One week in August, Tom and I had four Cumberland Gap Visitors. We were feeling the love!
Our first visitors were Jeanette Meleen and her new family. We worked with Jeanette in Death Valley National Park and got together when she was working at William Howard Taft National Historic Site. She is currently working at Carl Sandburg Home in North Carolina. While working there she met and married Rajeeb Das. They had a baby, Caius, in July. Rajeeb is half Indian and half Honduran so both of them obviously love to travel. As soon as the doctor gave them the okay, they bundled Caius up and set out on their first family adventure.
Tom and I were privileged to be their first stop on the adventure. They came by Cumberland Gap National Historical Park on a Saturday afternoon when we were doing living history. After listening to our talks and checking out the Visitors Center, they went for a hike to the Tri-State Peak. We met them for supper at Gap Creek Café and had a lovely time catching up. Jeanette is starting a new remote job soon with Gulf Shores National Seashore. Rajeeb already works remotely for Texas A&M University, so they were considering places to live. Jeanette loved Cincinnati so they were heading up there as one of the options to settle for a while.
I got to hold Caius for a while while Jeanette and Rajeeb ate, which was my favorite part of the meal. He was alert and active and especially liked staring up at the leaves above us. Caius seems to be enjoying the travel adventure as much as his parents.
After Caius ate, Jeanette and Rajeeb headed on. They needed to take advantage of baby sleeping time. We loved seeing Jeanette and meeting her family. Jeanette will be a wonderful wife and mother, just as she has always been a wonderful ranger and friend.
Our fourth Cumberland Gap Visitor in August was Karen Graham. Karen has a sister that lives in Middlesboro, so she was able to visit us and her sister’s family at the same time. We have seen Pam and Chuck Blank at least once a week over the summer. They attend all the Levitt concerts and most of the worship services in the park. We had Karen all to ourselves for Tuesday and Wednesday. We went to the Pinnacle and hiked to the historic Cumberland Gap. I showed her my textile room at the Visitors Center. We ate sandwiches at Dutch Treat and played games in the RV.
On Wednesday evening we met Karen, Pam, and Chuck at Shades Café and Steakhouse in downtown Middlesboro for supper. Shades is regularly rated the #1 place to eat in Middlesboro so we were looking forward to checking it out.
Shades Café and Steakhouse is like a microcosm of Middlesboro. The words steakhouse and café evoke opposing images in my mind. Steakhouse is upscale. Café is more ordinary. A steakhouse is someplace you eat for a special occasion. A café is a lunch or supper when you want something quick, inexpensive, and good.
Shades was both of those things. The decor was not upscale in any way. Because it was a steakhouse, Tom and I both ordered steak. He got the steak tips and I got a 6 oz. ribeye. He got grilled vegetables and I got steamed. Tom definitely got the better meal. He said everything was wonderful. My meal was not as good. The steamed vegetables came covered with a seasoned salt. They were so saturated with it that I had to ask for a new batch without the salt. The steak was dry and the lettuce on the salad was brown.
The dessert, however, was the best! They have a selection of fancy cheesecakes, lemon cake, and chocolate cake. Tom and I shared a piece of chocolate cake with ice cream and chocolate sauce. YUM! It was so good that I forgot to take a picture of it. Karen and Pam shared a piece of lemon cake that also looked very good. The best part of the meal, however, was the wonderful companionship.
We enjoyed all the Cumberland Gap Visitors very much. It is always wonderful when people are willing to go out of their way to come see you. Being with friends makes it easier to be away from our family for months at a time. Tom and I are blessed with many people who love us and who we can love in return.