Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Treasure Hunting

For the last couple of years, I've kicked around the idea of checking out the World's Longest Yard Sale that starts in Gadsden, Alabama and follows Highway 127 up to Ohio. It is reported to have 5,000 vendors, selling just about anything you can image; clothes, toys, books, guns, furniture or even an old plow. I've always been a fan of flea markets and antique stores, and try to make it out to Scott's Antique Market several times a year. I don't always have anything "special" I'm looking for, just unique, interesting pieces. So I decided this was the year to see what all the hype is about....

Thursday, August 5th
My mom, brother Troy, and I loaded up the car and headed for Gadsden where the Yard Sale begins on Lookout Mountain. Making our way north toward Chattanooga, the road was littered with family yard sales as well as flea-market-like, multi-vendor sales.
At times driving was slowed by heavy traffic, with cars lining both sides of the road announcing “good” stopping points. I found a cool sugar sack at one stop, a wonderful old kerosene lamp at another, as well as a beautiful McCoy vase and three small paintings from a Mentone artist named Andrea Boudin, who was invited to paint an ornament for the White House Christmas Tree under the last administration. She paints most of her pieces with her fingers and uses a two-haired paint brush for detail work. I would share her website with you, but unfortunately, she doesn’t have one. If you've never been to Mentone, it is a small, quaint mountain town with antique shops, an Inn and restaurant, and mountain cabin rentals.

We especially enjoyed the beautiful drive through the mountains, stopping a couple of times to just appreciate the view. We ate a late lunch at a small, home-cooking restaurant where we ordered the special of pot roast, potatoes, green beans and carrots for $4.95! The food was good, but it seems they don't have no-smoking-in-restaurants laws in Alabama and in the adjoining booth sat two older gentlemen, one of whom smoked the entire time we were eating.

We stayed at the Ramada Limited in Chattanooga, tired from our day and the heat. It was expensive for what you get; rooms with exterior entry, tiny bathrooms, poor air conditioning, and a complimentary breakfast that is less than appetizing. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Yard Sale Tip #1: Book hotel rooms early, they fill up fast. One gentleman trying to find a room in Chattanooga had been to 6 hotels looking for a place to spend the night.

Friday, August 6th
We drove through Tennessee on our way to Harrodsburg, Kentucky and made several stops at large, multi-vendor sites were we spent time wandering from booth to booth looking for a "find." For my mother this translates into finding a piece of McCoy pottery, that she doesn't already have in her collection, at less than market value.
We quickly realized we made a mistake in not renting a trailer (a must for next year) for transporting larger items as there were lovely dressers, chairs and armoires at great prices. Our space was limited in the Prius even though we all packed lightly for the trip. I found two lidded baskets and we packed some of the more delicate items in them.

It also didn’t take long to realize a redneck is a redneck, whether you are in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee or Kentucky. I overheard a shorn-headed, large fella telling his companions, two of which were teen-aged boys, “that there’s a queer” and turned to see they were looking at Troy. I was offended and protective and walked over to join my brother, keeping my eye on them the entire time. Luckily we didn’t cross paths with them again. There were lots of McCain/Palin or old "W" bumper stickers. We were in conservative country. Wonder what they thought of my Obama sticker?

The rolling hills and lush countryside of Tennessee are beautiful and dotted with cattle and horses or crops of corn. The vendors are friendly and curious about where others are from, and you can easily get caught up in a conversation that's hard to break away from. Highway 127 travels through Signal Mountain and crosses Cumberland Lake at the Wolf Creek Dam shortly after you cross into Kentucky with its horse farms and crops of chartreuse colored tobacco (look for this in a painting soon).

I underestimated the amount of time that it would take us to reach Harrodsburg and we wound up about two hours from our hotel when folks started closing up for the night, not getting into Harrodsburg until around 9:30 p.m. We quickly found the Days Inn, which was somewhat better than the Ramada (although we had the same difficulties with the air conditioners). I managed to find a lovely piece of stained glass and a Niloak vase, both for great prices, and felt it had been a successful day.

Yard Sale Tip #2: It can be very hot; bring lots of water, sunscreen and a hat.

Saturday, August 7th
Saturday morning we checked out of the hotel and found a little diner for a breakfast buffet and then hit the road heading north toward Ohio. We decided to make the most of the time we had left and only stopped at the larger, flea-market-like sales. We were all a little tired and learned that we can go for miles without saying a word; driving from sale to sale in comfortable silence.

Ohio was pretty disappointing with few vendors along the route—we'll bypass Ohio next year and concentrate on Tennessee and Kentucky. We made it to Eaton and cut over to Dayton where we stayed at the Courtyard; the nicest and least expensive hotel of the weekend.

I bought an old wooden chair (child sized), a cast iron skillet, another McCoy vase, and a really cool iron cobbler’s stand/shoe form. Troy found some of the glassware he loves, and mom wound up with a couple of really unique pieces of McCoy to add to her collection. All in all a great trip.

Yard Sale Tip #3: Use the clean restrooms whenever you can and pack sanitizer, seat covers, toilet paper, and wet wipes for when you can't.

Sunday, August 8th
Sunday morning we jumped on 75 South and headed for home. I’d made a 10-hour playlist before I left home with music I thought my mother would enjoy—Sinatra, Etta James, Duke Ellington, Ella Fritzgerald, Elvis, Johnny Cash; you get the picture. We couldn’t wait to get out of Ohio, and were happy when we reached Kentucky and her lovely vistas. We made great time and were in Knoxville, Tennessee (shout out to my Bush Brothers' friends) in time for lunch and were back in Atlanta by 5:00 p.m.

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