Last year we attended the World’s Longest Yard Sale for the first time.
I carried a notebook with me in the car and took notes along the way, just so I could put together a review that might be helpful for those wanting to get a feel for what it’s like to actually be on the World’s Longest Yard Sale route.
I looked all over the Internet last summer before we went, and couldn’t find anything that I personally felt gave much info about what it was really like to attend the World’s Longest Yard Sale.
We plan to go again this year…and I’m counting the days. Even my husband is excited. It was really fun. We’re hoping to stay on the route for 3 days this year.
Here are my highlights from the World’s Longest Yard Sale last year…
My granny always said, "a watched pot never boils." And that’s just what I was thinking while waiting for time to head out for the "World’s Longest Yard Sale."
But August 6th, 2008 finally arrived, and at 10 a.m. on that bright and sunny day, we pulled out of our little country lane and we were on our way.
Finding A Hotel Near Signal Mountain, TN
We had heard that the area through Signal Mountain, Tennessee was one of the most scenic areas. So we stayed Wednesday night in the Best Western just outside of Chattanooga to be ready to head out at the crack of dawn on Thursday morning.
I had heard many stories about the World’s Longest Yard Sale, but quickly found that many of them were a drastic exaggeration. We heard that you must make reservations in the Spring if you plan to attend, or drive nearly an hour off of Hwy 127 when you decide to stop for the night, just to find a vacant room. That bit of information turned out to be the first thing I found that wasn’t true.
We’re retired and travel quite a bit and love staying in Best Westerns or Comfort Suites. Neither one is anything really fancy, but very neat and clean. And both have coffee makers, a frig and microwave in the room. Since I’m such an early riser, a coffee maker is an absolute must for me.
So I got out my little books from each motel chain and our big Tennessee map to see which one had a motel closest to where Hwy 127 started at Signal Mountain. It turned out that Best Western at exit 174 was the closest, so I just called them up and asked if there was a possibility they had a vacancy. I was told they had several and we could have our pick.
When we got there, it was a beautiful location just at the foot of Lookout Mountain. And we could even see the big mansion on top of Lookout Mountain from our window, that our kids used to call the "castle" when they were young and we would travel that route going to Disney World from our home at the very Southern tip of Illinois.
Exploring Signal Mountain & Old Route 127
After we checked in and freshened up a bit, we headed out to find Signal Mountain and Old Route 127, so we’d know just where we were going to start bright and early the next morning. It was easy to find, traffic wasn’t too bad at all. And as soon as we began our journey up Signal Mountain, we knew immediately we were in for a real treat.
It was absolutely beautiful! And one of the most unusual sights we saw was a home built on the side of the Mountain, right in a sharp curve, that was built to look like a huge flying saucer. I wanted so badly to get a picture of it, but it was 5 p.m., people were going home from work and it just wasn’t a good time to be out on the side of a mountain, on a sharp curve, taking photos.
As we were going up the mountain, we could see people setting up and some that already had, and had covered their tables for the night. There were single yard sales, parks and a parking lot just loaded with tents. My goodness, I was so excited I could feel my blood pressure rising. So my husband said we knew what was ahead for us the next day, so we’d better head back, grab a bite of supper and settle in for the evening.
I have a built-in alarm clock and am always up to see daybreak. But the next morning, I’m afraid I was up and ready to go quite a bit before daybreak. So I turned on the TV to see what was going on in the world, put the coffee on, and tried my best to just stay calm.
Finally, I could see day breaking out the window, so I woke up old sleepy head and told him it was time to get up, get some coffee down him and hit the road. Traffic wasn’t too bad when we pulled out of the Best Western on that Thursday morning. Most of the folks we saw were just heading to work and in no special rush.
Hitting The Road From Signal Mountain
We headed up Signal Mountain and passed a few small individual yard sales that were still covered up and my husband shared with me his concern that we may have gotten a much too early start. But when we came into the little village of Signal Mountain, we knew we had gotten on the road at just the right time.
There were quite a few individual yard sales going strong, with cars parked on both sides of the road and people milling around everywhere. There was also a big park or grassy lot with quite a few vendors and that was the first place we ran into HGTV and their cameras. I don’t know about most folks, but when I’m out like that, having a big time and looking for treasures, the last thing I want to have to worry about is being caught on camera by HGTV.
Prices were pretty fair on Signal Mountain. I bought a couple of old books for 25 cents each. A couple of old dishes for 75 cents each and my husband bought an advertising coffee mug for 25 cents. Billy has 677 advertising coffee mugs hanging from the ceiling of his 1950’s Motorcycle Museum. And most of them have some of the most unique or beautiful graphics you have ever seen.
We had "hit" Signal Mountain about 7 a.m. We walked across the road to a little woods that was just full of tents and tables. Paths were lined with old lanterns, wagon wheels, butter church, old chairs and ladders. My goodness, I felt like I had just walked into hog heaven. And now this church problem was on my mind. But we strolled through the little woods that was just full of priceless treasures & found only a coffee mug for Billy’s museum.
Back in the car and on down the road just a skip and a hop, we came to a fire station that had loaned out its grounds for the vendors to sell their wares from. There was quite a crowd at this location and we had to park a little ways down the road. But just as we walked through the fire station gate, a buzzer sounded and the fire truck came streaming out with lights and siren going strong.
This was a neat location with lots to see, but all we bought was 2 quart jars of some of the best Chow Chow you will ever find anywhere. The Chow Chow was at a booth run by Sam & Shirley Jenkins and they had won many Blue Ribbons with her Chow Chow at county fairs, etc. Shirley was giving out samples and there was just no way you could taste her Chow Chow and not walk away with at least one jar. (Shirley’s info: Phone: 423-702-5594; E-mail: [email protected])
By now, it was almost noon, we knew we were going to have to head home at the end of the day instead of staying the night and cont
inuing on the route on Friday, and we were just now descending Signal Mountain. (Oh my goodness – so many yard sales; so little time.)
Warning: Side Trips Aren’t Always Worth It
Not too far down the mountain, we saw a sign that read, "Barn Yard Sale 2 Miles." The sign said it was worth the drive, so we made a sharp right and headed "up hill" once again, to this old farm. Along this little country lane, we saw signs that warned us not to turn back, that the sale was well worth the drive, so we laughed and continued on.
The setting for this yard sale was absolutely beautiful. A big dark stained home overlooking a beautiful view of the valley behind it. A huge barn with an old grey mare saddled and tied to a post outside the barn door, a pond just full of ducks. It was just a beautiful sight.
But unfortunately, the barn was full of antiques priced like you would expect to find at an antique store on 5th Avenue in New York. It didn’t take long for us to realize we had been led astray and needed to be moving on. But we were so glad we took that little "side step" because of the setting we saw. It was just like a step back in time and absolutely breathtaking.
Yard Sales From Highway 127 To Dunlap
Back down the hill and back onto Hwy 127, we were once again heading down Signal Mountain and en route to Dunlap. We passed quite a few individual yard sales along the way, but now, we knew time was precious and we had only this one day, so we’d have to be a little more selective. We did stop at one yard sale; it was a mobile home and the family was all outside in lawn chairs.
They didn’t seem to have much to sell, but the kids were out by the road trying to wave traffic in, so we made a quick di-doe and turned in. We didn’t buy anything there, but had a really nice little visit and they were exceptionally friendly people.
On into Dunlap, I was shocked to see a McDonald’s, Walgreens and Super Walmart. I say I was surprised, because I have read so many accounts of this yard sale and so many have said all you find along Hwy 127 is mom and pop diners and if you need *anything* from Walmart, you just have to take it with you because there were just no big stores or fast food chains along the way. Quite the contrary, we saw several fast food and store chains but we were on a real adventure, so we were not about to go near a modern day "convenience store" of any kind.
In Dunlap, we also ran into wall to wall yard sales from one edge of town to the other. We drove a couple of blocks into town and my husband said, "We may as well just park and start walking." So that’s what we did. Dunlap was priceless — it was more like "real yard sales" with not many professional vendors at all.
After walking a short distance, we spotted a yard with quite a few old dishes. Billy spotted 2 old coffee mugs and walked over to investigate. One was a Chattanooga Choo Choo mug and the other was a Signal Mountain mug with a hillbilly on it. One was $7 and the other was $5. He explained to the lady running the booth that he was a collector and not buying to resell and he just never paid over $1 for a coffee mug. But she wouldn’t budge.
I could see the twinkle in her eyes as he joked with her (he’s well known in our neck of the woods for his friendliness and jolly disposition) so I wandered on down the sidewalk so he could pour on his southern charm. I wanted those coffee mugs just as much as he did. He caught up with me in a few minutes and he had bought them both for $5. A real bargain considering the trip we were on and what the mugs were advertising.
In Dunlap, we also had what we were just sure was the world’s best barbecue sandwich. It was at Smoky’s BBQ tent, and I really think I could have eaten 3 or 4 of them, but I just didn’t have the time. This particular barbecue tent was close to our car and we had walked the route around the little town, so we headed back to our car, ate our sandwiches, shared stories of what we had seen and who we had talked to and was back on the road and on our way.
It was about 1 p.m. and I was beginning to feel great pressure on our time. We had planned to get to at least Clarkrange, Tennessee on Thursday, spend the night closeby and head out the next morning going further north. But we knew now, that wasn’t going to happen. So we passed many yard sales that we would have stopped at if we had not been so rushed for time.
Onto Crossville, Tennessee Yard Sales
Pikeville was another little town with lots of sales, even many off the beaten path. But we rushed through a few at Pikeville and headed for Crossville.
Somewhere between Pikeville and Crossville, we came upon a big field just full of vendors. The first booth we came to after we parked was a medicine man in a wheelchair selling a "miracle healing oil." The oil was "only" $35, he said, and would work wonders in less than 3 minutes. I wanted so badly to ask him why he didn’t open up 3 or 4 of those bottles and bathe in it to see if he could get out of that wheelchair. But Billy was tugging at my arm and urging me to come on and leave the old man alone. I had looked at the ingredients on one of his little bottles, as I’ve studied alternative medicine for 30 years, and I didn’t see any ingredient on there that could possibly help with pain except the Eucalyptus Oil.
But whatever — if you want to set up, you have to sell "something."
We made a quick trip through that field and little woods and headed for our car. When we passed back by the old medicine man, he had evidently talked a couple into trying a few drops of the miracle oil for a headache, but the couple was walking away and the old man was saying to them, "Well if you’ll just give it a few more minutes, I’m sure it will stop the pain." But the couple just kept walking.
At Crossville, we encountered much of the very same, just blocks and blocks of wall-to-wall yard sales. We stopped at a few, but by this time we had seen just about all of the pink carnival glass and clear cut glass that we cared to see on this trip, so we made a few quick run-throughs, had another of those mouth watering Tennessee barbecues at a booth that was just called Pete’s Mayfield Ice Cream and barbecue, I think it was, and started to head out of town and towards Clarkrange.
Clarkrange Yard Sale Highlights
I had read about the old Cumberland General Store at Clarkrange and I told Billy before we left the house that no matter what, we had to go at least that far. I just felt I had to see that Old Cumberland General Store. But before we could get to the edge of town and head on North, Billy made a quick U-turn in traffic and pulled into a lot with just one vendor.
"What in the world are you doing?" I asked him. "We’re running late and we need to get to Clarkrange." He said he had spotted something he had to take a better look at and just to be patient for a few minutes. We pulled in and got out of the car and he walked straight to this old life size Indian mannequin sitting in a chair on the side of the road.
"I think I need this old fellow for my motorcycle museum." He explained to me. So he walked over to the couple running the booth and asked the cost. They said it would take $250 to tote him out of there. But, Billy told them he would give them $175 and he would assure them that the old Indian would never give them another minutes trouble. They agreed, so we carried the old Indian mannequin to our car, set him in the back seat and strapped him in with the seat belt.
Back in the car and back on the road, there are 3 of us now h
eading to Clarkrange. The old Indian was quiet but drew quite a bit of attention as we drove on up old Hwy 127. By the time we got to Clarkrange, it was about 4:30, there was a lot to see, but we still had a 4-hour drive home. So we hurried through the vendors and then checked out the old Cumberland General Store.
It was really a neat place, lots of old Hillbilly cookbooks, old feed sacks, old metal signs, you name it, and if it was from the "good old days," they had it. I bought a metal sign for outside Billy’s museum that said "Motorcycle Parking Only." It wasn’t old and didn’t even look old, but I wanted *something* from that store and I already had all the Hillbilly books they had.
Even though Clarkrange was on my mind from the time we left home, we didn’t spend much time there. It had been a wonderful but exhausting day and we were ready to hit the road for home. We arrived home at 8:55 p.m.
My Best Tips For First-Timers
If I had to advise someone about going on the World’s Longest Yard Sale, I’d advise them to start at about Crossville and head North. The scenery was absolutely unforgettable in the Signal Mountain area, and we met some wonderful people, vendors and shoppers alike.
But at least from Signal Mountain to Pikeville, there are just too many professional vendors. You take the time to find a place to park and walk 2 blocks to shop in a field, only to find it’s almost a carbon copy of the one you just left. And that happened over and over and over. But it seemed that by the time we came into Crossville, we were beginning to see a lot more regular yard sale type stuff and more crafters and bazaar type booths.
You know, if you want to go antiquing, there are big antique shops and malls within a rock’s throw from you no matter where you live. But a good yard sale is not that easy to come by for most folks. I would much rather see a lot more regular yard salers set up, and a lot less professional antique vendors.
On our little one day excursion, we bought 34 advertising mugs for Billy’s collection and most of them were 25 to 50 cents, he had to pay $1 for 2 of them, and $2.50 each for the 2 he bought in Dunlap. I bought a 1967 Good Housekeeping magazine for $1.50, a few old dishes for 25 to 75 cents each, an old tin sign for $5 that said, "Last Chance Motel" that I’m going to hang on a big tree at the corner of our back porch, the motorcycle-only parking sign that I bought at the Cumberland General Store for $6, a couple of herbal bags at a craft booth for $7 each, a few old books for 75 cents to $1, and of course, our old Indian mannequin for $175.
This year, we hope to go again and start at about Crossville and head north. Several shoppers told us that Kentucky was the best state to shop the route to find real yard sale treasures. All in all we absolutely had a ball, made many priceless memories and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for the world.
I saw the HGTV special about last years World’s Longest Yard Sale and it didn’t even begin to do it justice. And I complained about pictures that I found on the Internet and announced loud and clear that I would be taking more and better pictures than I had seen. But you know what, it’s hard to take a little old 35mm camera and do justice to 150 booths set up in a field. You just can’t get a "picture" of what you are actually seeing, so folks can have a "feel" for what it’s like to actually be there.
I found many things not to be true that I had read about when researching this yard sale. There are many Walmarts along the way. There are many McDonald’s and Pizza Huts and big chain groceries along the route. You can find a place to stay at the last minute. But it really is just hundreds and hundreds of wall to wall yard sale and antique vendors in every little town you come through and even many in individual yards and fields along the route.
And it absolutely is true that until you can go and experience it yourself, there is just no way to describe it and do it justice. I don’t care if you’re Ward and June Cleaver from a little farm in Southern Illinois, or HGTV.
Here’s another review of the World’s Longest Yard Sale.