Friday, February 5, 2010

Road Trip! First Stop: The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee

Stats:

Destination:   Smoky Mountains in Tennessee - Pigeon Forge, Knoxville, Smoky Mountain NP

Number of Days Spent:  1 week

Where we stayed:   We stayed with Jason's mom, Karen.

Best restaurant:   Thanksgiving & Christmas dinners, Moravian cookies and 'makeshift' Lefse grilling.

Worst of:   Some crazy, junior Ms. Park Ranger wannabe gave us a hard time for "getting too close" to the bear.  Yeah, the REAL park ranger was at least 50 feet closer than us when we swung by earlier in the day, but she apparently is the expert in such matters. 

Best of:   Testing out our new DSLR camera,  Wildlife spotting at Cade's Cove, Observing American Capitalism at its finest hour on "Black Friday", being able to carry on our family traditions in the middle of our travels - we truly are fortunate.

Most Memorable:  Sharing this You Tube Video explaining why North Dakota is the least visited state in the Union...over and over again.  Yes, it's Michael Moore back in the day when he had a TV show.  Don't worry our more conservative friends, he only does the intro and the video has no political slants what-so-ever.

Useful Tip:  Head to Cade's Cove in the morning.  The animals are much more active and there isn't so much traffic.

In between watching Landon, we decided to take a Road Trip to visit my family in Tennessee and North Carolina as well as visit a few friends in other parts of the East Coast.  The total trip ended up being over 5000 miles, 15 states, a quick jaunt over to Canada and zero tickets - a feat in itself if you know my lead footed history. 

Our first stop was at my mom's house in Tennessee.  Living just an hour away from Smoky Mountain National Park and Pigeon Forge with a nice view to boot, she didn't do too bad in picking a place to live.   

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Located in the heart of Smoky Mountain National Park, Cade's Cove provides an excellent opportunity to catch a glimpse of some of the wildlife that abounds in the Appalachian Mountains.  We even saw a small black bear resting underneath this solitary tree. 

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While wildlife and stunning scenery shots are the primary draw of the park, one cannot miss the human aspects as well.  Several early churches, mills and homes have been preserved to showcase life as it was at the turn of the 19th century.  The park is open year around, and between 10 and 2 the single lane road that circles the cove is bumper to bumper so come early.  If you come in the summer months, they have demonstrations on churning butter, grinding grain and other old fashioned methods of production.

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With the family getting further and further spread out, it gets harder and harder to get everyone together at one time.  We were fortunate enough to have grandma up from the beach as well as aunt Sheila, my brother Justin, and my sister Amanda with her boyfriend Eric all together at one time. 

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What has become an institution in America, Black Friday Shopping was not left off the agenda in our family either.  Fortunately none of us 'needed' anything badly enough to sacrifice a good night of sleep over so we casually strolled out of the house at around 9am to do a little shopping at the outlet malls, poke our head into the insanely busy Christmas Store and catch a few "Door Busters".  Midway though our shopping excursion, we all went out to the Comedy Barn.  Here is a skit that was done there a couple of years ago.  The guy with the crazy laugh was not there obviously, but it's funny and you get the idea.

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With our families being so spread out, we celebrate Christmas around Thanksgiving every year with my family.  Tracy finally got that DSLR she has been wanting to take with us on the last leg of our RTW journey, we all got matching pajamas and had a great time playing the "Chinese Exchange" game where Tracy's hand embroidered dishtowels were the most fought over gift.

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Our Thanksgiving could not be complete without a morning of baking!  Our tradition is to start with Norwegian lefse & then move onto Moravian sugar & molasses cookies.  This is one of our favorite traditions of the year and everyone pitches in...if only in the taste testing department!

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Stuffed with Lefse and Cookies, it was time for us to head over the hill to dad's house in NC.

To see some photos from the Smoky Mountains & our Thanksgiving/Christmas there click here!

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