route 127 felt about having their driving time doubled or tripled this weekend if they wanted to go anywhere - not sure, we only met the participating crowd).

Since we were in Scottsboro, we opted to start a bit north of the start point in Gadsen. After winding through small towns, up and down the same streets a couple times (looking for gas, too), and completely annoying the voice of our GPS, we made it to the correct route. It was a overwhelming moment. "Oh, that's the route! Oh, a gas station! Oh! Oh! Yard sales!" Otherwise known as the Bermuda Triangle. Mom pulled in to refresh the gas tank, and I was left staring at a disturbing sign on the side of a restaurant touting chicken wings (with a picture of a chicken without wings looking rather startled at their disappearance) and frog legs (with a frog in a wheel chair going in the other direction and looking panicked at the loss of his legs).
We moved on and found our first group of early morning sales. The heat was already a powerful force so we parked quickly in the sunny, semi-hilly, overgrown "lot" and moved toward the shade. I considered this a warm-up run. Vendors were still setting up and haggling voices were just getting started. I passed on a butter churner - not to worry, we found dozens more throughout our trip and several quilts supporting Auburn or Alabama. But the pawing was good, my eyes were adjusting to bouncing over glassware and the shade was a blessing. Off to a good start.

We continued on the route, stopping and starting at several local sales hosted in front yards. These would prove to be the best places throughout the day. They were families interested in cleaning out excess stuff and were open to bargain-hunters - with the exception of one. We stopped for a "barn sale" after a bit of rain made outdoor sales wet and covered. Mom and I had decided to get some inexpensive towels at Wal-Mart to put in our cooler and then wrap around our neck. As luck would have it, we found a box with some old, slightly stained, definitely faded and frayed towels at the barn sale instead. Good enough for a neck wrap. My mom asked what the lady was asking for a "towel". She said fifty cents. My mom responded with, "How about two for fifty cents?" Keep in mind, these are essentially rags and this is a yard sale, right? "No, I think fifty cents is reasonable." Actually, ten cents would have been reasonable with fifty cents the going rate for the box. Needless to say, mom put them back, and we both walked out shaking our heads.

We would quickly learn that vendors were there to make a profit and mostly sold the same junk as the next guy It was hard to resist the "clumpers." Clumpers are large groups of sales - some vendors, some local, some crafts, some fresh produce - a one-stop shop for bargaineers.

There was one other group: the invalids. Several times we encountered sellers with a sob story a mile long. It is entirely possible that the stories are true, but their blatant use for pity sake was disenchanting. One woman claimed to have recently had her gallbladder removed, one breast removed and minor head surgery. To which my mother observed: "It's a wonder you're able to stand in this heat!" (We interrupt this post for this weather announcement: the heat index was at 114.) Another guy, when asked if he was going to work us a deal, launched into a story about his wife dying of arthritis, they just sold their house and she lost her job, etc.

All a part of the experience. We encountered all types and enjoyed the ride.

As for bargains, my brother is now the proud owner of several records of artists he didn't know existed. My mom found several organizing pieces, a nice suit for a few bucks, a set of Elvis Pez dispensers for a friend and a scrumptious recipe book. I found some baby stuff, corn-on-the-cob plates and a couple books (big shocker). The "big find" eluded me. In fact, the most exciting moment was in a substantially-sized clump. I didn't purchase it because I couldn't even fathom what a person would do with it or why someone sat down to come up with the idea. It is definintely going to be in my permanent collection of underwear (speaking of things I'm not sure what to do with or why I have one). Words fail so the picture is provided below.
Crazy, right? There was mens underwear just as large inside the tent with various commercial labels running in a strip where an outlet might be otherwise. Not sure why Ronald McDonald was on one...I think they had some sports teams also represented, and I'm not sure what that is saying about the teams. I'm pretty sure a guy showing up to his favorite team's football game with gihugic (thats my father-in-law's term and I think it needs to be used more) satin (thong!) underwear would have his guy card revoked.

In any case, other than the $1 fans we purchaed, this was my favorite "find."

We made it into Kentucky but couldn't find lodging. It turned out okay. After two days of 100% yard saling, we were beat. Instead, we took a leisurely drive through Knoxville, TN and Asheville, NC before arriving home to crash.

Final verdict? If you're a yard saler, it's worth the experience. You will go through a lot of junk. You will find more rusted tools than you thought possible and by the time you make it out of Tennessee's glass wonderland you will wonder how it is possible for Kentucky to have any glassware available. You will find super-inflated prices that will just make you laugh and a few treasures along the way. If you're a collector, you'll likely find something worth examining. If you're not a collector, you'll find hundreds of ideas for a start: marbles, license plates, or old McDonald playground rides to name a few. Expect it to be hot. Expect traffic to be slow. Expect everyone to be nice. Expect it to be an adventure worth having at least once.

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