Monday, August 1, 2011

A weekend in the Show Me State...

As I have mentioned before… I don’t sit down much.  This weekend was no exception.  I took a little trip up to Missouri to visit my friends Kelly and Nathan.  Kelly and I have been friends since our freshman year of high school.  We have been through a lot together in the 15 years we’ve been friends and we have always been very close.  She is one of the few people who has been able to stand me that long.  J  I don’t get to see her as much as I would like.  So since last week was her birthday I decided to make the trek up the turnpike to pay her a little visit and spend a day at Silver Dollar City. 
After spending my lunch break Friday at the Dodge dealership getting Kit’s oil changed, I came back to work, quickly wrapped up the last few things I had to do in the office and then headed to Pryor.  Brett was going to Missouri with me and I was just slightly overdue for my yearly eye exam so I had him fit me into the afternoon schedule on our way out of town.  It helps when you’re best friend is the doctor.  After a few minutes of “One or two?  Three or four?” we discovered that I have 20/15 vision… the LASIK is still working!  Yay!  Brett did set the machine to what he said is better than my vision… it looked the exact same to me, but I humored him and said, “Oh yeah, it’s so much sharper…”  J  He said, “If you know you have perfect vision, then why are you here?”  Duh… to make sure my eyes are healthy… do I really need to explain to the doctor the importance of checking the eye for health issues?  J  So he took a look at it… and thankfully I passed inspection.  He did tell me I need to make sure to always wear sunglasses when I’m outside due to an increased chance of developing a cataract in my left eye.  I pretty much always do wear sunglasses… except for when I drop them in the lake… so we are good there.  But I did tease him all weekend that I was eating carrots to keep my baby cataract under control.  J
We finally left his office and headed up to Joplin.  We stopped there and had dinner at the Outback before Kelly and Nathan met up with us.  We got in their car and they drove us around showing us all the destruction left by the tornado.  Most of it has been cleaned up, but there are still some areas of debris and damaged property.  We drove by the hospital there that was destroyed.  The top two stories were completely gone and then entire rest of the building was windowless and damaged beyond repair.  We saw houses, stores and schools that were leveled.  My heart really goes out to the people affected by that storm.  Especially those who lost loved ones.  It takes a strong person and a lot of support to recover from something that traumatic.  The residents of Joplin and people from surrounding areas have really pulled together to clean up and many things are already in the rebuilding process.  It is an encouragement to see people helping people.  It made me wish I would have taken the time to do some volunteering up there after the storm. 
After we finished surveying the damage, we went to the yogurt bar for a little dessert.  We all sat outside enjoying our frozen treats in the heat and catching up.  With three kids, I know it’s rare that Nathan and Kelly get to have much adult time… which makes it kind of ironic that we chose a frozen yogurt bar.  J  But we had a nice chat and enjoyed each others’ company.  After the yogurt, Nathan took us back to my car and we followed them to their home in Oronogo.  We just kind of sat around and hung out talking for the rest of the night.  It was nice and relaxing.  Right at dark, Kelly and decided to go for a little jog.  I was still sore from the knee boarding adventure and since I knew I’d be getting shaken up by the roller coasters the next day, I thought a jog around the block might loosen me up a little.  Kelly said she’d go with me, which was nice.  I always enjoy a running partner.  We just ran for a little bit, but it was just what I needed.  After the run I showered and went right to sleep. 
The next morning we got an early start to Branson.  We had to run a couple errands first… bank, gas station, etc… but soon got on the road to pick the kiddos up from Kelly’s parents’ house.  Somewhere along the way Brett discovered that he had lost his debit card.  It was too early to call the Outback, which was the last place he’d used it, so he just called the bank and canceled the card.  Later in the day, he was able to reach someone at the Outback, and they did have it… too bad he’d already canceled it.  We planned to pick it up on the way home Sunday. 
After being followed by a Missouri State Trooper for a little while on the freeway, I decided that it was time to put the new sticker on my tag.  I renewed the license plate back in February… but the 2012 sticker has been in my cup holder ever since.  When we got to Kelly’s parents’ house, I borrowed a screwdriver, took the license plate frame off, replaced the old sticker with the “new” one and put it back together.  It took all of a minute and a half… not sure why I put it off for five months… but it’s done now.  One more thing I can cross off the to-do list. 
Kelly and Nathan have three adorable kids that I love to death.  Sawyer is the oldest and the only boy.  Ava is the middle child (like her Aunt Cassie J) and Aggie is the baby.  She just turned three a little over a week ago.  They had been staying with Ron and Teresa (Kelly’s dad and mom) all week.  We stopped by their condo in Branson, which is right on Tablerock Lake, to pick them up.  They were shy at first, which made me quickly realize that I need to make a better effort to come visit more often.  I hate that I love them so much, and I’m a stranger to them.  So I’m putting that on the list of things to fix.  J
We got to Silver Dollar City just after 10:00 am.  I had never been before so I was really looking forward to it.  First stop… lunch.  Time to feed the Cassie.  We quickly found a place that had my favorite dish… a 12” corn dog with ketchup… and Brett’s favorite dish… fried chicken strips.  It was meant to be, so we all ate lunch there.  After lunch Brett and I went to ride the roller coasters while Kelly and her family headed to kid town.  The first ride we hit was the Wildfire.  It was a good one.
And immediately after the ride, Brett found water... of course... it is his favorite.  He got this nice shot of a waterfall inside the park. 
At Silver Dollar City
After that we met back up with my friends and Kelly went with me and Brett to ride the Barn Swing.  It was a pretty good one too.  Of the ones we actually rode, the Wildfire and the Barn Swing were my favorite.
Even though there was a little rain and many of the attractions had to be shut down until the lightning had cleared the area, we did a few more rides, walked around the shops and sampled a few more food items… bring on the funnel cake.  J  We also went on a tour of the Marvel Cave.  It was pretty neat.  It is a natural cave that goes down 50 stories.  They said it is big enough to fit the statue of liberty inside.  
Brett and I in Marvel Cave
We walked all the way down to the bottom to the waterfall room.  This picture does no justice.  It was really cool.
50 stories underground
Then we came back up the other side.  This is one of the still living formations inside the cave.  The tour guide said that it grows about an inch every 75 years. 
Marvel Cave
We finished the cave tour with a short train ride back up to earth.  Sawyer sat on the row with me and Brett so he didn’t make it into the family picture.  L
Aggie, Nathan, Kelly, Ava
After the cave tour, we hit the Wildfire one more time before heading for the street dance.  The boys were too good to join in on the fun, so me and my girls busted a move.  J
Silver Dollar City street dance
And just before leaving the park, we jumped on the water raft ride.  We were one of the last ones to go, and it was one of the few rides all the kids were big enough to ride.  Only six to a raft… we had seven… so we split into two groups.  Sawyer with me and Brett again and the girls with Kelly and Nathan.  Sawyer and I managed to escape without getting too wet.  Brett on the other had got soaked.  I told him I thought it had something to do with where the weight in the raft is.  J  But of course, that came back to bite me when they sent us around a second time because there was no one else in line behind us.  The second time, I must have been the fat kid in the raft, because I got drenched.  Thank goodness it was the last ride of the night and I didn’t have to walk around the park too long with saggy drawers. 
We shut the place down.  The park closed at 10:00 pm and I think we were still on the raft when they started closing everything.  We said our goodbyes to Kelly and her family and walked back to our car.  We left the park in search of a place to sleep.  I had a few options in mind because I had done a little searching online before we left Oklahoma, but I hadn’t actually booked anything yet.   
The first hotel we went to had no vacancy (I knew I should have booked online), but thankfully the one right next door had a spot for us.  We showered and then we crashed.  After spending 12 hours in the park, I think I was actually asleep BEFORE I laid down.  We slept in a little in the morning and then decided to see what we could find in Branson.  First stop… you guessed it… food.  We were a little too late for breakfast so we just did an early lunch.  We decided to eat quick at Wendy’s rather than waste an hour inside a restaurant so we could find more things to do.  After we ate, we spent a fair amount of time in stop-and-go traffic trying to get to the outlet mall.  It was 1.1 miles according to Kit, but it took 45 minutes.  Boo!  One more reason shopping is not my favorite…
When we got to the outlet mall, Brett quickly picked out just a couple stores he wanted to go into so we parked and headed that way.  When we got to the Banana Republic store, they were having quite a sale.  Even I bought a shirt and I never buy anything.  But it was cute, would be good for both work and play and was only $16.  What a deal.  Brett got even luckier.  He was able to get some good dress clothes for work at 40-60% off.  Not too bad.  He found a pair of dress pants that he really liked, but couldn’t find his size.  The lady in the fitting room said there was one pair in the store but she couldn’t find them.  Brett had almost given up looking when I saw them on a mannequin.  So… we stripped him.  When the guy who works there started putting him back together, I said, “I’ll leave you two alone.”  I thought it was much funnier than he did.  J
We headed back to Kit after that great find… decided we had spent enough money shopping.  And we headed to Ride the Ducks.  Brett isn’t really into the shows, so we thought we’d try something a little different.  It’s an old military vehicle that is made to be part bus, part boat.  You can drive it on the road and then right into the water.  It basically eliminates the need for a trailer.  Not to mention the handy duck call they give you when you get onboard.  J
They drove us right into Tablerock Lake and gave us a little tour.  The lake there is really beautiful.  I would love to sweet talk Brett into taking the boat up there sometime.  It’s supposed to be pretty good for diving.  Maybe I’ll add learn to scuba dive to the list… 
The Branson Belle on Tablerock Lake
After our duck got back on land, we went to look at Lake Taneycomo, which looks a lot like a river to me... the Dam between the two.
Lake Taneycomo
Tablerock Dam
Then the Duck drove us back.  Our next stop was the Titanic Museum.  I’m kind of a history nerd so this was right up my alley.  Not to mention that when the Titanic movie came out… like 12 years ago… I saw it in the theatre nine times.  Please don’t judge me.  But I loved it.  I haven’t seen it in years, but I really do love the story behind the Titanic.  So I thought the museum was really cool.  It told a lot of stories about actual people who were on the titanic.  Our boarding passes listed us as two actual passengers on the Titanic.  Brett was part of the crew and I was, of course, a first class passenger.  J  At the end of the museum was a wall that had all the passengers names on it.  If the name was underlined, it meant that passenger survived.  Both of the passengers Brett and I were pretending to be were survivors.  Yay!  I teased him that as the second richest woman on the ship, I thought he was cute so I saved him to be my cabana boy.  J
I was a little disappointed that there weren’t actually more photos of the ship… apparently they didn’t value photographs as much in 1912.  I also hoped they would have had more artifacts taken from the actual ship, but they only had a few.  I guess they are probably pretty spread out amongst all the Titanic museums across the US.  It was still cool though.  I enjoyed it.  They had a replica of the staircase in the ship that was pretty cool. 
at the Titanic Museum
After the Titanic, it was once again time to eat.  We had spotted a seafood place that looked pretty good on the way back from the Ducks, so we decided to check it out.  It was called Landry’s.  The food was pretty good and the atmosphere was nice.  It was a little pricey, but I enjoyed it.  It was getting late so we headed home after dinner, making a slight detour to hit Joplin again to pick up Brett’s debit card.  We got back to my house around 10:30 last night.  It was a long weekend, but I had a good time.  All in all, my first trip to Branson was pretty fun.  I hope to make it up to Joplin more often to visit my friends.

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