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Old 06-13-2006, 04:03 PM   #16
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! Day 2 Part 2 added 6-9-06

Just a note: I'm away from home for a little while, so I'll post the rest of our trip beginning next week when I can get back on my computer! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 06-21-2006, 04:18 PM   #17
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! Day 3 Part 1 added 6-21-06

Day 3 - Monday, May 22

We tried to get an early start this morning, since we had several things planned to do. I had thought a lot about which things to try and see and which could or should wait until a later trip. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/confused.gif[/img] I had also asked Joshua what would he like to do, and he said "ride the rides", meaning the kiddie rides at the go-kart places on the strip. At first I thought maybe we could go to Celebration City as they have a kiddie-ride section, but since it wasn't Memorial Day yet, they were closed during the week. Instead, I figured out which location of The Track had rides that Joshua could do. So I grabbed our trusty map and the brochures of the places we were going, and after a quick breakfast we were out the door.

I headed straight up to the strip since it was early, and the traffic wasn't that bad. Then we went all the way out to downtown. We were headed to the Branson Scenic Railway depot. I thought Joshua would enjoy seeing the train. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/cool.gif[/img] It was a hard decision for me whether we should take a ride. I was a little scared Joshua would get too antsy during the trip to really enjoy it, but I thought if we arrived at the depot in time I might buy us tickets as a last-minute thing. As it turned out, a traffic detour made that decision for me! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/crazy.gif[/img] A block before the depot, traffic was rerouted because they were still rebuilding the road, which was to be the main entrance for their newest shopping center, Branson Landing. So by the time we detoured around to the parking lot, got out of the car, and got assistance crossing through the construction zone, the train was just pulling out. Ah well, it was probably best left for a future trip anyway.

Since the train was just leaving, I thought we would be able to watch it from inside (or outside) the depot, so we went inside. Unfortunately, we couldn't see the train from inside, and you couldn't walk out back because of the way the ticket counter was set up. But never fear, there was tons of Thomas stuff to look at! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/smirk.gif[/img] I had been expecting this of course, so I told Joshua to pick out a new train. He chose the set of Bill and Ben. While paying for the purchase, I asked the man at the register if any of the new shopping center was open yet. I had thought that Joshua would enjoy looking at the boats at Bass Pro Shop. Unfortunately, the man told us that only Belk was open, but that we would be able to get to the boardwalk. He gave us directions around the construction and we headed that way.

We finally found a parking place at Belk and I was surprised at how much construction was still being done - there were crews everywhere, and we had to dodge several tractors on our way through the parking lot. I started looking for a way to get to the boardwalk, but every time I saw a sidewalk or some steps, there was also a sign that said "Construction Only." So there went that plan. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/frown.gif[/img] The shopping area looks nice - it is set up as a city-street type of area, not really a mall. But the street is only for pedestrian use. The street is also divided into several "themed" sections such as uptown, downtown, wharf, etc. Right in the middle is a water feature similar to the fountain at Epcot (I'm pretty sure it is the same designer). Every so often, it will go into a show set to music, but this one adds the element of fire. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/ooo.gif[/img] Sounds like it will be nice, we'll have to check it out the next time we are here. (The grand opening was the week after our trip!) So since we couldn't walk around the shops, I thought we would use the restroom in Belk. Unfortunately, it was still about 20 minutes until they would open - this just wasn't our morning! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/crazy.gif[/img] So we walked back to the car to head on to our next stop.

Once we got back in the car, I checked the map and we took the red route out of downtown. As part of the refurbishment of the Branson Landing shops opening, they had recently opened a traffic circle (roundabout) on this street. You could tell it was something new because there were several cars that didn't really know what to do. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/blush.gif[/img] But, believe it or not, we have two of these traffic circles in the Jackson, MS metro area, so I knew how to get around them and it was no problem. Then we were off to the Branson Mill and the Mountain Man Nut & Fruit Company. I had been so disappointed in the bridge mix I had bought at the Ducks shop, that I just had to stop and get some here because I knew from experience that it was just what I wanted. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/facelick.gif[/img]

When we arrived at Branson Mill, I noticed that the craft area had opened since our last visit, so we stopped there first to use the restroom. Afterwards, I thought we would look around inside to see what it was like. The best way I can describe it is if you've ever been to a trade show or a craft show that has been set up in a convention center or large exhibit building. You know how they subdivide the space into small booth areas with metal poles and curtains? Well this is like a permanent one of those. The space is a long rectangle, and the individual booths have been sectioned off with real walls, and the floor area for the booths has been carpeted, so it's really nice. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/082502yes_prv.gif[/img] Almost all the spaces were filled, most with handcrafted items, some were gift items like you would find at small, locally-owned gift shops. They had a great variety of items and the prices were pretty reasonable. A few of the booths had a space set up for the artist/crafter to demonstrate their work. There was also a snack-bar area and some tables and chairs set up in the middle.

When you go in, you pick up a shopping basket at the door. Then any time you see something you want you put it in your basket. Back at the entrance/exit is a large check-out counter where you pay for everything. Each item's price tag has a code on it to let them know which booth you took it from, and therefore which person should get the money for the sale. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/cool.gif[/img] I thought it was a great idea, that way the merchants/artists don't have to always be present. I was tempted by the big wind chimes, but they were a little out of my price range for this trip. I also liked the kids items (puzzles and toys), model kits for things you would see at a boy scout camp (almost got one for Jay), and several of the art items. But what in the world did I actually buy? Of all things, especially at an arts and crafts mall, I bought Jay a shake-up flashlight! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/shocked.gif[/img] He had been admiring my dad's for so long, I thought he would like one of his own. And it was only $6, so I had to get it.

After paying for the flashlight, we finally went next door to get the chocolate. Like last time, I again got a sample of soup when I walked in the door. I decided to go ahead and pick up a couple of boxes. Then I looked and looked and looked for the bridge mix, and was scared they didn't have any. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/frown.gif[/img] But when I asked, a lady directed me right to it. Joshua got a sample of chocolate rocks which he was a little wary of at first, but I assured him that he really could eat these rocks, and that they were candy, and then he ate them and loved them! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

Finally we left and drove on to The Track #3, which is near the Grand Palace. This location had several kiddie rides that Joshua could handle. We walked around first so he could see all the rides - there was a train, ferris wheel, tea cups, swings, rabbits (like Dumbo), kiddie bumper boats and kiddie go-karts. I let Joshua look at each one and decide what he wanted to do. As I thought, he kept saying no to each ride. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/rolleyes.gif[/img] So after making the rounds, the only thing he wanted to ride was the train. So I lined up at the ticket booth and he decided he would ride the train twice. I purchased 2 tickets, feeling like it was kind of a waste of time. I will say that I like their ticketing system - you get a card with a barcode on the back (like a PhotoPass card) and instead of getting individual tickets to keep up with, you get that number of credits loaded onto your card. Then at the entrance to each ride, the attendant swipes your card and the card reader tells you how many credits you have left. The card, obviously, is reusable.

Anyway, I took Joshua to get in line for the train. Since the place had just opened and wasn't very crowded, there was only one attendant working the kiddie rides, so we had to wait until the ride she was running finished. Then she came over to let Joshua on the train, and the other kids there decided to ride as well. The track was pretty long and even went out over a small trestle at the end before turning around and coming back. Joshua really enjoyed it. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/082502yes_prv.gif[/img] When the ride was over, the other kids went on to another ride and I stayed with Joshua to wait our turn for another trip on the train. While waiting he decided he might ride something else instead. So we walked around looking at the other rides again. I also reminded Joshua that he only had one ticket left. (I was sticking to my guns on not buying any additional tickets, or else it would have never ended. He'll know better next time!) He decided he would ride the rabbits, so we waited there. But then he saw the other kids riding the ferris wheel and decided that looked like fun so we headed over to get in line. Since the lone attendant was already operating that ride, Joshua was able to get on without any more waiting. He liked it, and said that he was really high up! (Not really, but he thought so.) As I thought, he put up a little bit of a fuss when I told him he couldn't ride anything else because he didn't have any more tickets. I just told him that he would have to get some more tickets the next time we came back. Plus, it was close to lunch time and I was getting hungry!

Coming up next: Day 3, Part 2 - One Last Adventure
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Old 06-21-2006, 05:31 PM   #18
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! Day 3 Part 1 added 6-21-06

Great update Christie [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/zwavin.gif[/img] Sorry you missed the train in the AM, but at least Joshua got to ride one in the afternoon!
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Old 06-21-2006, 05:40 PM   #19
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! Day 3 Part 1 added 6-21-06

[ QUOTE ]
Great update Christie [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/zwavin.gif[/img] Sorry you missed the train in the AM, but at least Joshua got to ride one in the afternoon!

[/ QUOTE ] Hee-hee! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img] A little difference in the size of the two trains, but I guess you're right! At least he didn't know that I was thinking of buying tickets for the real train.
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Old 06-22-2006, 02:11 PM   #20
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! Day 3 Part 1 added 6-21-06

Great update Christie!!! Sounds like a rough start, but everything worked out in the end!! Can't wait to read more!!
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Old 06-23-2006, 04:22 PM   #21
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! Day 3 Part 2 added 6-23-06

We drove back to the resort and I fixed Joshua a PB&J sandwich. I didn't feel like a turkey sandwich today, so I had the leftover Arby's roast beef that Joshua didn't finish off on our drive up Saturday. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/facelick.gif[/img] After lunch we rested for a little while before heading back out. I had decided that we should go back to that scenic overlook that I had seen yesterday, and take some pictures. So that's where we headed, again taking the yellow route to go around the traffic on the strip.

Upon entering the parking area, I saw that there were a number of exhibit boards set up along the sidewalk. We parked in front of the first one, with my intent being to walk down the sidewalk and back, reading each of the boards. But at the first exhibit board, which was about animals of the area, there was a box of brochures. I pulled one out and learned that we were in the Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area. Mr. Henning is the person who created the TV shows Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. They sold and/or donated this land with the stipulation that it remain in its natural state. But the main thing I learned from this brochure is that there are trails here! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/shocked.gif[/img] That's one of my favorite things to do, so I was very excited. I took a few minutes to get oriented on the map, and read quickly about the trails. I turned around and saw where the first trail started at the end of the sidewalk. It also happened to be the shortest trail so we headed for it.

This trail was .4 mile long and led to an observation platform, like a fire tower. We climbed up for a look around, and I must say that Joshua handled it much better than I did, surprisingly. He was excited about climbing, and I was a little nervous about him on the steps, so I kept reminding him to go slow and wait for me before he headed up the next flight. After each flight, I would step onto the landing and my knees would get a little more weak each time. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/crazy.gif[/img] I've never really been afraid of heights, so I'm not sure why I had this reaction. But I must say the view was awesome. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/082502yes_prv.gif[/img] Directly below us lay Celebration City, and of course you could see a lot of other locations along the strip. And in the other direction you had a great view of the Inspiration Tower at the Shepherd of the Hills homestead. We looked around for a few minutes then headed back down and walked back to the car. As planned, we looked at the other exhibit boards and checked out the view from the main viewing platform. Joshua said he wanted to walk the next trail, which started just down the steps from the deck. I said okay, because we had cooled off a little bit. But right at the beginning of the trail, Joshua sat down on a rock because he was tired. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/rolleyes.gif[/img] So I convinced him to come back some other time to walk the trail, especially because I wasn't prepared and didn't have any water with us. He agreed and we went back to the car.

From here, so that I wouldn't have to make a left-hand turn, we continued west until coming to the 265 bypass. I turned here and we drove down to the Table Rock Dam visitor center. Joshua remembered coming here last year and was excited to get to see the exhibits again. Some of the exhibit walls have holes to look through and see pictures of animals and trees and he really wanted to look through the holes! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/smirk.gif[/img] We walked out back for a few minutes and sat down by the water. There is a walking trail here, and I had planned to walk it. But after the unexpected trail walking at the scenic overlook area, it would have been too much. Instead I decided to go to the fish hatchery. So we got back in the car and drove around underneath the dam.

We had never been here before, so I wasn't real sure what to expect, especially since we've never been to any fish hatchery! There was a very small visitor center with one large aquarium and a few small ones. The rest of the visitor center building was a meeting room. Around the edges of the room were animal exhibits. Some were just information boards, but there were also some live animals on display, such as snakes, frogs, lizards and spiders. There was a small kids exhibit area. The rest of the area was outside. I had picked up a brochure with a map inside, but I found it a little hard to read since most everything on the map was a pond or pool of some sort.

The main thing you notice when you walk out is all the raceways, the narrow and shallow concrete ditches where they raise the trout. We walked around and looked in each of these. The trout are so accustomed to being fed by the visitors that all you have to do is walk close to one of the pools and they all start jumping around like piranhas! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/shocked.gif[/img] This area made me a little nervous because the pools are not fenced, so I was a little scared the whole time that Joshua would fall in. But everything was fine, and on the walk back to the building I noticed the fish food machines. I bought some and let Joshua feed the fish - he thought that was neat. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img] Then we went back to the car. I didn't realize it at the time, but there are several trails here also. One day, we will have lots of places to walk. On this trip, I found out that Branson is a place that has to be discovered - I've yet to see any brochure that really lists everything there is to see and do here. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/082502no_prv.gif[/img] Well, by this time Joshua needed a nap so we drove up the road to the resort and I got him situated in the bed while I read in the living room.

After Joshua's nap we had a little snack, then went downstairs to the mini-golf course for another round. For some reason Joshua didn't do quite as well this time, but I did much better. We both enjoyed it, though. After our 18 holes we headed back up to the room to start packing. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/frown.gif[/img] Joshua enjoyed playing with his new trains on the balcony table, while I got a few of our things together, then heated up the last of the spaghetti. I told you it sustained us for the whole trip! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/blush.gif[/img] After supper Jay called to check on us, and I told him everything we had done - it seemed like so much that we could have been here a week! I cleaned up and started pulling things out of cabinets and drawers so we wouldn't forget anything. Soon it was time for Joshua to go to bed, then I continued cleaning up and plugged in our cooler so it would be ready for the drive back home tomorrow.


Next up: Day 4, Back Home Again
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Old 06-23-2006, 07:47 PM   #22
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! Day 3 Part 2 added 6-23-06

Great update Christie [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/zwavin.gif[/img] Glad you found some trails, they sound great! Sorry it's all coming to an end, but what a great time you've had!
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Old 06-24-2006, 09:29 AM   #23
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! Day 3 Part 2 added 6-23-06

Great update Christie!!! Sounds like you two are really having a great time!! Can't wait to read more, but I'm sad your report is coming to an end!
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Old 06-26-2006, 03:37 PM   #24
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! Day 4 added 6-26-06

Day 4 - Tuesday, May 23

We woke up, ate breakfast and cleaned up a little bit. This resort requests that you put your linens in the tub and start the dishwasher before you check out. I also vacuumed up the big pile of crumbs that had accumulated under the dining table. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/blush.gif[/img] Then we finished our packing and took everything down to the car. Instead of getting in the car and driving around the corner, we just walked around to the clubhouse to check out, and dropped off our trash in the bin along the way. Checkout was very easy and we headed back to the car to leave. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/frown.gif[/img]

Leaving out, I decided to take the yellow route, the opposite direction we had been going the past two days, back around to the east end of 76, then hitting highway 65 from there. On the way, I found two other parks to visit on another trip when we have more time. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/cool.gif[/img] Soon we were back on the highway. We stopped at a visitor center just north of Harrison, Arkansas to use the restroom - it was a very nice place to stop for a few minutes, although we didn't go inside the visitor information area. Before getting back on the road I got each of us a snack to hold us over until lunchtime.

After a while we arrived in Conway and stopped at the McDonald's I had noticed on our drive up Saturday. Actually, the entrance came up on me so fast that I didn't have time to stop! So we pulled into the gas station next door and circled back around to McDonald's. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/crazy.gif[/img] Joshua got a Happy Meal and I think I had chicken strips. We got back in the car, pulled back around to the Exxon for gas, then got back on the road.

We made our way down the interstate and back onto the mostly 2-lane highways at Pine Bluff. I tried to keep Joshua awake during this segment of the drive so that he would get a good nap later. We stopped at the rest area at Masonville, which is a few miles north of Lake Village, and got one final snack before heading for home.

Joshua did in fact get a good nap this afternoon, and I was able to drive in semi- peace and quiet! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/applause.gif[/img] The only bad part of the drive for me this time was that my leg started cramping up - we don't have cruise control in this vehicle, so I resorted to driving with my left foot for a while to rest up my right leg. Very interesting! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/crazy.gif[/img] Coming back into Clinton we came up on the back side of a typical summer thunderstorm which contained some very severe lightning. It was awesome to watch it, I was just glad we didn't have to drive through it. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/082502no_prv.gif[/img] We took the back way to our house, and even arrived home before Jay got home from work!

Next up: Concluding Thoughts of Our Trip
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Old 06-26-2006, 05:10 PM   #25
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! Day 4 added 6-26-06

Sounds like you and Joshua really had a wonderful mother-son trip!!! I really enjoyed reading about it!! Can't wait to read your final thoughts.
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Old 06-26-2006, 07:19 PM   #26
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! Day 4 added 6-26-06

What a great time Christie [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/zwavin.gif[/img] Glad you made it home safely [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/laugh.gif[/img]
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Old 06-29-2006, 04:06 PM   #27
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! ** Complete ** 6-29-06

Conclusion

This was the first trip I had taken by myself. Of course Jay was supposed to go also, but about a month ahead of time was forced to rearrange his vacation days at work. I didn't want to sit at home, so I decided I would just go! I'm glad I decided to go because Joshua and I had a lot of fun, and found out more about Branson in the process. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/082502yes_prv.gif[/img]

We had stayed at a different resort the past two times, Big Cedar, but there was no availability there this time, so we were forced to stay at Falls Village. At first I was so disappointed in the unit because it was "plain", not themed like Big Cedar. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/frown.gif[/img] However, I soon came to appreciate its location just off the strip. That made for a much easier commute, especially at lunchtime. When I got home, Jay wanted to know about the resort, and I told him that after a few days, I actually liked it. The rooms were very spacious and we didn't feel cramped.

What new things did we experience this trip? We finally got to ride the Ducks, plus just about everything else we did on this trip was new for us. Talking Rocks Cavern was nice, but next time we might try a different one. Downtown Branson was nice, and going to The Track shortly after they opened made for an uncrowded and pleasant visit. I also found lots of trails for us to walk on some other time, and a couple of parks as well. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/cool.gif[/img]

What did we miss? Well, there's plenty left to pick from - taking a train ride, checking out the Branson Landing shopping area, the Titanic museum, and all those trails! I'd still like to check out some other things in the area, such as the Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, the Bass Pro Shops and Fantastic Caverns.

What would we do differently next time? I don't know - this trip worked out really well. We got to do a lot during the day, but still had the afternoons and evenings off. It would be nice to stay at Big Cedar again, but if we're going to do a lot of things in Branson, we should really stay at Falls Village for the convenience and easy access. [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/082502yes_prv.gif[/img]

It's been fun sharing this with you, I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Next up: Look for my Gatlinburg trip report - we leave tomorrow morning!
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Old 06-29-2006, 06:21 PM   #28
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! ** Complete ** 6-29-06

Christie, it really sounds like you and Joshua had a terrific trip. I'll bet Jay is jealous! [img]/ubb/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]
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Old 06-29-2006, 06:32 PM   #29
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! ** Complete ** 6-29-06

Thanks for sharing your trip with us Christie!! Can't wait to hear all about Gatlinburg!! Have a safe trip!!
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Old 06-29-2006, 08:12 PM   #30
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Re: Mother and Son Alone in Branson! ** Complete ** 6-29-06

Great report, Christie!!

Have fun in Gatlinburg; I can't wait to read ALL about it!!!!!!!
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