Occupation: Manager of Cades Cove Heritage Tours
Family: Married to Suzanne, and they have a son, Blake, 3.
Alex Roche wasn’t born in the mountains of East Tennessee but his heart has been here since he was a boy. “I grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., but I don’t like to claim it. I didn’t really identify with it. I got out of there as quick as I could,” he says. “Some people know they want to be a doctor or pilot when they are 9. I knew I wanted to be in the mountains, as in them as I possibly could be. I always had a passion for conservation and the outdoors. For whatever reason I ended up majoring in psychology and going into outside sales.”
Roche’s first job was with Ryder Transportation in transportation and logistics. “I did very well and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t where my heart was. I worked in outside sales for other companies and in outside sales for construction,” he says. “Last year I decided I was going to get into conservation.”
It wasn’t long before Roche called Alisa McMahan with the National Parks Conservation Association about any volunteer opportunities and she told him the NPCA was part of a task force with the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, the Smoky Mountains Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Townsend resident Randy Boyd to fill a paid position directing the Cades Cove Heritage Tours.
Roche interviewed, got the job and helped start the first tour when the business opened on Oct. 24. “Everyday since I have pinched myself to see if I’ve been dreaming,” he says. “During peek leaf change when we opened, we were booked a full week in advance.”
Roche says the best way for people to ensure they get a seat is if they book in advance via their website at www.cadescoveheritagetours.org. “All throughout the winter I get calls from church groups who have booked us throughout April and May and some have booked us throughout the leaf change and that’s been extremely exciting,” he says. “By all indications our first season is going to be stellar.
“It has been everything I could have hoped for and more,” he said. “It’s at least as much fun and rewarding as I could have ever hoped for. My wife and family are proud of me and are very happy and can see my happiness.”
Roche, a bow hunter and back packer, says everyone sees some bumps in the road of their career as they go through life but that he has finally got a job connected to his passion. “To be where I am now is just incredibly rewarding,” he says. “It blends seamlessly with my personal life, and I love it.”
25 Random Things about Alex Roche
1. I absolutely love East Tennessee. It is the first place I have ever really felt at home, like I could identify with the people and the place.
2. My 3-year-old son melts my heart every single day. He’s growing up too fast. I’ll miss these times, but oh the good times to come.
3. Hot weather makes me a bad person. I have only been too cold a couple times in my life. This includes many days spent outdoors in negative temperatures.
4. Wilderness is my home. The remaining vestiges of it, and time spent there are priceless to me.
5. My creative outlets are writing, handcrafting my own bows and arrows, and hopefully I’ll start playing guitar again one of these years.
6. On our frequent visits to Cades Cove over the years, my wife and I would roll the windows down while passing the campgrounds in Townsend so we could smell the campfires, our favorite smell. Those campfire smells are now blowing in my office window, giving me a smile and a feeling of thankfulness regardless of my mood.
7. Sushi is my favorite food in the world, followed closely by shellfish.
8. Deer hunting and traditional archery give me a joy I can hardly explain. It’s like riding a Harley… If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand.
9. I’m not a sports fan. Not even a little bit. I enjoy UT football and will always cheer them on, but I can’t even fake an intelligent conversation on the subject. You’d be surprised how many people assume knowledge of sports in men.
10. My wife and I are members at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville.
11. I’ve lived in five states for at least a year. Most of my life has been spent in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. So I know the south, and East Tennessee is easily my favorite.
12. I was recently published for the first time.
13. My great-grandfather was a merchant marine captain and went down with his ship when it was torpedoed. My grandfather was in the battle of Midway in WWII and survived the sinking of his ship. I am a “son of a son of a sailor” and the sea’s in my veins. I grew up in saltwater but the mountains won’t let me go. So, if I ever go to Alaska, I might not come back.
14. I dig bears, kind of a personal totem.
15. “A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold is by far my favorite book. The first half is the finest nature writing I have read. The second half helped define my beliefs on conservation, wilderness, life and death.
16. I would like to eat only what I grow, catch or kill. I think we’re getting there. But time and money sometimes dictate brats and beans from Wal-Mart.
17. My wife and I are moving toward sustainable living, and hope to be totally off the grid someday.
18. I have a hard time finding music that really gets me anymore. This is kind of sad. It seems to have all been done. But then I don’t really made makingan effort either. I’m sure it’s out there. The Everybodyfields is the first live brand. I’m listening to Medeski, Martin and Wood right now.
19. I miss playing music, riding Harley’s and Montana.
20. I’ve never had a broken bone or cavity. Go figure.
21. I have a love-hate relationship with running. I hate doing it. I love having done it.
22. Aesthetics affect my mood.
23. I have my dream job in the Smokies. Really, I have to pinch myself. I thank God for this.
24. The hardest job I ever loved was building multi-million dollar log homes in the mountains of Montana in the winter. I had a couple scary accidents, lost thirty pounds, and had icicles in my beard most days. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
25. Dad, husband and Christian are the most important roles I will ever play. I don’t think I’ll be winning an Oscar for any of them. But then again, it’s not an act, its life, and I hope my best ends up being good enough.