Posts Tagged ‘Tennessee’

Accessible travel in Great Smoky Mountains

July 22, 2012

I’m turning over this post to my fellow travel writer Candy B. Harrington, the guru of accessible travel. Her latest guide is “22 Accessible Road Trips: Driving Vacations for Wheelers and Slow Walkers.” Candy also blogs about accessible travel issues at For me, here in the South, Candy wanted to write something about a Great Smoky Mountains destination. Take it away, Candy!

Multigenerational travel is alive and well in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. It’s a place everyone, regardless of age and ability, can enjoy. From toddlers in strollers to folks who use canes and walkers, to wheelchair-users, there’s no shortage of scenic drives, accessible attractions and even barrier-free trails that dot the area.

One great lodging choice is Constance Hartke’s Wears Valley cabins, which feature access modifications that make them an excellent choice for groups that have members with mobility issues. Located off US 321, just a short drive from the back entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Constance’s two ridge-top cabins are managed by Awesome Mountain Vacations (866-907-1747,

Bedroom in Eagles Nest has plenty of space to maneuver a wheelchair [Photo by Charles Pannell]

The smaller of the two cabins — Eagles View — has one bedroom and can accommodate up to five guests. There is ramp access to the wrap-around porch from the adjacent parking area, with barrier-free access to the front and back doors. Both entrances feature level thresholds and wide doorways; and inside there is barrier-free access to all first-floor areas.

The living area is furnished with a sofa bed, an easy chair, a dining table and a washer and dryer; while the fully equipped kitchen features a refrigerator, stove and microwave. Truly there’s everything you need to make yourself at home.

Eagles Nest bathroom has a roll-in shower [Photo by Charles Pannell]

The spacious bedroom boasts a 23-inch high open-framed king-sized bed, with adequate pathway access on both sides. Access features in the adjacent bathroom include a roll-in shower with grab bars and a hand-held shower head, a fold-down shower bench and a roll-under sink. The toilet is located in a 42-inch wide alcove, with grab bars on both walls, and ample room for most transfers.

The second floor, which has a pool table, a standard bathroom, a twin sofa bed and a small deck, is only accessible by stairs. Still there’s plenty of room on the first-floor deck to wheel around and enjoy the views.

A wheelchair-accessible boardwalk leads from Eagles Nest to Above the Clouds [Photo by Charles Pannell]

The bigger cabin — Above the Clouds – is ideal for large family gatherings, as it can accommodate up to 11 guests. A ramp leads from the nearby parking area to the back deck (located on the first floor) and up and around to the front deck (located on the second floor); so either floor can be accessed from outside.

The second floor features a kitchen, dining room and living area, plus a bedroom with a king-sized bed. The adjacent bathroom has a roll-in shower with a fold-down shower bench, a hand-held showerhead, shower grab bars and a roll-under sink. The third floor loft, which can only be accessed by stairs, contains a pool table, a twin sofa bed and a standard bathroom.

Downstairs there’s a massive game room, two bunk beds and a bedroom with a king-sized bed and a standard Jacuzzi tub. There is also a bathroom with a roll-in shower with a fold-down shower seat, a hand-held showerhead and shower grab bars.

Above the Clouds features the same great views as Eagles View, and it’s certainly roomy enough for a small family reunion. And you can always rent both cabins if you have a larger group, as there’s a barrier-free walkway between the cabins, and all of the public areas are wheelchair-accessible. Best of all, both cabins include a bevy of homey touches, so you never feel like you’re in a rental. That’s a real plus in my book!

Seeing America at World’s Largest Yard Sale

October 5, 2010

This was first published Jan. 17, 2010, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.”  Now that the 2010 yard sale has passed, it’s time to make hotel reservations for 2011. Seriously. Do it now. Take it from the Dianes.

Diane Bouvier (left) and Diane Cormier at the giant yard sale

WHO: Diane Bouvier, 50, of Athol, Mass., and Diane Cormier, 51, of Ashburnham, Mass.

WHERE: Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio

WHEN: Four days in August

WHY: To tour part of The World’s Longest Yard Sale along 654 miles of US Highway 127 from Alabama to Ohio.

Diane Cormier tries out a really big lawn chair for sale in Ohio

THRILL-SEEKERS: “We both like going to country auctions and poking around in antique stores. It’s the thrill of the treasure hunt,’’ Bouvier said. The two nurses have been friends since working together at a Worcester hospital 15 years ago.

SHOPPING LIST: “You have to plan ahead to go,’’ she said of the event started by a man in Jamestown, Tenn., in 1987. “Diane figured out the amount of driving it would take each day and looked for the closest hotels. We booked them and the flights in April. We used the sale’s website to get little tips and a feel for what was going on.’’

TRASH TO TREASURES: “Sometimes, fields were set up on both sides with tons of tables, and the whole community was involved, and other times it was personal yard sales along the way,’’ Bouvier said. “There was a huge variety of stuff for sale. It ran the gamut from flea market to high-end dealers.’’

Diane Cormier with popular Southern game of Corn Hole in Kentucky

DOG DAYS: The friends set off from Nashville, cash in hand, in their rented box truck, heading for Crossville, the nearest town on Highway 127. “The traffic picked up heading there, but mostly it was totally spread out. There were license plates from all over.’’ They would typically get out of the car at least 10 times a day, and walked a lot during stops. “It was pretty hot. I liked that people put water out for dogs,’’ she said. “You could really tell that everyone was getting into it. Bargaining was expected, but it was all good-natured. Everyone was having fun.’’

CHECKED ITEMS: On the second day, in Kentucky, both women found things on their lists. “Diane was looking for an old fireplace mantle, the top and the sides. She was also looking for two old cowbells for her camp, and she found those, too. I got a lampshade for an antique lamp I’d been looking for.’’ They were happy with the prices, too.

FRIENDLY FOLKS: “I got a little taste of the culture there,’’ she said. “Southern hospitality holds true. One man pulled us out of the ditch we got the truck stuck in.’’ Other shoppers were friendly and chatty. “At the hotels at breakfast, everyone would ask, ‘Are you yard-salers?’ We met a lot of mothers and daughters.’’

NICEST NICKEL: Bouvier’s “best bargain’’ came on the final day. “For five cents I got a 6-inch ruler stamped with the name of a company – and Route 127. It was the perfect souvenir.’’