7/17/17 to 7/23/17
Monday 7/17/17 Today marks two months on the road! We really hated to leave our campsite at Aux Ark Park in Ozark, Arkansas. It's been one of the nicest campgrounds we've stayed at. But we had reservations in Branson, Missouri so we packed up and hit the road. We left around 10:30 AM and got to Branson around 2:00 PM. Traveled 178 miles. Branson is a popular area for RVs and all the campgrounds try to pack in as many trailers as they can on their property. We are staying at Branson Lakeside RV park which is actually owned by the city of Branson. It's a fairly large RV campground and very close to the old downtown Branson and the new Branson Landings section. It sits right on Lake Taneycomo. Most of the shows and attractions are a short drive away on the main strip. Spaces are tight, so tight in fact that we had to have two people across from us move their trucks just so I could back in. After we set up we took a ride to get gas and check out the area. This place reminds me of Pigeon Forge but not as crowded. We didn't drive around for very long but headed back to our trailer to look over all the advertisements and brochures we picked up to decide what we are going to do for the next week.
Tuesday 7/18/17 Since our campground is right on Lake Taneycomo there's a sidewalk along the water that runs right into an area called Branson Landing. It's a new waterfront shopping, dining and entertaining area. There are over 100 specialty stores and restaurants and a Hilton Promenade. There's also a $7.5 million water fountain that is synchronized to light, sound, music, and fire! The walk is about a mile one way which wasn't too bad. Once we got there we just walked around and went into a couple of places. We saw a kiosk for The Branson Jet Boat which I read about in some of the literature that we picked up last night. It looked like fun so we signed up. We should have known better when they asked us to sign a release form.
We walked down to the dock and there were probably 30 or so people already waiting in line. The crew announced that if you wanted to get wet sit in the back. If you wanted to get really wet sit near the front and they load the boat front to back. We were near the end of the line but after that announcement people started moving behind us. We held back a little but ended up being seated in the third row. They advertise that this jet boat adventure is fun for the whole family and you can cool off in the spray of your Jet Boat adventure. We thought, oh well how bad could it be?
This Jet boat seats about 50 people. It's powered by three engines that generate a total of 1200 HP. Unlike a powerboat that uses an external propeller in the water, a jet boat draws water from under the boat through an intake and into a pump-jet inside the boat and then pushes it through a nozzle. This way the jet boat can run in shallow water and do full 360 spinouts, power stops and slides.
As we started down the river we started to pick up a little more speed. I took my hat off and tucked it between the seat and the side of the boat. I also gave my glasses to Rose and she put them in the small purse she brought and covered the purse with her hat. The boat captain would make a couple of S turns and we would get a little water spray from the sides of the boat, he would stop every once and a while and tell us a little history about the area. After about 20 minutes of this, he said: "OK, now hang on".
He revved up the engines and headed down the lake, once we got up to speed he spun the whole boat around 360 degrees. Of course, when he did this we got more than a little spray of water. Now the water splashed in from the sides. After the spin-out, he asked everyone if we were ready for a tsunami. Well, that spin out was kinda cool so everyone cheered for more. He powered up the engines and once we were moving fast, he put it in reverse. This caused the front of the boat to dive and a huge wave of water came over the front right onto the first 4 rows. (remember we are in row 3). Wow, and he just got done explaining how cold the water stays in this lake. We were soaked to the skin. Even our shoes were soaked because now there were 8 inches of water sloshing around the floor of the boat.
He probably did another 4 spinouts and 2 more of the tsunami moves but who cared, we couldn't get wetter. Then we headed back. The ride was just about an hour long. We never expected to get this wet but it was a new experience and lots of fun. Something we will never forget. Once we got back to the dock we walked to the trailer and changed our clothes and took showers. I also had to lay out my wallet, our paper money, hang up our clothes and lay out our shoes to dry. Luckily our phones didn't get soaked. They were inside Rose's purse which gave them some protection. Would I recommend The Branson Jet Boats? Yes, but bring a change of clothes and leave your valuables with someone else.
Once we got cleaned up we headed back to Branson Landing and had lunch at Famous Dave's. After lunch, we walked around a while and then rode the free downtown trolley from Branson Landing, into downtown and then to the RV park. Later we rode our bikes to a small farmers market near Branson Landing.
Wednesday 7/19/17 Today we rode The Branson Ducks. Last night we reserved a 9:30 tour on the Ducks. If you don't know what a duck is, it's a vehicle that is based on the famous World War II DUKW. An amphibious vehicle that can be driven on the road and also float in water like a boat. This company runs the same attraction in harbor and river cities across the country. The tour lasts an hour and a half and took us through parts of Branson, parts of Table Rock State Park and into the waters of Table Rock Lake. Each Duck holds about 35 people and they run three or four of them every half hour. There's a driver plus a tour guide that talks on a speaker most of the trip. It's a fun ride for kids and adults. When you buy your tickets they give you a "Wacky Quacker" which is a noisemaker that sounds like a duck. They encourage everyone to Quack along with some of the music they play or whenever they feel like it. Once in the water, they welcome all the kids up front to drive the Duck. The tour guide is very entertaining telling us interesting facts and lots of jokes. The most exciting part of the tour is when the Duck drives into the water. It was a nice ride although not as exciting as our Jet Boat ride yesterday.
Thursday 7/20/17 It's been very hot and humid the last couple of days (the upper 90s) and we try not to be outside any more than we have to. So this morning I decided to do some repair work in the trailer. The toilet has been leaking for about a week or so. By leaking I mean that water won't stay in the bowl. RV toilets are different than regular toilets in a house meaning they do not have a water tank on the back. You flush an RV toilet with a foot pedal which does two things. It opens a bottom valve to let the contents out and also runs water into the bowl. There is a rubber seal at the bottom of the bowl that keeps the water in the bowl. With lots of use, that seal wears out and lets the water slowly leak out. I knew I was going to have to replace that seal eventually so we picked one up at an RV store in Nashville. I had to remove the toilet from the floor and take it apart to replace the seal. It took about an hour and a half to do the job.
Once that was done we started looking for a show to see tonight. I always use the Trip Advisor app on my phone to check reviews. One show that got excellent reviews was "The Million Dollar Quartet". We had seen a lot of billboards advertising this show and it looked like fun especially since we had just visited Sun Studios in Memphis a week ago. The story is that in 1956, rocker Carl Perkins scheduled a recording session at Sun Studios in Memphis, joined by his band and another rock ‘n roller, Jerry Lee Lewis. They were soon joined by Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash and the rest is music history.
This is a musical theater show with live actors. The stage is set up to look like the inside of Sun Studios and the five main characters are Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and the owner of Sun Studios, Sam Phillips. The actors sing some of the popular songs from the characters they play. I have to say we both enjoyed this show. It was like we were watching the real thing. All of the actors looked, acted and sounded just like the characters they played. The guy that played Jerry Lee Lewis was amazing on the piano and with his singing. When Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash sang they sounded just like the originals. Really a great show I highly recommend. Sorry, no pictures of the actual show. They had a no pictures or videos policy.
Friday 7/21/17 The city of Branson is built in an area where there are a lot of hills. When driving around it seems like you are always going up or down a hill. When we were driving around the first day we pulled into a scenic lookout along the road to turn around. This scenic lookout is near the edge of town and looks out over the city. There was also a marked trail that started there and went down the hill. That night we didn't have time to do the hike but we wanted to come back sometime. Well, today we decided to take that hike. Since it gets into the high 90's each day we wanted to start early in the morning when it's a little cooler. We got to the lookout around 8:15 AM and started the hike. The trail sign says the whole loop is about 6 miles. Since we started at a high overlook the beginning of the trail was all downhill. We took a break at the bottom near a dry creek bed where the trail splits off to another loop and decided what to do. So far we only hiked a little over a mile but it was getting very hot and we knew that going back would be all uphill. The next loop was 3.4 miles and we weren't sure we could do it in this heat. So we decided to continue on for another half hour and see how we felt. If we felt we couldn't make it we would turn back. The trail was mostly in the woods so we were in the shade and after a half hour we kept on going. The trail widened to almost a dirt road for quite a while. We crossed many dry creek beds and commented on how beautiful this would have been with some running water. The trail was nice and we only saw a few other hikers during the whole hike but after about mile 4 it was becoming too much. It was now close to 100° and we had a lot of uphill trails to go. We would walk a while and then rest, walk a little more and rest again. The last mile was a killer because it was all steep uphill back to where we started. We both brought water but at this point, we were getting low. We finally made it back to the truck after walking 6 miles in three and a half hours. Boy, that air conditioner felt good. No more hikes for us in heat like this, I guess we're getting old.
We stopped for lunch on the way back to the trailer and also did a little grocery shopping. Once we got back I checked the movie theaters in the area. We spent the evening in a nice air-conditioned movie theater with popcorn and an ice cold coke.
Saturday 7/22/17 The high is going to be 98° today so no outdoor activity for us. There are over 60 different shows playing in Branson so why not see another? It's nice that all the shows in Branson are clean family shows. There are country music shows, gospel music shows, magic shows, rock music shows, comedians, impersonation shows but we chose to see #1 Hits Of The 60s. This was a musical show with a live band and 7 singers. They cover over 100 songs from the great artists of the 60's and some 50's - The Beatles, Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, 5th Dimension, Sonny & Cher, The Four Seasons, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Dion, The Rascals, The Temptations, The Supremes, Mamas & Papas, The Monkees, Paul Anka, Petula Clark, The Association, The Coasters, Lesley Gore... the list goes on and on. They sang songs that I haven't heard for years. There was a large screen at the back of the stage and as they would sing a song there would be a picture of the album or artist shown on the screen. It brought back a lot of memories but also made me realize I'm getting old. I kept thinking about all the past artists that made that music and how they are all fading away. The show was fun and we enjoyed it but as I looked around everyone in the theater looked to be 60 or above. Plus the theater was only 1/4 full. I really can't see this show playing for much longer. It reminded us of a show you would see on a cruise ship or in an amusement park. It was two hours long but there was a 15-minute intermission and about 10 minutes of the cast trying to sell you T-Shirts and CDs. The show ended around 4:00 and we stopped for dinner at Pasghettis Italian Restaurant. You can't miss it, there's a giant meatball with a fork in it in front. Of course, I had to get my picture in front of it.
Sunday 7/24/17 During our drives around Branson we drove past Table Rock Lake and Table Rock Dam a couple of times. They have a very nice visitors center that we stopped to visit today. The visitors center was built at the same time as the dam. There is a short film about building the dam plus a lot of displays showing the benefits of the dam. There are also displays about the wildlife and fish that live in and around the lake. This whole area was prone to flooding from the White River before the dam was built from 1954 to 1958. Once the dam was built it formed Table Rock Lake and the state also made a state park around the lake. This added a lot of recreational activities such as boating, camping, hiking, hunting and fishing to the Branson area. Once you leave the busy Branson strip and enter this park it's a very peaceful and beautiful area.
On the way back to the campgrounds we parked near Branson Landing and hopped a ride on the free shuttle to The Historic Downtown Branson area. It's only a couple of blocks long and is now nothing but souvenir shops, antique shops, specialty shops, and restaurants so we didn't stay too long. We walked back to the truck and headed back to the campgrounds. Later in the evening, we rode our bikes back to Branson Landing to catch the fountain show. The last couple of times we were here they were closed for maintenance. After the fountain show, we continued along the river as far as we could. What's unique about this river is the temperature of the water. All the water in this river flows from Table Rock Lake through the dam. The inlet of the dam is near the bottom of the lake which is at least 30 degrees cooler than the surface water. Because it was so hot today if you were near the water you could actually feel a temperature change. There were a couple of large rocks near the edge of the water at the campground where we sat for a while watching the geese and ducks. Every once and a while a breeze would blow across the water and cool us off.
Monday 7/25/17 Branson turned out to be better than I thought it would. The first day it looked like it was just another Pigeon Forge but it's not. It does have tons of shows and lots of tourist traps but there's a different side to it. Table Rock Lake and the park that surrounds it is a very peaceful place. Lots of boating, camping, and hiking in hills and forests. Too bad it was so hot here that we couldn't do more outdoor activities. If we ever come back to Branson it will be at a different time of the year and we will be staying somewhere near the State Park. Our time in Branson is up. Today we head to Mountain View, Arkansas.
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