Josh Shaffer

At this 100-mile-long yard sale, thousands sell their junk (and sometimes snarl traffic)

The vast collection of junk stretched 100 miles from Dunn to the Virginia border, a nearly unbroken chain of folding tables, tarps and blankets offering secondhand treasures pulled from dusty sheds and cobwebbed barns.

The 301 Endless Yard Sale drew so many people in 90-degree heat Friday that a left turn in normally deserted Four Oaks could take upward of 5 minutes. People parked in drainage ditches. They dodged traffic, carrying old wagon wheels bought for a dollar. They scrambled across people’s front yards, sizing up grandfather clocks and broken shotguns.

In Johnston County, a determined shopper might pull off the highway every tenth of a mile and find a new vendor selling commemorative Pepsi bottles with Richard Petty’s face printed on the side. Cars averaged 20 mph along the roadway, distracted by a plywood sign reading “Red-Nose Pits for Sale.” Even more eye-catching: a slab of cardboard, propped on an old Ford truck, announcing in black spray-paint, “Home Interiors Inside.”

Outside Benson, Mark McGinty put the hard sell on some customers eying a pair of old Nikes.

“Those are some hot ball shoes,” he said. “I know you play ball ...”

No takers? He suggested the partially inflated basketballs.

“They’re flat,” he said, “because they’ve been in the barn all year.”

U.S. 301 has long offered a kitschy, alternative travel route along the East Coast: a 1950s postcard featuring rusted Studebakers with weeds grown up to the dashboard, low-slung brick motels with plastic lawn chairs perched out front and diners advertising today’s meatloaf special.

The corridor from Dunn to Weldon already draws garage sale pros, but normally, harvesting gems from the junk requires some navigating. At this fifth-annual event, lasting through Sunday, the route rolls out like a Moroccan bazaar.

“This is everywhere,” said Linda Benson, 61. “I collect Jim Shore, and they make a lot of different-colored angels, and I stopped at (U.S.) 701 and it was a $50 Jim Shore angel. I got it for one dollar.”

Having a weakness for corny trinkets, I considered the vintage King Kong poster, the yard decorations made from hubcaps, the refrigerator magnets made from beer bottle caps and the welcome mat that said “Come Back With a Warrant.”

But in the end I just enjoyed the drive, stopping at the Four Oaks Restaurant for a plate of catfish and butter beans, watching the caravan of bargain-seekers wind to the horizon.

If you go

The 301 Endless Yard Sale stretches from Dunn to Weldon along U.S. 301, with vendors in parking lots and yards along the highway.

Vendors typically operate between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The yard sale originally ran between Benson and Kenly, where sales traffic is heavy. Expect to move more slowly than normal.