The World's Longest Yard Sale is the flea market of your fantasies. For four days in August, Highway 127, running through six states, is converted into one 675-mile rummage opportunity. The game: Drive 30 seconds, pull over, browse, buy, get back in car. Repeat until exhausted. Jason Cochran went to rural Tennessee, where the sale was born and where it's still headquartered, to show you what a marathon of bargains looks like.
The idea for the World's Longest Yard Sale started small, in Jamestown, Tenn. It came about in the 1980's as a way of pulling tourists off Interstate 40, which beelines between Nashville and Knoxville, so that they'd spend a little money in the countryside.
Fentress County once had more industry, but many of the factories dried up or moved away, and now, the Yard Sale is one of the biggest events on the region's economic calendar. Although it's technically only a four-day event, from the first Thursday to the first Sunday of August, in fact vendors and shoppers are starting to show up as early as the weekend before.
The success seen in Fentress County tempted neighboring areas to get in on the event, and stretch by stretch, the sale expanded, and now it winds from Georgia to Michigan.
The event is now epic in scale, with crowds that match. The few motels and B&B's along the route book up months in advance, too, and are able to make enough cash to see them through the leaner months: One La Quinta charges -- and gets -- $170 a night, or $130 more than the normal rate.
Finding a truck rental anywhere remotely near the route is just as difficult, so countless Americans now flock to the area with RVs and trailers, ready to haul back the bargains.
Is everything a deal? Definitely not. I talked to people who admitted to pretty much just dumping the contents of their garage on the street side in the hopes of selling something off. So there's a lot of junk, outdated toys, and bric-a-brac for sale.
But I also found lots of hand-made items, quality furniture, and plenty of useful antiques, such as 100-year-old cast iron pots, made better and sturdier than the cheap variety you'd find at a Walmart these days.
And the fact the sale steers wide of big cities means you won't find too many big-city prices, and true collectible diamonds are more likely to be discovered amongst the rough. If you have the patience to get to rural Highway 127, and the patience to stay at a series of motels that are far enough away to be affordable, it's possible to clean up on bargains at the World's Longest Yard Sale. It's also pretty easy to have fun.
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