I have a confession to make.
I know where Carmen Sandiego is.
No, no, no, it's bigger than that.
I love Branson.
I do. I love it to death. I can't help myself! Bluegrass! Hillbillies! Kitsch! Barely hanging on celebrities! Beer, Bait, and Homemade fudge, all under one roof! How can you not LOVE something that awesome?
I know, as someone who calls herself the Pirate Mommy, I should be rhapsodizing about the beach, and the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean. And truly, there is no place I'd rather be right now than sipping on a rum punch as I watch the tide roll in over perfect sugar sand. Unfortunately, the only tide I see is the kind I'm pouring into the washing machine with the hope it gets that orange popsicle stain out of my favorite underwear (don't ask). In this part of the country, and in my situation- you do what you can do. And what we do is Branson.
I know a lot of people who roll their eyes and outwardly cringe when someone mentions going to Branson. "Hillbilly Nashville? Are you serious?" The expected thing is that you'll roll your eyes along with them and beg for their comiseration. But they're missing everything that makes Branson so incredible, so awesome, so damned much fun. Yes, it's corny. Yes, it's kitschy. That's the beauty of it. You have to embrace it, embrace the insanity, the deep fried twangy goodness.
With that in mind, here are ten of what I think are the best parts about Branson:
10. Look As You Are
Look, no matter how much I love my beaches there is always the issue of the swimsuit and overall appearance. While I know no one in Barbados really gives a damn about my thighs, well, *I* give a damn about my thighs in Barbados. So we spend all of this time and energy working to look perfect on a vacation where we should be just letting it all go. Well, in Branson we HAVE let it all go. You're eating gravy and homemade fudge and you don't give a damn. Unbutton that top button and get comfortable.
9. Osmonds! Are everywhere!
It's true. The Osmonds HAVE LANDED. It's almost as awesome as when Wayne Newton was there. Almost. No Donnie, No Marie... and I realize, for some people that’s like a Jackson Four Reunion Tour. But... but... it’s the OSMONDS. Not that I’ve ever seen them, but STILL.
8. The Wild Woody
OK, so as a Go-Kart track this one kind of sucks. Yeah, it goes really high, but you spend so much time turning you never get to a decent speed. That said... they named a track The Wild Woody and managed to keep a straight face. That alone earns it a spot.
7. "They've got everything in this mall!"
You can find just about anything in Branson. Need a fancy dress for your dinner at the Outback? Got it. Need lures for your bass fishing expedition? Got it. Need a coffee mug with your name on it so you don't keep getting confused at breakfast? Got it. Need a variety of mixed nuts for your dining pleasure? Got those too.
Historically, the Baldknobbers were a group of late 1800s vigilantes. What these guys are, I have no idea. But they're called Baldknobbers. How awesome is that?
5. Dolly Parton Suckers
We'd gone down to Branson for Labor day weekend and were looking for the restaurant we'd chosen for our Sunday breakfast when we drove past the Fudge Shop. Now there are easily a dozen or two different places to buy fudge and candies in Branson, but this one caught our eye for one particular reason: There in the shop's plate glass window was a sign advertising, of all things: Dolly Parton Suckers. We didn't stop that day- frankly, we didn't want to scar the kids- but I am determined to get back down there and find out just what the holy hell a Dolly Parton sucker is. It has to be fabulous, and probably quite artificial.
4. The Lake
7. The Lake- I'm a water person to my very core. If I'm in, on, or around water, I am automatically more at peace. While I'd love to be sailing the seas, I have come to terms with the fact that I am indeed landlocked. Table Rock Lake gives me a chance to be a freshwater pirate, even if only for a day. It's also where you can rent a boat for a day, nearly drown while learning to water ski, flash a pontoon boat full of elderly fishermen, and end up so burned you can't wear a bra for two weeks. Not that I'd know anything about that, of course.
3. Kitschy, Kitschy Ya Ya
I like tacky stuff. I can't control myself. Be it a Wings in South Carolina or Ozarkland on the 76 Strip, I am down with the gaudy frames and trinkets that crowd the shelves. Where else can you get an Ozark backscratcher, a pound of fudge, and a picture frame with a hillbilly and a jug of moonshine under one roof? Where else can you buy fringed and beaded t-shirts? As the billboard outside Ozarkland proclaims: Jewelry and Moccasins! Fireworks and Knives!
2. The Beatles! Sort of...
So, we're driving back from Branson, on the stretch of 65 Highway that rolls up and down the hills between Branson and Springfield, when suddenly we see not one, but two Volkswagon Beetles cruising alongside us. Inside each one were two Beatles. Well, not the real Beatles because that would be creepy as hell given that two are dead. They're called the Liverpool Legends, and let me just say that when you're going 70mph up and down hills, they look pretty freaking much like the real deal, haircuts, Nehru jackets and all. Beatles in Beetles. God Bless America; No- God Bless Branson
1. Memories... like the corners of my mind...
My parents weren't beach people. We didn't do Disney World or Sea World. We did do Vegas, but that's another story for another time. What we did more than anything was go to Branson. I've got some pretty awesome memories of waking up on a hot July morning and walking outside our door at JR's Little Dallas Motor Inn (old school Motel, yo!) and smelling the hot asphalt of the parking lot below. I remember breakfasts at Molly's Mill inside Silver Dollar City, of climbing nets and diving into ball pits inside Tom Sawyer's Landing. I remember riding the American Plunge with my brothers, my foster sister, and my awesome 76 year old grandmother. My dad taught me how to kick ass and take names while go-karting... I'm a bitch on the track. We'd be stuck for hours in the traffic on 76, and somehow it was always okay. If it took us an hour to drive five miles, well, we'd just look out the window and talk about what we saw. All in all, it was a pretty cool way to grow up. The beauty of Branson is that even though it's changed and matured... it's still not all that different from the place I went as a kid. We may stay at a Marriott instead of JR's, but there's at least one breakfast at Molly's Mill. My kids still get deputized by the Silver Dollar City sheriff. We still look out the windows at the little houses nestled into the hillsides as if they sprung from the limestone overnight. And Z? He's ripping up go kart tracks already.
And really? that's what makes Branson so damned cool.