Seeing America at World’s Largest Yard Sale

This was first published Jan. 17, 2010, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.”  Now that the 2010 yard sale has passed, it’s time to make hotel reservations for 2011. Seriously. Do it now. Take it from the Dianes.

Diane Bouvier (left) and Diane Cormier at the giant yard sale

WHO: Diane Bouvier, 50, of Athol, Mass., and Diane Cormier, 51, of Ashburnham, Mass.

WHERE: Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio

WHEN: Four days in August

WHY: To tour part of The World’s Longest Yard Sale along 654 miles of US Highway 127 from Alabama to Ohio.

Diane Cormier tries out a really big lawn chair for sale in Ohio

THRILL-SEEKERS: “We both like going to country auctions and poking around in antique stores. It’s the thrill of the treasure hunt,’’ Bouvier said. The two nurses have been friends since working together at a Worcester hospital 15 years ago.

SHOPPING LIST: “You have to plan ahead to go,’’ she said of the event started by a man in Jamestown, Tenn., in 1987. “Diane figured out the amount of driving it would take each day and looked for the closest hotels. We booked them and the flights in April. We used the sale’s website to get little tips and a feel for what was going on.’’

TRASH TO TREASURES: “Sometimes, fields were set up on both sides with tons of tables, and the whole community was involved, and other times it was personal yard sales along the way,’’ Bouvier said. “There was a huge variety of stuff for sale. It ran the gamut from flea market to high-end dealers.’’

Diane Cormier with popular Southern game of Corn Hole in Kentucky

DOG DAYS: The friends set off from Nashville, cash in hand, in their rented box truck, heading for Crossville, the nearest town on Highway 127. “The traffic picked up heading there, but mostly it was totally spread out. There were license plates from all over.’’ They would typically get out of the car at least 10 times a day, and walked a lot during stops. “It was pretty hot. I liked that people put water out for dogs,’’ she said. “You could really tell that everyone was getting into it. Bargaining was expected, but it was all good-natured. Everyone was having fun.’’

CHECKED ITEMS: On the second day, in Kentucky, both women found things on their lists. “Diane was looking for an old fireplace mantle, the top and the sides. She was also looking for two old cowbells for her camp, and she found those, too. I got a lampshade for an antique lamp I’d been looking for.’’ They were happy with the prices, too.

FRIENDLY FOLKS: “I got a little taste of the culture there,’’ she said. “Southern hospitality holds true. One man pulled us out of the ditch we got the truck stuck in.’’ Other shoppers were friendly and chatty. “At the hotels at breakfast, everyone would ask, ‘Are you yard-salers?’ We met a lot of mothers and daughters.’’

NICEST NICKEL: Bouvier’s “best bargain’’ came on the final day. “For five cents I got a 6-inch ruler stamped with the name of a company – and Route 127. It was the perfect souvenir.’’

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