Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Branson, MO Trip

Last week, my wife and I drove to Branson, MO to pick up our 11 year old, Mary Kate. She had been attending Kanakuk Kamp. We left about 5:30 Wednesday morning and made it to Branson around 3 p.m. It was about a 440 mile drive.

We checked into our hotel and then drove to the Kamp. Mary Kate attended K-1 and there are several other Kamps in the same area. I was impressed with how well organized Kanakuk was. Although there was lots of traffic, there were people directing it along with numerous signs telling us how to get to the parking for K-1. The parking lot (an open field) was staffed with several young men who directed the vehicles into an area to pick up the trunks and other items the kids had taken to Kamp. Everything was in order by cabin and it was very easy to find Mary Kate's trunk and the young men were willing to help load the trunk. After loading MK's items, a different group of young men directed us into a parking space, ensuring we all parked in a line and very close together.

We walked to the Kamp. Since this was our first time there, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. There were lots of kids and parents milling around. The Kamp was very clean. It took us awhile to find Mary Kate, but when we did, she came running to us. It is the first time she had been away from home for such a long time. She was happy to see us and very excited to share her Kamp experiences. She introduced us to her counselors and her cabin mates. We walked to her cabin and the counselors shared a brief story about each girl listing two attributes for each one, read a bible verse they had chosen for each girl and then presented a certificate.

While the Kampers were having dinner at Kamp, we drove back into Branson for dinner. We ate at the Farm House Restaurant. I had delicious Blackberry cobbler. We returned to Kamp and sat with Mary Kate during the closing ceremonies. It was sweltering hot and the sound system wasn't very good, but it was great to see the video of what the kids had done. After the closing ceremonies, Mary Kate returned to her cabin and we went back to our hotel.

Thursday morning, we drove back to Kamp and picked up Mary Kate. She had asked us not to eat breakfast before we picked her up so we went to the Belgian Waffle and Pancake House for breakfast.

We had Mary Kate help us decide what shows we should see. We decided to go to a dinner show Thursday night at the Osmond Theater and a Friday afternoon show of the Shanghai Circus Acrobats from China.

It had been 13 years since we had visited Branson. It has aged in that time and not all that gracefully. There are several closed theaters in town and almost all of the hotels and motels displayed vacancy signs. We drove around the area trying to find some of the places we had visited on our previous trips.

We drove past Segway of Southern Missouri. We stopped to check it out. It has a track, similar to a go kart track. It costs $20 for about 25 minutes of riding. Mary Kate and I both signed up. They gave us helmets to wear and brief instructions on how to ride. Very simple and intuitive. The Segways are set not to exceed 5 MPH. After about 2 minutes of riding, you realize how slow 5 MPH is. In spite of the slow speed, Mary Kate and I had a blast! After completing our ride, we were given a "speeding ticket". It allowed us to have the Segways set at 12.5 MPH on a return visit.

We returned to the hotel and got ready for our dinner show at the Osmond Theater. The dinner was surprisingly very good. We took our seats for the show which were in the first row, right in the middle. Great seats but also an indication of how much business is off in Branson since we had only purchased our tickets earlier that day.

The show was the Magnificent Variety Show. The performers were extremely talented and put on a terrific show. It was truly great family fun. It was so nice to be entertained and not once feel uneasy that my 11 year old was in the audience with me.

Mary Kate and I were excited to ride the Segways at the faster speed. We got up early to go back to the Segway place while giving Mom some time to herself. Again we were given helmets to wear and Segways that had a maximum speed of 12.5 MPH. What a difference? We had a wonderful time. I can't wait to take the whole family on Segways on another trip.

We went to Mr. G's Chicago Pizza for lunch. We ordered the Tony Orlando salad for 2 and realized that an order for 1 would have been enough to feed the 3 of us. It was an antipasto with a delicious Italian dressing. We ordered a pan pizza. When it arrived, it was just like we had eaten last summer on our vacation in Chicago. Outstanding meal.

That afternoon, we attended the Acrobats of China show. What a phenomenal display of athletic talent and ability. We all thoroughly enjoyed the show.

That evening, we went to Shorty Small's for dinner. The food was outstanding. I had some of the best ribs I've ever eaten. They were delicious and fell off the bone. Unfortunately, the air conditioning wasn't working properly and it was very hot and uncomfortable in the restaurant.

After dinner, we stopped at Andy's Frozen Custard for the 2nd evening in a row. Tonight, I had a blackberry concrete. Hmmm! Hmmm!!

Saturday morning we ate at the hotel and then headed home. We decided to stop in Eureka Springs, AR. It took us about an hour and 30 minutes to get to Eureka Springs. Eureka Springs is a wonderful town. We walked along the streets looking in the various shops. I found an art gallery, the Susan Morrison Signature Gallery, I had visited 20 years ago when I had visited Eureka Springs by myself. On that earlier visit, I had purchased 5 prints, 4 of which are still hanging in our home. I also purchased an autographed book from her. I remember her showing me pictures in the book with her presenting a piece of her work to the Governor of Arkansas, the then unknown Bill Clinton.

Susan was in the gallery and spent a great deal of time talking with Mary Kate when MK told her she was interested in becoming an artist. Susan gave Mary Kate a couple of posters and a magazine on conservation. It was very thoughtful of her to spend so much time with MK and to encourage her interest in art.

We had lunch at the Mud Street Cafe. It is downstairs in the basement and since it was a very hot day in Eureka Springs, the coolness of the restaurant was a welcome respite from the heat. The food was very good

We almost decided to stay over night in Eureka Springs, but we knew we needed to get back to our boys. Next year, we will plan to stay over night as there is so much to see in the town.

On the drive up to Branson, we had seen the signs for Checotah, OK, home of Carrie Underwood. On the way home, we exited so Mary Kate could see Checotah. In her song, "I Ain't in Checotah Anymore", Carrie does a great job of describing her hometown. The town is where 69 meets 40 and since we drove the town end to end, it truly is a single stop light town.

We got back on US 69 and headed south. We got home about 9:30 p.m. It was a fun trip and Mary Kate had an absolutely wonderful time at Kamp Kanakuk.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Happy Father's Day

As I prepare to celebrate my 16th Father's Day as a dad and my 19th Father's Day without a dad, I came across this note. I had found this article taped inside one of my dad's bibles when we were going through his belongings shortly after his death in April of 1991. Boy, does that seem like a long time ago?

Here is the article.

"But we know that we shall see Him" (1 John 3:2)

A sick man turned to his doctor who was leaving the room after paying a visit, and said, "Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side."

Very quietly the doctor said, "I do not know."

"You don't know? You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side!"

The doctor was holding the handle of the door, on the other side of which came sounds of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor, said, "Did you notice that dog? He had never been in this room before. He did not know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door was opened he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing. I know my Master is there, and that is enough. And when the door opens, I shall pass through with no fear, but with gladness."


As I read this note, I realized, the legacy my dad left me was not wealth or possessions, but a solid and everlasting faith in that which is truly important. My prayer is that my legacy to my children is equally as solid and everlasting.

If you still have your dad with you, I hope you can spend some time with him on Sunday. If he's passed from this life, I hope you take time to honor him in some small way by treasuring the legacy he left for you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ed's Elder Escort Service - The Final Day

Given the severe storms in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area last night, I wasn't sure I would be able to fly home today.

Slept in this morning. Didn't get up until 9 a.m. Helped Jane get Francie ready and then she and I played Scrabble. She beat me both games.

About 1:00, my nephew, Tony, drove me to the Johnstown airport. At that time, the flight was on schedule to Dulles as was my flight from Dulles to DFW. Our short flight from Johnstown was on time and uneventful. By the time I landed at Dulles, my flight to DFW had already been delayed 30 minutes. We had to wait for the flight in from DFW which had left over an hour late. We finally boarded about an hour late and headed home.

Although the flight was a bit rough early on, the rest of the flight was smooth and we arrived about 8:30, an hour later than the scheduled arrival time.

When I left this afternoon, both Jane and Francie thanked me for taking them to Texas and they said they enjoyed it. That made everything worthwhile.

I think I'll retire from my Elder Escort Service.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ed's Elderly Escort Service - The Final Day

Arrived Portage, PA 6:55 p.m. 24 hours and 47 minutes in the van and 1,480 miles after we left my home in Texas Monday morning. Jane and Francie are now safely back home. All in all, a good trip.

Today, we left Winchester, KY about 8:45 a.m. after eating breakfast in the lobby of the Hampton Inn. We drove through eastern Kentucky and into West Virginia. We stopped in Charleston where I visited with some folks I used to work with at Verizon. I had not seen them for about three years. It was great to see them again.

We stopped in Frametown, WV for lunch. The restaurant was about a mile off the interstate and it was called Granny's Diner. It was right on the Elk River. We ate outside. The meal was wonderful. I had butterscotch meringue pie. My mother used to bake these pies and I probably had not had one in over 30 years. It was delicious.

We continued through West Virginia hitting off and on rain showers. We made one more stop in Morgantown, about 110 miles from Portage and then continued home. When we arrived it was 64 degrees. A far cry from the 90+ degree weather we were having in Texas.

While the trip had some challenges, it was well worth it. I think both Jane and Francie enjoyed the trip and especially the opportunity to get to Texas. After arriving at my in-laws, one of my nephews, a brother-in-law and a sister-in-law stopped by. We went to a local bar in Portage called Chuggy's. It was a lot of fun catching up with them. Although my nephew is now 21, he was on call for his job and could not drink. I gave him $5 to have a drink on me later this weekend. I've known him for 18+ years and it's hard to believe the little red-headed boy I met on my first trip to Portage to meet my future in-laws in now much taller than me and a wonderful young man.

If the flights go as scheduled tomorrow, I will leave Johnstown, PA tomorrow afternoon, connect through Dulles and be home tomorrow night.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ed's Elder Escort Service - Part 2 - Day 2

Another day on the road. We left the hotel about 8 a.m. this morning and went to a Waffle House for breakfast. It was about 9:15 when we finally got on the road. We took a different route and wandered through parts of northwestern Mississippi. It is actually quite pretty.

We made it to Whitehouse, TN just north of Nashville for lunch. We ate at a Cracker Barrel. It was what you'd expect at a Cracker Barrel. We continued north into Kentucky. We lost an hour when we crossed back into eastern time zone. Since we got a bit of a late start and with the time change, we didn't make it to the Bourbon Trail until the tours had ended for the day. We'll save the distillery tours for another trip.

We continued through most of Kentucky and stopped at a Hampton Inn in Winchester, KY about 20 miles east of Lexington. We ate at the Cantuckee Diner for dinner. I had a fried bologna sandwich. It was truly a great dining experience. You'd expect Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to visit it.

We have 428 miles to Portage. We should be there tomorrow evening. The trip is going well and it is much quicker now that we have the chair for Francie. He doesn't always like using it, but it is a lot easier on him and a lot quicker.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ed's Elder Escort Service - Part 2

Today we left our home in Texas about 8:45 a.m. We had a nice visit with my mother-in-law and her husband. Our goal was to be in Tunica, MS tonight. I had a free night at Harrah's and the other room was only $40. Since Tunica is only 20 miles south of Memphis, for the cheap hotel rooms, it was worth driving the extra 40 miles.

We made good time throughout the day. We had purchased a transfer wheel chair for Francis. It was much easier and quicker taking him to the rest stops and restaurants in the chair today.

We arrived at Harrah's about 6:15 this evening to find that the hotel and all of the properties had lost commercial power. Harrah's, of course, had full back-up power for the casino, but the hotels were on stand by generators with limited power.

We decided to find someplace to eat. We found a small restaurant called Happy Daze Pizza Cafe. They had much more than pizza on the menu. It had cooled down and Franice wanted to sit outside. The waitress was awesome. She made the meal so enjoyable and everyone got in a better mood after the disappointment at the hotel.

When we returned to the hotel about 8:45, the power was restored. We got into our rooms and I helped Jane get Francie ready for bed. Then, she and I went to the casino for a little while. I turned $20 into $82 and she turned $40 into $38. Not too bad of a night for us.

We will head out in the morning and hope to reach Lexington, Kentucky tomorrow evening.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ed's Elder Escort Service - Day 4

We arrived home this evening about 5:15. The trip was 1,370 miles from start to finish.

Today went smoothly. We left our hotel in Forrest City, AR about 8:45 this morning. We traveled through Arkansas and then into Texas. We made several stops along the way, but made the trip without major incident.

Tonight when we arrived home, my wife had dinner waiting for us. My sister-in-law, her two sons and daughter-in-law joined us as well. It was a nice reunion and we had a nice time together.

It has been a long day and I am tired, but I am glad that we are here safely and I'm looking forward to a week long visit with them.

I probably won't make anymore posts on this subject until June 8th when I begin the road trip back to Pennsylvania with them.