Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our week in Branson

We are just about to head north to Kansas City after a week in one of our favorite towns, Branson, MO.  There is just something comfortable about Branson.  That is what Tom says.  We have been here many times, in fact the picture we use on our business card was taken July 4th in Branson.  We have stayed in 5-6 different parks when we visit Branson and we are very happy with our site in Turkey Creek, an Escapee RV Park in Hollister which is just outside Branson.  It takes us less than 3 minutes to get to Branson.
We were surprised to see all the tornado damage done to many of the hotels, shops and theaters on February 29th this year.  Some are in the process of being repaired though we have heard from some of shop people that insurance companies are making it difficult for owners to rebuild.
This is one of the hotels.
This was one of our favorite shops where I have bought glass jewelry and Tom really liked the woodworker’s pieces and bought a wooden Kaleidoscope. Very sad.

On Sunday, Father’s Day, Tom was in charge of our activities for the day. We had our mouths all set for breakfast but we were late in getting started.  We have eaten  at the Uptown Restaurant almost every trip to Branson. We love their breakfast buffet. We arrived at 12:10 for the buffet. As we walked in the aroma of the waffles was mouthwatering. We were seated and given our menus – lunch menus. We asked about the breakfast buffet and our very nice waitress said it closed at noon. We apologized and asked if there were any restaurants nearby still serving breakfast. Not only did she give us 3 restaurant names, she was more than gracious about our leaving. We will certainly eat there when ever we can when we return to Branson and recommend their food and entertainment for those visiting Branson.
Tom got calls from both Jason and Jenny wishing him a happy day.  Late in the afternoon we went for dinner.  The only restaurant open on Sunday afternoon in Hollister was the Hook and Ladder Pizza Company.  This restaurant is a hidden treasure in the area.  It is run by one of the Hollister Volunteer Fireman and the d├ęcor is so cute.  The first thing we saw as we walked in the door was the back end of a fire truck.  Pretty cool. The waitress’s were dressed in the fireman’s bright yellow overalls, boots, and hats. We had a delightful talk with the owner. We have spent many July 4th fireworks celebrations in the little town of Hollister run by the Volunteer Fire Department. This owner supports neighboring volunteer fire department by purchasing equipment for the less-funded departments with the profits of this restaurant.

One of the services of the Turkey Creek Campground is the option to order show tickets at a discount.  We took advantage of that and ordered tickets to the Sons of the Pioneers Chuckwagon dinner show at the Shepherd of the Hills.  We wanted to see the Ricky Boen and the Texas Mud Show that we see each time we visit.  We found that he no longer has his own show, but he does play with the Sons of the Pioneers.
At intermission we had the chance to talk to Ricky, 2nd from the left above, and Mark, on the  right who we have met over the years.  Our local music group, Sons of the San Joaquin, is known to these great musicians and Mark has even played with the Sons of the SJ.  We loved this show.
As fulltime RV’ers it is always amazing to me how close technology has allowed us to be with our family.  While at the show Tom got a phone call from granddaughter, Julie, who was at Pier 39 in San Francisco.  He talked to her, returned to the show, and when I was talking to Ricky, mentioned that Julie, who met Ricky when in Branson with us a couple of years ago, called from Pier 39.  Ricky said, “in San Francisco?, well tell her hi”. He remembers us because of our association with the Sons of the San Joaquin.
Another show we saw was The Duttons.  These are mom and dad, brothers, sisters, in-laws and children who all play musical instruments.  The talent in this group is fabulous.  They sing, dance, and play lots of instruments.  We loved this show,
One of the brothers plays horns strapped to his body by bending his elbows, knees, and squeezing the horn’s bulb with his hands.  He played melodies including chords in a dual with his brother on the banjo.  We were impressed and entertained.
The Duttons play country western as well as classical music.  This was a Vivaldi piece beautifully performed.
The children of the performers get into the act at a very young age.
This was a Variety Show and there was a lot of variety acts. This was from the movie, Oh Brother Where Art Thou.
This next picture may be a little hard to appreciate, but each brother and sister in the line is playing the instrument of the person next to them.  And it sounded great.
The Duttons was an afternoon show that we got tickets for $5 each by listening to a sales pitch, our first, for a travel package.  We found it interesting, but definitely not for us.
We had bought discount tickets for Golden Corral, 2 breakfasts or 2 lunches for $10.  Unfortunately, lunch ended at 4 pm and we arrived at 4:20, but the cashier just said go ahead and even gave us our drinks for free.  We checked out a couple of stores before going to our next show, The Haygoods
This last year Roy Rogers, Jr. auctioned all the artifacts that were in the Roy Rogers’ Museum.  He said his father’s fans were now too old to visit the museum and the younger generation did not know who Roy Rogers was.  As we were sitting in the Haygoods lobby where Buttermilk, Dale Evans’ stuffed horse, Trigger, Roy’s stuffed horse, and Bullet, the stuffed dog were displayed, teenagers walked by and say what’s that horse? and have no idea the significance of Buttermilk, Trigger and Bullet.  These animals brought back so many memories of our Saturdays spent at the morning movies as we were growing up.
The Haygoods have been voted the “Best Show” in Branson. We were not disappointed. Again, a family of 6 boys and 1 girl who sing everything from rock and roll, country western, and even some hard rock. They also played instruments from guitar, banjo, violin, saxophone, harp, drums and tapped danced too.  The lights, pyro and laser show was great.
There was audience participation, too.
We have seen 3 really good shows, eaten at many delicious restaurants, shopped at lots of shops and generally had our usual ‘Branson good time’.  We are leaving tomorrow morning for Kansas City for the SkillsUSA competition, but we will return to Branson again and again.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Caching at Lake Village Arkansas

We left Foley and traveled SR 98 up to I-10 and across the beautiful Mobile bridge.  We took the alternate route as the tunnel just past the bridge was only 11 ft. and our motorhome would not fit.  Just past Mobile we took Hwy 98 into Mississippi, Louisiana, then into Arkansas.  We were following the Arkansas Great River Road, a beautiful drive through the Missouri River Bottom.


On our way up Hwy 49 in Mississippi the skies were clear; a nice sunny day. When I looked ahead it looked like rain.  I got out my Droid Razr to check on weather.  I think that little weather cell ahead was the ONLY rain for hundreds of miles.  I can only think we are magnets for bad weather.


It was a very brief downpour, no wind or lightning so we were through it very quickly.

We had traveled 359 miles when we got to Lake Village, AR.  Tom usually does not drive that many miles, but it we found a county park right on Chicot Lake.

We came in after 5:30 and were parked in site #1 for the night.  We were planning on traveling to Branson the next day, Thursday, but this was such a nice park, there were lots of geocaches around the lake, and we added another day for a total of $30.25 for 2 nights.  Site #1 was booked for the weekend so we had to move the next morning to  another site right along the Lake.


The ‘t’ in Chicot is silent so it is pronounced just like the town, Chico, in California.  It is an Oxbow Lake and is 500 years old and averages a mile wide and 22 miles long.  It is the largest lake in Arkansas and the largest Oxbow in North America.  There are many Oxbows along the Missouri and Mississippi formed when meandering rivers twist and turn, flood, build up sand bars, become separate from the river and leaving Oxbow lakes behind.


There was an excellent museum at the Chicot Lake State Park (#3) about 20 miles from the Chicot County Park (#2) that did a great job explaining the history of the area and the formation on the lake. 

There were 2 easy geocaches at the State Park.  We loved the cache that was in plain sight.  The ranger told us the combination to the lock was the last 3 digits of the longitude.


We drove back to Lake Village, had lunch at the local Mexican restaurant and went caching.  We got several, but we had trouble getting an internet signal and we were caching with our Droids so we went back to the motorhome a little frustrated.  I downloaded the geocaches to the Delorme and we went back to town to get a few more.  We were close to 800 caches – we couldn’t resist. Confused smile

Our #800 was found at a local cemetery right by the road.  There was a fresh grave, but it was not near the cache and Tom went right to the tree.  I followed with the bug spray.  There were A LOT of mosquito swarms on the way to the cache. The tree in the back was ground zero (GZ).  We had found 11 caches this day, a good number for us.


We left for Branson on Friday and traveled 250 miles to Turkey Creek RV park, an Escapee Park in Hollister, just outside of Branson.  Our time in Branson will be laid back while we rest up for our time in Kansas City helping with the SkillsUSA Job Interview contest.  We are again putting out an invitation for anyone near Kansas City next week to join us judging the gold medal winners from all the states.  You will have a very uplifting experience.  More on Branson and the tornado damage done last February 29 next blog.  Maybe we might cache too. Open-mouthed smile

Friday, June 15, 2012

Rain, rain go away

We were beginning to think we were the magnets for rain and thunder storms in Florida.  Seems wherever we traveled the rain followed.  When we left Tallahassee it was to be an easy trip to Foley, AL.  Just get on I-10 to Pensacola, down to SR-98 and straight into Foley.  We were on I-10 when the skies opened up and dumped buckets of water on southern Florida and all along I-10.  We managed to get into a rest area to wait out the storm.  There were 2-4 inches of water running across the parking lot.  Our friend, Mike McFall, calls these rains ‘frog stranglers’. We decided if we have to stay the night that would be fine, we have everything we need in our cozy home on wheels, and we have lots of diesel for the generator. 


If only the hail doesn’t come next.  6-8 inches of rain fell in the hour we waited; then let up enough that Tom felt it was safe to travel.  We went to Pensacola and had just turned onto SR-98 when we saw the road was under water as far as we could see.  All cars and trucks were turning off the highway and turning back.  We followed them and saw that all the streets that headed west were flooded.  We backtracked to I-10 and took the high and mostly dry roads into Foley.  We did not know the conditions of the park where we had planned to stay and the office was closed by the time we arrived.  When I called the owner and told her we would be late, she said just drive down the road to the back and park anywhere there.  Tom was more than a little apprehensive about the “down” the road and “to the back”, but we said we’ve made it this far, we will be OK. It’s an adventure… right?

This park, Hideaway RV and Golf Course, probably has the nicest graded cement pads with wide lawn sections between pads we have stayed in.  It did rain while we were there and it drained perfectly.  We will definitely stay there again.  It also is a Passport America with no length of stay restrictions nor cash or check only requirements. 


We hung out in our house on wheels for 2 days while the roads dried up.  Not knowing much about the area we set the GPS for Perdido Beach. That was a mistake as this is an area that is a beach but no way to go east or west, only back the way we came.  We did see some pretty interesting ‘local’ views of how people live right on the gulf. I don’t know how they survive the hurricanes and storms we have seen recently.


Then we drove down to Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.  This, to me, looked like Palm Beach on the Gulf.  There were so many huge high rise hotels and condos right along the water and people everywhere.  This was not the nice laid back sea shore that had visited south of Tallahassee.

We drove back to Foley and on to our RV park.  We travel through the little town of Magnolia Springs.  This is a beautiful quaint settlement along the Magnolia River.  It was settled by Creoles from across Mobile Bay before the Civil War.  Today it has beautiful tree lined streets, Magnolia Springs where children used to swim, Bed and Breakfasts, and where the mail is still delivered by boat along the Magnolia River.  In fact we found a geocache at the Springs.


While in Foley we saw an engine, a couple of railroad cars and a caboose at the corner where we turn to go back to the RV.  There just had to be a cache there… yup there was. It was late in the day and there was no one around so it was easy to spend some time looking around.  We decided to go back the next day. 


We first had lunch at the restaurant recommended by our RV park hostess, Fish River Grill #2.  She said all the locals eat there. That was an excellent choice.  Tom had a seafood BLT. It had big shrimp, bacon, lettuce and fried green tomatoes.  I had Crawdad Rolls.  The best!!!!  The rolls were stuffed with crawdads in a creole sauce then lightly fried,  We were also served their signature Swamp Soup.  I wanted to take home a quart, but we never got back that evening to buy some. Sad smile

The small Foley railroad museum is located on the exact spot where the depot was originally built.  In 1971 when the railroad stopped running to Foley, John Snook, who owned the Gulf Telephone company bought it for a dollar, moved it to Magnolia Springs and used it as a warehouse for the phone company.  Then in 1992 he donated it back to the town of Foley, it was moved back to its original location in 1995 and is now run by volunteers 3 days a week.  The small museum is nice, but the best part of our visit was the model railroad setup in the ‘annex’ of the museum.  These are just some of pictures I took of their setup.  We could have looked all day and not seen all the details: hobos at the edge of town, a gas station where a Ford Mustang pulls in and rings the bell and is filled up with gas before backing out, working street lights, even a burning building with fire trucks and firefighters going up ladders, and the list goes on and on.


We’ve seen a lot of model train setups and this is one of the very best.  It is free, but they take donations so we gave them ours.

The museum closes at 2 p.m. and we drove out to Fort Morgan.  This was one of 3 forts that protected Mobile Bay.  Many battles were fought here and until Sherman’s march to the sea and Grant’s fight south in 1865, Mobile Bay was successfully held by the Confederates and heavily mined. Admiral Farragut took Mobile Bay with his famous saying, “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.”  The torpedoes were what we call mines today.  The fort is a pentagon shaped fort like many built before the Civil War. One of the problems facing these forts today is water leakage.  With the rains we have seen recently, the dripping water was evident.


As we drove back we again were amazed at the beautiful homes along the gulf coast.


We ended our very busy day at Lamberts, famous for their Throwed rolls.  We had a 30 minute wait but the time flew by watching all the people coming here to eat.  They seat about 1000 at a time the waitress said.  It is huge.  We ordered dinner. Tom had meatloaf and I had chicken pot pie.  These come with 2 sides; we both had corn and baked sweet potatoes.  THEN the waiters and waitresses walk through the restaurant with pots of ‘walk-arounds’ that they dish onto your plate: fried okra, fried potatoes, boiled cabbage, macaroni and tomatoes, and of course the rolls that are thrown from across the room.

We took 2 full take-home boxes of what we could not finish and had 2 more complete dinners the next night.  The total caches in Foley – 7.  Pounds gained – ?.  Miles walked – lots.