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Trip Report A Sunflowers guide to: a short trip to Branson, Mo.

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After everything that had been going on in our lives, my brief flirtation with unemployment and the stress it caused we felt like we needed to get away for a few days and seeing as it was Valentine’s Day we figured that was reason enough to hit the road and see what Branson had to offer. With our schedules being what they are Mrs. Sun and I decided to leave Saturday and return home Sunday so this was to be a brief trip.

Saturday
I don’t know about anyone else but during our travels Mrs. Sun and I have encountered a lot of crazy drivers, most of which you keep an eye on and try to stay out of their way but every so often you get a real winner, we found the king of the winners on this trip. As we took off from a stop light I noticed that cars behind me we honking and slamming on their breaks you could hear the tires squealing. Keeping an eye in the rearview mirror I saw the culprit, who was cutting his way through the crowed. He came flying up on my back end and I was almost certain that he was going to hit us as he was that close, I think he was trying to force me to get over. Now I know the smart thing to do would have been to speed up and let the man pass but I was doing a little over the speed limit and no one but this jerk was looking to pass me so alas the angles of my better nature failed me. Taking my foot off the gas we began to slow down and our friend got beyond mad about this and changed lanes getting on the back bumper of an Avalanche. The driver of that truck slowed down beside me and looked over at us shook he head and smiled, I knew then we were going to have some fun. So as we drove for the next few miles we kept our friend pinned in behind us, no other cars were looking to pass so we were able to keep this up with no issue. The driver of the Avalanche motioned to me that he needed to get over to turn so I slowed down to let him get in front of us instructing Mrs. Sun to noted the tag number of our friend. As our friend flew past us cursing and flipping us off we watched and he blew through two red lights that were about a mile apart. So Mrs. Sun called the police, but we were in an area of Kansas where there are three towns right after one another and they transferred her three times, so we thought nothing would come of it. However as we came into Augusta, Ks. I saw yellow lights flashing and wouldn’t you know it was our friend. I think we laughed all the way down to Branson on this and I know that as the line of cars that he had cut off and scarred passed him I saw a lot of laughing happy faces in my rearview mirror.


Once we were into Missouri we began to see all kinds of signs for things to stop and see most of which were little more than tourist traps but when in Rome, so off we went to Ozark Land. Ozark Land is one of those giant stores that reside in a building that died years ago but whose inhabitants have not yet realized it, their first clue should have been the water that was coming in through the ceiling. Ozark Land thrives on selling lots of junk real cheap. Walking around the store the cause of our trade deficit to China was self-evident. If you are looking for knick knacks they have got you covered, no such luck though if it is raining.

From there it was about five minutes to the Precious Moments Chapel, so off we went to see the birthplace of those little figurines. It was the off season for the Chapel so the place was very quiet. Going into the building you are greeted with the sound of airy ethereal praise and worship music and robotic Precious Moments people doing all sorts of things. From here we walked to the Chapel and I must say it was very pretty and I think had we come during the spring or summers the entire walk to the Chapel would have been pretty as well.

When it comes to a recommendation on seeing the Precious Moments Chapel I am torn, the Chapel is indeed pretty and it is free which is a hard thing to come by in that part of the world. However it is very cutesy and I think it could qualify as torture if you forced someone to sit for any real length of time in their main building surrounded by dusty robots and terrible music. The Chapel while pretty is surrounded by things that are far too Precious for my tastes, thus my suggestion is to make a visit here much like a commando mission get in and get out.
http://www.preciousmoments.com/content.cfm/park_chapel

From there we drove on into Branson. We stayed and the Westgate Branson Woods Resort and Cabins, say that three times fast. I was a little worried about staying here as the pictures that I could find of the rooms were extremely dated but all the reviews seemed to be favorable so I thought for one night we could roll the dice, and I am glad we did. The Resort is located close to just about every attraction a person would want to see in Branson and yet when you are there you feel like you are far from a city. We chose a one bedroom suite and the room was wonderful, while there were a few detail issues it was by enlarge very comfortable having a fire place, full kitchen and dining room, a large Jacuzzi tub, screened in patio and a duck pond, ducks included to boot. If we ever go back to Branson I would defiantly stay there again.
http://www.wgbransonwoods.com/

From here we went and took in the Titanic Museum, for a few dollars more we purchased the audio tour and I thought it was worth the extra. The museum contains about 90% artifacts from the Titanic rarely relaying on the “this is the style of something that may have been used by someone on the Titanic” which I was afraid would be the bulk of the exhibit. I was pleasantly surprised by the museum and the only thing I found distasteful were some of the patrons as I believe they were there to look for Leo and Kate. Word to the wise they do use costumed actors to tell parts of the story and while their accents may falter from time to time play along as it is part of the fun. The cost of the museum with audio tour was about fifty dollars and unless you are interested in the Titanic the ship and not Titanic the overly sappy movie I would suggest saving your money. I offer this tip as their website is designed to attract both crowds Mrs. Sun and almost did not go as we were afraid it was going to be little more than a tribute to the movie and while they do play off of the movie (they have a Rose actor, and sell those heart of the ocean necklaces) it is more about the actual ship than the movie. The museum also has some fun hands on types of displays that can and will be enjoyed by all.
http://www.titanicbranson.com/

We asked some of the workers at the museum about good places to get seafood in Branson (I tried hard not to laugh when they dropped their ‘British’ accents and reverted to their normal speech patterns) and all agreed Landry’s was the place to go. Sticking to our hard and fast rule to not eat at some place we can eat at in town off we went, it was only later that I learned that Landry’s is part of a chain of restaurants none the less the food was very good. Taking the suggestion of our waitress we both ordered a stuffed shrimp dish that was divine. Service was wonderful and we enjoyed our dining experience, only downside was the restaurant is very crowded they would do well to take out a row of tables and give people more room; the fact that it was Valentine’s Day weekend did not help the matter. If you are claustrophobic the added wait for a booth or table by the windows would be well advised. Oh and try the Key Lime pie. Entrees run from the high teens to the upper twenties so this can be a more costly place to eat.
http://www.landrysseafoodhouse.com/

Sunday
Check out was at 10am so we got an early start and went looking for a place for breakfast, and found a place called Starvin Marvin’s who offered a 4.99 all you can eat fruit and breakfast buffet, as most places were not going to open until 11am we thought what the heck. Once again another pleasant surprise, the French toast was wonderful and everything else on the buffet was good as well. Far from upscale dining the food was good and straight forward; I would have no problems dinning there again.
http://www.starvinmarvins.net/

After we ate we headed off for the Butterfly Palace. While this was enjoyable and they did have lots of very beautiful butterflies there was no real awe factor. If you have ever been to any sort of Butterfly House then you have been to this one. At $16.95 per person it is a cheaper attraction but I would suggest that unless you have never been to this type of place in the past you not go. For those of you that do decide to go make sure you do the mirror maze as you are in for a lot of fun and confusion.
http://www.thebutterflypalace.com/

Our next stop was the Talking Rocks caverns in West Branson, which was about a fifteen minute drive from the Butterfly Palace. This is quite the experience and is most enjoyable; taking the guided tour down in the cavern is well worth the cost. Be prepared for some beautiful pictures, tight spaces and more than a little moisture. I would highly recommend this tour for those that want to have a more hands on experience that sitting in a car and being told what to look at cannot provide.
http://www.talkingrockscavern.com/

From here we began our journey home and took a more scenic drive to get home, playing a game called ‘is it abandoned or do people really live in that?’ On this drive I spotted an interesting building with a simple sign that read ‘Hess pottery. Pie plates’, well if an entire building is dedicated to a pie plates I think you have to stop. We met the potter himself and had a wonderful conversation we have yet to use the pie plate but from what I have read about them I have high hopes.
http://www.hesspottery.com/

We also stopped at the James River and took some pictures of the area before taking off; those of you that are nature lovers and are in the area should take the time to see the River as it is a brilliant clear blue green and is worth seeing.

A few notes
Branson thrives on its attractions and in many ways is a tourist trap but if you are careful and do a little homework you can find some interesting and enjoyable things to do. Branson can be more than a place where old stars and castoffs from the Lawrence Welk show go to die.

Driving is fun as the roads tend to be crowded and there are plenty of curves, hills and mountains to climb. At points I could swear to you I heard the Mother Superior in my head singing…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1GQpoRhmno

Finally if you do go to an attraction call ahead or stop at one of the many places that offer discount tickets but make sure you call the attraction first and get their prices, knowledge is your ally. You can usually save about five bucks a ticket doing this.

This was a wonderful little respite from the world and it is always enjoyable to not have to cook, clean or make the bed for even a few days.
Happy Travels,

SFG

Oh I almost forgot this is Mrs. Sun’s contribution to this trip report she saw 43 hawks on our travels and a Chipmunk.

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