Building memories in Branson

Country Roads

Nearly 30 years ago my in-laws began spending their winters in the entertainment hotspot of the Ozarks ̶ Branson, Missouri. Cindy and I drove down to visit with them and became enamored with Branson. In the ensuing years we usually visited Branson twice a year ̶ in March to visit her parents and later in the year for an enjoyable getaway.

For several years we visited Branson with three other couples and one autumn, when I couldn’t get away, Cindy spent a few days in Branson with her sister. Over the years we built a treasure chest of memories in Branson.

Cindy died nearly six years ago and my trips to Branson ended. Branson would be no fun without her.

When I remarried I asked Julie about Branson. She said she had been there many years ago on a trip to the nearby Silver Dollar City theme park with her first husband and their children.

When I suggested we spend a few days in Branson she agreed and two years ago we made our first trip to the music mecca together. We decided to visit Branson again this year and did so earlier this month.

On one of our days in Branson this month we were driving up Highway 165 to “The Strip” as I commented on some of the familiar sites along the way. Julie asked me, “Does it feel strange to be here without Cindy?”

“Yeah, it does,” I admitted. We had built a lot of memories in Branson over two decades plus. “When I see all of this I think about her,” I said.

Julie and I discuss our first loves frequently which made this conversation easier. We agreed that when you had been married for 30 or 40 years it’s difficult to go somewhere you hadn’t already been with your first spouse. Memories remain. And we talked about making our own memories in Branson. Julie enjoys Branson, too.

Now back to our trip…

We left West Des Moines late one morning and, en route, arrived in Springfield, Missouri, a few minutes after 5 p.m., as I had planned. I love ice cream and one of my favorite ice cream chains, Braum’s, has a store a short distance south of I-44 on Highway 13. We had supper at Braum’s. I enjoyed a strawberry sundae for dessert. Julie has more sense than I do and skipped dessert.

The highlight of our trip was the presentation of “Samson” at the Sight and Sound Theater. I remembered from Sunday school days the story of Samson and that he was listed as one of the heroes of the faith in the New Testament book of Hebrews, but I had no idea of the spiritual significance of Samson and his story. This live dramatic and musical presentation told the complete story in a way that made a powerful impact on my heart.

The next day we saw a two-hour musical “Christmas Wonderland.” Nearly 20 talented young people sang, danced and performed Christmas songs and stories with an energy retired folks can only remember.

We also did some shopping, dining and sightseeing on a relaxed schedule.

The trip home was memorable, too. North of Springfield the landscape became white. Central Missouri experienced a snowfall the night before and while the roads were dry we drove through a Winter Wonderland nearly all the way to Kansas City.

Lunch time was approaching as we drove through Kansas City. As we entered suburban Liberty, Missouri, on I-35 what to my hungry eyes should appear but a brand new Dairy Queen restaurant. We stopped for lunch and, while Julie exercised common sense again, I enjoyed a DQ Blizzard for dessert.

I figure a trip with ice cream on the first day and ice cream the last day is a good trip. Ice cream every day would be even better but new trousers my size are expensive.

North of Kansas City we encountered blowing snow. At times the visibility was significantly reduced by the snow but the road remained dry (only a few wet spots) so we could maintain speed.

The snow ended in southern Iowa and we were soon back home.

I have found that vacations ̶ long or short ̶ are the same. I always appreciate getting home as much as I enjoyed getting away in the first place.

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