June 23 – 29, 2023Vol. 25, No. 2

From the Side of the Road

A self-service firewood stand on South Gage Road in Oakland. A price list is on the right, above the “honor box,” where customers can leave payment.

by Esther J. Perne

Four cars, two horses, an empty guitar case (good find for a guitar that didn’t have one), two unmatched nightstands, a kid’s car with a broken motor — for great fun pushing, a step ladder, diverse picture frames, even more diverse mirrors, a bale of hay, seedlings, fresh-picked corn, berries, many dozens of delicious eggs, and much more — just one collection of side-of-the-road discoveries or purchases.

It’s shopping time and stopping time on the backroads and byways of the region and since it’s also destination time, why not allow extra time and keep alert to what’s for sale — or for the taking — along the route? There are no guidelines to shopping the back roads other than maybe something always looked and longed for is just waiting for a new owner or something never looked nor longed for offers an opportunity too good to pass by.

Once a common roadside commodity, cars are making a private sale comeback but the few-hundred-dollar “winter beater” style may be gone for good. Those were the days when a car that ran and held its own on ice and snow and was not considered a bit pretty could be purchased off many a lawn.

Also not too common any more are hand-written signs advertising puppies, kittens or other pets, but there occasionally are so remember that “just looking” rarely works. As one proud puppy parent couple recently described they got away and down the road for maybe half a mile before turning back to pick out a puppy.

“Pies! Pies! Pies” screams this sign at the Winterberry Farm farmstand on Route 27 in Belgrade.

One category of today’s leading side-of-the-road sale items is watercraft of all sizes and conditions, including kayaks and canoes. Firewood, including kindling, is another popular roadside sale item. And, the “Open” flags are already flying on farmstands and produce will soon be for sale as well in front of many homes.

Buying vegetables, berries, flowers, and eggs from roadside coolers, display racks, tables and bins is a unique experience. If the stands are unattended — and they often are — the transaction will involve an “honor” jar or box for the purchase price to be deposited and even for change to made.

One staple of the summer season are the many lawn sales, yard sales, barn sales, and garage sales inviting the backroad traveler to stop and look and often where there has been a sale there will be a “free” pile that’s worth looking over, too. Maybe free and usually not in the totally good shape category are old tools, sports gear, and camp items, which just happen to be the decor of choice for furnishing lake area properties. Fishing gear, paddles, even worn-out life jackets, look fine hanging in rustic splendor on camp walls and are not to be overlooked in that pile of free stuff.

Not all finds at the side of the road are material. A sign for a trail, either in-town or remote, can catch the eye and the curiosity for a great hike. Signs for sites — historic, scenic, conservation demonstration areas — lead to interesting informational and educational discoveries. And signs for services may lead to getting something — finally — built or repaired.

It’s shopping time and stopping time on the backroads and byways of the region.

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