Friday, April 18, 2014

Totally Texas -- Flea market road trip smack down

Commissioned in 1926, U.S. Route 80 was an early coast-to-coast route for auto travel, passing through cities famous in U.S. history: Vicksburg, Mississippi; Selma, Montgomery, and Tuskegee, Alabama; Savannah, Georgia. Bypassed by newer interstates, it became a lonely rural road. Lonely that is, except when the Historic U.S. 80 Hi-Way Sale turns it into a multi-state flea market one weekend each spring and fall.

The spring sale is held the third weekend in April--this year, two days only, today and Saturday, April 18-19, with time off for Easter.

Towns and countryside during the sale with vendors of everything imaginable. It’s like Canton’s First Monday Trades Days, only hundreds of miles long.

My daughter and I set out to explore it, starting from U.S. 80’s current western terminus in Dallas, across East Texas. The highway, and sale, actually extend from Texas to Georgia, but we could only made a one-day road trip. Although my son-in-law bravely volunteered to stay home with their kids, there’s no reason older children can’t make at least a shortened version of the trip.

Did we cheat a little by stopping only in towns instead of the highway’s rural stretches? Maybe. But this isn’t the time for rules. Stop where you like--you’re sure to find something.

The sale is only loosely coordinated. Officially, vendors open at 8 a.m. each day, and stay late, but that’s up to the individual sellers. To help you plan, click on the state you’re interested in at
www.Hwy80Sale.net/, for information about what’s available at each town. The sale’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Hwy80Sale/, also has postings, including which vendors take credit or debit cards. In Texas, towns along the route are fairly close together, making it easy to stop for food, fuel and ATMs as needed.

Meandering eastward on U.S. 80, we stopped for lunch in Mineola. U.S. 80 runs through Mineola’s downtown. There’s plenty of streetside parking, family-friendly restaurants, and stores overflowing with everything used, antique, vintage and retro. 
Our next stop was Gladewater. Signs directed us to the town’s historic district filled with antique shops, as well as a street fair in progress, including the wrestlers whose photo illustrates this post. We ended our trip in Longview, stopping at the outdoor displays in front of the Greggton Antique Mall on the city’s west side.

Among my daughter’s favorite finds: a stash of Little Golden Books for her boys, plus retro lunch trays to corral their art supplies. My finds included paint by number pictures and 1930’s era magazines, their covers adorned with prints of paintings from the days before color photography.