Shopping becomes an extreme sport in four Southern states this weekend as bargain hunters cruise a 450-mile route called the "World's Longest Yard Sale."

From Gadsden, Ala., through Georgia and Tennessee to Covington, Ky., thousands are expected to brave traffic jams and sweltering heat in search of - what else? - a bargain.The shop-'til-you-drop fun began Thursday and runs through Sunday along U.S 127, where everything from hubcaps to antique china will be for sale.

"There's a lot of bargaining to do," said Ed Gillum, 67, who started shopping Tuesday, when some vendors began displaying their wares. "They'll usually come down a lot on the prices they've got marked. Don't give them what they ask for."

The outdoor sale began 11 years ago when Fentress County, in northeastern Tennessee, sought a way to draw tourists off the interstate and into smaller communities. The event grew steadily and last year drew more than 30,000 people and more than 3,000 vendors.

This year, shoppers could be seen cruising along the route a week before the sale officially begins.

"We had phone calls starting in April. It's been unreal," said Wanda Hatfield, of the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce. "We're answering close to 100 calls per day."

Antique dealers and pack rats have been emptying their stockrooms, attics, basements and closets hoping to lure buyers. Country cooks are preparing fried apple pie and cornbread to sustain the hungry travelers and make some money.

Brian Barnes of Pioneer Antiques in Jamestown, Ky., expects sales between $8,000 and $10,000 over the four days. Among the items he hopes to sell are old farm tractors, oak tables, telephones, coins and pocket knives.

"People will buy anything," he said.