One With the Junk: On the Scene at "The World's Longest Yard Sale"

Stephen Digges, Getty Images
Stephen Digges, Getty Images

The World's Longest Yard Sale is 690 miles long. When we sent our reporter to western Ohio to drive 130 miles of it, he found more than he bargained for.

I am one with the junk.

I have beheld a toilet seat bedazzled in plastic rhinestones and a bobblehead of Gandhi. I have seen hammer pants and pants covered with pictures of hammers. I have witnessed a statue of McDonaldland’s Grimace sell to the highest bidder. I have seen more posters of Burt Reynolds naked than I care to admit.

For the first time in my life, I muttered, “I’ve seen it all” and actually meant it.

People here speak in hushed pseudo-religious tones. Like Zen Buddhists experiencing ego-death or Taoists whose selves have melted along The Way, the folks around me whisper about how this place makes you "lose yourself." They’ve lost track of the miles they’ve driven, the stops they’ve made, the minutes they’ve spent sorting through boxes of God-knows-what. This is their Straight Path: U.S. Route 127.


Lucas Reilly

For four days every August, U.S. Route 127—a sleepy highway that needles four states, linking Michigan and Tennessee—transforms into the World’s Longest Yard Sale, what is arguably the planet’s greatest gathering of antiques, knickknacks, baubles, tchotchkes, bagatelles, trinkets, bric-a-brac, curios, gadgets, rummage, and every other polite synonym your nearest thesaurus can conjure for stuff.

The yard sale is long. So long, actually, that it extends past U.S. Route 127's southern terminus in Chattanooga and steams onto the Lookout Mountain Parkway and into Georgia and Alabama. In total, it stretches 690 miles.

In August 2017, on the sale’s third day, I visited the W.L.Y.S. with the vague hope that it might teach me something about America's relationship with stuff. After all, it’s from the disposed goods of bygone civilizations that archaeologists have learned about past cultures—and the W.L.Y.S. is, in a way, a thoroughly modern midden.

Could it say anything about who we are? I drove 130 miles of the sale's Ohio leg to find out.

 
 

Cornfields sweep endlessly across this slab of Ohio. The stalks bend in a motion that resembles ripples skiing across a pond, revealing the shape of the wind. Barns dappled in peeling paint and shining metal silos punctuate the horizon. Along the road, plastic folding tables sit shaded under canopy tents.

The W.L.Y.S. (formally called the 127 Corridor Sale) began as an attempt to lure drivers off the interstates and into this countryside, onto what travel writer William Least Heat-Moon called “blue highways,” the lacework of backroads crisscrossing the country's open spaces. Along this slice of U.S. 127, there’s a buffet of quirky cultural artifacts within reach: the Dum Dum Lollipops factory, the site of Annie Oakley's childhood home and her grave, a miniature Arc de Triomphe, a kitchen mixer factory that offers tours, one of the world’s finest mineral collections, a monument to the Hollow Earth movement, a Catholic shrine holding the relics of hundreds of saints, and the old Etch-a-Sketch factory.

But today, the only attractions are the bargains. Three miles south of Van Wert, Ohio, I stop at a bustling ranch house where faded road signs scarred with bullet holes and unopened glass Coca-Cola bottles predating the Truman administration are scattered on an emerald lawn. I approach two of the proprietors, a pair of button-downed fellas with their thumbs glued to the insides of their jean pockets. They proudly tell me that they've sold 60 percent of their stuff.

“The hard core people, they’re here before the third day of the sale. They want to have a pick of it,” the older man tells me. Behind him, car horns scream as a tractor-trailer jake brakes. He calmly nods to the road. “Yesterday’s traffic was real heavy. You’d have trouble making a left hand turn out of the driveway. Today is slower. You get more lookers.”

Saturday morning—what I mistook as the Holy Day of Haggling—is for amateurs.

Thankfully, I’m not here to add to my junk drawer. I'm here to test a theory. In the Houston Chronicle, Craig Hlavaty writes that “[Yard sales] offer a voyeuristic glimpse into other people’s lives. You can see their failed hobbies (lot of ex-bowlers in Houston), the fashion they discarded along the way (acid-washed overalls are coming back!), and even the trajectory of their children’s development. The first bicycles, the soccer pads, the stinky high school band uniform. You can track an entire life. Call it slacker anthropology.”

But it’s not slacker anthropology—it’s real anthropology. Before and after the sale, I consulted Gretchen Herrmann, one of the world's few yard sale anthropologists. Herrmann has attended thousands of sales and has published articles on everything from the peculiarities of American bargaining tactics to a typology describing the potpourri of people who attend sales (an academic ancestor to what could be a good internet listicle: “The 18 People You Will Always Meet at Yard Sales”).

yard sale map
The route of the Corridor 127 Sale, also known as "The World's Longest Yard Sale."
Lucy Quintanilla // Mental Floss

But I’m most interested in research Herrmann presented in a 2011 issue of the journal Ethnology, where she argues that yard sales can function as a “secular rite of passage for Americans," which signal “a major shift in life orientation.” Like a wedding, graduation, or retirement party, a yard sale can help usher the end of one identity and the start of another.

The stuff you own is valuable to your identity. A diehard bowler’s game revolves around the personalized ball fitted to his or her hand. A gearhead can talk about the guts of their car engine in professorial detail. Our bromides about materialism—Do not let things define you! Treasure your relationships, not your possessions! You are what you do, not what you own!—neglect the truth that your possessions are essential to making your identity possible: Stuff says something about who you are and who you’re trying to become.

And Herrmann argues that the stuff you’re trying to discard says something too.

Yard sales, Herrmann writes, provide “a unique glimpse into the minor, but often transformative, life changes that punctuate our daily existence.” A yard sale is a tacit acknowledgment of changing times, changing identities. When you see a family selling a crib, bibs, and tiny shoes out of their garage on a Saturday morning, the subtext is clear: We are done having children! (When you see that same family buying a crib, bibs, and tiny shoes two years later, they’re announcing another personal transformation: Whoops, never mind!)

When life changes, so, too, does a person’s stuff: when the kids have grown out of their baby clothes, or when a child moves out of the house, or when your ex moves to the opposite coast, or when a loved one moves into a nursing home or dies. Look at downsizing sales: A couple moving in together may sell stuff to make room for their blended household. Decades later, when the stairs to the second floor become more intimidating, that same couple may hold another sale before they move to a smaller space.

Yard sales are unique because the general public is invited onto private property not only to witness these changes, but to take part in them. Many times, the most mundane belongings come attached with some type of story or sentiment. I dare you to visit Bed Bath & Beyond and find a sales associate who, with misty eyes, will stare longingly at a pair of oven mitts and tell a customer—with no regard for irony—that they deserve to be left in “good hands.”

That’s what I expect to find here.

 
 

When I ask the two salesmen in Van Wert if they are sad to sell anything, they look at me as if I had kindly requested they pull my finger.

“It’s for sale, isn’t it?” the older man says.

I realize most of the stuff isn't theirs. They go to auctions, buy whatever looks promising, and liquidate at the W.L.Y.S. I move on.

Two miles later, I stop at a sale littered with handmade jewelry, jars of marbles, and belt buckles shaped like cornhusks. If you can dream it, there’s a salt and pepper shaker here that resembles it. (Hand grenades? You bet. Nudist gnomes? A requirement. Turtles engaging in the unspeakable? Pass the salt, please!) Wedged between a rusty RV and rack of marionettes, an oil-stained gentleman inspects the sights of a hot pink .22 caliber rifle, aiming to the clouds.


iStock

Multiple vendors are here. Next to a beige 1971 camper stuffed with Jenga-like stacks of cardboard boxes, one of them—an older woman named Deb—holds court from a webbed lawn chair. She wears a wide-brimmed black sunhat and has an ear-to-ear smile. When I ask about her stuff, she shrugs. “We get all this at auctions. It’s to supplement a low income of social security.”

A young girl clutching a necklace of brown beads waddles toward Deb. Her father, a wiry man with a patchy pencil moustache and a baggy sleeveless t-shirt, leans and whispers, “Could you lower this down to $2?”

The price had been $3. Deb nods.

“We go to auctions and will buy a whole tableful for a dollar," Deb continues. "We throw some of it in the trash can before we leave, keep what we want, and then we sell the rest.” Last year, she made nearly $1500 at the W.L.Y.S.

Further down U.S. 127, the main street of Celina, Ohio, resembles a fairground. In front of a stately Victorian home, four middle-aged women and an older man bask under a shade tree, selling what's billed as “antiques.” My eye wanders to a black-and-white photo of Andy Griffith lookalikes dressed in drag.

This and everything else came from auctions.

I'm disappointed. One woman is kind enough to throw me a bone. “Sometimes you run into that, where someone died and they’re getting rid of their stuff,” she says. “But we got this stuff to get rid of it.” She nods sideways in the direction of the older man, who appears conked out in a lawn chair, his eyes masked by sunglasses. “We still have grandpa, so we don’t have anything to get rid of yet.”

“Hear that, grandpa?” she yells his way. “You’re not for sale.”

Grandpa, motionless, says nothing.

 
 

America loves big things like the W.L.Y.S. Just ask Teddy Roosevelt. In 1886, Roosevelt scanned a crowd in the Dakota Territory and bellowed, “Like all Americans, I like big things: big prairies, big forests and mountains, big wheat fields, railroads and herds of cattle too; big factories, steamboats and everything else.” Size, Roosevelt realized, resonated uniquely in America.

Americans today live in some of the world’s biggest homes, drive some of the world’s biggest vehicles, and eat some of the world’s biggest meals. And it's growing. American vehicles are 800 pounds heavier than they were in the 1980s. The televisions sold at hangar-like superstores would fail to fit inside most European cars. Homes in the United States are 1000 square feet larger today than they were in 1973. Our reputation for size is internationally recognized: In Israel, the largest burger in McDonald’s restaurants is called “The Mega Big America.”

Amid a collection of military canteens and clocks crafted from frying pans, a professional picker would revel in the yard sale’s size. “Right now, this road’s probably got 100 times the traffic on it than it usually has,” he says. (A hot tip for introverts: If you’re anxious about chatting with strangers at the W.L.Y.S., just bring up the traffic.) In his 40 years of picking, he’s seen nothing like this. “It’s just so darn BIG!”

To learn why bigness is so appealing, I spoke with Michael T. Clarke, an associate professor of English at the University of Calgary. Few people have thought about America’s admiration of size as much as Clarke, whose book on the topic, These Days of Large Things: The Culture of Size in America, attempts to pinpoint the origins of the obsession.

Clarke suggests the success of the W.L.Y.S roots back to a substantial attitude-shift that occurred during the late 19th century. Before the 1860s, Americans were relatively ambivalent about size. Approximately 80 percent of Americans lived in small villages, and they viewed America not as a single, giant, unified nation but as a hodgepodge of small, disjointed places. The United States was a “society of island communities,” writes historian Robert H. Wiebe. You see this attitude reflected in the newspapers and political speeches of the time, which commonly referred to the country as plural—these United States—instead of as a single large entity: the United States.

Those attitudes changed during a rapid technological boom between the 1870s and 1930s that saw train and telegraph lines connect the country. With mass communication came mass distribution, and with mass distribution came mass culture. America’s first chain stores, magazine ads, and national catalogues appeared. By the turn of the century, more Americans viewed themselves not as members of cloistered communities but as part of something bigger, a change that, according to Clarke, had a subtle yet profound effect on people’s expressions of patriotism. “The geography of a country influences the ways people think about national identity,” Clarke told me. “If you live in a very large country, elements like size will get celebrated in one way or another.”

The swelling American city was also a major influence. Millions of immigrants poured in. Technological improvements in farming machinery pushed millions of rural people out of agricultural communities and into urban areas. In 1870, only 14 cities had a population exceeding 100,000. By 1920, that list grew to more than 80 cities. As more Americans gravitated to dense urban cores, they also gravitated toward a consensus that big places were the best places to live.

Cities accommodated this growth by building bigger government buildings: bigger libraries, bigger courthouses, and bigger transit terminals. When the skyscraper made its debut, it was lauded as distinctly American; the architect William A. Starrett boasted that, “We Americans always like to think of things in terms of bigness; there is a romantic appeal in it, and into our national pride has somehow been woven the yardstick of bigness.”

In the span of just a few decades, “The cities in which [Americans] resided, the buildings they occupied, the vehicles in which they traveled, the stores in which they shopped, the businesses in which they worked, the machines that helped them complete their work, and the places they ventured for entertainment” had grown to sizes once unthinkable—a transformation that subtly altered how Americans saw their place in the world, writes Clarke. “Failing to explain their suddenly transformed world by any familiar values, people seized upon size and amount as a criterion of value.”

This shift is mirrored in the words of the era's newspapers and newsmakers. In 1909, The New York Times said, “Bigness in American industry and commerce is coming to be popularly associated with honest American progress.” Louis Brandeis, later a Supreme Court Justice, complained that, “Anything big, simply because it was big, seemed to be good and great.”

The “bigger is better” shtick has been an American siren song since. Want evidence? Get in the car. The American roadside hosts the world’s largest can of spinach, fork, purple spoon, Jolly Green Giant, blue ox, blue crayon, paint can, ham, hamster wheel, cuckoo clock, mailbox, brick, fire hydrant, chocolate waterfall, hairball, popcorn ball, crystal ball, Lucille Ball, Santa Claus, cantaloupe, stethoscope, and jackalope. The country is home to at least 35 exceptionally oversized chairs.


Along the route, you can visit the world's largest handmade bass. (His name is Big Bob.)
Lucas Reilly

Nearly all of these attractions—where size and kitsch meld—are located in the countryside. And that's no accident, Clarke tells me. “Small towns are uniting to create a big event that will attract people from big towns back to the small towns. It uses the gimmick of bigness to try to preserve smallness.”

This scheme works brilliantly for the W.L.Y.S. No giant PR firm coordinates the event. It’s more or less independently executed by a necklace of small towns across six states. (It’s always held in early August to avoid traffic incidents with school buses.) In Fentress County, Tennessee—the sale's headquarters—the W.L.Y.S contributes “a great deal” of the county’s annual 12 million tourism dollars. In Ohio, the state Chamber of Commerce estimates that the typical W.L.Y.S. visitor pumps $150 into the local economy.

Nobody knows how many people visit the W.L.Y.S., but estimates suggest it draws enough people to pack a college football stadium or three. Hotels are booked weeks in advance. It’s not crazy to suggest that tens of millions of dollars change hands on this 690-mile ribbon of highway every August.

 
 

Gretchen Herrmann warned me about the dealers. Most genuine yard sales, she explained, are more spontaneous; planned events—especially one of this size—are easily commercialized and overtaken by vendors, antique dealers, and auction-going hobbyists. There's nothing wrong with this, it's just that the W.L.Y.S. might be more accurately billed as "The World's Longest Flea Market."

Over the first 40 miles, I chatted with more than two dozen salespeople, and none of them had stories or memories about their stuff. Even the most universal clichés crumble here: One person's trash is another person's treasure? Nah. It was never that person's trash to begin with.

The "treasure" bit is dubious, too. I’ve seen a lamp made out of ram’s feet, a used CPAP machine, chinaware emblazoned with Lyndon B. Johnson's face, the cracked shell of a gutted pipe organ, a novel that reimagines the results of the Civil War, a toy figurine of retired football quarterback Mark Brunell, broken fire hydrants, splintered bowling pins, tie-dye Bowie knives, cracked hubcaps, a cymbal-banging monkey (sans cymbals), Heineken-themed clogs, a Clint Eastwood puzzle missing half its pieces, an oversized poster of babies in bunny costumes, and the faded headshot of an unknown actor with the message scribbled “LONG LIVE THE BUBBLE ROOM.”

At mile 90, in North Star, Ohio, a table displays four gas weed-whackers and half a coconut shell. I swear this is the setup for a Zen koan.

In the town of Seven Mile, I purchase a yellowed newspaper, dated 1930, with the headline “HOOVER PLACES AN EMBARGO UPON PARROTS.” There is no good justification for buying this, but it cost one dollar, and when I ask the salesperson—a participant for the last decade—where he got it, he tilts back in his plastic chair and shrugs: “I don’t know. You just keep accumulating more!”

(As good an answer as any to that koan.)

In Eaton, Ohio, four campers, a school bus, and a gaggle of minivans park on the crumbling asphalt lot of an abandoned Big K-Mart. People sell stuff out of tubs or their trunks; one table is propped on cinder blocks. There are rusted wagons, an eyeless doll, and a faded bumblebee costume. One vendor hawks a hand-drawn sign with time-tested advice: “Pee not into the wind.”

And then I go junk blind.

I gaze over a campground of stuff and my mind goes blank. My brain activity resembles television static. Everything looks the same. I walk past the same table three times before I notice that somebody is trying to sell me melted candles.

Stumbling through the mindfog, I remember a quote from Robin Nagle, an anthropologist of trash, who told The Believer magazine that, “Every single thing you see is future trash.” I realize that nearly every object here will someday be compacted into the lasagna-like layers of a landfill.

Usually we can ignore this inconvenient truth because our system of trash disposal is so good at making junk disappear. But the W.L.Y.S. is a remedy to that cultural amnesia: You come face-to-face with 690 miles of stuff that could have been nonchalantly tossed into the garbage. You have no choice but to look.


iStock

It can be numbing. It can be disorienting. And it can make you feel hopeful.

The United States is among the most wasteful countries on the planet, explains Joshua Reno, an anthropologist specializing in waste. Every year, hundreds of millions of objects that still have potential for future use are mindlessly thrown away. “It’s not as if people throw things away because they are convinced that nobody could ever do anything with it,” Reno says. “It’s because throwing it away is all they know what to do with it.” Our mainstream system of waste disposal prioritizes personal expedience over the potential value of an object.

But what if we made alternative disposal methods—thrift shops, donation centers, “remakery” factories, Craigslist ads, recycling, and even gratuitously-long yard sales—just as common, convenient, and instinctual as tapping your toe on the pedal of a kitchen trash can? Would these systems, which do value the potential future of objects, help us become less wasteful?

The people at the W.L.Y.S believe so. Many of them have embraced this and other giant yard sales in the country: The US 11 Antique Alley and Yard Sale, which threads five states and stretches 502 miles through the back roads of Appalachia; the 400 Mile Sale along the Kentucky Scenic Byway; the twice-annual 392-mile-long Historic Highway 80 Garage Sale between Texas and Georgia; and the National Road Yard Sale on U.S. Route 40 between Baltimore and St. Louis, which spans 824 miles—134 miles longer than the "world's longest."

Herrmann estimates that these sales—combined with the hundreds of thousands of other small garage, yard, tag, barn, and rummage sales in the United States—contribute to roughly $3 billion in untaxed revenue every year. Think of it as $3 billion saved, if only temporarily, from the landfill.

 
 

The size of the W.L.Y.S. has turned the event into a veritable Hajj. Deal-hungry pilgrims travel across the country to be here: Long Island and Cape Cod, Dallas and El Paso, the Bahamas and Alaska. Some folks from the west coast reportedly fly to the W.L.Y.S., pick up rental cars, and drive all 690 miles. After reaching the finish line, they motor back toward the Pacific with their rental stuffed.

But after dozens of stops, I resign myself to failure. I have no stories about the life passages that brought those belongings into the public's gaze. It's bad enough that I am a fake anthropologist, but try being a terrible fake anthropologist.

Then I pass a solitary roadside sign with DOWNSIZING scribbled in thin sharpie. Still dazed, I travel a mile before what I saw registers.

Most of the placards along U.S. 127 make grandiose attempts to tug you off the road: Giant garage sale, next right! HUGE sale ahead! BIG ASS BARN SALE, one mile! (My favorite is fluorescent orange and painfully honest: Lots of Stuff That Ain’t Worth Fixin'.) These appeals to size work. All day I had stopped at these, believing that bigger places with bigger crowds would boost my chances of hearing something juicy. Instead, most led me to people who had no personal ties to the stuff they were selling.

It dawns on me that the unassuming sale in my rearview mirror might be different. I cut the wheel.

A woman named Cindy greets me. She holds a puppy, a mix between a Golden Retriever and what appears to be Snuggle Bear. There are board games, boxes of books, and a small gourd painted to depict a wintry scene. Cindy explains that her grandfather had died and that the family is moving her grandmother into a smaller house. The grandkids are helping make the move manageable with the sale. “She made square dancing dresses,” Cindy says, pulling a dress from a rack. It’s beautiful.

I never dreamed of having an epiphany on a gravel driveway in Darke County, Ohio. But it's here that the Ghost-of-Psychology-Professors-Past reminds me about a pesky thing called selection bias: I have wasted hours visiting places that coaxed oohs and ahhs, places with deep-fried Oreo vendors and port-a-potties and circus tents. Most genuine yard sales along U.S. 127 are modest and unflashy.


U.S. 127 in Tennessee
Brian Stansberry, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Stories of life passages would flood in. A woman sells a brown couch pocked with cigar holes because it stirs memories of a sour relationship. A man sells Merck manuals that belonged to his grandfather, a doctor, who is now a patient in a nursing home. An older couple, planning to downsize, sells fine china—a wedding gift they never used. A former cat lady sells all of her ceramic feline figurines.

At one stop, a young woman stands behind six long counters of rumpled baby clothes. Two toddlers wrestle in the grass near her bare feet. When I ask her if this indicates anything meaningful, she extends her arms à la Rocky Balboa and laughs.

“It means: To Hell with it! I’m getting my tubes tied!”

These brief glimpses into people's lives stretch on for hundreds of miles. As any seasoned yard sale treasure hunter knows, you just have to know where to look.

25 Iconic Hamburger Spots You Have to Visit

Adam Wilson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND-2.0
Adam Wilson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

Hamburgers are ubiquitous on menus across the country, but not all restaurants treat burgers with the reverence they deserve. Whether you prefer simple beef patties, loaded bacon cheeseburgers, or plant-based veggie burgers, we've got something for you. From historic fast-food joints to fancy eateries, check out these 25 iconic hamburger spots you have to visit.

1. H&F Burger // Atlanta, Georgia

cheeseburger at H&F Burger
Wally Gobetz, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Originally, the H&F Burger was a special at Atlanta gastropub Holeman and Finch, served only after 10 p.m. Because the kitchen only made two dozen of the burgers each night, just a few customers got the chance to sink their teeth into the juicy, buttery burgers. Today, though, burger lovers can order the H&F Burger—two beef patties with American cheese, red onions, and house-made pickles and ketchup—any time of day at its own Ponce City Market location, without worrying about the kitchen running out of grub.

2. Amy's Drive Thru // Rohnert Park, California

Amy's Drive Thru
Tony Webster, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Located north of San Francisco near the 101 Freeway, Amy's Drive Thru serves organic, vegetarian fast food from scratch. Opened in 2015 by the owners of natural foods company Amy's Kitchen, the drive-through has quickly become one of the most popular spots for veggie burgers. Try 'The Amy,' a double veggie patty with cheese and secret sauce, and wash it down with an organic chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry milkshake.

3. The Oldest McDonald's // Downey, California

Photo of the original McDonald's location in Downey, California.
Thomas Hawk, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Even burger elitists can’t deny the impact that McDonald's has had on the international fast food scene. Located in Southern California, the oldest surviving McDonald's opened in the summer of 1953, almost a decade before Ray Kroc bought the company from the McDonald brothers. Because this location remained an independent restaurant until 1990, when Kroc finally acquired it, its exterior looks slightly different than a regular McDonald's (for example, there's only a single golden arch rather than the instantly recognizable double Golden Arches). But in terms of food, customers can order typical McDonald’s burgers and fries, as well as a deep-fried (rather than baked) apple pie. The store also has an impressive collection of McDonald’s ads, toys, and other memorabilia.

4. Shake Shack // New York City

Burgers at Shake Shack in New York City
Lucas Richards, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you've walked through New York City's Madison Square Park, you've no doubt noticed the long line of people waiting for burgers and frozen custard. In the early aughts, restaurateur Danny Meyer served hot dogs from a cart in the park before morphing his business into Shake Shack in 2004. Today, there are over 100 Shake Shack locations around the world, and hungry customers enjoy chomping down on the ShackBurger, a 100 percent all-natural Angus beef burger (sans hormones and antibiotics) on a non-GMO potato roll. Vegetarians usually order the 'Shroom Burger, an impressive heaping of portobello mushroom with melted cheddar and Muenster.

5. Jim's Drive In // Lewisburg, West Virginia

a cheeseburger with ranch dressing
iStock/prapassong

At Jim's Drive In, the no-frills décor and simple food facilitate time travel, as you step back to a simpler era when curb-side service and drive-in movies were common. Located on Route 60, the restaurant has satisfied West Virginians' stomachs and taste buds since the early 1950s. Today, you can order a variety of burgers such as the bacon cheeseburger, pizza burger, or Famous Ranch Burger.

6. Town Topic // Kansas City, Missouri

Town Topic Hamburgers in Kansas City, Missouri
Chris Murphy, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Back in 1937, Town Topic was a small diner in downtown Kansas City that sold burgers for just a nickel. Today, the restaurant honors its culinary history by making burgers the same way as when they started—beef patties, grilled onions, and steamed buns. And you can order a single hamburger for just shy of three dollars. Still a great deal.

7. The Cherry Cricket // Denver, Colorado

The Cherry Cricket in Denver
Tadson Bussey, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Opened in 1945, The Cherry Cricket has become so legendary that not even a major fire in late 2016 could keep patrons away. After a temporary closure, the burger and beer spot reopened in April 2017, and happy customers could once again order the popular Cricket Burger. No insects are used, fortunately; rather, it's a Black Angus chuck patty masterpiece, complete with bacon, an over-easy egg, American cheese, and sautéed onions. They also have build-your-own options, starting with a beef, turkey, bison, or black bean burger. Toppings include everything from cream cheese or peanut butter to candied bacon and jalapeño jelly.

8. Sid's Diner // El Reno, Oklahoma

Sid's Diner
peggydavis66, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Located outside of Oklahoma City, Sid's Diner is famous for its Fried Onion Burger, a one-pound patty with caramelized onions cooked into the beef. The restaurant is known to make its own spatulas out of brick trowels (which are typically used to lay mortar between bricks). Sid's takes the wedged knife end of the trowel and fuses it to a spatula, allowing chefs to flatten the top of each beef patty and press a handful of thinly sliced Spanish onions down into the meat.

9. Schuberg's Bar // Big Rapids, Michigan

hamburger with onion rings and barbeque sauce
iStock/grandriver

In the late 19th century, Leonard (later renamed Big Rapids) was a town full of lumberjacks, thanks to the plentiful forests. Schuberg's Bar served drinks to the locals, and over a century later, it's now an iconic spot for hamburgers. The original Schu-Burger is a 1/3-pound chargrilled patty, topped with cheese, onion, pickles, green olives, ketchup, and mustard. For a more tangy twist on the Schu-Burger, try the Cowboy Schu, which comes with barbecue sauce and onion rings.

10. The Apple Pan // Los Angeles

The Apple Pan in Los Angeles, California
Larry Gaynor, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

Los Angelinos craving authentic diner fare and a taste of old Hollywood head to The Apple Pan in West L.A. Since 1947, the restaurant has served simple hamburgers and classic pies to customers who sit in seats (there are only 26) around the small counter. A favorite of celebrities like Warren Beatty and the Jonas Brothers, The Apple Pan still serves its burgers wrapped in paper.

11. Mallie's Sports Grill & Bar // Southgate, Michigan

At Mallie's Sports Grill & Bar, bigger is always better. Although the restaurant serves regular half-pound burgers, their claim to fame is the 10-Pound Monster Burger. Brave customers who succeed in the Monster Challenge—eating the whole burger in under two hours—get $100 and their photo put on the restaurant's wall of fame. Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

12. Hudson's Hamburgers // Coeur D'Alene, Idaho

Sign at Hudson's Hamburgers
aaron, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Founded in 1907, Hudson's Hamburgers is a family-owned diner famous for its hamburgers and cheeseburgers. Hudson's eschews culinary trends that call for adding avocado or other more esoteric ingredients to burgers. Why mess with perfection? Although the burgers are simple creations, they come with spicy sauces and, if you want, hand-sliced pickles. Pro tip? If you play your cards right, you could get a burger and a slice of French Silk Pie for under $5.

13. Go Ramen Go Life // Long Island City, New York

ramen burger
iStock/Rimma_Bondarenko

Hybrid food lovers can enjoy the novel tastes and textures of sushi burritos, spaghetti doughnuts, and of course, ramen burgers. Japanese-American chef Keizo Shimamoto introduced the Original Ramen burger in 2013. Although there have been numerous copycats, you can find the original ramen burger—in all of its savory, salty, meaty glory—at Go Ramen Go Life. Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, the noodles are boiled and formed into buns, and a USDA Prime ground beef chuck patty along with vegetables, scallions, and a shoyu glaze round out the perfect burger.

14. DB Bistro Moderne // Miami, Florida

Gourmet burgers are a specialty at this bistro in the JW Marriott Marquis hotel (there are also locations in Manhattan and Singapore). The Original db Burger will set you back $35, but it's worth every penny. First, the chef braises short ribs for six to eight hours in red wine, stuffs them inside a sirloin burger composed of seven different cuts of meat, and lines a layer of foie gras in the burger. Then, he adds half a plump tomato, grated horseradish, and chicory. Finally, he spreads Dijon mustard on the bottom bun, which is finished with cheddar and onion seeds. Absolutely decadent and delicious.

15. The Pantry // Santa Fe, New Mexico

Sign at The Pantry in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Tadson Bussey, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

This family-owned restaurant has made Southwestern-inspired American diner food since 1948. The Pantry is legendary for its Tortilla Burger, which includes a chargrilled burger patty and pinto beans wrapped in a flour tortilla. Melted cheese and a pureed red chili sauce top it off, so grab plenty of napkins.

16. Louis' Lunch // New Haven, Connecticut

Louis' Lunch exterior in New Haven, Connecticut
Adam Jones, Flickr // CC BY SA-2.0

Louis Lassen opened Louis' Lunch in 1895, and his great-grandson continues to enchant customers with the famous hamburger sandwich. The patties, a mixture of five types of meat, are hand-rolled and cooked in cast-iron, 1890s grills. Cheese, onion, and tomato round out the burger—you can truly taste history in each bite.

17. Matt's Bar // Minneapolis, Minnesota

Why put cheese on top of a burger when you can put it inside? Minneapolis residents know all about the Juicy Lucy, a hamburger with gooey cheese conveniently stuffed inside the beef patty. Matt's Bar is one of the restaurants that claim to have invented the cheesy burgers—theirs is spelled Jucy Lucy. Order one and you're in for a seriously liquidy, savory treat.

18. The Griddle // Winnemucca, Nevada

Sign for The Griddle restaurant
Roadsidepictures, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

A big blue neon sign greets customers who drive up to The Griddle. Inside, wood paneling and comfy green booths create the ideal vibe to enjoy some seriously good burgers. Although tons of people flock there for breakfast, The Griddle's burger selection is seriously impressive. Options include the Jamaican Jerk Burger, a ground chuck patty with chipotle mayo, and the Quinoa Burger, a quinoa patty with Swiss cheese and maple caramelized onions.

19. In-N-Out Burger // Baldwin Park, California

In-N-Out Burger
Adam Wilson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

In 1948, when Harry Snyder opened the first In-N-Out location in the San Gabriel Valley, he unknowingly started a burger revolution. The drive-thru hamburger stand differentiated itself from the competition by serving fresh meat and produce, made to order and made by hand. Snyder also introduced the two-way speaker box, allowing customers to order food without exiting their cars. Although there are now hundreds of In-N-Out stores across the southwest and west coast, you can visit a replica of the first restaurant in Baldwin Park. After you look at photos and learn about the legendary fast food company's history, head down the street to another In-N-Out, where you can chow down on a Double-Double and animal style fries.

20. Dyer's Burgers // Memphis, Tennessee

Inside of Dyer's Burgers
Memphis CVB, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Located across from Handy Park, Dyer's Burgers has been a legendary burger spot since it opened in 1912. Beef patties are fried in a top-secret cooking grease, which imparts a rich flavor and pleasant juiciness to the burger. Order Dyer's Triple Triple, a burger composed of three patties, three slices of cheese, onions, pickle, and mustard.

21. Matt's Place Drive-In // Butte, Montana

peanut butter on a hamburger
iStock/LauriPatterson

Back in 1930, Matt Korn opened a drive-in that he named, straightforwardly, Matt's Place. In 1943, Korn sold his drive-in to a former carhop employee and her husband. Today, their daughter and her husband run the restaurant and stay true to its roots, with a soda fountain and authentic '50s Coca-Cola machine on display. Their most famous burger, the Nutburger, is a beef patty topped with a spread of—wait for it—crushed peanuts and Miracle Whip. Once you try it, you'll immediately understand its appeal.

22. The Plant // San Francisco, California

Veggie burger at The Plant.

There are multiple locations of The Plant around San Fran, and that's a very good thing. The organic café serves delicious organic food, and the Plant Burger might just convince carnivores to consider opting for a more plant-based diet. The veggie burger looks purple thanks to a mixture of beets, lentils, mushrooms, cashews, and bulgur wheat. Seasonal local produce (lettuce, tomato, and onions) top the patty, and gluten-free bread is available upon request.

23. All-American Drive-In // Massapequa, New York

All-American Drive-In Diner
Adam Kuban, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Opened in 1963, this old-fashioned drive-in hamburger stand on Long Island serves classic, simple American fare. Hometown favorites Jerry Seinfeld and the Baldwin family visit the stand regularly for the savory double cheeseburgers and homemade French fries, but a simple hamburger will set you back just $1.40. Save room for dessert at the neighboring Marshall's Ice Cream Bar, which has both soft serve and old-fashioned ice cream.

24. The Chicago Diner // Chicago, Illinois

Vegan burgers at the Chicago Diner.
Beth Granter, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Vegetarians and carnivores alike love the veggie burgers at The Chicago Diner, a restaurant with locations in Logan Square and Halsted that’s been proudly "meat free since '83." As you sip a vegan milkshake, decide whether you want to order the Cajun Black Bean Burger or Buddha’s Karma Burger, a curried sweet potato-tofu patty. The burgers come with unusual toppings such as grilled pineapple, chimichurri, and fried jalapeño. For an extra buck, you can add avocado to any burger.

25. JG Melon // New York, New York

burger sliders
iStock/coldsnowstorm

This casual, small bar on Manhattan's Upper East Side is beloved for the rich, meaty burgers it serves. Fans of JG Melon's cheeseburger include everyone from Bobby Flay to former mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the spot is often crowded as hungry customers vie for a seat amidst the watermelon artwork on the walls (expect plenty of crowding when they open their recently announced Upper West Side location too). If you visit during happy hour, from 5-7 p.m., order the Nacho Libre sliders, which are served with avocado, jalapeño, Monterey Jack, and pico de gallo.

Airports Are Fighting Traveler Germs with Antimicrobial Security Bins

iStock/Chalaba
iStock/Chalaba

If you plan to do any air travel this summer, chances are you'll be negotiating a path riddled with bacteria. In addition to airport cabins being veritable Petri dishes of germs from the seat trays to the air nozzles, airport security bins are utterly covered in filth thanks to their passage through hundreds of hands daily. These bins are rarely sanitized, meaning that cold, flu, and other germs deposited by passengers are left for you to pick up and transmit to your mouth, nose, or the handle of your carry-on.

Fortunately, some airports are offering a solution. A new type of tray covered in an antimicrobial substance will be rolled out in more than 30 major U.S. airports this summer.

The bins, provided by Florida-based SecurityPoint Media, have an additive applied during the manufacturing process that will inhibit bacterial growth. The protective coating won't wear or fade over time.

Microban International, a company specializing in antimicrobial products, made the bins. According to the company, their antimicrobial protection works by disrupting the cellular function of the microorganism, making it unable to reproduce. As a result, surfaces tend to harbor less of a bacterial load than surfaces not treated with the solution.

While helpful, Microban is careful to note it's no substitute for regular cleaning and that its technology is not intended to stop the spread of disease-causing germs. In other words, while the bins may be cleaner, they're never going to be sterile.

If you're flying out of major airports in Denver, Nashville, or Tampa, you can expect to see the bins shortly. They'll carry the Microban logo. More airports are due to get shipments by early July.

[h/t Travel and Leisure]

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