Gina and I just returned from 5 wonderful days in the Smoky Mountains. My parents had some extra points from their timeshare club and let us use some of them for my birthday. The condo was at the Bent Creek Golf Village, just outside Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The room was very nice -- the nicest we've stayed in so far -- and had several luxuries, such as a jacuzzi tub, a fireplace and a private hot tub on the back porch. We took advantage of the hot tub every night we were there.

If you have never been to Gatlinburg, it's a nice town tucked away in the Smoky Mountains, just a few minutes away from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Gina and I spent the day there on Wednesday hiking and exploring an old homestead named Cade's Cove. This area of the park was first homesteaded in the 1820's, and had several hundred residents. There were also several churches, a mill and many acres of farmland.

We also got to take a hike to Laurel Falls, a beautiful waterfall about a 1.3 mile hike from the highway. The weather was great and we passed many other people taking advantage of the nice conditions.

On our way home from spending the day in the park, we stopped in at the Park Grill. It was a very nice restaurant, and the food was excellent. As is the case with many restaurants, the portions were huge, but that didn't stop us from gorging ourselves on a mammoth brownie desert.

On Thursday we went into Gatlinburg to see the Aquarium of the Smokies. We have been to aquariums before and really like them, and this was a great opportunity for me to overcome my fear of sharks, which is totally legitimate for someone who lived his whole life more than 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean. There was also an exhibit on Mars, which gave us a chance to try on a space suit and drive a Mars Rover.

Well, I guess that's it for now. As I was typing this, we watched the Cavaliers lose to NC State in the ACC tournament. We are hoping this doesn't keep them out of the NCAA tournament, but it doesn't look good at this point. Everyone take care, and keep tuning in for more updates.