Monday, May 17, 2010
the long and winding yard sale
I have a nasty habit of starting series of entries and never getting around to concluding them. Tales of roadtrips that stop mid-vacation, profile of local streets left hanging for several years…I’m sure I’ve annoyed a few readers over the years waiting for resolutions to cliffhangers that may never arrived. There are no guarantees this won’t happen in the future (I am a busy guy), but maybe a few of the missing pieces can be filled in.
Prime example: a roadtrip down south I took with Mom and Amy a few summers ago. We last left the intrepid travellers on the outskirts of Nashville after a leisurely drive along the Natchez Trace Parkway. Someday I promise to tell tales of Music City. Someday.
But not yet. Today's tale was inspired by a conversation at a party last week with fellow Torontoist writers about train travel and southern adventures. I mentioned a large event my family had accidentally stumbled upon…
It was the next-to-last day of our southern sojourn. After a couple of nights in Nashville, we began the trek back to Canada. The plan was to back route through Kentucky (mostly along US 31E and US 127) for most of the day and settle for the night somewhere between Lexington and Cincinnati. There weren’t any set plans for attractions to head too or restaurants we had to dine at—it was to be a leisurely day.
We joined US 127 at Russell Springs, where we noticed a large number of yard sales. Our guess was that a community event was occuring, though it seemed odd that there weren't any banners proclaiming the nature of the celebration, and that so many people had the time to run yard sales on a Thursday afternoon. As we drove out of town, the yard sales continued…and were growing larger.
Cue much head scratching in the car.
We soon encountered a string of homemade signs, which indicated we were in the midst of an annual event. In the back seat, Mom laughed at the charming lack of professional polish used by the signmaker.
Quality, eh? Maybe this would be our lucky day. Would there be depression glass for Mom? Knick-knacks for Amy? Mouldering magazines for me?
I was tempted to scribble “Ontario is here” after snapping this picture, but neither Amy nor Mom had a giant black permanent in their purses. Levels of curiousity and laughter in the car were pushing into the red zone.
Not only was this sale a regional draw, but it had ethnic appeal to boot. By now, Mom was laughing so hard I wondered if, just to be safe, we should inquire where the nearest hospital was. Just in case…
Nothing at the tables of former attic clutter made us whip out our wallets. No hidden treasures screamed out for a new home. This stop didn't deliver on its build-up, but at least our thrill-of-the-hunt instincts were awakened.
Continuing north, we were struck the shear amount of clothing we saw hanging under tents along the road. Either the fine folks of central Kentucky had unlimited clothing budgets or were experts at gathering up goods over the course of a year, with assistance from neighbours who didn’t have the time or inclination to run sales of their own. It was as if temporary Value Village stores were randomly dropped along the road.
Near Dunnville or Liberty we pulled off the highway to investigate a large sale that appeared to run by a small Amish/Mennonite community. Close to the parking area were signs advertising homemade ice cream. Ordering a scoop became a must when we discovered the churn’s power source...
It was the best horse-on-a-treadmill-churned ice cream we ever tasted. The only problem was the heat made eating the soft-serve treat a test of how fast you could down it before wearing dribble remnants for the rest of the day.
Across the road, several cows relaxing in the shade stared at the treasure hunters. I wasn't sure if they were enjoying the beautiful weather, taking a rest from providing milk for the ice cream or plotting ways to eliminate the swarm of humans disturbing their pastoral peace.
The further north we drove, the more local businesses rolled out the welcome mat to others rolling down the highway. “Welcome 127 Yard Sale Visitors” read the billboard on a Best Western. The puzzle pieces were falling into place and were completed once I hopped onto a computer at our hotel in Georgetown and discovered the official sale site. Turned out the 127 Yard Sale wasn’t confined to Kentucky but stretched along the highway and neighbouring routes from northern Alabama to the Michigan-Ohio border.
I've thought about checking out a longer swath of the sale as a mid-summer getaway, especially as it stretches closer to my normal midwestern stomping grounds (the sale is expanding into Michigan for 2010). Maybe in a year or two there will be pictures of more than kooky signs.
All photos taken August 7, 2008 - JB