Happy Birthday from the Eye of Sauron

MomBert makes some weird shit sometimes. I don’t know many people who got their own Eye of Sauron complete with a hobbit eating spider as a birthday present. My Mordor loves me. (See what I did there!)img_2029

The best part is that the eye plus the attached message were completely unintentional as far as literary references.  MomBert reads the daily newspaper and magazines, but is not big on novels. So while she has a general knowledge of Tolkien and hobbits, I’m not sure that the image of that burning eye sweeping the land to zero in on the ring is part of her repertoire.


Maybe she deserves more credit. What I do know is that my gift receiving poker face sucks, and that I must have had my “what the fuck is this weirdness” expression on when I opened her creation. Just when I had gotten used to Sauron creeping on me, these two little faces arrived in the mail as replacements. I think the raccoon is too cute and needs its own set up all together.


But then she sent me gremlins for Valentines Day.


Tales of the World’s Longest Yard Sale, Days 3-5, Year 4: The Hobbits head into Mordor, or whatever hot place they had to go to melt that stupid ring

Thursday, August 4, 2016, saw us in the car by 8 a.m., climbing the treacherous (at least to me) switchbacks of 127 up Signal Mountain. I can’t imagine that road as my daily commute, but people do it. We arrived at our first tent city in Fairmount on the mountain by 9 a.m. We’ve never started the sale on the very first day! A momentous occasion.


Day 3: We’re on a mountain!

There we ran into a vendor traveling in a VW bus and creating her own very cool ” I picked 127″ t-shirts. I went with her racerback for yoga usage.


We don’t know those women who are also wearing our cool t-shirts.

That day I was also testing my own fashion theory: the fishing/hunting vest. In Ohio the previous year, I had seen two women sporting multi pocketed vests. It seemed like a genius move! They removed the back strain of a purse -a problem for me-and the uber dorkiness of the fanny pack which was what I was wearing to combat back ache. I cruised thrift stores and eBay until I found a vest suitable for experimentation. It had Velcro pockets, snapped pockets, zippered pockets, secret pockets, and pockets within pockets! Unfortunately, the fabric wasn’t very breathable and eventually felt like it weighed 50 pounds. If you find Walter Sobchak attractive then I was smokin’ hot. ( I was also sweating balls hot) The Dude abides.



There were plenty of big stops on the mountain, but our increasingly sweaty travels were interrupted by rainstorms. Rainstorms that added to the heat, humidity, and muck.


Lone Oak Community Center hooked us up with lunch, air conditioning, and an indoor toilet!

Stops with shade were a relief, but then we’d find ourselves hightailing it to the car when clouds and lightning rolled in. aug4thurs_day1sale1

It was the end of a long day as Siri directed us up gravelly switchbacks over what felt the millionth mountain of the trip. Oddly enough, there aren’t a lot of chain hotels in rural Tennessee. The easiest place I could find for us to end the first day of the sale was a state park lodge at Fall Creek Falls. From the outside the place was a cement block, but it was cheap and convenient.

It. Was. Beautiful. IMG_1888

We opened our door into the cement block and stepped into the lake. The lodge was built along the curve of the lake and each room opened onto a balcony overlooking the water. Who needs modern decor when you’ve got scenery?


We did a slow drive on a loop through the park, checking out the waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and encountering the local deer and turkey.FallsCreek

Dinner was a just okay buffet, but we sat on the balcony later watching a lightning storm in the clouds over the lake.


Ick. Gross. So awful!

Friday morning brought sunbeams, no more vest- goodbye, Walter- and a quicker less mountainous route back to 127 and the McDonald’s in Pikeville.


UUUUUGGGHHH. So ugly! My eyes!

Side note: The summer of 2016 was when McDonald’s started their all day breakfast menu. Items varied restaurant to restaurant, but we were in the South, so that meant biscuits all day, every day. Heat be damned, second breakfasts happened. A lot. 


Our first stop in Pikeville had a weird deja vu feel. We realized we’d been there the previous day in rain we could barely see through. Eye roll and moving on.


This truck of goats were left at the window for an uncomfortably long time. Just watching me eat my biscuit.

Our goal for the day was to make it to Crossville and few points beyond like Clark Range, revisiting points of interest from our very first year. The weather was a repeat of heat and rain.


G.I. Joe appears to be getting a handy…or something. Only $100


Much better picture of a hummingbird moth with the pink flowers.

By the time we made it to the mass of vendors at Clark Range, I had to close my eyes and be still for 10 minutes to convince my head and stomach that we could make this work, damnit! Aside from my sweet pickin’ t shirt, Clark Range offered another great purchase. A husband and wife team were crafting chainsaw sculptures. Their creations were spread in a wide circle around the base of a tree where the husband was doing more carvings. I bought a handsome gray squirrel. Ahhhh art.

Our hotel that night in Knoxville was a chain so while there was modern decor and several junior high football players there for a tournament, there were no amazing landscapes or Bambis wandering about. We ate dinner at Blaze Pizza (fancy pizza in like 5 minutes) and tried not to hate how we smelled.

Knoxville was supposed to be the last stop on the road to home, but I made a proposal. Year 1, we naively thought we would eat up the miles and be lunching in Jamestown, the heart and headquarters of the sale. We didn’t make it there until evening when the sale had shut down. In Knoxville, I proposed that we take a route diagonally across country to Jamestown the next morning just so we could say we’d made it there. And maybe buy a t-shirt.

Saturday morning, after battling pre-teen footballers for breakfast, we made it to yard sale ground zero in a little under two hours. The poor representative at the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce was trapped by our enthusiasm for the sale, and our desire to change in to our brand new shirts in her air conditioned bathroom.


OMG!!! We’re here!

She gave us suggestions for a few local stops. A biscuit and a few stops later, we were yardsaled out somewhere around the Maple Hill RV Campground and truly ready for home and cats.


MomBert’s stash.



My goods.

I spent $130 on yard sale items. MomBert can’t remember what her total was. Overall, the weather of year four made the a rough endeavor.


Tales of the World’s Longest Yard Sale, Days 1& 2, Year 4: The Hobbit Life

The first week of August means that it’s yard sale  time again. It also means that I have pushed all reasonable limits in writing about LAST year’s adventures in junk.

Last year, I finally read the fine print- it only took four years- and discovered that the contiguous route 127 path of the yard sale ends in Chattanooga, Tennessee,  around Signal Mountain. The Georgia to Alabama portion follows the Lookout Mountain Parkway in a series of twists and turns that require having directions in hand. I remember finding this to be incredibly disappointing for some reason. My epic yard sale really did not stretch all along 127. My “I heart 127” t-shirt might not mean anything across the Georgia border.

This discovery may have helped solidify my plan to visit Chattanooga, play tourists for a day, and then hit the sale. I had vague memories of our family tagging along with my grandparents to Chattanooga in 1988. Gpa and Gma were attending their annual WWII POW reunion there with Gpa’s war buddies. That sentence does not sound like an awesome idea for dragging three grandchildren and their mother along for “vacation,” but that was what happened. I specifically remembered the fairy tale caverns and their day-glo dioramas which I recognized again years later when Neil Gaiman set a scene on Lookout Mountain in his novel American Gods.


1988: As family photographer, there is no photographic evidence that I was there. No selfies in ’88. 2016: You’ll see that I’ve taken almost the same pictures.


MomBert was up for it, and we were off to touch the tail end of 127;  making our total mileage, according to my math and the efforts of Mapquest and Google Maps, 562 of the 690 mile sale. **This mileage does not count back tracking, traveling to starting points and then back home, looking for our hotels, or getting lost.

Setting out on Tuesday, August 2, for the 8-hour drive to Chattanooga from Marietta, it was a bit foggy  and rainy, but we took the four fawns playing tag in MomBert’s yard as a good sign. I swear this video is not shot entirely through the window screen.

We got as far as Ravenswood, West Virginia, (that’s only an hour) when we saw a sign for Tudor’s Biscuit World and several antique stores. ***Seeing signs for Biscuit World requires singing the name out loudly and joyfully. Signs for Biscuitville do not get the same volume.


And so second breakfasts and a real focus on food began. #ShireLife

We also believe in 11-sies.

Aside from amazing biscuits and some less amazing antiques, the drive down was uneventful but tiring. We had to strategize for the next day. We wanted to go up Lookout Mountain and do the two most touristy activities available: Rock City and Ruby Falls. We would be facing temperatures in the upper 90’s and humidity to match it. We opted for Rock City in the morning and the underground cool temps of Ruby Falls in the afternoon.

Rock City

Why the Hell do people live on mountains? Sure, nature is beautiful, and the views are great; but getting up and down the mountain on roads that were not built for the width of today’s vehicles is hair raising! Plus the edges of road where all I can see is sky, make me start panicking. So very, very, very slowly we made it to Rock City on Lookout Mountain by 9 a.m. on August 3.


Garnet  and Frieda Carter founded the community on top of the mountain, calling it Fairyland. Frieda’s love of folklore and fairy tales influenced street names and displays throughout the area. She was the one busy gardening and landscaping around the boulders while her husband planned neighborhoods and mini golf courses. Frieda was definitely on to something. The initial path into the gardens of Rock City instantly dropped us in between giant lichen covered boulders and towering trees. Tiny streams and drips of water were everywhere, and the air was soothingly cool. Settings like this immediately put my mind on the path to place like Narnia and Middle Earth. I don’t need dragons or giant spiders, but some woodland magic will suffice.


Hobbit life! #straightouttatheshire

Frieda had mad gardening skills, but may have sometimes leaned into the cheesier moments as illustrated by the gnome scenes in Gnome Valley and the later stop of the Fairyland Caverns.


The Goblin Pass confirms Middle Earth status!

The fallow deer who used to roam Gnome Valley (I’m pretty sure they were there in ’88.) were also imported for their fairy tale-like appearance. They have since been upgraded to a bigger and better area of the gardens.


The paths of the garden wind from one tranquil point to another until the swaying bridge over a huge crevice looking out across the valley. The guy behind us who was doing running commentary about jiggling the bridge was not funny.


The bridge leads to a better and much more stable view of Chattanooga. Allegedly you can see seven states from this point. IDK. However there is a fancy little restaurant by this overlook, and it would have been a beautiful spot to eat and gaze off into the distance.


Beneath the lookout is a waterfall, yet another amazing physical feature. The jiggly bridge guy’s wife took our picture. I’m so glad she used my body to block the beautiful natural element we were posing in front of.


Outside the shade of the boulders and trees, the heat was already building up so the last stop on the path Fairyland Caverns was an underground relief. Again the Carter taste-level went for folklore and full-on cheese plate. Each diorama was handcrafted by a local artist and black-lit by crazy elves; they really do capture the magic and weird, dark twists that make up fairy tales.


The gift shop contained the expected trinkets and t-shirts, as well as, a more practical product: birdhouses that mimicked the “See Rock City” barns that Carter used to advertise the gardens. This was my souvenir of choice and my squirrels and birds love the shelter.


We missed second breakfast that day so we were definitely ready for 11-sies across the mountain at the Cafe on the Corner. There was pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, and a peach and berry cobbler they had just made. I love it when eating local works out.


To be continued: more tourists, more mountain, more food….