Each summer for more years than I can count, my grandparents had the same vacation routine. After days of packing and preparing, they loaded up their car as if they embarked on a cross-country move with everything from frying pans to face powder. They rose even earlier than usual, long before the sun and began a day long trek to the other end of the state. Stiff-legged and weary they arrived at their favorite resort on the shores of Lake Taneycomo in Branson, Missouri.
They didn't do much but enjoy the lakeside resort. My Pop did a little fishing and my grandmother they sat out on the tiny porch and enjoyed the cooler air. Sometimes they headed up the street to Dick'?s Five And Dime or to eat a meal at The Branson Café. They considered the resort owners to be friends and after my Pop passed away, the owners kept in touch with my grandmother until she died.
Sometimes our family joined them. Then Granny and Pop might branch out a little farther to visit Silver Dollar City (which was much smaller back then) to ride the Frisco Silver Dollar train or the stagecoach (long gone). I loved their countrified vacations in the then small town of Branson. Years later, I searched out a few of the old remaining resorts for vacations with my husband and kids but not many remain. The one where my grandparents once stayed was located where Branson Landing now stands.
For years, as a family, my husband and I took the kids to Branson every summer, often more than once. We stayed at a few of the old-fashioned resorts on the far side of the lake more than once but we also took advantage of stays in newer hotels.
Branson then and now (even before COVID-19) has changed since those long ago years with Granny and Pop. I can remember when the Strip was much shorter and when downtown Branson was the place to be.
I haven't been to Branson in a few years, not since my husband's health first declined and my job responsibilities increased. This summer, despite having both vacation and personal time available, the chance of taking time off is slim and with the current coronavirus pandemic, it's put a crimp in any travel plans.
Since I love to travel, that's a huge statement. The open road often calls my name and I've gone by car, by plane, and by train to many destinations, from Los Angeles on the west coast to New York City on the east. As much as we once went to Branson, we headed south more often, visiting Louisiana often three or four times a year, to Mississippi and Texas and to the Gulf Coast. We also traveled within our state, to my hometown of St. Joseph and beyond. We introduced the kids to Jefferson City, St. Louis, and one of my favorite Missouri destinations, Hermann. We trekked down the interstates and the backroads, the latter my preference.
A year ago, my now adult children and I took off to Tulsa. The highlight of the trip was Kilkenny's Irish Pub, a favorite place.
If you're my age and share my taste in music, you may recall the song "Me and You And A Dog Named Boo" by Lobo. Right now, I'm hearing those lyrics, "that old car's buggin' us to go. You gotta get away and get back on the road again." As soon as the opportunity presents, that's where I'll be - back ont he road again. It's time.
- Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is the community editor for the Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser. She is also an author.