"The 50 Mile Yard Sale," Lake Cayuga, New York.
Everyone has visited at least one yard sale, junk shop, flea market, or perhaps a bonafide antique store. You’re even luckier to afford an actual antique, or pick out a gem of an artifact hidden away behind an old door that just really ties the room together. If 50 miles of yard sales, mixed with country roads and the occasional vineyard appeals to you, then open up the notes section of your calendar for next year. Nestled cozily amongst the Finger Lakes region of central New York, there’s a stretch of Route 90 that plays host to a junk picker’s delight for days.
All sorts of euphemisms and age-old adages about the tradition of acquiring stuff come to mind, but for the residents whom live along the picturesque rolling hills of Cayuga lake, selling grows in popularity with each passing year. Typically, on the last weekend of July, you can happily begin rummaging just west of the sleepy village of Montezuma where (Old) Route 90 is closely situated off the New York State Thruway – also referred to as I-90, or just ‘The Thruway’. But start early. Because, word of early deals spread fast along this idyllic road lined with run down barns and grapevines.
According to local resident, Dick Dwello, “You’ve got people that fly out from all over – Canada, Massachussetts, the South … “ Once he starts talking, it’s tough to get him to stop. His enthusiasm for the event seems well rehearsed, but for 70 years old, it’s as lively as the day his first visitor arrived. That was just over 30 years ago, when as he explains, “it was more of a community event.” He carries on as more and more people enter his nondescript, white metal sided implement barn filled with what one might describe as junk. You name it – rare looking coins, pulp fictions, tools, lamps, radar guns, cheese head hat. If he doesn’t have what you’re looking for – hard to imagine, he can point you in the right direction. “It’s fun,” he says. “You listen to people, and they’ll tell you their whole life stories.” He nearly told me his, and after politely bringing an end to the visit as I felt the urge to head back out and continue exploring, he leaves me with a broadly outstretched paw and a passing thought to ponder: “I’m one of the stupid one’s who still enjoys it.”
Just a few paces further down the road, a carnival atmosphere of sorts is in the air. There’s occasional vendors selling some odd’s and end’s, wares, shaved ice, and Italian sausage. Walk a little further, and you have residents cooking up their own reasonably priced curbside backyard delights. Not much was north of five dollars – quite reasonable considering the gas required to make it into the region from just about anywhere. You can expect typical rate increases on accommodations at peak season, with a marginal hike given the nature of the weekend. Just ask anyone outside Route 90, they know why you’re here.
If starting in Montezuma and ending in Homer where the road hits a ’T’, I counted about 10 villages or towns. And, depending on who you talk to, an entire weekend could be made from the trip. There are definitely pockets of local sights, and history to be absorbed, as well as some quaint looking bed and breakfasts. Start a day or two early, and be mindful of the traffic, as the road is frequented by trucks, cyclists, and the Amish. Have fun, and happy picking!