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Friday
Apr192013

Troy-- The best place to be a thrifty size 8!

Today I woke up in Troy, NY and headed to the nearby Goodwill, which just had a grand re-opening yesterday. I'm partly sad that I missed it, but sort of glad, too since the crowd probably would've given me sensory overload.  

Little do I know I'm about to go into sensory overload anyway.

I grab a cart to put my stuff in and start to browse. I see three new Ann Taylor blazers in a row-- same size. That's strange.

What are the odds?

Then I look a little further-- even more of the same exact blazer.

All new.

All the same size.

Huh.

After about 5 minutes of this, I realize this place is loaded-- no joke-- loaded with donated samples from Ann Taylor, which were almost exclusively size 8 dresses, formals, suits, jackets, tops and slacks.  Never in my life have seen anything like this-- literally hundreds of brand new gorgeous size 8 stuff--or have I ever been so mad that I'm not a size 8, nor can I even remember ever having been a size 8. 

But part of me is glad that there are no double digit samples to be found here, since I'd probably have left at least $300 lighter and be forced to camp in the car the rest of the trip.  

Financial roadtrip crisis averted. 

But I didn't leave empty handed.  What, you think I'd come into this sort of thrifty wonderland and not find a single thing?  

I managed to find one cute, generously-cut size medium Ann Taylor sample top in my favorite shade of mustard yellow that fit. I also found some gold glitter ballet flats, which I think will make this trip feel a little more Wizard of Oz-zy.  

Back in houswares, I stop to chat with Ana, who is pushing a cart full of goodies while shopping with her two-year-old son Thaygo. He's got a tight grip on an Avengers toy he found. She had to drop something off for her husband who works nearby and when she saw the grand opening sign, she had to stop in for a look.

She's been a thrifter for a long while tough. "My friends don't come here. They think it's junk, but it's not, it's gold!" she says, her eyes smiling.

I check out and get back into HaRVey2, pointing him toward Burlington. But first, a lunch stop in Saratoga Springs!  

I sit down at Bailey's Cafe for a salad thats approximately the size of my head. It's been a long roadtrip and I sense I need to eat something that had dirt on it at some point in its life. But looking across the street I see a Ben & Jerry's. I realize I'm about to enter Vermont-- land of cheese, ice cream and maple syrup.

This is going to be trouble.

After lunch I head to Second Hand Rose Thrift Shop in Schuylerville, New York, which sits right along the upper Hudson and the Lake Champlain Canal.

I walk in and meet Charlotte, who manages the store. Even at age 86, she's the oldest of the seven volunteers here, working five days a week, five hours a day. The store's been here for 12 years and donates to the local fire, rescue and ambulance squads, as well as funding small scholarships for local high schoolers. Last year the stuff they sold in this store provided them with enough revenue to donate $12,000 back into this little community.

She says they've had everything come through the store. "From thimbles and needles to horse collars and skis," she said.  "It's amazing what people donate." She's a bit shy and didn't care to be photographed, but the store itself was a maze of rooms and stuff lining every square inch of floor, shelf, and wall. They even have a big Christmas room, which she says is a popular attraction during the holidays. 

I'm looking around and pretty close to closing time, so I try to get as many photos and angles as possible before it's time to lock up for the night. Back in HaRVey2, I set my sights on Vermont. 

The roads are small and slow, but I didn't mind at all. With the clouds and rain finally giving way to a warm glow of the impending sunset, I find myself navigating roads alongside lakes with gray layers of the Adirondacks off to my left, hazy in the late day sun.

At one point I feel a rush of joy just looking around me while I drive--I start to think how happy I am-- that this project is nearing completion, that this crazy idea has actually happened, that it's taken me to such gorgeous places and allowed me to meet such amazing people along the way. I realize this is one of those drives that will stick with me for the rest of my life. It's just so gorgeous.

Just as I'm thinking this, I realize I'm stuck behind a septic truck who is going terribly slow-- and I don't even care. It's giving me more time to admire this place and be present for a minute. A rare occurance on a lightning-fast roadtrip like this one.

A map of the project's progress since 2010.It's been a tough week, America.

I've been following the news. 

But as usual, there are always beautiful things like a sunset drive on a beautiful road and a great conversation with a totally random stranger to remind us that for all the crazy that goes on around us, there's an equal amount of awesome to behold.

I leave you tonight just outside of Burlington, Vermont where it's raining a nice soft rain tonight. I'll take a look at a few stores tomorrow in this area tomorrow, and if time allows, make a quick tour of the Ben & Jerry's Factory in Waterbury as a cheap Saturday night treat for my road-weary bones. 

Total miles driven since DC: 2,874.  

Total miles for the project since 2010 (roughly): 12,374

Thursday
Apr182013

Thrifting is Scrantastic!

I woke up to a storm front encroaching on my hotel window and had to convince myself to get out of bed. Being on the road is hard, especially since I'm really missing my furry four-legged alarm clock.  

Heading out to my first stop, I hit standstill traffic right at the bottom of the on-ramp toward Scranton.  It took me about an hour to go 3 miles. 

Deep breath.

And then it started raining.

Second deep breath.

But pulling up --finally-- to the Goodwill store off of Keyser Avenue in Scranton immediately lifted my spirits. Once inside I head immediately to t-shirts, red ones. It seems the red ones have been holding the real treasures lately.

After pulling back two or three, I stumble onto the most fantastic, or should I say SCRANTASTIC t-shirt I've seen! In my cart it goes-- even if it is a small. This is too awesome. Someone will want this. (Hello, Chelsea!) It must come home with me.

A few more down and I spot an "I (liberty bell) PA" shirt that's equally fantastic. It goes in, too.

Scranton! You're on a roll!  

I decide to see if the men's t-shirts can offer up any equally awesome finds. Sure enough, in the section of grays, I find one that says "Ain't No Party Like A Scranton Party." 

That's so money! 

I look down the aisle and meet J.P., a Scranton native who is here on his day off, deciding to pop in for a quick look-through after dropping off his dry cleaning.

He says he's been shopping here for years, and even has shirts he still wears that he bought here 12 years ago. He's looking for suits and vests here today.

"I like dressing up and the cheaper the better!" he says.

 

J.P.While the stuff here is good, he says there's some stores in the Poconos that are pretty awesome as well.

I decide to head back to knick knacks by way of dresses, where I find both handmade and vintage selections. TWO BONUS POINTS! This place is a hot bed of awesome.

In the back corner, thumbing through the records, I meet Dave, who greets me with, "You like taking photos?" I'm sure the Nikon beast on my shoulder gave that away.  He says he likes to come in and look at the music selection available. Not only are there CDs and records, but also tapes AND 8-tracks! Holy media time capsule, Batman!

He says he'll get records and even some tapes, but won't go for the 8-tracks, mostly because he doesn't have a player anymore. He comes in a few times a week after work.

He says Scranton has changed a lot in the last 30 years, with New Yorkers and other city-dwellers moving in and making it a little higher-paced place to live.  

DaveHe looks through the records like he's going back in time. "The 1980's were like my 1960's, you know? They were my best years. I graduated high school in 1985."

I ask him how long he's been shopping here and he greets me with a very smile and priceless answer. "When I started not having much money!"

Touché!   

I take a lunch suggestion from J.P. and head down to Thai Thai for lunch, where I spot "Pad Macaroni" on the menu.

Oh, Scranton. You had me at hello

One skill I've gotten really good at on my lunch breaks during this trip is Instagramming/emailing with my left hand while eating lunch with my right.

Sure the other patrons might stare in horror, but I'm a) getting a lot done and b) probably going to be ambidextrous by the end of this trip. I take that as a win-win.

I hit the road again with my sights set on Kingston, NY, where I see a thrift store on Google Maps.

It rains.

I drink too much soda.

I make too many pitstops.

The usual.

I get into Kingston and navigate to my "thrift store" which turns out-- sadly-- to be more of an antique store in disguise.

It's actually a lot harder than you might think to spot what I think of as a true thrift store. When you type "thrift" into Google Maps, it brings up anything from real thrift stores, to consignment to antiques-- even second day old bread stores and AMERICAN APPAREL stores for some reason.

WHY? As though I needed another reason to avoid that place and all its size 2 leotards and leggings, this annoying little reason is yet another. 

With nightfall coming quick, I cut my losses and head back to the interstate a bit sad but anxious to get into Troy for the night, where I'll hit a Goodwill store in the morning.  

The road through Albany is right along the Hudson-- and for this river girl, it's a sight for sore eyes. I've never been through this area of New York before but I've always wonered what the Hudson River Valley might look like.

I managed to find a decent, but sorta pricey, place to stay tonight in downtown Troy. The strange stains on the carpet that trail toward the bathroom and intermittent banging coming from the room below mine are somewhat concerning, but at least the bed is soft and the wifi is somewhat reliable. 

Tomorrow-- Troy and upstate!

 


 

Wednesday
Apr172013

Finding the stories in the stuff in Pennsylvania!

After a week and a half on the road, last night I went and bought a hard cider.  That's right-- a single bottle.

Sad, I know.

I got to my hotel room, turned on the mini-fridge just to chill this one, sad little bottle. 

Excited for a sip after a long night writing this blog, I grabbed it after a few hours and went to open it-- only to discover it's not a screw top.

Awesome.

All these days on the road alone and all I want is a little bit of brew before bed and I have no opener. And apparently neither did the front desk.

Flash forward to some frantic googling of how-to videos with people able to open a bottle with everthing from a CD, to a piece of paper, wedding ring and a pen. Foolishly I attempt to try it mysef.  

Now cue the bleeding knuckles.

Aggrivated and tired, I gave it one last try against the bathroom's granite countertop. Voila!  The top came off-- along with the top rim portion of the glass bottleneck.

Whatever works! You can't keep this road-weary girl from her first cider in weeks!

My first stop of the day this morning was teh Goodwill in Cranberry, Pennsylvania, a northern suburb of Pittsburgh.  I can tell it's going to be a good one too-- this area seems kinda fancy.  

Once inside I meet Cindy, the store's manager, who says she's been reading along on the trip.  I love to hear someone's enjoying the ride along with me!  She introduces me to one of the store's regulars, Christine, who has an aqua piece of Fiestaware in her cart that I'm completely jealous of. 

We stop to chat for a bit and she tells me she's been thrifting as long as she's been able to shop, and she donates constantly as well.  She primarily looks for antiques, but also for things she can upcycle. "I'm very much into recycling and repurposing," she says. It's obvious she's into this for other reasons than just the financial benefits.

Like me, she sees stories in the aisles of donated stuff.

"I like things with a past, I like things with a story," she said. "I like things I remember from my childhood. That makes me feel comfortable." 

Browsing the t-shirts, I find some clever quotes-- I call this sort of stuff Thrift Store Wisdom.

One asks, "Got Biscuits?" while another reads, "Proud to be everything that liberals hate." One shows Mt. Rushmore with four lightly drawn Native Americans hovering over the rocky sculpture with a caption, "Founding Fathers." Another has written across the back, "I got WHIPPED in Pittsburgh."

And one of my favorites of the trip so far-- "Proud to be SHORT & WIDE." 

I say my goodbyes and get back in HaRVey2. Realizing that I'd be dipping further away from my route to Scranton by going all the way into Pittsburgh, and seeing mostly consignment stores there anyway, I make an executive decision. Rather than adding another two hours onto an already long five-hour drive, I'll take a chance on stopping in at a thrift store in State College, Pennsylvania, on the way to Scranton instead.

A few calls on my quick lunch break at a roadside McDonald's and I got in touch with the State College Women's Club's Thrift Store in State College. They're there today sorting things for tomorrow.

I meet up with Shirley. "I'm two months older than Shirley Temple, so I wasn't named after her," she tells me.

Everything is in place for tomorrow's sale as she give me a tour of the shop, which spreads into the Women's Club's auditorium area.  There's a dark stage at one end of the room along with racks of goods and a cash register. 

Shirley explains that this Women's Club was started in 1894 by the wife of the 7th Penn State University President, Mrs. Atherton. The thrift shop became a part of the Women's Club during the 1940's, when members began selling their own clothing to make money during the war to make money.

She's been managing the thrift shop here since 1993, when she moved to town after retirement. Her background in retail helped the shop go from good to great. She says when she got there the store was badly in need of reorganizing.

Now have a line 20-30 deep of people waiting to shop when they open the doors each Thursday. Money they raise gets donated to about 14 different area programs, including a library, a wildlife preserve, several scholarships and a local nursery school. Last year they donated over $21,000 to area groups and hope to top that this year.

I love hearing all these stories of the lives that are impacted for the better by all the money made from secondhand goods. It's truly amazing.

Back in the car and bound for Scranton!

I have to say, the roads in Pennsylvania have been the most challenging to drive during this trip. Between all the mountain grades and a seemingly endless caravan of semis on the road, I don't think my knuckles have been any color but white since I crossed in from Ohio. Here's hoping the roads in upstate NY and New England provide a little relief! 

So I leave you tonight just outside Scranton, where I hope to find some awesome stuff tomorrow.  Perhaps a souvenir from the Schrute Beet Farm? A girl can hope.  

Goodnight, America!

 

Tuesday
Apr162013

Oh-me-oh-my-oh, I love to thrift Ohio! 

I have to say, Ohio-- you're pretty awesome.  I've seen lots of cool stuff there and met some really diverse people. 

First stop today was the Goodwill store in North Olmsted, where I met Lauren near the dressing rooms, sorting through some finds.  She runs a shop called Cattitude Vintage and she comes almost every day to find stuff for the store. Today she's found a cool western denim vest, some vintage men's tops, a handmade patchwork skirt and a cute polka dot dress. It's clear she has a whole process to this and she stays as long as necessary. After an initial run-through of the racks, she goes through her cart to further deduce the selections, checking for any alterations she can make herself to update each piece.  

"I do a little DIY," she said.  She has friends from New York that say they like the selection here much more, since it's less picked over, but she says stuff in Columbus is probably even better. "It seems to be untapped," she said.  

When people at her shop ask where she finds her selections, she has a very fitting response. "I like to say it finds me."

She disappears in a dressing room to try on a few things for herself and I take a look around.

Right of the bat I see some cute stuff myself, and before I know it I'm grabbing a cart to relieve my aching shoulders.

Oh no.

I've been pretty good this trip, only buying two skirts (they had pockets, so it's practically required that I buy them) when I was in the south and feeling like a sloth comparing myself against all those gorgeously dressed southern gals.

Then I see a Shake-Weight and it's all over. It's the Thighmaster of the 21st century. I've secretly wanted one for a long while, probably just for the coffee table conversation piece it will inevitably become. Or maybe it'll go in Ed's Saddest Man Cave. But hey-- I'm on a loooooong road trip here, and I could use some exercise- of any kind. Why not?

In it went.

Back in the car, I set my sights on a Cleveland eatery that will give me some road energy.  The first person to answer my Facebook call out for recs is Chris, whose tastebuds I know won't let me down.  I arrived at Melt ready for a meal-- but boy, did I get A MEAL! Today's specials are something called a Corny Beast and Fried Twinkies.

I'm in trouble- again.  

The coolest part is that their menus are glued to the backs of old record album covers-- I'm ordering today off of Barbara Streisand!

A thrifty restaurant! I can get behind that!

I decide on a Smokey Russian, but when it arrives I see there's clearly no way I can even get my face around that sandwich to even attempt to eat it. Not to mention the landfill-sized mound of fries and slaw on the side. They just don't serve stuff like this back home.

I could hardly make a dent in that plate of melted cheesy goodness, but it's probably for the best. If I had, I probably wouldn't be eating for the next of the week! 

Back in the car, I call a few spots in Euclid, none of whom answer the phone, but all of which should be open according to their voicemail messages.  

 

I decide to take a trip down to show my face, figuring they were probalby just away from the phone.

The GPS takes me through all kinds of areas of Cleveland-- Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, South Collinwood-- I get to Euclid feeling like I've seen about all the city has to show me. 

I'd hoped to check out This That & Other Things Thrift Store, but alas, they were actually closed.  I popped out to take a closer look at least and snap a few photos.

The "cold beer" sign in the window was interesting- and perhaps a reason they aren't open?

With time ticking away and Pittsburgh not getting any closer, I decide to hit the road.  I have to say, this trip I'm seeing a lot fewer Twilight t-shirts. And thank goodness! If I had a nickel for every one of those I saw on the last trip in 2011, I would've been changing my name to Trump long ago.

There are two questions I often get asked wherever I go, so I thought I'd answer them here for the curious.  

What do I look for? I usually look for people to talk to when I go into a store, and if I don't see anyone that seems affable to being talked to/photographed, I stick around and check out the t-shirts first. T-shirts are the best place to learn about a community because what we wear on our chests says a lot about a place. Also, knick-knacks are a good place, as well as wall art, dresses (I look for handmade stuff, which usually appears here) and finally toys and furniture. I try to talk to one or two people in each store before I leave and I usually spend 1-2 hours in each place.

Do I buy anything? I've been to a loooooot of thrift stores at this point, so it takes something pretty amazing for me to make a purchase these days. Unless it's a skirt with pockets, which are pretty much the best garment ever. 

That project is a crazy idea. Am I crazy? Yes. Yes I absolutely am. 

 

Tonight I'm just outside Pittsburgh with a few stores lined up to check out tomorrow, hopefully getting to Scranton tomorrow night, but I have a feeling that long drive might need to be broken up with an extra night. At close to 300 miles, I'm afriaid I'd arrive in Scranton a little too fried.

Check back tomorrow for some Keystone State thrifty goodness, but for now, check out Pittsburgh Dad

Until then, Keep Calm and Thrift On! 

 

 

 

 

Monday
Apr152013

Thrifting creates a sense of community and local pride in The Mitten! 

I don't think I've stayed nearly this close to a thrift store this whole trip-- literally woke up and drove about two blocks to my first stop, the Goodwill store in Canton, Michigan!  

There I met Mark, who told me about the unique connection between the Goodwill mission here and the automotive industry that is the heart of Detroit. Through the store's profits, they're able to employ people with disabilities who assemble automotive kits for Detroit's carmaking industry. 

Walking around with my camera and digging through the t-shirts, I hear "If I Had A Million Dollars" playing on the intercom-- man I love that song, and seems so apropos hearing it in a thrift store!

You don't have to browse long to notice this store is loaded with Detroit pride. From the framed Detroit Free Press Stanley Cup photos of the Red Wings hanging in back to the t-shirts that say "Outsource to Detroit" especially made for their stores by a local company to help generate funds for Goodwill (you can buy one online!), it's obvious that this area is proud of its local culture.

I ran into Rich, who is here looking for collectable records for himself and toys for his granddaughter.  He's a retired middle school teacher who worked in the Detroit School District for years. He likes to thrift in Connecticut too, when he's visiting his daughter, and says he definitely does notice a difference in selection between these two places. "They have more antiques," he said. 

I'll be there on this trip shortly-- I can't wait to check out Connecticut's thrift stores, too!

I also talk a little with Laura, who has swung by on her way home from the gym. She's found a few things for herself, and a few things for her nieces that still have tags on them. 

She also looks for stuff for her husband and two kids, including her son who is notoriously putting holes in his jeans.  "So I just come and replenish them," she said. Recently she found a brand new golf bag for her husband and a Vera Bradley pocketbook.  

Score! 

I decided to heed my friend Rob's Detroit-native advice and head to Slows for lunch for some local flavor. Whoa-- that is a place not to be missed, my friends. It's on the south side of downtown and was packed to the gills with customers. 

I highly recommend the BBQ Sockeye Salmon-- and their mac and cheese-- and their peach cobbler.  What can I say, lunch is my only real meal of the day recently, so I tried to soak up as much Detroit goodness as I could.

Next stop was The Little Thrift Shop at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Grosse Pointe Woods, which has been in operation for 55 years!

It started as a store in the church's organ loft, but is now found in a little corner of a side building. They're technically closed today, but the door was open and the flutter of laughter from the back of the store led me to a room full of church volunteers tagging fresh items and enjoying each other's company.

Marguerite and BarbaraThey're doing exactly what I would be doing-- sizing up the new stuff as they tag.  "We're our own best customers," they joke. 

It's there I meet Marguerite, a real cut-up, even at age 90, razzing the other ladies while she works. She says she used to date Tom Selleck's father. "His dad was better looking than him," she says, smiling. "No, he really was!"

She's been volunteering here ever since it opened-- and even appeared in a photo, posing with a dress, for the store opening that ran in the Detroit Free-Press 55 years ago.  

These ladies are here on their own time and they clearly love just spending this time together, regardless of what they're doing.

But they love that they're also here to make a difference. The money raised in the store is dispersed to a handful of charities, including a jail ministry, food bank and youth group.  

 

 

They joke as they sign their model releases that they weren't planning on being "models" today. "We didn't wear our jewels today, but we did wear our halos!" Marguerite joked.

A quick fill up at the gas station (Hello there, $15 worth of gas! I love you, Prius!) and it was back on the road and headed to Cleveland.

With the radio on and heading east again, I learned about the bombings in Boston-- such a sad incident. Seeing the actual video now in the hotel is surreal. It's amazing that even more people weren't injured. Thinking about Boston tonight, my visit there in a few weeks and hoping this is an isolated incident. 

Tomorrow-- Cleveland and a drive to Pittsburgh!