guest post • Steve Harter at the world's longest yardsale

What follows is a summary account of my day spent looking for good books at the World’s Longest Yard Sale, starting at Covington, Kentucky and running 450 miles to the south, along the Route 127 corridor, in the American Midwest and South. It was Friday, day two of the four-day event, and was my initiation to the sale. This was an experiment, and as such, I had no real expectations, though I did bring several cardboard boxes with me just in case – the eternal optimist.

I started in Frankfort, the capital of Kentucky, and ended up roughly 20 miles south of Danville, approximately 60 miles in all. I was on the road doing yard sales for about 9 hours, from 9AM to 6PM, and at this late hour the sales were still going strong, but I was ready to head for home.

Although billed as a yard sale, it should be noted that many of the “yard sales” were actually “field sales,” taking place in a large field with parking, county fair style food and drink, porta potties, and dozens of tables of junque and other items. There were many actual yard sales per mile, on the average, and every so often was a field sale. I did not stop at every sale I saw, perhaps only 2/3 of them. But as many sales as there were, there were vastly more buyers. Every sale I stopped at, no matter how unpromising, had several buyers, if not dozens or hundreds.

I found the driving to be a bit dangerous. Route
127 is a state route and a major north-south route in Kentucky. It was well traveled, not only by the many of us doing yard sales, but also by people trying to get somewhere. The speed limit was around 60 much of the way, but of course there were also people going much more slowly so as not to miss a promising sale, or having just pulled out into traffic. The conditions were dangerous, though I saw no accidents. My Scion often proved useful in finding parking in spots where few other cars would fit.

The results of the day were worse than my worst imaginings. I did not see a single book I was excited about, and I bought only two. I saw far more rifles and shotguns for sale than books that I wanted to pick up and examine. A colleague commented that the sale is a good place to pick up Danielle Steel paperbacks and I agree, but I saw plenty of Steel hard cover books as well. I did not see a single scholarly, academic book, except for the occasional out-of-date textbook.

In short, it was bad. Perhaps the first day would have been better. Somewhere along the sale route there must be treasure troves waiting to be found, but not by me. I’m sure I would have done much better had I just stayed home in Bloomington, Indiana. Live and learn.

The country was beautiful, the folks I spoke to were down-home and friendly, and I did buy some good wine from a small Kentucky winery on the way home. I quite enjoyed those parts of the trip.

Even so, this excursion is not something I would ever like to repeat, at least not on day two of the sale or along this particular section of the sale route. Based on my experience, this sale is not recommended, at least for booksellers looking for quality stock.

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