You know what they say: One man's trash is another man's treasure. This summer, there are more than a few opportunities to peruse through someone else's discards in the form of long yard sales, which provide not only a unique road trip along traditionally less-trafficked roads in America, but one that requires cash on hand, a scavenger's eye and a gift for bartering. What's more, you're doing your part to save the planet, as buying other people's stuff is a form of recycling. As Tom Taylor, one of the organizers of the U.S. Route 50 sale puts it, "Re-use is the cleanest form of recycling. It benefits the buyers and sellers and keeps useable items out of the landfills."
These events are eagerly anticipated by their participants so a little planning can go a long way; many of these routes are not in densely populated areas and hotels, motels and the like will fill up quickly. Many of the sites listed provide links to accommodations options. Or you can look into the likes of Bed and Breakfast Online (www.bbonline.com), which offers more than 5,200 properties to peruse, or investigate your favorite hotel or motel chain to see if there are locations along your route.
The first opportunity for extensive antique hunting is at the tenth annual Antique Alley Yard Sale (www.us11antiquealley.com), May 17-20, 2007. The sale runs along U.S. Route 11 between Bristol, Virginia and Meridian, Mississippi and now encompasses 502 miles -- it used to be just a 250-mile event. Cities to look for lodging in include Birmingham, towns in Dade County Georgia, Chattanooga and Knoxville TN in between the start and end points of the sale. The towns along the way plan all kinds of activities, flea markets, and festivals, and the website has an extensive list of towns to choose from, with some suggestions for lodging, along with events and other pertinent information. It might be smart to plan your driving accordingly (a tenet that can guide you through any of these sales) with the aim of landing in larger towns and cities for overnights. Of course, it is difficult to know what you might encounter along the roadside, so this might be tricky. But the city of Knoxville, for example, has hundreds of places to sleep -- see the links from the city's tourism website (www.knoxville.org/accommodations), from bed and breakfasts to hotels and campgrounds.
Almost concurrently with the U.S. 11 sale, the eighth annual Coast-to-Coast, U.S. Route 50 yard sale (www.route50.com/yardsale.html) takes place May 18-20, from just outside Washington, D.C. in Maryland all the way to Sacramento CA, hitting Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada in between. The best way to figure out what's happening is to look on the site for participating county and then just start driving. In Washington, D.C., Route 50 is Constitution Avenue, and becomes Wyatt Earp Blvd. in Dodge City, Kansas, and also passes the St. Louis Arch. But in between, it alternates between busy highways and downtown main streets.
It got its start in North Vernon, Indiana, in 2000 and the goal, according to one of the organizers, Tom Taylor, is to stretch from coast to coast. Like many of these events, it was started as a way to get people off the interstates and promote tourism in smaller communities. It's always held the weekend before Memorial Day, so it does not interfere with those activities and it's still not too hot. Taylor notes that people often contact him looking for a map and he says it's "impossible, as most sales are individuals making their own arrangements . . . In some communities, they go for community-wide sales, and in other communities they try a one-day sale in a set location, say a fairgrounds." However fluid this seems, it does reflect the sense of discovery and adventure that drives many yard sale devotees and antiques enthusiasts.
The road is historic, but the sale is still in its infancy. The 4th Annual Historic National Road Yard Sale (tel. 765/825-6295; www.oldstorefrontantiques.com/yardsale.htm) will take place this year from dusk to dawn, May 30-June 3, along Historic U.S. Route 40 from Baltimore to St. Louis. The sale spans approximately 824 miles and last year's event was such a success that some restaurants along the way even ran out of food. The road itself is part of the National Scenic byways program, and last year marked the 200th anniversary of this particular national highway. Patricia McDaniel, chair of the sale and who runs her an antique store in Dublin, Indiana, operates the website. Of the sale's inception she says, "I've always enjoyed U.S. 40 and the history and its people, and I espouse committees, so it's been one of my goals to develop a yard sale that individuals are able to enjoy." The site also lists helpful links to convention and visitors bureaus (www.oldstorefrontantiques.com/convention.htm) along the Indiana portion of the road, so you can start planning accommodations accordingly. Expect everything from antiques and collectibles to furniture, glassware, to fresh garden produce (yes, you're reading that correctly).
If you think I was kidding about these events being eagerly anticipated, the site has a clock that counts down to the event. McDaniel even put together a yard sale survival kit -- perfect for newbies -- with suggestions for everything from snacks and water to toilet paper, patience, insect repellent and "a strong guy for moving furniture."
If you can bear the heat, from August 2-5, along the Route 127 Corridor you will encounter the World's Longest Yard Sale (tel. 800/327-3945; www.127sale.com), which runs for 630 miles and five states starting now from the Ohio/Michigan border all the way to Gadsden, Alabama. This year marks its 20th anniversary. A good place for more information is the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce in Jamestown, which has served as the headquarters since 1995 and is centrally located. If you are even remotely interested in this event, it is wise to book your accommodations as soon as possible because hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts along the way are sold out several weeks in advance of the event's start. The site also lists links to rustic lodging in cabins, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds and RV parks. Big South Fork National Recreation Area, also in Fentress County, has two developed campgrounds. On the 127 site, you'll find a map of the sale route and links and numbers for tourism boards for some of participating states, counties and cities involved. In addition to Jamestown and Gadsden, other cities that are likely to have more accommodations include Chattanooga (tel. 800/322-3344; www.chattanoogafun.com) and Frankfort (tel. 800/960-7200; www.visitfrankfort.com).
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