It’s 5am as I’m starting this, so I hope I’m coherent. Once my wife gets going we’ll hit the road. I wanted to talk about vacations….

When I was a kid…

My parents were raised during the depression and never let a penny go to waste. Part of that was we rarely went on vacation. The only one I recall was we drove from New Orleans to Houston. One of the things we did was go to a Milwaukee Braves vs Houston Colt .45s game before the Astrodome was built.

As an adult…

I’ve traveled some since then, though not as much as my wife would like. We’re all busy and it’s easy to let vacationing fall through the cracks. Please take some time to enjoy yourselves.

This summer…

One of the things we did this summer was take two short trips from Austin to Branson – two full days plus an extra night at the end of June and at the end of July. My idea of Branson was as a place for old people who like country music.

Branson: the bad

It’s a pain to get to. There’s a tiny airport here a bit outside town. A small airport is about an hour away. The nearest decent-sized airport is 3+ hours away.

The main road through town is a perpetual parking lot. Luckily there are lots of ways to go around it for the most part.

There are way too many billboards and enough cheesy-looking places that you think you’re going to hate it before you even get anywhere.

Branson: the good

This diary could be titled “the real Branson”. There are so many things to like here I could go on forever but I’ll try to keep it reasonable.

There are lots of families with young kids here. There is plenty for them to enjoy. Prices for the most part are reasonable so it won’t put the parents in debt like a weekend at Disney World, where three-day tickets for two parents with a 10yo and 5yo will cost around $1,500.

Touristy stuff…

A vacation for me means a mix of seeing some new things and relaxing; for my wife it means spending every hour doing something on the packed itinerary.

In the June trip we went to Dolly Parton’s Stampede and rode the Showboat Branson Belle. Both included dinner and entertainment for all ages. Good clean fun and both ended on a strong patriotic note.

This time we went to see Samson. This play is put on by a group that has shows for several months a year here and in Lancaster PA. They pick a different character from the Bible each year. This is at least they sixth year they’ve been doing this. Everything about it was great – the acting, the sound, the sets, the effects, you name it.

You feel the love for God and country here

As I mentioned a moment ago, two of the biggest shows end with wonderful patriotic displays. But it’s not just there – you see it everywhere. On the lower level of the Radisson hotel there is a long hallway that looks like a miniature museum. Both sides of the wall have thousands of pictures and stories about the history of the military and military conflicts. We stopped at a Walmart. You’ve probably seen an area near one of the entrances at your local Walmart where pictures of local active military troops or veterans are posted. The population of Branson isn’t much over 10,000, but I bet this Walmart easily had 1,000 such pictures. Amazing!

You also feel the love for God here. Samson packs in 2,000 people for 2-3 shows daily. At the end of the show there are no curtain calls. Instead the narrator (in this case the person in the role of Samson’s father Manoah) invites people who wish to do so to come visit with prayer counselors at the foot of the stage. Interesting!

To wrap this up…

We did a couple of other things here but you get the idea. We also did some driving around. There are some incredible views just outside town. It’s really a fun place to visit and didn’t much resemble my preconceived notions of what it would be like.

My main message is to take time to enjoy life no matter where you go.

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