A couple of weeks ago our family took it’s first official vacation together to Branson, MO. Just Matt, me, and Sam. I can’t tell you how nice it was to be away from home with the two people I love the most. We were relaxed, happy, and together. Matt doesn’t have a ton of vacation days with being still somewhat low on the totem pole, so we opted for a short and simple get-away. We took off on a Thursday night for the hills of the Ozarks. We stopped in Rolla on the way and met up with a college friend and family. It’s a strange feeling, being in Rolla. It always reminds me of dating Matt and the beginnings of our life together. We arrived at our condo, rented from a friend of mine, late Thursday night.
We awoke on Friday, had a little breakfast and then got ready for a day at Silver Dollar City. Matt checked the weather and told us it would be the perfect day! We got there extremely quickly considering parts of the Silver Dollar City parking lot are farther from the park than our condo (we could see the coasters from our windows.) We unloaded and with Matt’s regards to the forecast, left the umbrella in the car. We wouldn’t need it. The park was busy, but not too busy. Our first stop was the glass blower. Matt and I enjoyed it. Sam enjoyed the rest of the audience and kids.
We then went on the train ride. It was hilarious! It’s early in the season and apparently the “actors” on the train ride are still new to their job. The conductor got the day wrong and was corrected by the other performers, totally throwing him into laughter, which was funny to watch. And that was only the beginning. So, audience participation is what Silver Dollar City is all about, but apparently they don’t train their “actors” for what might happen when those audience members don’t respond in the expected fashion. So, these two men were looking for their mom (who’s clearly dead as marked by the gravesite behind them) in a way to convince the conductor that they weren’t trying to steal from the train. The conductor asks this sweet woman on the train if she’s the mother of these two idiots. Now, there are two responses to a yes/no question. Clearly they want her to say No, but she goes for the comical route, and says Yes, she’s the mother of these boys. Apparently they don’t get many sarcastic/jokesters in Southern MO, so why bother preparing for this situation? The three newbie actors had no clue what to do!! They did their best to ad lib, but in the end gave up and sent our train on it’s merry way, without much of a plot or story, but with lots of laughter and memories. It’s hard to describe, but believe me, it was hysterical!
Sam knew no stranger on this trip. He was happy to talk to anyone who bothered to stop and chat. He high-fived the robbers on the train, etc. His favorite part of the park was probably the kids foam area. It’s so cool! He wasn’t too into the water excitement surrounding the kids area, so we took him into the foam area. It is covered with three or four stories of foam balls, with vaccuums and cannons and 100 other different ways to send the foam balls traveling around in this giant structure. It was a bit overwhelming for Sam (which was a little disappointing for me. I could’ve had a blast in there!), so we took him into a smaller section for younger kiddos, and he had his blast! There was a wheel he could spin to send the foam balls tumbling around, and I think he would have played with that all day!
He didn’t get the chance, though, because the “beautiful forecast” started to spit on us. Then sprikle. Then pour. We made our way to lunch before the big rain hit and enjoyed some BBQ under a big umbrella. Sam, of course, loved the corn on the cob. Then, we decided to walk around a little in the rain to see how we could pass the time. We ended up at the Tintype Saloon just in time! While waiting inside to get Sam’s portrait taken as a cowboy, it poured and blew something crazy outside! Apparently there were severe weather warnings and what-not, but we were safe in a long line waiting for old-fashioned portraits. Of course, we avoided the rain, but there was no avoiding the nap-time crankiness around this time of day. The plan was to go back to the condo to nap, but the weather had other ideas completely. Yet we made it through the long line of saloon girls, civil war soldiers and prairie girls, and got a nice picture of our little cowboy, barefoot. =) By the time we were done, the rains were just behind us, and there was no longer a line for the photos.
Matt and I got Sam to settle for a nap in the stroller instead while we did a little shopping: father’s day gifts, candy at the fudge shoppe, taffy, and a little T-shirt for our buddy. When he woke up there was a little time left, which we spent going through the fun-house, which he enjoyed, the animal-petting area, and a little wooden train. We had the amazing skillets for supper and then headed to the closing show. We headed back to the condo as very happy vacationers, who made out very well in the “beautiful weather.”
The next day we spent in Branson doing the tourist thing. We started at the Landing, a wonderful outdoor shopping area. We enjoyed the stores, and the fire and water fountains. Sam took a little snooze while Matt and I enjoyed an outdoor lunch and beers at a yummy Irish pub. After Sam woke up, he had a blast watching a man make him a balloon animal, and happily played with his frog on the way to the car. We then went to the strip and rode the ducks. I’d never been, and had always wondered about them, so Matt thought we should go. If you like cheezy humor (which you must if you’re willing to take a trip to Branson!) then you’ll love the ducks. If you tuned out the driver, then the drive is quite nice. It was a beautiful day to be floating on the lake as well. The ducks were a bit anti-climactic for my taste, but we enjoyed them nontheless.
We had to high-tail it off of the duck in order to make our reservations at Dixie Stampede. We got there just in time! Our seats were amazing. Front row! Right at the height of a horse’s rear! The show was great. It really kept Sam’s interest. The performers can do some amazing things on horseback! The food was just as awesome. Sam was free as long as he sat on our laps and ate from our plate. The server was sweet enough to give us a few extras for his mouth. We had yummy cheesy rolls, creamy vegetable soup which was surprisingly good, a whole juicy chicken with delicious seasoned meat that just fell off of the bone, pork tenderloin, and a baked potato. There were no utensils, but the food is prepared in such a way that it wasn’t bothersome. They make it very easy and fun to eat with your hands, just like Sam. For dessert was a delicious apple turnover. Afterwards we walked around to the stables to look at all of the horses. Boy are they beautiful. Then back to the condo for night #3. I think it was Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede that surprised me the most on this trip. I’m not sure I have a favorite of all the things we did, but of all of them, the Dixie Stampede was an unexpected hilight! I’d love to do it again.
The next day was our day at Table Rock Lake. My friend Kim came down from Springfield (MO) and went with us. It was a cloudy, overcast looking day, and the threat of stormy weather was always present by the dark clouds just a little ways away. But it was a warm one, so the water felt good, and the clouds kept away the crowds. This was Sam’s first swim since last fall, and he took his time to warm up to the water. He wore a funny contraption which was basicly an innertube sewn into a 1-piece swimming suit, but it did it’s job and kept my little buddy afloat. With a little singing and a tight grasp on Mom, we waded out into deeper water. By the end of the day he was comfortable with it. He enjoyed watching all of the boats parked at the marina, and had a good time bouncing in the wakes of those that were driving on the lake. We ate a picnic lunch during which the sky cleared up and we had a beautiful sunny day. Sam enjoyed playing in a shallow little area with his bucket, scoop, water, and rocks. He was into dumping the water all over himself and his dad. =) We went back to the condo for a late nap, and then, reluctantly, packed Matt up to head home.
Matt, Kim, Sam and I had dinner at the Landing again, and, not that we planned it, we ate outside overlooking the fountains along the lake. We couldn’t have timed it better as the big fire and water show took place while we waited for our check. At another time or place I might have been frustrated at how long dinner was taking, but with beautiful weather and an impressive fire and water choreographed show, we had a nice time. It was then time to sadly send Matt back to St. Louis for work. Kim and I had decided to rent the condo for a couple of extra nights and play at the lake. Sam stayed with us, too.
It took Sam mere minutes to adjust to swimming in the lake this time. He turned into a little fishy, literally overnight. This time it was myself that was playing cautious, as my little man seemed to think he could swim on his own. I wish I could describe how much he loved the water that day, but it’s just not possible to put into words. We finally had to drag him out of the water for a late nap, since we had hit that “I’m so tired, I’m insane” moment, which just doesn’t mix well with “I love the water and don’t want to hold on.” We headed to the strip for dinner at Fuddruckers that night, with a quick stop at the John Deere store for some fun things.
The next day we pretty much packed and drove. As we drove through the hills, the car was full of happy travellers. It’s hard to describe, but I just love that tired, content, relaxed feeling that you have after a busy, yet relaxing, vacation. It sounds like an oximoron: busy and relaxing. Only on vacation do the two words relate. On the way home, it’s the perfect mix of sleepy and happy. It’s similar to that feeling you get after a day of sunbathing and napping on a Carribean beach. Who knew I could feel that way in Missouri!? I’m just so thankful that our family is able to, first of all, be fortunate enough to go on vacations, and to have a great family location in beautiful landscape, just a half a day’s drive away. On top of that, we were blessed with amazing temperatures and nothing but pleasant experiences with the people and places that we encountered. No wonder we left in that vacationers bliss. I love it!