When my dear friend Angie had planned a road trip to Branson Missouri the first week of November with her mom and Aunt and I was fortunate enough to be invited. It was a 12 hour drive from San Antonio to Branson Missouri. I did not know what to expect, I heard Branson was famous for its music, and I loved music. The best part though was going to be having the chance to take a road trip with Angie. When your with Angie you can’t help but feeling happy and positive, and I needed a good dose of upbeat. We left before the sun came up on Monday morning, there was a thick fog that morning and I was glad Angie was driving. We made a stop at Buckeys, because they do have the cleanest restrooms in the state. By the time we reached Arlington to pick up Angie’s mom and aunt we had blue skies and nice weather. Driving through Oklahoma I expected to see flat, dry prairie, you know like the movie Oklahoma, instead we saw beautiful farmland, a life size realistic statue of a cowboy roping cattle roadside in Mcelster, Lake Eufalia which is Oklahoma’s Great Lake and all sorts of interesting town names including Muskogee.
We arrived in Branson late in the evening to chili fog. The time share we were staying at had their Halloween decorations up next to Christmas decorations, this was for sure a place that loved holidays.
The next day after the fog lifted we went out to explore, everyone had started decorating for Christmas, I felt like we had stepped into a movie where the townspeople live for the spirit of celebrating holidays. There was so much to see.
There were shows to see. Our first was the Duttons, a family show, in the Dutton Family theater, with the Dutton hotel behind the theater. This incredibly talented family has found a way to keep their family close while making a living using their brilliant talents and business savvy. Children and grandchildren sang, danced, performed funny comedy acts and played a variety of instruments each number more impressive then the last. The theater and hotel are run entirely by family. My favorite part was seeing Mama Dutton smiling while she played bass in the background, who could blame her she was living most mothers dream, spending time with your family while sharing their gifts and making people happy.
That night we went to see Jonah, in The Sight and Sound Theater. The music, voices and special effects were amazing, when the whale came through the audience you felt he may swallow you as well. They took some creative license in telling the Old Testament story about a young Hebrew prophet named Jonah who is sent by God to prophesy the destruction of Nineveh. He tries to escape the divine mission because he feels they do not deserve a chance for redemption. It is a beautiful reminder how God seeks for all his children to know mercy and we should never be so bitter that we can’t look for the good in others. The show was 43.00 to see but it was well worth the price.
The following day we went to The Branson Belle, a classic showboat that cruises Table Rock Lake. Inside a delicious 3 course meal is served as guests are entertained by fabulous musicians, comedy and magic acts as well as dancing and a violinist who performs from an aerial silk ribbon. I felt the 50.00 admission price was an excellent deal for all this short cruise gives.
In addition to the shows there were a multitude of places to eat.
Docs Hickory Roadhouse Cafe had reasonable prices, good service and a great BBQ burger that was big enough for 2 people to share, avoid the riblets unless you like jerky.
In downtown Branson we ate at Branson Cafe it was good down home comfort food, reasonable prices and great service.
Mel’s Diner was a quirky little place where the wait staff would sing while you dine, the voices were awesome, but the food left something to be desired, the drama in the kitchen kept us entertained through our meal.
Our best meal was on our last day when we stopped at The College of The Ozark’s. Students do not pay tuition at this school, instead each student works at the school to earn their tuition. Judging by the food their culinary students will go far. From the Butternut & Brie Fall Squash Salad to the Pumpkin Brûlée and ice cream tree everything was homemade and delicious, the wait staff was charming and the prices were very reasonable. But don’t try and come here without a reservation,they get packed. The school also has a hotel, we only saw the lobby but the pictures of the rooms are beautiful.
Sadly it was our last day in Branson but Angie had one more place she wanted to visit The Precious Moments Chapel and Gardens located in Carthage Missouri. I had no idea what to expect maybe a museum or special gift shop. Though they did have both of those the true beauty of this place was the chapel. We walked up the path to the music He Leadeth Me. We opened the doors to a altar decorated with a collage of precious children inside heavens gates, but the true beauty of this piece is found when you continue through and find the room where you see the person who represents each sweet precious moments character, from infants adults who left this world far too early. The Chapel was filled with Precious Moments Biblical Murals and beautiful letters and stories from people whose lives had been touched by Sam Butcher and his Precious Moments creations. There was also a lovely chapel with a mural of the day his son died, the story as well as the depiction he created of his family surrounding his son as he was leaving earth to heaven was beyond touching. I was so moved by the simple faith of this man. The story of Sam Butcher is in the chapel, he is a man who with out doubt has taken his talent and used it for the good of others.
It was pouring and the rain as we drove away from the Precious Moments Chapel, the sky seemed to represent the tears shed by all those who had lost a loved one. For much of our drive there were dark skies to the east, and sunshine to the west. Christmas was 8 weeks away and at that moment I looked so forward to the upcoming holidays, inspired in my faith by the trip and the lovely woman I had spent the last days with. Little did I know that this Christmas season would be saddened by the death of my mother, the dark skies were on their way for my family as my precious mother would soon be entering heaven just like the beautiful children on the Precious Moments Mural. But for today I was looking towards the Sunshine to the West feeling the joy with memories of inspirational shows, great food, and most important time with friends taking a road trip that will forever stay in my heart.