Day 13: Flying home #KentuckyTour2014

chicago, bubba gump, shrimp, lexington, girl, reading, highlightsWe’ve been incredibly luckily with weather during our stay in Kentucky. Not only has it shone bright everyday, but it’s now pissing down with rain as we’re leaving for the airport to catch our connection to Chicago; an unavoidable sign it’s time to call it a day here.

The 6 hour layover is filled with an enquiry into the life of Bill Collis via Me, Myself and Eyes, going on the hunt for a giant bag of M&M’s to bring back to the office and one last look at the Chicago skyline with promises that’ll be back soon to stop off and say hello.

I spotted some Goths in the departure lounge. Admittedly, I didn’t know these guys were still knocking around, having assumed like all subcultures they’d ceased trading. Though I suppose somebody has to be propping up Underworld in Camden.

It’s fair to say I’m not ready to go home. I don’t have any cravings for a Sunday pub lunch or a bed that isn’t a blow-up mattress, in the same way I usually do after a long trip in a foreign land or the Monday after Glastonbury.

For the flight back to London I’m sat next to a girl from Reading, who’s spent the last few days on holiday in Chicago. She asked me what the highlight of my holiday was. And I honestly couldn’t think for the life of me. It was a combination of having far too many, and being far too active to allow any to yet sink in. Of course it was the wedding weekend, but which part?

I’m sure she was just being polite, but I actually sat and racked my brains for ages thinking of one solitary example to give her to hold onto. But couldn’t, so defaulted to the easy yet effective option of ‘spotting a bear in the woods’. Her highlight was the BBQ prawn skewers at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Bubba Gump Shrimp as the zenith of your 8,000-mile round trip? Jesus. I suppose mine could’ve easily been food based, but I don’t think I’ll know until I’ve had a good sit down with a cup of tea and the photo album.

But, Kentucky you’ve been great. We’ll do this again sometime, yeah?

The End: Happily ever after!

 

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Day 5: Nashville to Cumberland Falls #KentuckyTour2014

cumberland falls, black bears, kentucky,  Daniel Boone, Despite being the last one back, I’m the first up and make use of my time by having a coffee on the little veranda that overlooks Downtown. Again it’s a beautiful day and amongst the chirpy birdsong I can make out the light and dissipating thunder of a rolling freight train somewhere in the distance.

Right about now, Luke’s friends and family from London are beginning to touch down at various US ports for the wedding; Atlanta, New York, Chicago. Myself and cousin Elizabeth had been uploading photos to Instagram using #Colliver to track each others whereabouts (a rare justification for the hashtag). She was travelling with my other cousins, Simone and George, and had just picked up their hire car after a night at the baseball watching the Atlanta Braves.

Once the others were up, and we’d made a half decent effort of drying our laundry on the outside porch, we headed to where Joe and Kate were staying. A bowl of granola later at the Sky Blue Café and we were on the road to Cumberland Falls.

I jumped back in with Joe and Kate, whose trusty yet exhausted playlist via USB stick provided ample respite from the world of tin riffs and questionable innuendo’s that come with a life of solid country music. The radio was on repeat with the new Keith Urban song Cop Car. Quite fitting, as I wasn’t the only one who’d had a brush with the law last night. Joe and Kate had accidentally set off the alarm of their house and the cops were round in a shot.

There’s something quite unenviable about Keith Urban. For a guy who makes million of pounds doing what he loves and is married to a Hollywood superstar, I just couldn’t imagine anyone actually wanting to trade places with him. It’s no indicator of my contentment with life. Offer me the life of a semi-professional footballer, a bit part in Eastenders or a place on the next series of Castaway in lieu of my own existence and I’d bite your hand off. But Keith Urban? Nah, you’re alright mate.

I dropped Jim from last night an email, just to send him my best wishes. He managed to get back in the flat but isn’t speaking to his flatmate.

Once we’re about 10miles from Cumberland Falls National Park, we notice several houses displaying campaign posters championing those seeking election for a number of roles.

“Jerry Hoake for Mayor”

“Susan Knoxville for Magistrate”

“Bob Yardley for Jailer”

One can only assume these are for positions of power, and not simply for roles in a play put on by the local amateur dramatics society.

Our log cabin is huge, and about a 5 minute walk from the central Du Pont Lodge where Joe and Kate will be staying. There are 6 other log cabins in our area. With two king-size twin rooms down below and a huge kitchen and lounge area up above. We have two balconies that overlook the forest below. Though obscured by the thick woodland, the roar of the river down in the valley can be heard easily enough.

There’s been a number of bear sightings in the area recently. At Du Pont we were given some tips on what to do if we came face to face with one. From Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods I know that black bears can be dealt with using techniques such as making yourself big while not looking threatening. Running only makes you look like prey and odds are they’re better at running, climbing and swimming than you.

Whereas if a brown bear wants to rip your throat out, he’s going to rip your throat out.

“So, the bloke at reception said if you see a bear, you need to walk backwards, keep calm and clap your hands” I called out to the group up ahead, as we walked through the woods and down towards Cumberland Falls.

“Clap? What if he isn’t any good” came Dad’s sharp reply as he listened out for laughter, paying no attention to my safety advice.

We continued down into woods towards the falls, where instead of the breathtaking scenery, we took in some good puns and bear-related material.

The falls themselves were incredibly impressive. The weight and power running through them could be felt from our viewpoint. Like most able-bodied men, Joe and myself couldn’t resist the urge of jumping over the viewpoint to climb a large rock below for a better view. Never, ever be content with the safety of a viewpoint.

We stayed for a good 20 minutes taking in the powerful medium of nature, before making our way back through the woods.

“Rob, I just seen saw paw prints” Kev called up ahead, “then I saw some good prints and then I saw some excellent prints”.

Back on the balcony of our log cabin the champagne was popped and the jokes continued. The trees were occasionally lit up by the inhabitant glowworms, which reminded Kev of his last trip to the US back in 1974. While visiting cousins in Pennsylvania, they were introduced to some kids who’d go into the woods to crunch up glowworms to give the impression they had fluorescent rings on their fingers. But the glowworms were okay though, right?

“Nah, they were fucked”

kev, oliver, tuxedo, cumberland fallsKev goes out to the car to surprise us with one of his many new outfits for the wedding, returning in a T-Shirt with a Tuxedo printed on the front of it.

“I must be the only person in the country with a Tuxedo folded up in the glove compartment”.