Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Have Junk Will Travel"

"Have junk will travel" is a fun motto to follow. Since I'm from Florida and I read this on a tee shirt in Tennessee at the "World's Longest Yard Sale", I guess you could say I was a follower. During four short days per year there are 654 miles of "junk" on Highway 127 running from Alabama thru Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio right up to the Michigan state line. Pure heaven for a "Junk Junkie" (another tee shirt proclamation I saw). I can't dispute the claim that this is the "biggest and best event of its kind in the world".
My first experience with this fabulous sale was in 2006. There were hundreds of thousands of people and yet, because we were all driving slowly, gawking and stopping, it worked. I spotted license plates from as far away as Texas and Nevada. It is a fantastically fun weekend for "junkers", antique seekers and collectors. I arrived from Florida at dusk in Chattanooga, Tennessee and got the last room at the very nice Country Inn. The next morning we found Hwy. 127 and the fun began as we headed North. The drive was stop and go as we snaked our way up the scenic mountain road. The stops were anything from a simple yard sale at a house to a community flea market in parking lot to huge fields packed full of flea market spaces and vendors to an entire downtown transformed into a street festival. Thank goodness the downer of viewing brand new goods was few and far between. The Hwy. 127 sale prices were from fair to average to downright give-away; depending. Some of my purchases included homemade dollhouses, a couple pieces of beat-up furniture, a collection of old Life magazines (love the photographs), two original Western folk paintings, and two guitars.
The original idea of holding sales along Hwy. 127 was to boost local businesses and return travelers to the hotels and restaurants and shops and stops that generally became ignored in favor of the more rapid but mind numbing I-75. It's been a rousing success. Between the pre-sale days, sale days, post sale days and shoppers that stay on to vacation once they've discovered how lovely the area is, the Hwy. 127 corridor businesses are overwhelmingly busy for at least two weeks. I wish Florida Hwy. 441, which runs down the middle of the state would implement the same plan (different weekend please). Georgia has started a weekend sale in March cleverly named "Peaches to Beaches". It runs 172 miles from Perry, Georgia along Hwy. 371 to the ocean in Brunswick, Georgia. This year it will be held March 12 and 13, 2010. For more information check out http://www.peachestobeaches.com/ . But back to Tennessee...
The winding route would have been gorgeous even without the sales. We passed many recreational opportunities, state parks, canoeing , horseback riding...but, alas, not on this trip, the bargains were too tempting, must forge ahead. Fields of Queen Anne's lace, horses, goats and cows grazing, blue/green mountains, corn fields, Dunlop's Restaurant with homemade coconut pie and corn bread; all fine. After 98 degree Florida weather, the crisp Tennessee evening air was refreshing. It was plenty hot in the day time, but still, not Florida hot.
The good folks in charge of the Hwy. 127 sales saw to it that there was no shortage of watermelon slices, bottled water, fried turkey legs, homegrown musical entertainment, country restaurants, ice cream shops or rest rooms on this trek. In fact, we literally followed an ice cream truck for miles and miles. Quite jolly. At one stop I had a conversation with the driver of this melodic truck and found out that he was the only authorized ice cream truck on that stretch of Tennessee. He was quite thrilled to have worked his way up to being bestowed the honor of having this coveted and exclusive route. Congrats. We also had the pleasure of playing vehicular leap frog with an HGTV camera crew as they drove the same route and seemed to make the same stops that we did. All those stops and we didn't appear once on their HGTV special! It aired and I believe it was called "The 2006 Endless Yard Sale". Catch a re-run if you can. The junk has been documented. Actually, I believe that they film a new show every year of the sale.
The party starts to wind down at dusk and we rolled into Cooksville, Tennessee, for the night, our heads slightly spinning from the kaleidoscope of treasures that we viewed and pawed through. We had traveled a mere seventy miles stopping at only a fraction of the sales, but they were slow, interesting miles filled with good company, good food and bargains. A dawn to dusk adventure for sure.
A word to the wise; motel rooms are in short supply. Apparently everyone else had made reservations? All but one (nasty) chain motel was filled and we stayed at the nasty for $129. per night. A long line began to form as we checked in and soon the desk clerk announced that unless you had a reservation there were no more rooms. So, make an advance reservation at a clean hotel or be prepared to camp. Actually, there are many camping opportunities along the route. I also spied quite a few Bed and Breakfast's which didn't seem to fill up as rapidly, since they are sometimes a bit off of the beaten path, i.e. on the top of a mountain. But, it's a good option.
For more information, including maps and directions, almost every county or town along the route has a telephone number or website giving information. One of them is: Fentress County Chamber of Commerce in Jamestown, Tennessee, Originators of the Yard Sale. http://www.127sale.com/. But don't forget about Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio, oh my. If all is well, perhaps I'll see you on Hwy. 127, in 2010. The dates are August 5-8, 2010. BE there. After all, "Have Junk Will Travel". And, a word to the wise. While the official dates of the sale are Thursday thru Sunday, make no mistake, much of the sales start the weekend BEFORE these dates. So, if you are interested in being a vendor or a shopper somewhere along this route, take note that people leasing spaces rent for the entire week, not just those 4 days. Good to know if you will be in the area prior to Thursday.


  1. I've always wanted to do this! I did see a blurb about this once on HGTV ... but thanks for the heads-up for the 2009 sale! lol

  2. Actually, I'd like to go sometime too.. Even though I don't think I'm as hardcore as you are. Did you ever watch Junkin' with Val & Dave on TBS? They lived for stuff like that. They'd buy random/weird things @ flea markets & garage sales and see how much they could get for them on eBay.

  3. How is it that I have missed that? Sounds like a show I would love. Dana