Greetings from Tennessee

I’ve been going through withdrawal this week since the resort doesn’t have a business center and access to the internet, unless you bring your own laptop. Since I last wrote, I picked up my nephew Drew and his cousin Blake in Hillsdale, Iowa and headed southeast. Enroute, we stopped briefly to visit Abe Lincoln’s birthplace on Knob Hill Farm near Hodgenville, KY and saw his home as a very young child just a few miles from there. We then spent a night at Cave City, KY so that we could enjoy an early morning tour at Mammoth Cave National Park.

The Frozen Niagra Tour took us down 250 narrow, metal steps that wound down from the entrance down to the cave floor below. It was fascinating to see so many incredible features of the cave including a few insects, stalagmites, stalagtites, and “draperies”, which are actually long cascading stalagtites that drape from the ceiling to the floor. Mammoth Cave has over 350 miles of cave tunnels and each year adventurous cave enthusiasts continue finding more openings and tunnels. If you’ve never been to Mammoth Cave, we highly recommend you to do so. Another welcomed part of the tour was enjoying the 54 degree temperatures, especially knowing that the temps were gradually increasing up into the 90s up above us while we soaked in the comfortable envirionment down below!

From Mammoth Cave we drove to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where we are staying in a time-share resort for the week. Gatlinburg is located adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, so we’ve taken full-advantage of the beauty of the National Park. This week we have hiked over 11 miles and have seen beautiful falls, cascades, dense decidious forests and thick stands of hemlocks, rhododendron, myrtle, azalea, winding mountain streams, doe and buck white-tail deer, black bears, and outstanding views of the mountains with their smoky appearance and layered affect.

We also drove through Cades Cove, which is the busiest part of the Great Smoky National Park. It was once a settlement to around 112 people, including grist mills, churches, a school house, and a number of homes and accompanying outbuildings. The scenic drive that winds around the Cove is 11 miles long and with its popularity comes traffic jams! It took Drew, Blake, and I nearly 2 hours to drive around the Cove.

We also met my cousin Chuck and his wife Gale in Crossville, Tennessee for a late breakfast one morning. They live in Nashville and so we each drove half way, making it a manageable drive. The Cracker Barrell restuarant has great food…especially for teenage boys with big appetites. The restaurant also had a nice covered porch with rocking chairs, so we sat outside and visited after breakfast.

We’ve also enjoyed a driving tour of the Great Smokies on the rainiest day and made our way into North Carolina. So now the boys can add another state to their list visited. Top entertainment for them has been Lazerport, which had go-carts, lasertag, and mini-golf and then last night’s venue at The Comedy Barn. The Comedy Barn is a hilarious comedy review and one that we would highly recommend. It is good clean comedy and perfect for families or individuals looking for “clean humor”.

Tomorrow we check-out and head to Knoxville as the boys fly out early on Saturday morning. I head out of Tennessee to Virginia and will meet Steve somewhere in Virginia on Sunday afternoon.

Steve negotiated Skyline Drive just fine and today he is at his sister Polly’s and brother-in-law’s Glen. Weather permitting he’s planning to be there two nights. If Hurricane Irene decides to threaten Steve’s ending date scheduled for Monday, then he may leave earlier and pick up the pace.

Today he rode 35 miles from Rock Fish Gap, near Waynesboro, to Charlottesville. Actually his Charlottesville location is Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. This is where Glen works and where they live in a home on T.J.’s estate. Having driven this road many times, I know that it had to be a winding and probably busy road for Steve.

Jeremy will be updating you on stops up to this point. I’m at the Gatlinburg Public Library and running out of time on my 30 minute limit. They allow no emailing, so I have no idea how many hundreds of emails that I have out in cyberspace. I can only imagine how much junk mail I have though. Ugh!!

Ya’all take care!! Stay tuned for Steve’s big finish. Thanks for your continued prayers, thoughts, and well wishes. In talking to him, I can hear the excitement building in his voice as he nears the goal of completely this big ride.

Love, Diane

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