The Route 127 yard sale is arguably the biggest bargain hunt and stretches across America.
The annual event begins in the deep south and runs 690 miles to a few hours’ drive from Canada. It starts in the rural town of Gadsden, Alabama, spans six states, and attracts RV enthusiasts, antique collectors, and anyone who just loves to haggle. The sale actually consists of hundreds of small sales in hundreds of front yards and maybe as many commercial vendors.
Farms, church parking lots and empty fields invite you to table by table with second-hand items along the route. Tools, clothing, vintage glassware, boxes of old matchboxes and “junktiques” abound. Traffic jams clog two-lane roads as columns of motorists slow down to assess whether to stop.
Rows of pop-up roofs and folding tables covered in dusty treasures fill the roadsides that stand empty the rest of the year. “Make me an offer,” says a salesman’s sign. “Yes, I will lower the price,” announced another.
Whether you’re looking for a trash can of old roller skates or a dozen surplus swivel chairs, there’s something for everyone at the 127 Yard Sale, which began in the late 1980s. There are $ 2,500 porcelain Coca-Cola signs and 25-cent golf balls. From boring to bizarre, there’s no telling what will show up.
The sale leaves Alabama and runs through Georgia along the Lookout Mountain Parkway. Two lawn fertilizer machines and luggage with a zebra crossing are for sale in a driveway, in front of a breathtaking view of the valley 500 meters below. When crossing the Tennessee River, the sale finally encounters its namesake: Route 127.
According to legend, the event, which takes place on the first weekend in August, began in Tennessee. Hundreds of sales and major sales stops line the route from Signal Mountain, an affluent northern suburb of Chattanooga, to Pall Mall, the humble hometown of World War I hero Alvin C. York, near the Kentucky border.
In the historic border town of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, the local Baptist Church fires the grill and serves free hot dogs to visitors each year. Just up the street from quaint downtown is a field of more than 50 vendors, including local sellers and nomadic antique dealers, who arrive in worn school buses and Airstream trailers each year. All weekend long business-loving couples push strollers through the makeshift warehouse in search of rare finds and retro décor.
With the horse farms and bourbon distilleries of bluegrass country in the rearview mirror, Route 127 follows the Ohio River north before circling Cincinnati. In western Ohio, endless cornfields form the backdrop for the densest grouping of yard sales along Route 127. The uniform patterns of neatly planted rows stretch mile after mile to the horizon, punctuated by the occasional big top full of potential prey.
Somewhere north of Hamilton, Ohio, “hard sale” signs are becoming rare. They will eventually be replaced by signs that advertise “garage sales”. For one reason or another, the south is a flea market area. The states of the Midwest, on the other hand, call them flea markets. (In the Northeast they are called Tag Sales). Aside from the difference in nomenclature, there doesn’t seem to be any discernible difference.
As Route 127 heads into Michigan and nears the north end of the event in Addison, the frequency of flea markets begins to decline. Perhaps the sellers on Sunday afternoons have simply had enough of filling their registers. With another Route 127 yard sale on the books, sellers began packing up their unsold merchandise, folding map tables, and hoisting tent poles. Until next year.