In the top photo, Janie Gibson admired the back window decoration that had been painted on this Indiana vehicle spotted last year near the Forbus General Store.
By Al Gibson, Clinton County News Editor
A close friend and colleague, the late Jerry Gibson, annually referred to the U.S. 127 Corridor Sale as “The World’s Largest Rearrangement of Junk” . . .
It’s hard to believe, but now for the fifth consecutive year, the above notation is how I’ve kicked off my annual account of what has become the most popular and most talked about series of articles ever published in the Clinton County News.
A recount of each year’s trip – or as we have fondly begun referring to it – the “trek” along U.S. 127 during the first weekend of August, taking in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the event that stretches across portions of four states and is billed as “The World’s Longest Yard Sale.”
What started out as a fun, whimsical article after that first trip south a half-decade ago, has transformed into a much anticipated event so to speak, and the annual account itself has even earned it’s own moniker here at the Clinton County News office – “The Never-Ending Story.”
So, how did all of this get started, where have we been, what have we learned, and what about last year?
Looking back at how this all got started
Briefly, to remind the faithful readers of these “127 installments”, as well as to offer up an explanation to those of you who are new to these 127 rambling chronicles – just how did all of this nonsense get started?
It happened way back in 2007, as a fluke and a slip of the tongue during a Friday afternoon visit to a few 127 Sale booths.
Annually, Janie and I took an afternoon jaunt during the 127 Sale, heading only a few miles – either north toward the Clinton/Russell County line and back home, or sometimes in the opposite direction to the state line at Static. Hardly ever did we venture more than 10 miles.
It was during the Friday afternoon run toward Tennessee back in 2007 that I made the statement that would come back to haunt me – or as it has actually turned out – to be a blessing in disguise . . .
During that weak moment in 2007 I had noted that if she wanted, we could take an extended trip down the 127 Corridor the next year (in 2008), staying a couple of nights, sleeping in the truck, and seeing just how much of this 127 Sale we could take in during a two day period.
Feeling pretty certain that as the year went by, the memory of that statement would slip out of her mind, it became evident as that first weekend of August approached, that I would have no such luck.
She was actually still talking about the pending trip, gathering items that would be needed for a two-night truck camp, and making notes of what needed to be stockpiled as the weekend approached.
2008 – the first run
That inaugural trip proved to be more than either of us had expected as we traveled completely across the state of Tennessee, through Chattanooga and across the boundary into Georgia (just to say we had) before turning around and heading back to the great Commonwealth of Kentucky (Home Sweet Home).
Back to back stays in the small, family owned and obviously struggling RV park known as the Ballyhoo Campground brought even more lessons, including the most important one – coffee pots are allowed at RV parks – a host of meals at Shoney’s and even a few treasures bought along the way.
2009 – let’s go north
Then there was the follow-up trip that came in 2009 – Trekking II, a venture that even Janie couldn’t believe that I had agreed to – a run through Kentucky toward the northern part of the 127 Sale – hopefully reaching the state line at Ohio in the same fashion as that first trip had produced.
With the family dog in tow – Oscar the Wonder Dawg – a patient and well tempered Boxer – we headed north for what would eventually become the worse experience we have had in several years – and still remains the single biggest failure of our now five-year Trekking 127 experiences.
The venture north quickly gave up evidence that with the exception of Clinton County, our home state of Kentucky, simply hadn’t embraced the 127 Sale concept with the enthusiasm that our neighboring state to the south had.
Sure, there were some good gatherings of booths – and even a few large concentrations that we referred to as “epicenters” of 127 offerings – but the spacing in between could last for miles and miles of empty highways.
Then there was the failed campground visit in 2009 that saw us leave the first choice which was jam-packed, and eventually pull into a make-shift space at the Pioneer Playhouse campground, just inches from the highway.
It was during that Saturday of the 2009 Trek that Janie uttered the now famous words that have been repeated to her over and over again by you loyal readers, the day she “tapped-out” at the Frankfort Shoney’s (by the way, if you are ever in our capitol city, that’s one of the nicest Shoney’s in the franchise).
“This sucks – I want to go home – let’s just go home” which brought to an end our trip north, and nearly brought the entire venture to a sour closing.
2010 – let’s try it again – and go south
But at my urging, we once again headed out another year for Trek III, this time showing that as adults – we had learned from our mistakes – would once again head south, leaving our now two Boxers at home, and likely would just make it a single overnight and back home trip.
That decision proved after all, to be a good move, and when the books were closed on that second trip south, we both agreed it was a good experience – good enough that likely we could plan on continuing our annual 127 trip.
As with any of the trips, there were positive highlights in that 2010 experience – didn’t get trapped by a herd of women at the Shoney’s salad bar, but we did get to eat there three times in two days.
Some good stops along the way had yielded some nice finds – nothing big, a new hat and sun shades for me, along with a couple of new Halloween yard decorations, and for Janie, what else – some jewelry, some glassware and a few Christmas yard items.
Oh yeah – it was during that 2010 run that Janie acquired the trash bag full of “unloved” stuffed animals for her nieces – as well as the big, green stuffed frog that I chose to name “10” (the sum of adding 1+2+7) and placed on the dashboard of the Ford Excursion not only for the entire trip, but leaving him in place for the rest of the year as well.
The frog still rides on the dash of my truck daily – ready now for his second outing on a 127 run.
A good night at what we had proclaimed as our “127 Home away from Home” – the still struggling Ballyhoo Campground – and an uneventful return trip home to a couple of lonely but glad to see us dogs and the 2010 trip was in the books.
2011 – back to Tennessee and a new overnight home
Although we had decided that the 2011 trip would again be into Tennessee, Janie got 2011 off to her own start with a Tahoe full of girlfriends and a Thursday trip north and back, reaching the Russell County epicenter that was in fact one of the bright spots of our failed trip north in 2009.
Myself, I got the 127 weekend off as I always do, a stop at the Mountain View Park on Friday and a stop at home at the Papineau center in the Snow Community – always a successful stop if for no other reason than the chance to grab up some of Hunter Shearer’s bar-b-que chicken.
A quick chat with the guy under the white tent and a good laugh from the price tag on the “real” fire hydrant along with my first purchase of the weekend, a large, metal sign of a boxing glove holding a beer bottle, a third stop at Hunter’s for some (more) chicken, and my head-start is over and it’s time for the real trip to Tennessee to commence.
Although the “epicenters” were pretty much in the same locations as they had always been, it was noticeable during the 2011 trip that crowds were beginning to look smaller than the previous years, but stops at familiar places such as the Forbus General Store, the Jamestown headquarters stretch, Jordan Motel and of course the Clarkrange Park still proved to be good stops with lots of good stuff and crowds of slow walking people.
It was during that 2011 trip however that we encountered our first major disappointment when we discovered that our favorite overnight spot – the Ballyhoo Campground – had not survived for another season and was now closed, forcing us into the Cumberland Mountain State Park Campground for the night.
A Saturday run into Crossville, after of course a couple of meals at our favorite restaurant, Shoney’s, then it was on south for several more stops before some heavy rains made a stop in Pikeville impossible.
One more meal at Shoney’s on the way back through Crossville with a new tin Halloween pumpkin yard decoration, a box full of candlewick dishes and the experience of realizing that an artists nose booger was actually a metal rod piercing and the lesson that banana boxes only meant “someone else’s junk” and that 2011 trip came to another successful ending.
2012 – a half decade now of 127 fun (less that failed trip north in 2009)
So, with a little discussion on whether or not the adventure should continue, with memories of smaller crowds, less junk to handle and a not so comfortable overnight stay, we weighed the positives of continuing a tradition, how much our readers seem to still enjoy the light-hearted account and the multiple meals at Shoney’s, we decided once again to make at least a day trip out of the 2012 World’s Longest Yard Sale – and of course that trip would once again be into Tennessee.
As has become as much a tradition as the weekend trip itself, my own 127 weekend begins in the Snow epicenter where the “Barrel Man” and Hunter Shearer set up – one selling wares and the other selling the best bar-b-que offerings that can be found anywhere along the 690 mile route.
A quick conversation with Barrel Man yields the information that he really doesn’t have a highly unique item this year, although he admits he thought about “going and getting that rain barrel and mannequin and borrowing it, just to stop traffic.”
Next door to Barrel Man, a vender did manage to turn a few heads with his large stuffed giraffe that came complete with a saddle.
Across the road for a chat with Hunter when I inquire about his new grilling equipment that has obviously taken up a lot of his winter garage time with design and construction.
“Built, Not Bought #2” is an impressive smoker/grill unit that spans nearly twice the parking lot space than it’s predecessor, “Built, Not Bought #1”, which now sits just across the area with a “For Sale” sign on the trailer.
A quick look-over piques my curiosity and after asking Hunter the price on “No. 1″, I quickly learn that I must first promise not to go into business against him before he would agree to sell it.”
“I really don’t much want to sell it locally,” Shearer says matter of factly with a grin, then he finishes the claim with a statement and a grin that immediately takes my mind to his dad and one of my most dear friends, Mark Shearer who died tragically in a helicopter crash a few years ago.
“Know what I mean,” Hunter says while peering out from under the brim of his hat exactly as Mark would have gestured making that same remark.
I grin, nod and head on back to the truck, chicken sandwich in tow, and on my way home, ending my short Thursday 127 Sale visit
Friday’s arrival brings some pretty heavy rains, but a quick check of the radar shows that for the most part, the showers might be moving out of the area.
After a brief stay at the office to take care of Friday morning business – mail call and bank duties as well as cleaning out the email account of the first daily round of junk – it’s nearly 10:30 and I head back to the Snow epicenter before heading home to pack the big blue Excursion for a trip south.
One of the most interesting encounters of the entire weekend was at this Snow epicenter stop, with a large table piled high with something I had yet to see on any of the 127 stops up to this point – women’s underwear – yes panties.
Big panties, little panties, panties of every color, shape and size – and all for the bargain price of just $1 per pair.
Couldn’t find the owner at the time, so making an offer on the entire lot didn’t happen, but I was told later- very matter of factly – that buying used dishes and jewelry on the venture was plenty acceptable, but there would be no used underwear purchases made – at all.
Another Hunter Shearer chicken sandwich and a brief interview with local first-time booth vendor, Brooke Parrish, and it’s off to the house to finish putting together supplies and enjoy the last chicken sandwich of the weekend, all the while chuckling at the recent Chik-Fil-A controversy that had been in the news for the past few days and thinking that there was certainly no controversy surrounding Hunter’s chicken sandwich – just good food.
11:27 a.m. — Trek V officially begins
Shortly after Janie arrives home we make sure all is well with the dogs, Oscar and Belle, everything is locked down and just minutes before 12:00 noon, with one last check of the truck and supplies, we’re headed to Albany to get the 127 Sale Trek V underway.
With a truck full of traveling necessities and sleeping gear, and “10” the stuffed green 127 Sale frog (now complete with his own scratched sunglasses and a couple of bird feathers), riding on the dash, we’re off again headed toward the Kentucky / Tennessee line.
“We didn’t even get out of town,” I told Janie after being instructed to pull over at the BWI location in South Albany to check out the sale being held by Janie White.
After a quick scan of the White offerings, and answering some questions from Janie White about our plans for the trip this year, we’re on our way south again, back in the big blue Excursion.
Headed toward Static, I notice Janie fumbling with something and poking an object into her pocket when I realize she’s slipped my tape measure out of it’s place in the console, and is sliding it into her jeans pocket.
“I forgot mine,” she explained, as if that made it okay for me to be without one all weekend.
Back in the truck at 12:28 p.m. and as we drive by a gathering of vendors on a hill just across the state line, I briefly slow down before being reminded “that wasn’t much of a stop last year,” and with that, I pressed down on the accelerator again and continue to head south.
With 17 miles behind us, I pull off to the right at a stop that has become one of our normal favorites – a mix of local and traveling vendors that has one of the most diverse offerings from old cars to boats to antiques to tools to homemade fried apple pies.
Feeling the sun bearing down on my bald head after a brief rain shower, and the rising humidity levels making it hard to even see across the field, I soon realize that there is nothing at this stop I badly need, and head back to the truck to fire up the engine and more importantly, the A/C.
While making a few notes for this very article that won’t be written until at least 50 weeks later, I’m soon joined by my 127 partner who is sporting a grin and a small package.
“Pretty cool, huh?” Janie says as she removes some newspaper from around a small glass and brass ashtray fashioned after a sailboat. “I can get that rust off of it.”
Four miles on down the road brings a stop at the Forbus General Store where again we noticed that the vendors, as well as the shoppers were fewer again this year than had been present the year before – a trend that seems to be continuing in this particular area of the venture.
Still, there was plenty to look at and touch, on both sides of the highway, and even with a light sprinkle present, the stop lasted for nearly 30 minutes.
“What ‘cha got there,” she asked as I proudly placed my first 127 Sale purchase on the dash next to “10” the yard sale frog.
A like-new white baseball hat with an embroidered Pickett County Bobcats logo on the front – priced at and paid 50 cents.
“Bought that to give to (C.C.H.S. basketball coach) Messer,” I announced. “That’ll get him stirred up.”
I added that just after making the hat purchase, I had run into Cumberland County basketball coach David McIntyre, who laughed out loud when he saw me carrying the hat – obviously already knowing what I had in mind. McIntyre was holding a handful of comic books he had scored at a booth just up from the farm trailer that contained hundreds of hats where my prize had come from.
Janie noted she had spotted a large, black iron pot that would be nice in the yard as a planter, but with a $200 starting price, she left it with it’s owner and returned to the truck.
Next stop – Sgt. York epicenter
“I love this place” Janie said as we pulled into the always fun stop the Sgt. York park area at 1:32 p.m. “Looks bigger than last year .”
It wasn’t really any bigger – just spread out a little more and with nearly an hour of looking on both sides of the road at the new and old treasures, I spot my first Clinton County familiar face – Niles Gayle Brown, who is checking a collection of old knives in a display case and slurping on a large soft drink as the heat and humidity continue to make everyone more than a little uncomfortable.
Back to the truck a few minutes later, for the first time I’m the last one to arrive and the only one to be carrying anything – two cast iron pots – one with a three-legged stand – that will go next to the Gibson outdoor water feature.
A $65 combo, I score the pair for just $50 and after finding them a good place to ride in the back, we’re once again barreling down U.S. 127 South with the Jamestown headquarters location next in our sights.
The first Jamestown gathering proved to be not much of anything, despite stretching for several hundred yards on both sides of the road, but filled mostly with private, yard-sale stands that included plenty of old clothes.
A three mile drive on down the road put us back at another epicenter, the Jordan Motel gathering, arriving at 3:11 p.m. with 38 miles already logged.
“Sure is a friendly bunch down here,” Janie says with a big laugh as I try to figure out who the older fellow across the road is that is waving wildly at us. “Yeah, I didn’t know him either.”
Not sure if he caused it or not, but just seconds go by before the screeching of tires and the burning of rubber turns my attention back to the direction of Mr. Waving Man and I see three cars on the highway come within inches of a big, nasty pile-up, but all escape without having to make any 911 calls and seconds later, the trip through the Jordan Motel lot continues.
“Not a thing there I need to go back for,” Janie says as we both get back to the truck at the same time. “I know that wasn’t as big as last year.”
Clarkrange Park epicenter
Wet, sweaty yard sale crowd
Another failed stop to briefly check out some stained glass windows on the opposite side of the road – “whoa, those were way too high” – and we head to the Clarkrange Park site that is always one of the largest gatherings of stuff and people on this side of Crossville.
At 4:02 p.m. with almost exactly 50 miles in our rearview mirror, we spot the Clarkrange epicenter, which prompts a “Don’t you want to stop here?” from Janie, who apparently hasn’t noticed that I’m already pulling across the road and hoping for a good parking spot near the gate.
Having driven, and walked, through rain, sun, then rain again and now more sun, the humidity is considerably lower, but the sights – and smells – of many of these rain drenched 127 goers is almost more than one can stand under an old army tent full of wet cast-iron cookware.
“Look over there at them pushing that stupid little dog around in a baby stroller,” Janie says, shaking her head. “Belle would eat that little dog in one bite.”
Turning a corner around the Clarkrange walking track, Janie spots a booth with plenty of jewelry piled high, hanging from wire lines and some even displayed behind glass cases.
“I’ll look – you go on – I’ll catch you,” she says, realizing that I’m not even looking back or slowing down.
“Yep, see you later.”
With a parade speed crowd making their way around the track and through the vendors, even with a large crowd on hand it’s obvious even here that the crowd on both sides of the equation is considerably smaller than I’ve ever seen it at this location.
Along the first row of booths I spot a small red cast-iron water-well pump – a reproduction of the old style, but still would look nice after a coat of black paint and some plumbing atop the water feature in the back yard.
Giving the pump a once-over and thinking a moment about that $45 price tag, I decide the trip is still way too young at this stage and I’d be pretty mad at myself later on should I find that same pump for less – pump stays at Clarkrange.
Meeting up near a concession stand that had fresh squeezed lemonade near where the big blue Excursion is parked, we head back to the truck at 4:45 p.m., with Crossville hopefully next in line.
“That was some pretty jewelry,” she announces out of the clear blue as I pull back onto 127. “I bought some beads.”
Reaching to turn down the volume on the radio, which is blaring a talk-radio program that I’ve missed way too much of to be able to make sense of what the panel is even talking about, I ask the question that has been on my mind for awhile now, but I had managed to steer away from.
“Where would you want to eat?” I throw out as we finally reach a cruising speed of nearly 40 miles an hour.
“Well then, that’s the joke of the month,” Janie fires right back.
A couple of miles on down the road, we drive into the Clarkrange Chapel epicenter – a grouping of vendors that I don’t think we’ve ever stopped at, and apparently I said that out loud.
“Yes we have, too, but pull over, it looks pretty good,” she says.
After spending a few minutes chatting with the Boils family from Albany – Guy, Letha, Tony, Nell and Anthony, we share what we’ve encountered so far and talk a little about the Clinton County News account of the previous years trek that was in last week’ s issue, then we’re off to the next row of vendors.
Turning the corner, I spot an older fellow with a lot full of handmade yard decorations, including some characters made of welded rebar into the shape of a large spider and designed to hold a pumpkin just inches off the ground.
Perfect for Halloween, I reach for the price tag and would have gladly paid the $35 asking price, but somehow that just didn’t seem right considering the circumstances.
“That’s all I’ve heard all day long,” the fellow said with a big laugh, agreeing to my $30 offer. “Some people leave ’em like they are, others paint them up a little – enjoy!”
With the spider now riding comfortably in the back with the cast iron pots, we’re on the road south again, the Crossville Shoney’s just 19 miles ahead.
Passing a large sign at one booth exclaiming “ANTIQES” for sale, Janie – always the proofreaders – notes “If you are selling antiques, you should at least know how to spell it.”
Driving into the north edge of Crossville still at parade speed and with fatigue beginning to set in on two late middle-aged bargain hunters, we decide to forego any more stops in this area, head to get some food, then to the campground and return to this area in the Saturday morning hours to continue our trek south for the second day of bargain hunting and junk handling/looking.
With 68 miles behind us and as the clock neared 6:00 p.m., I turned the big blue Excursion into the already crowded parking lot under the Shoney’s sign and we head inside for shrimp and steak night.
“Gosh, what to get? There are so many choices,” Janie sarcastically quips as she glances over the menu the nice, young waitress has left us.
I made a comment about how we could have been here even quicker had it not been for that lady driving in front of us who chose to play Ms. Good Samaritan and let at least 15 vehicles onto the road in front of her during that final four mile run.
“I don’t think the food changed,” Janie says with a grin as I leave the table and head over for my first trip to the salad bar – checking it out for a crowd of herding old ladies before moving in to expertly build a salad
Nearly an hour later, and feeling pretty confident that my energy level will now make it until morning, we’re back in the truck and headed for the location I had made earlier reservations for the night after once again confirming that the Ballyhoo Campground was still not open.
Bean Pot Campground
Pulling into the Bean Pot Campground and moving through a nearly packed row after row of RV and tent campsites, I find my reservation information tacked to the campground store bulletin board and quickly learn that our Campsite #52 is just behind us, only a few yards from the main driveway and the store location.
As I begin unloading the truck to prepare for a well deserved rest – move the supply box to the picnic table, set up the coffee pot, unroll the camp mattress and get out the butterfly chairs, I soon realize the Janie has focused on only one task during this entire time – making sure the small fan runs and getting the power cord routed to the outlet.
“Ya Ha” she says with a slight jump after hitting the power button on the fan and watching it’s blades begin swirling around, then realizing that I’ve pretty much got everything else taken care of for the night except for getting the sheets on the mattress (I learned long ago that no man can make up a bed that will be accepted as any form of satisfactory to a woman – don’t even try).
So, with plenty of daylight still left, I decide to take a walk around the Bean Pot Campground, only to soon learn that in order to design a campground, you have to stick closely to a theme.
Leaving our campsite on Baked Bean Lane, I head past Kidney Bean Lane, Navy Bean Lane, Pinto Bean Land and last to Lima Bean L ane before finally turning around and heading back on N. Bean Pot Loop and Campsite #52.
During that short walk I did run into the owner – Mrs. Bean Pot I guessed – who welcomed me and even offered to move us to a larger spot if we needed, but I assure her we’re very comfortable.
“happycamper” she blurts out when I enquire about the password for the campground WiFi. “One word, all lower case letters.”
Returning back to home, I gather up my pouch of necessities – mainly a bar of man soap, a can of “Anti Monkee-Butt Powder” (really) and a towel – and head off to the bathhouse to rid myself of the Friday 127 Sale stickiness that had me completely encased from head to toe.
Returning from a very refreshing and crowded shower, I’m not even surprised to find my Yard Sale partner deeply involved in a conversation with our neighbors, a young couple with a teen daughter who occupy the adjacent campground tent spot (#51 – right at the junction of Baked Bean Lane and N. Bean Pot Loop).
We soon learn they are from south Georgia and have been making their way across the 127 Sale for the past 12 years – since their daughter was only two years old.
“We like Tennessee the best too,” the man said with a deep, slow, Georgian drawl that was fun to listen too. “We always try to get to Jamestown by Saturday afternoon, cut over to Hwy. 111 and go back home.”
His daughter spent the whole time eyeing my rebar spider and let out a little southern laugh when I explained that it was made to eventually hold a pumpkin on its back for a Halloween yard decoration.
Both parents seemed to cringe a little when I told the youngster exactly where on their Saturday route she would be able to score a rebar spider of her very own, and shortly afterward, we all said good-bye for the night and they headed over to their own home away from home.
“They came over and just started talking to me,” Janie began explaining before I could even ask how all of that got started. “It’s just a curse I have.”
Soon after, she’s off to bed and for the next hour or so, until about 10:30, I sit at our picnic table, catch up on all of the Crossville area news I’ve missed in the past 12 months by reading through the Crossville Chronicle, then I find my way into the truck for what I hope is a nice long and restful sleep.
It doesn’t take long to discover that unlike our old favorite spot, the now closed but far less crowded Ballyhoo Campground, this mainstream Bean Pot is an all-night flurry of activity.
People strolling, RV’s arriving at all hours including one super-sized unit pulling another, both of which were decked out in a Progressive Insurance promotional wrap and would likely have needed at least a double pull-through spot to fit in.
Still, it didn’t stop the driver from circling around Baked Bean Lane at least three times before giving up and heading back down N. Bean Pot Loop and toward the exit – 2:00 a.m. until 2:40 a.m.
The sunlight poking through the few holes in the surrounding trees at my normal rise and shine time, I’m up at about 6:00 a.m. and within seconds the coffee maker – which is already heavily loaded for the first pot – is turned on and the familiar gurgle of that traveling Mr. Coffee unit begins.
Up at 7:00 and with that first cup of coffee in her hand, Janie seems to be “chattier” than her normal morning quiet self, and I point out to her that she talks more when she’s on this trip than normal.
“That’s because I never get the chance to talk at home,” her defensive reply quickly blurts out. “You run your mouth from the minute you get up – nobody else ever gets to talk.”
We both suddenly stop our conversation and turn our attention to the high-pitched ruckus that’s going on behind us – just down Baked Bean Lane, with another neighbor couple of ours making their way toward the Bean Pot/Office/Store/Vending/Garbage Disposal Station.
An elderly couple, she hasn’t stopped talking for their entire trip, blurting out instructions and pointing her finger at different attractions along the way, all the while her elderly husband walks quietly about three steps behind her carrying two bags of garbage and turning his head to look into whichever direction she points as she continues down the Lane – carrying nothing in her own hands.
“Look at him – I don’t think he can hear a word she’s saying,” Janie says with a laugh, and with that, I head off to the bath house for another shower to get the day started.
Timing that just right, I leave the Bean Pot Clubhouse wondering to myself just what that fellow who left all the mud in the other shower stall must have gotten into the night before, and see that a line is now forming outside the bathhouse doors as the clock nears 8:00 a.m.
Breaking up camp while Janie takes her turn in the bathhouse, she returns to find me writing a few notes in the 127 Reporter’s Notebook that is my two day companion on this venture.
“You making lots of notes about how funny I am in the morning, huh?” she says with a smile as she climbs into the truck and I begin backing out of the spot, onto Baked Bean Lane and headed for the Bean Pot Office.
By 8:45 I’ve paid our $19.76 (including taxes) rental fee, complimented the owners on their fine establishment and hospitality and even learned after inquiring that the Ballyhoo Campground was hit hard by a storm that “wiped him out” according to Mr. Bean Pot who further explained that the owner was apparently very under insured and had to shut the operation down.
Just after 9:00 a.m. and pulling onto I-40 I quickly encounter not the earlier parade speed traffic that was on 127 the afternoon before, but instead a dead standstill for as long the eye can see, and in this particular spot – even my old eyes can see for a couple of miles.
With 27 minutes having gone by, and only a mile of I-40 behind us, the traffic finally reaches the now much desired parade speed pace and a few minutes later, we turn into a, this time very crowded, Shoney’s parking lot.
Still, realizing that it’s Saturday and the breakfast bar is served on a much extended schedule during the weekends, I don’t panic and shift a little closer to the lady who is passing out seating numbers near the front entrance.
“Sweatboxes – they’re all sweatboxes,” Janie mutters almost in a whisper like tone, following up with a deeper explanation when she sees that questioning look on my face. “All of your restaurant faves – Shoney’s, Morrison’s, the Blueboar Cafeteria – they’re all just sweatboxes. You have to eat while you sweat from the kitchen steam. Sweatboxes.”
Shortly after 10:00 a.m. we’re ready to hit Day Two of our fifth straight 127 Sale run, refreshed now from a big refueling of “sweatbox” food and within a few minutes of scanning the traffic headed north, we decide to alter earlier plans of backtracking a couple of miles and instead turn left and head south, reaching the next Crossville epicenter just two minutes later, a gathering of vendors that always proves to be a favorite stop and usually produces a few good buys and is the normal set-up point for the tin artist that produces some nice Halloween decorations previously known as “Rod-nose Man.”
A quick check with our oldest son Brett, who house/dogsits for us on these 127 runs, and we learn that everything is as it should be on both accounts – so we’re ready to look/touch/browse/buy.
Sure enough, just a few booths down the lane and there stands my favorite Halloween vendor, this time with some new offerings for my spooky collection, and even some ceramic indoor pumpkins that catches Janie’s eye.
After bundling two large tin Halloween items with two ceramic pumpkins and adding the prices to a total of $120, I get the attention of Rod-Nose and just as I’m prepared to throw out a $100 offer, he quickly says “How ’bout $90” and I agree it’s a deal.
A couple of booths later, Janie spots a Candlewick dish she can’t live without and despite hearing the lady manning the dish booth offer up “I’ll help you on the prices” – she goes ahead and pays the price marked, all the while I’m standing there shaking my head.
Time for me to go on about my trip by myself and mind my own business.
Barely a hour passes before we both meet back at the truck, agreeing that this particular stop, while one of the better ones, was at least only half as large as it had been in past years.
Heading down the road at 11:24 a.m. en route to the next large epicenter that is always situated across from a large bank and strip-mall just down the road, and a dozen minutes later, we’re pulling into the parking lot and again scanning a much smaller crowd of people and vendors than before.
About half-way through the second group of sellers, and by myself since we spotted that first jewelry booth just minutes after getting started, I spotted a old cast-iron water well pump that would be a nice water feature addition, and after making a $35 offer on a $40 asking price, I picked my purchase up only to then realize that the base was badly cracked and I didn’t want it after all.
“That’s the third time,” the vendor says, shaking his head as he hands me back my $35, then turns and walks back toward his RV with the broken pump still in his hands.
A quarter after noon now and we’re back in the blue Ford, headed down the road to the next planned stop when I spot a semi-large gathering near a group of homes and slow down a little, quickly hearing from Janie that the stop probably would be an ill-advised one.
“Nope – clothes mostly – looks like a big wad of nothing to me,” she says just before I give the accelerator another push and make up those lost four seconds.
A pretty good run at near normal speeds through middle Tennessee with few roadside sales when we pull in to our destination – 12:40 p.m. and 98 miles behind us we arrive at the familiar sign that proclaims “Me Maw’s Home Cooking” and is the center attraction for a gathering of booths, most of which are situated underneath large, white and colored tents.
Twenty five minutes later and we’re pulling out of “Me Maw’s” epicenter, agreeing once again that the pickings were good there, but the quantity of goods and vendors were down also, a trend that has held true for the entire trip.
On down the road to the point we have agreed would be our “turn-around” destination, Pikeville, Tennessee, a spot that has always been a major 127 Sale epicenter.
Driving past the community of Nine Mile and the Nine Mile General Store en route to Pikeville, Janie catches a glimpse of a chair being offered up at the Nine Mile General Store and wonders if we should stop and take a look.
“You have a bad case of chair failure – I wouldn’t put that thing in my garage – ain’t stopping again ’til we get to Pikeville,” I say half-heartedly, and the fact that no reply comes my way tells me my Yard Sale partner is beginning to feel a little fatigued.
Finally, at 1:21 p.m., and with 110 miles showing on the blue Ford trip meter, we pull into the field that serves as a parking lot for the Pikeville location, which spans both sides of the road and includes a permanent antique dealer located in an old, multi-level farmhouse that is always worth a trip through.
Working both sides of the road, Janie spots a large pile of old-fashioned Christmas decorations known as “Shiny Brights” and as she’s picking through the collection, a young girl in the booth yells out to her.
“They’re already sold,” gets no response from Janie, who now has at least three boxes in her arms and is still working through the stack.
“They’re already sold,” she repeats, and finally, I nudge her and explain that the lady in the booth is trying to get her attention – not being the one myself who wants to break the bad news.
“If they’re sold, then they shouldn’t leave them out like that,” Janie says as she puts the near find back in a pile and walks off, leaving me standing in the now hot sun by myself.
An hour later and we head back to the truck – empty handed, me with no cast iron water pump and her without her Shiny Brights.
Again, we decide that the group of vendors there was down considerably, probably as much as half as had been there in years past.
“I’m disappointed, that used to take us a half day to get through everything there,”Janie said as she climbs back into the truck, reaching for a bottle of water from the cooler. “My legs hurt.”
So, after two days of heading south, we agree we’ve about had our fill of yard sale for 2012 and we’re headed back to our realhome, the trip back to Crossville filled with whether or not there was anywhere we wanted to re-visit on the way back.
“I’m going to stop in Clarkrange and see of that first water pump is still there,” I told Janie as we head up U.S. 127 at full travel speed.
“I want to stop at York and look at that little fan,” she throws back at me.
Then we both agree that the spot just north of Crossville that we had skipped on Friday night in our haste to get to the Shoney’s Steak and Shrimp feast would also be a must stop on the way home.
We encountered only a couple of slowdowns along the way – the worst one being at the Bank epicenter where traffic was at a standstill, giving up only one and one-half miles during a 17 minute span.
Finally through Crossville at 3:16 p.m. I pull into the gathering we had missed on Friday, only to discover after 10 minutes that it was the wrong location.
At 3:27 we finally land on the right stop, but we quickly figure out that basically the offerings there were just more of the same.
“That was some good stuff, but nothing I couldn’t do without,” Janie says, pulling her shoes off to get an even better toe-hold on the dash air-conditioning vent as we hammered down toward Clarkrange.
With 156 miles on the trip meter so far, I pulled the blue Ford into the Clarkrange epicenter for a second time in two days, at 4:13 p.m., hoping to find that small cast iron water pump still available.
“I’ll wait here” Janie says, – which translates into “leave the truck running” and I assure her I’ll only be a few minutes.
Sure enough, after a short walk down that first row of tents, I find the right dealer and the pump is still where it was nearly 24 hours earlier, and still with a $45 price.
After some haggling, I’m back in the truck with the pump, while the vendor now has $38 more than he had seven minutes before I parked the truck, and with that, we’re off to our next planned stop at the Sgt. York park epicenter.
Suddenly, I realize we hadn’t eaten since that first meal at the breakfast bar earlier that morning, other than a few snacks along the way and I note that we could go back to Crossville and eat again before we get home.
“I’m starving, but I’m not eating at Shoney’ again, maybe not ever again,” she says. “But you know, that steak and shrimp was pretty good.”
As we near Pall Mall, we run into a steady rain and notice that most of the dealers have already either covered up their offerings, or in many, many cases, simply packed it in and left.
Still, moving toward the Sgt. York area, the skies clear and from the dry road and the crowd still on hand, it’s obvious that the pop-up thunderstorm we encountered just before, hadn’t involved this area, and I flip the signal near the fire house parking area to make that final planned stop.
“Nope,” Janie quickly says after realizing what I was about to do. “I’m just too tired – take it on home”
With that, we head back toward the Kentucky state line, traveling through yet another thunderstorm that had everything shut down at Joe Sells’ Forbus General Store as well.
Crossing into Kentucky at 5:29 and with 194 miles logged so far, I hear a “Home again, home again” from my yard sale partner, followed by a short chuckle that indicated she had amused herself more than she had amused me – must have been a private joke.
A few minutes later, the weekend comes to an end as two anxious dogs are raising all manners of noise when we pull into the driveway at 5:48 p.m. and a total of 206 miles.
“We don’t have to get the stuff out of the truck tonight do we – good,” Janie says, never even giving me the chance to answer one way or the other. “I’m bushed, but that was another good trip.”
So, with a half-decade of Yard Sale treks now in the books, the decision as to a return in 2013 will be up in the air for at least 51 more weeks.
With a 25 year history, the event was about 10 years past its beginning before it really became popular, and from all indications, the 127 Yard Sale may have already seen it’s “glory days”.
Smaller crowds, areas that were once epicenters, now reduced to gatherings and other former gathering spots not even in existence.
Still – if you’ve got the right partner – as I do – and you enjoy a good adventure, maybe a trip down the 127 Sale route would be for you.
Remember – it’s not always about the find, but more importantly, it’s all about the hunt.
If you are planning your own trip this weekend, whether for an afternoon, or a full weekend, my advice remains as it has been for the past couple of years – keep the plans loose, the water handy and by all means – go south!
It’s still a pretty fun and cheap weekend!
Above, ‘Trekking’ author and Clinton County News Editor Al Gibson is shown with a large spider made out of welded rebar material, which was an early find near the Crossville, Tennessee area on their 127 Trek. The middle photo shows the spider after a few coats of black and orange paint, and the added “bling” for eyes. The spider is used as a Halloween yard decoration and holds a large pumpkin in it’s upper curved legs.
Brooke Parrish set up a booth for the first time last year, selling her homemade jewelry during the 127 Yard Sale near the intersection of U.S. 127 and Ky. 90 at the Snow intersection.
Part of a “bundle” deal made by the Gibsons during their 2012 Trek into Tennessee, was a group of Halloween decorations that included a couple of tin yard units, below, and the two ceramic indoor pumpkins above.
This cast-iron water pump was the final purchase made by Al Gibson during the 2012 Yard Sale Trek, a “return” purchase he made on the trip back home on Saturday afternoon at the Clarkrange Park epicenter. The cast iron watering trough bowl and the cast iron weather vane in the photo are purchases that have been made during previous 127 Yard Sale trips.
You just never know what prize find awaits you along the 127 Yard Sale route. At the Snow epicenter last year in central Clinton County, tucked inbetween the antique dishes and enamel kitchen pots and pans, one vendor was offering up a table full of women’s panties that included practically every size, color and design, for the bargain price of only $1 each.
Regardless of the holiday, this bundle of yard decorations spotted near Pikeville, Tennessee, would have included something to help with the celebration.
Guy Boils, left, and Tony Boils were among the Clinton County 127 Yard Sale hunters encountered by Al and Janie Gibson during the 2012 trek. Janie chats with the Boils family near the Clarkrange Chapel epicenter. Letha, Nell and Anthony Boils were also in the group.