September 19-21, 2003
The drive down to Branson took about 3 hours, 20 minutes. Just long enough that you can’t come down from the KC area and see a show the same day, unless you take an afternoon off work.
Branson is a cross between Gatlinburg and Las Vegas. The hilly, long main street is a narrow winding state highway that backs up as soon as there are a few cars on it. Fortunately, you can get most places without using that street (So why are so many other people using it?). There are over 40 theaters, some of them have have as many as three shows (sometimes by different artists) a day.
Branson was first a resort for fisherman. In the ‘60s, the Presley’s opened the first show, to entertain the fishermen’s families. Since the mid ‘80s more people have traveled to Branson for the entertainment then for the wilderness.
Looking for a restaurant Friday night, I was a bit disappointed. There are too many chain restaurants. Finally I spotted a name that someone had said something good about, Starvin’ Marvin’s. The interior looks like small town restaurants everywhere, but the buffet was pretty good, including plentiful large well cooked snow crab, frog legs and other seafood. The frog legs and pan fried potatoes with onions were particularly good.
Back at the hotel (Whispering Hills Inn) I had the late
desert that makes the little motel famous, fresh cookies and hot cobbler
with ice cream. They also include a full breakfast, but that is wasted
on me. This motel is more expensive then a lot of the smaller motels (according
to the signs, many are $30 or less for two people), but is one of the few
that was full. The rooms are simple, but clean and large.
Saturday, I started with a 9:30AM show, Yakov Smirnoff. My seat was 4th row center. The show was pretty good. In addition to Yakov, there was a comic juggler (Slim Chance) and a dance troupe from Russia that has only been in this country two weeks. There was more skits and less standup then I would have liked.
Yakov’s love of this country is sincere and touching, but the large portions of the show dealing with male/female relations didn't work for me. Following his fairly recent divorce, that subject has become important to him. The show was followed by an optional 30 minute free seminar on putting humor into relationships.
I liked Yakov’s art in the lobby and rest rooms. There was an original in each stall. He said that in the ladies room, they are all self portraits. One of his pieces has been made into a huge mural at Ground Zero in NYC.
Next I took a tour in one of the Ducks. Captain Tex did a nice job. We would honk on our noise makers when we passed golfers or anyone else who happened to be outside. The Captain (they have to be Coast Guard certified) had a squirt gun which he used on the captains of other ducks when we would pass.
Most of the trip is spent around and in Table Rock Reservoir. We couldn't go very fast in the water. Although the Duck has a big engine, the axles and wheels hanging down in the water slow it down. On land they do only about 55 mph.
The tour company also owns a hill overlooking the reservoir, where they are exhibiting many other military vehicles from WW2 & the Korean War.
I recommend the 80 minute tour.
Exploring Kansas - Fall 2002