This trip started out a little different than most. A visit to the local animal shelter to return a possum trap. Among the good reasons to check out a trap from the shelter is when a wild animal eats three of the chickens in your backyard. We were unsuccessful in catching a possum, but we also have not lost any more chickens. We will call that a draw.
Today we left for Day 1 of our vacation to Branson, Missouri. Turns out we had quite a few failures besides the possum trap. But we not only made do, we had a lot more laughs than if the day had gone smoothly.
Branson is only about a 3.5 hour drive from home, but Stephanie and I had not visited since before we had kids – over 17 years. This trip sounded so enticing to my parents, that they immediately hopped on board when they heard about it. So our party of 7 is off to the Ozark Mountains to see what all the fuss is about.
We rolled out at 11am in a two vehicle caravan. But in a stroke of good fortune, the UPS truck showed up at the house moments before departure. The delivery was a birthday gift for Marissa that we wanted to take to Branson with us, as her birthday is tomorrow. Good work, Amazon.
As has become the norm, Miles (16) is driving KK and PK in their truck, while Mallory (14) and Marissa (10) ride with Stephanie and I. We made it a half mile before stopping at QuikTrip for donuts and drinks. When it comes to our road trips, the first mile is always the hardest.
Our first destination was lunch at Culver’s in Webb City, Missouri, outside of Joplin. We made it there without any stops only because I kept missing the Interstate exits when there was a request for a bathroom stop. Eventually, we were “nearly there” so it didn’t make any sense to stop so close to our lunchtime stop.
Culver’s is a hamburger and milkshake joint that we don’t have in Tulsa. I have enjoyed it in the past, but I think as a group today we were not overwhelmed. It will be a while before we visit it again.
We got out of Webb City and back onto the Interstate to continue the monotonous drive to Springfield. Things got a little more interesting once we turned south onto Highway 65 toward Branson. If you have ever driven in South Dakota toward Wall Drug, you have been bombarded with an endless supply of billboards advertising their free ice water, cheap coffee, and souvenirs. That is exactly how it is on 65, except with more billboards. It was pretty impressive.
As we started getting close to Branson, I asked my trusty navigator, Stephanie, to guide us to the hotel. No problem. She punched in the hotel address I provided her into her phone and away we went. As we approached our first decision, I ask “Do I turn right or left?”.
“I cannot read Google Maps because I never know which direction I am looking at and why did I not bring a real map because I like real maps better and you know that I like the turn by turn directions better why didn’t you print out turn by turn directions.”
Needless to say, we got lost. But all who wander are not lost, and we did by chance happen to see the apartment complex where we had visited our friends, and Stephanie’s cousin, 25 years ago on a trip to Branson. We will definitely make a return trip to that area while we are in town.
A contributing factor to our getting lost was a partially incomplete address I had given Stephanie. Fortunately, KK had the correct address, so Miles led the way to the hotel from this point on. In no time we were at our hotel and checked in.
First up on our Branson Adventure was to ride the ducks. The rides at 4:00 and 5:00 were sold out, so we got tickets to the 6:00 ride and showed up 45 minutes early. We were ready to have some fun.
Just mix an amphibious vehicle from World War II and a Merchant Marine Captain with corny jokes and you have yourself an attraction! As a bonus, each of us received a WACKY QUACKERTM to blow on when cued by the captain, or for any reason really.
The tour was actually quite a lot of fun. The Captain, named “Captain Dan”, gave us a history of the Branson area, the dam at Table Rock Lake, and (did I mention?) corny jokes. Toward the end of the tour, Captain Dan asked if there were any birthdays this week, so Marissa and another lady got to raise their hand. We used our Wacky Quackers to quack them both Happy Birthday. Believe it or not, this has never happened to Marissa before.
Once the Duck hit the water, Captain Dan offered any of the kids on the boat to come drive for a moment. Both Mallory and Marissa took advantage of the offer. Miles was not asked to drive the boat because kids don’t have beards.
After declining the overpriced photos they had taken of us, and spending some money in the gift shop, we were ready for dinner. A friend from Branson had recommended Danna’s BBQ so that was the plan tonight.
Nobody left hungry. Everybody enjoyed the food and the atmosphere, and we even brought two boxes of food back to the hotel. Vacation leftovers!
On our drive back to the hotel, we opted to take a “locals” shortcut using back roads that Captain Dan had taught us earlier. The decision to take the back roads was unanimous, but there was some conflict on which back road to take. Ultimately, we did not take Stephanie’s suggestion, which prompted a steady stream of commentary on her behalf. But the joke was on her, because we (luckily) ended up back on the main drag just a few blocks from our hotel. The experiment worked.
Day 1 is now in the books. It’s been real fun. But if I want to survive Day 2, I had better get Stephanie a real Missouri map.