And up ahead’s another town
That I’ll go walking thru
With the rain in my shoes,
Searchin for (bargains!)
In the cold Kentucky rain,
In the cold Kentucky rain”
Elvis knows what up. My mom and I went to the Longest Yard Sale again this year, covering about a 75 mile section from Harrodsburg, Kentucky, to Glencoe, Kentucky, where it never stopped raining. Ever.
About 24 hours before we left for this adventure, I had just returned from a trip to Watkins Glen, New York. It rained the entire 7 hour drive to the Glen, at least once every day I was there, and then some more on the drive home. The weather combined with the sufficiently clean, but slightly musty and damp hotel room, made me feel like I would never be completely dry again. At least there was wine in New York. Our yard sale route in Kentucky took us past most of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, but there was no stopping for hard liquor.
Friday, August 8, (Day 1 for us, Day 2 of the actual sale) saw us dropping down to Lexington, Kentucky, then speeding across the Bluegrass Parkway which proved to be a lovely 70 miles per hour and not the slow scenic drive that we had expected. All the expansive farms, fences, and horses looked just as good at 75 mph. Our destination was Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, where we would start the 127 route heading south as far as we could before returning for the night to our hotel in Lawrenceburg.
I swear the rain started as soon as our tires touched 127. Thankfully, it was not blinding, white knuckle driving rain, but just enough of a misting and dripping to soak through shoes, purses, and t-shirts sucking all energy and warmth out of me. There’s something exhausting about being slightly damp head to toe all day. Petting a basket full of puppies who may or may not have had poo on their heads did not help.
After a few minor stops, we hit our first tent city. It seemed promising since there was a moose head on a flag pole at the entrance and tons of buyers negotiating parking spots. My mom had an umbrella for herself and we dug through the roadside emergency kit for a flimsy poncho for me. It floated around me like diaphanous jellyfish, but it was better than getting damper. I wore it well.
We learned that the off and on showers had the vendors continuously covering and uncovering their wares which hampered the shopping process somewhat. This stop was fairly heavy on antiques, but overwhelmed by “Mexican antiques.” “Mexican antiques” are items made in Mexico and mass produced as antiqued picture frames, iron garden sculptures, giant alphabet letters, flower pots, wooden tables and herds of vibrantly colored tin goats, chickens , and peacocks. Mixed in selectively with real antiques, these items can be alluring. However several tents gave up on any pretense of antiquity and just offered massive stacks of these antiqued fakes.
Finding lunch lifted our spirits. A food truck offered pulled pork and giant pickles which were excellent until it was time to find a bathroom. I had noticed that there were random porta-johns conveniently located throughout the tent city, many set up behind every other vendor. So a bathroom stop seemed like an easy solve until we discovered that the first porta-john was padlocked. As was the next one and an entire line of them behind a building. We finally saw a woman across the lot actually open a porta-john door. Then we watched as she fell back in horror and disgust. It turned out that the vendors, who had pulled together to rent the porta-johns for the site, had locked all, but three, using the rest as their personal bathrooms. One porta-john for every couple of vendors, three for the hundreds of people who would be passing through over a four day period. We opted to hold it.
Fortunately, we soon hit the edge of Harrodsburg and found a gas station where we were allowed to go potty. It may have only been moderately cleaner than the porta-john. On the plus side, apparently it’s okay to smoke inside gas stations in Kentucky especially if you’re the local sheriff.
So far our purchases had been mostly food based so when an actual antique mall showed up on the route welcoming yard salers, we went for it. Like deep ocean fish going for the angler’s luminescent, wavy, fake bait, we went for it. When the wave of potpourri and candle scent hit me, I knew we had made a mistake. I stage whispered to Mom, “It’s a trap!! Run.” The lobby was a mass of fake flower arrangements, wooden geese in dresses, slightly misspelled wooden signs with the occasional reversed letter, and the dreaded primitive tchotchkes. Beyond the lobby, we could see a warehouse with vendor booths. Perhaps there was hope yet.
It was a horror show. Every booth featured some variation on the lobby’s motif. My sinuses rebelled against the onslaught of sprays, scented soaps, more candles, and products to make anything smell like something other than natural. There were multiple sins against antiquities, taking perfectly good solid furniture pieces and repainting scenes and random French words on what was once beautiful wood. Mom pointed out that some people would absolutely squeal with delight at the sight of this place. I reminded her that I had squealed, just not the way she meant.
The next antique mall on the route was a bit more eclectic although not stellar and was our point to start heading back north. This route was decidedly less populated than last year’s adventure. Big stops were few and far between, so we covered more miles quicker than we had before. We got back to Lawrenceburg with light and yard saling hours still available, so we pushed through the city, ending at their expo center which was full of vendors and conveniently located in the same shopping strip as our dinner destination.
Our first day out, I purchased one Czechoslovakian bird at the second antique mall. Somehow it didn’t seem like a real yard sale route purchase even though we were still on 127 and the mall was offering a yard sale discount. Mom bought a handful of things including a new pair of Frye boots for $35 for my sister. I repeatedly explained to her that this was a crazy good bargain.
The day had been okay overall. The highlight was a taxidermied bear labeled as “half a bear”– it really was only half a bear- set up in a conversational pose with a taxidermied boar head. We speculated on the need for labeling and where the other half could be as we watched senior citizens line dance in the back of a Mexican restaurant.