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Sunday
Apr142013

A long drive, a great brunch and a Sunday cultural surprise!

In honor of my entry into the Midwest, I decided to wear one of my favorite t-shirts today. MIDWEST!!

Sundays are notoriously bad days for thrifting on these trips-- many shops are closed, and even if they aren't, it's often hard to get proper permission to photograph in them.  Without any plans for the day, I'd already come to terms with the fact that it was probably going to be a day photographing the fronts of closed stores.  

Craving some actual food-- with you know, nutrients and stuff-- I called my local friend Brooke, who works at the local paper here.  She recommended we meet for a bite at a place called the Explorer's Club, a fitting place to eat given my gypsy-like existence these days.  

My hungry eyes were greeted with a specials board at the front door that featured spaghetti and meatball omlettes and raspberry mint pancakes. DANG! I knew Brooke wouldn't lead a hungry girl wrong!  

After filling our bellies and topping off with coffee, I climbed back into HaRVey2 and typed in my first thrift store of the day into the GPS.  Al-Jazeera Thrift Store was a name that had popped up on my Google search for Columbus thrift a few days ago, and I was curious to see what it was all about.  I figured it would be closed, but to my delight as I pulled up, the lights were on and the door was open! 

I went inside and met Abdisadiq, an American man of Somali ancestry who says he started this store with his wife Dega about two years ago. He says the store was her idea, but he says he runs the business side of things. The racks are lined with long skirts and full length dresses and the window display mannequin is dressed in layers of beautiful green floral and a head scarf.  Obviously this is a very unique place.  

He shows me just how unique as we look around the store. Hijabs, abayas, full length coats, sarees, african print dresses with gorgous embroidery and lots of scarves hang for sale alongside more everyday items like t-shirts, jeans and purses. 

After a minute or two a few customers come in and I meet Sandra and MaryAnn. MaryAnn says she is Christian, and she came in here a while ago with her daughter from New Jersey, who is Muslim.  She says since her daughter is so tall, she has a hard time finding dresses that are full-length for her, but she was able to find a whole pile of things that worked perfectly for her here.

MaryAnn has come back today looking for a dress. She needs something extra lovely for a Nigerian wedding she's attending next Saturday, and a black and gold dress has caught her eye. Apparently there are several outfit changes necessary for the ceremony, so she's glad to find something so affordable. 

Abdisadiq rings up her purchase with a smile and says he remembers her daughter's visit.  He says he's had people come into the shop from all over-- Atlanta, Virginia-- a store like this is a rare place. His wife Dega tells me on the phone that it's the only Islamic thrift store around. It's certainly the only one I've ever seen!

Abdisadiq and his wife keep this store open seven days a week in addition to him working a job at a nearby hotel as well. With MaryAnn as a great example, he says people of all faiths shop here, as modest dress is not limited to a single religion. He likes being able to serve a specific community's needs, a community that he says is quite sizable here. He proudly talks about how he's been able to give free items to people in need, and members of the refugee community.  

He is so warm and generous and I'm so grateful that his store was open today. I doubt I'll see a store like that again. As I take a few last photos, he begs me to take something and I try hard convince him I shouldn't, but he is insistent that I must-- out of respect.

How do you say no to that?

You don't. 

I find a long green floral skirt and he puts it in a bag for me on my way out.  I'll definitely think of this unique place and his generous spirit every time I wear it.

Next stop is Otterbein University, where the interwebs tell me there's a thrift store on campus. I know it's closed today, but I want to see it anyway. But just a few blocks past Al-Jazeera Thrift Store, I see Ohio Thrift Store, a local chain here, in a huge strip mall to my right.  I snap a few photos from the parking lot.

Otterbein Thrift Store is situated in an old house and is right across from campus, where students are enjoying the sunshine in the grass nearby. I pull up to make a few quick photos of the store. And it occurs to me-- why dont' more colleges and universities have thrift stores on campus like this? I mean, really!  I can remember moving in and out of the dorms and seeing the piles and piles of hardly used furniture and stuff just piled by dumpsters that was clearly still in fine condition. 

Way to go, Otterbein! Plus, the money they raise goes towards scholarships!

WIN-WIN! 

The rest of the day was just spent driving north, entering Michigan and doing laundry-- finally. And me being the smart girl that I am, I put all my quarters into the dryer that was-- you guessed it-- out of order.  Awesome.

Tomorrow-- Goodwill in Canton, and hopefully a thift store I'm wanting to visit in Berkley. 

Happy Sunday, folks!  And goodnight!

 

Saturday
Apr132013

West Virginia- Wild, Thrifty, and Wonderful! 

Man, Charleston is so pretty. Of course I'm partial to river cities, but this one really embraces it's riverfront location. As I drove toward my first stop of the day, I followed the walking path along the river that also features an outdoor performance venue right down on the water.

I also see a few happy boaters who seem to be racing alongside me to get there first. There's gorgeous houses up on the mountaintops that overlook the downtown and several staircases from the sidewalk that take pedestrians down from the city streets to the rolling Kanawha.  

I arrived at Goodwill and immediately met Kathy, who has been so sweet this whole trip reaching out through email and text to see if I need anything in preparation for my visit.

She's assembled an awesome welcome sign in the front window of their warehouse that faces the street and hands me a cute pink Goodwill totebag-- it'll come in very handy for my growing mound of laundry in the car! Inside the store I met Mickey who is doing a little browsing to pass the time while waiting to pick her friend up from Kroger.  

She's shopped at thrift stores for years and having worked at the local mall, she knows how much this stuff would be new. She also appreciates that it's keeping things out of landfills. "So many things get thrown out that don't need to be," she said.  

She likes looking for items for her three daughters, six grandkids and 2 great-grandkids as she shops, and especially things that she can get to upgrade her own home. She says she found a dishware set here that she's particularly fond of. 

Kathy takes me on a little tour of their processing facility here, including where the online store, ShopGoodwill, is housed. Coordinator Dustin shows me their room full of special items.  It's a whole operation here where extra special donations get a little more money by being sold online and shipped.

All of the processing and offices are housed in a gorgeous old building that was originally the Charleston trolley barn, and you can still see the rails that run the length of each of the trolley bays. 

I love it when cool buildings like this get a cool repurposing. And my bus mechanic father would've gotten a real kick out of this place. They even have a few photos to show me of the original trolley barn, which was also later used as a bus depot. 

In the donation drive-thru, I meet Jessie, a mother of three boys who had a bag of items in the car to donate on her way home from a baseball game. She pops inside to fill out a donation form.

"I'm always through here," she says.  "You should see my tax return!" She keeps an itemized list at home of all the stuff she brings in so that she can write it off.

Smart cookie! 

I head out and try to find a good lunch spot. The popular spot in town, the Vandalia Grill, was unfortunately closed.  I settled for a quick bite at First Watch and caught up on some news.  

I also use this time to plan out my next few stops and look at the map to check out my drive ahead.  

Somehow some Christmas songs have wrangled their way onto my iPod and I'm starting to regret having purchased the Colbert holiday album altogether.  

With Stephen and the gang serenading me once again, I roll my eyes and point HaRVey2 south toward Union Mission Thrift. 

To get there, I have to drive through a tunnel under a railroad track that's only one lane wide-- and barely even that wide-- forcing us to take turns going through it from either side.  When it's my turn, I suck it in and hope that I don't scratch up the sides of the Pruis in the narrow passageway.

Luckily I made it through without losing my rental car deposit, LIKE A BOSS! If I'd been in an RV like the last trip, this thrift store visit couldn't have even happened.  

At the store I meet Frank, who has been making the thrift store rounds today looking for a stove to replace his son's that broke. He didn't find a stove, but he did find some VHS tapes that he liked.  

There's lots of household goods to check out on the first floor, and near the back, my eyes nearly pop out of my head. Near the back wall for sale is a small wooden storage shed shaped like an outhouse, complete with tin roof. Curious, I open the door and see a sign inside that says in all caps, "DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!" 

You've got to love a thrift store with a good sense of humor! I had a good laugh and headed upstairs to check out the clothing upstairs.  They had a HUGE selection of stuff and a handful of customers browsing the aisles. 

I really loved my visit here and the people I met, but I had to hit the road again and get to Columbus for the night.  

My route through West Virginia plopped me out into Ohio right through Athens, where I remembered my friends Amanda and Shealah were going to be attending Amanda's Legal Stranger debut at the Athens International Film Festival!

We were able to meet up for a quick cup of tea and a hug-- it's been a long and crazy week and I was glad to see a famililar face, if only for a few minutes.  It really made my day guys!  

I got back in the car for the last leg of the day's drive to Columbus, which takes me down some two lane highways.

I've seen deer along the sides of the interstates the last few days near dusk and I keep seeing houses with those decorative fake lawn deer out front-- making me panic that I'm about to kill Bambi at every turn. 

Why do people put these out!? They're not cute-- they're freaky! And like Kristin says, "They're the rural equivalent of speed bumps." They certainly made me slow down and take note. I hope I didn't just jinx myself there.  I'd like to keep this white rental car as Bambi-free as possible.  

While I was chatting with Amanda and Shea, I realized I haven't really mentioned on here how my days are structured, so I thought I'd share.  

Basically I wake up, hit a thrift store in the late morning-- go in, look at stuff, take photos, talk to some folks-- then head to lunch. Lunch is spent half eating, half returning calls/emails/texts with contacts ahead of me on the map to arrange visits and coordinate times. Then I find a second store to visit, (repeat process above), get in the car again and drive to my next town. Once I get close to the town, I try to find a hotel I can afford that doesn't look too stabby/murder-y (hi, Grandma!) that hopefully has free wifi and drag all my stuff inside.

Tonight's room has the added bonus of a curioulsy strong smell of cigarettes despite its non-smoking status. I hope they don't charge extra for that.

Then my evenings are spent downloading photos, recording my expenses in spreadsheets, organizing all my signed releases, updating my social media outlets with updates, emailing contacts to arrange visits (again), writing a blog post like this one, doing my taxes (at least last night I did), calling the other half and asking about the dog, and eventually I sleep. 

Then I get up and do it again the next morning. 

For three weeks.

A vacation this is not-- but it sure is a lot of fun!

Miles driven so far-- 1574. Miles to go...... a lot.

Talk at you tomorrow!

 

Friday
Apr122013

A day spent at 70mph-- and a brief moment of sitting still.

Today was a driving day-- but it was such a pretty drive from South Carolina to West Virginia that I didn't really mind. And I finally wised up and skipped the soda. 

I also realized the car's GPS was defaulted to avoid toll roads, which explains why it was telling me it was going to take 8 hours to drive to Charleston!  I didn't realize it until I got to the West Virginia toll road, when the GPS kept barking for me to turn off onto these little roads.  When I went in and set it to allow for toll roads, my arrival time moved up a full 90 minutes!  Totally worth the $6 in tolls not to have to drive two-lane roads all the way through the mountains of West Virginia!

Money well spent.

I got into Charleston around 6 and got a room.  With a little bit of sunlight left I decided to stretch these road-lazy legs and see a little of town. I walked down to the Kanawha River and sat down to do some much river-lookin'.  A little sun on my face, a little quiet, a little bit of time spent siting still. It was so nice. 

This whole trip is intended to see America through all it's donated goods, but every now and then it's nice to have a little bit of time to see and experience the towns themselves. It was a nice change of pace.

Tomorrow-- thrfting in Charleston and on the road to Columbus!

 

Thursday
Apr112013

Savannah, where thrifting is arty and historic!

I'm so glad I wore my best thrifted skirt today-- the one with pockets that I got from the Charlotte Goodwill a few days back--since my first visit included an interview!

I got an early start from the hotel and wandered around the cute Savannah downtown a little before my first stop at the Broughton Street Goodwill.  I've always heard how gorgeous Savannah is, and seeing it for myself for the first time, it's easy to see why the streets are tree lined streets and squares are teeming with tourists. It's like walking around in a movie set. 

Once I get to the store, I head straight for my first and favorite section-- the t-shirts. T-shirts say so much about a place-- the religion, the politics, the recreational activities.  What people wear on their chests says a lot about a region. And right on the end I see a nice big peanut t-shirt.  

I want so badly to like boiled peanuts, they're everywhere around here-- even the t-shirt racks.  But this is definitely something you'd only find in the south.  Also, barbecue t-shirts.  

 

 

I run into Jeannine, Sylvia and Katie, all SCAD animation students who are bouncing through the aisles looking for costumes for their school's field day tomorrow. They probably have the strangest thrift mission I've heard so far-- they're trying to dress up like their two favorite professors, who they describe as a cowboy and hippie. They must have some pretty fun professors! They need a cowboy hat, boots, a bolo tie, a big belt buckle (they emphasize that it has to be a really big one) and a Hawaiian shirt for the hippie.

They've come to the right place.

I also chat with one woman who is a regular here and runs an online business to sell her finds.  This is so much more common than I ever knew-- people re-selling thrift store finds.  These people are hard core! Forget secondhand-- some stuff is just so good it has to be third, fourth or fifth hand!

I get some lunch recommendations from the staff, who mention the Paula Deen restaurant around the corner. Why not? I'm in Savannah, when else can I pay to eat fried butter?

But driving past a few minutes later and seeing a huge line, I suddenly remember that I hate lines and fried butter. So I settled for a cute cafe where I could sit and enjoy a sandwich with a view and treat myself to a mini whoopie pie.

A raspberry one.

It was heaven.

Lunches are just about the only time in my day that I'm not driving, thrifting, taking photos, returning calls, blogging, webmastering or downloading.  It's one hour that I can sit and be quiet with myself and take in the town that I'm in, even if briefly.

This trip is pretty much a full-time job with lots of overtime, so I try to take time and enjoy a decent quiet meal each day.  I savor it. And I try to make it as much of a local experience as I can.

After lunch I headed to Blessingdales Thrift Store, which has several locations in Savannah. It benefits a non-profit called The Living Vine, which runs a residential maternity home for women in crisis.  This store is downtown and located in a historic building!

I've never been to a historic thrift store before!

The structure was originally built in 1899 as the site of the first African American kindergarten in the state of Georgia.

Unfortunately the building is being sold so the store is in the process of selling off it's contents in preparation to move out. 

I met Emily and Amy who were busy processing donations behind the counter.  The front room is big and bright the way old schoolhouses always are, with a fireplace in the middle. there's also a series of rooms built onto the back that house additional wares for sale.  

 

The phone rings and the two of them take turns chatting with a former resident of the maternity home to catch up on how she and her baby are doing. I can't help but smile-- I love that there's such a direct connection here between the people they're helping and the store that supports them.  

I hate to leave, but as several locals here were nice enough to warn me-- the meter maids are sticklers. So I headed back to HaRVey2 and set my sights back towards the north. 

Now I'm officially Northbound!  

I'm overnighting tonight in Columbia, South Carolina with a loooooong day of driving tomorrow to Charleston, West Virginia. 

You can be I'll be listening to copious amounts of John Denver in the car tomorrow!

Almost heaven!

 

Wednesday
Apr102013

Charleston-- a town of THRIFTY COUPLES! 

Last night I got a call from my bank's fraud department. They wanted to know what crazy person got a hold of my debit card. Apparently dropping out of your life for a few weeks to spend money on nothing but gas, hotel rooms, Starbucks, and thrift store purchases raises some red flags.

Who knew? Obviously they've never met me or that wouldn't even make them flinch.

I started the day a little later than normal-- this stupid ear infection is getting super annoying. I feel like half of my head us underwater, which messes with my balance and makes for some very interesting looking sideways-walking. I shake my head as much as I can on one side to make my ear pop, but all it does is mess up my hair and make the other hotel guests give me strange looks.

I feel just like this lady-- I can't be sick, I got thriftin' to do. Ain't nobody got time for that! 

Being in the South now, I decided it was high time to dress like it, so I put on a pretty dress to try and blend in.  

But these Southern ladies cannot be fooled by me or my amateurish attmepts at cuteness-- they know I'm no belle. Are all women here stylish dressers or am I imagining this? As much as I love Charleson, I'm lucky I don't live there because the pressure to look nice enough each day I stepped out of the house would just be too much. 

My day kicked off with a drive down to the Goodwill on James Island, where I had to circle the parking lot at least four times to find a parking spot. Not even joking there-- this place was packed.  

And what awesomeness was there to greet me? A cool banner out front!  Awwww! So warm and fuzzy! After three days of oncoming headlights and late-night check-in hotels, little things like this keep me going. Thanks so much you guys!

Once inside, I went straight for the red t-shirts, since I'm still on a mad and determined quest to find a Cheerwine t-shirt. Sadly, none. But it didn't take long before I met some interesting folks to stop and chat with.  

I met Rev. Parris, who comes every day looking for houshold items for his parishoners. Today he found an orange jumpsuit for himself to wear when he's out mowing his four acres. 

I also met Cleary, who comes every day as well and was sporting a rather dapper outfit, complete with hat. He shops for everyone in his family when he comes in. Today he found a purse for his daughter. 

And then the store tells me that I have a fan in the store-- Lindsey and her fiance Lorne read my blog and wanted to meet me! She's already got a cart full of goodies, including a gray dress for one of the bridesmaids at their upcoming wedding on May 4! Not only is this gal thrift-smart, she's clothes-swap savvy.  She's started a group in Charleston about two years ago called ReTrend to get people in the community together to swap threads! And we're not talking a house full of chicks looking at purses-- she says she has around 80-100 people show up to swap-- occasionally at a bar-- which requires her to talk her friends into volunteering!  She must have some great friends because that sounds like some serious stuff. Who wouldn't like a new skirt and a beer? If you're in Charleston, you should totally check out her group. Espceially because from the looks of her cart, she finds some seriously cute stuff here!  

She and Lorne even find a piece of furnture to fix up and use as a bar at their upcoming wedding next month!  

How adorable are these two? And how cute is it that her fiance said these exact words-- "A couple that thrifts together, stays together!"

I couldn't agree more, you two! 

After I left Goodwill, I couldn't help but crave a little sunshine and a lunch outside along the water in downtown Charleston, hoping a little vitmain D and fresh air might help kick this stupid ear crud.  I quickly realized you don't have to spend more than two minutes here to want to move to this town. I was able to find a nice sunny spot on a bench along the water to sit and return calls and emails and plot my next shops of the trip. Which definitley beats where I have been doing it from-- behind the wheel on the side of the road. 

On a whim, I called Children's Cancer Society Thrift Store.  I swung by and met Napoleon and Latrell, who were on a roadtrip of their own from Savannah. They'd decided to check out the thrift store on their way to the beach today, and it didn't take long for Latrell to find a sweater she liked.  Napoleon just smiled. He says Latrell never used to step foot in a thrift store, but ever since she saw all the good stuff he was bringing home, she decided to give it a shot too.

They're too cute, too-- it's so cool to meet two thrifting fun couples in the same day in the same city.  

I stopped and filled up (all $13 worth-- I love this Prius!) and grabbed a Cheerwine. I'm not even a soda drinker, but something about being here made me crave one.  I hopped in the car and, feeling the southern slow vibe, decided to take the backroads to Savannah. I needed a change of scenery from the highways.

What I didn't think about was that backroads also mean fewer potties. One thing about the RV-- it chugged gas like a frat boy, but I had a pottie with me at all times.  I sort of miss that this trip.

I kept thinking there would be a place around each corner, but there wasn't much.  This trip has already made me a bit of a gas station bathroom conneseur, not that I want to be one.  I can tell which ones are going to be cringeworthy and which ones will be decent, but I was seeing a whole lot of nothin' out on these roads.  Finally I saw one, only to go in with my eyes watering and see an "out of order" sign on the door.  I ran back to the car, cursing myself for not bringing my Go-Girl. My dad would be disappointed in my lack of preparedness. 

Finally I found a gas station with a decent potty and I was so overjoyed that I bought a Krispy Kreme to celebrate. Ahhh, Cheerwine and Krispy Kreme-- it's the southern dinner of champions.

So tonight I'm staying in Savannah, where I will be visiting a few stores tomorrow morning, before driving back toward Columbia, SC and on into West Virginia.