Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Stopping by Little Rock, Arkansas, then Celebrating in Branson, Missouri

Friday, July 2, 2010

Stopping by Little Rock, Arkansas, then Celebrating in Branson, Missouri

We had to leave Memphis right away because the front air conditioner of M’A ‘turn had failed the last day we were in Nashville and days were in the high 90s at high humidity.  I was not getting any ‘beauty’ sleep!  A Camping World outlet is in Little Rock, Arkansas, only two hours away!  While the repair job was being done, we went around town.  Since it took two days, we were able to cover major attractions.

First is the longest pedestrian bridge in the world (4,226 linear feet), the Big Dam Bridge. The marker said it so nicely…it was dedicated to the idea that people need to make connections in this world.  The bridge is often used for marathons and bikathons.  I thought…how nice of the city to provide such an impressive facility that leads to healthier and happier residents.

Second is the Bill Clinton Presidential Library.  It is a structure that is imposing enough, especially since it is adjacent to the Arkansas River and the old beautiful bridge that spanned it. But what is remarkable is this:  the lobby had a preponderance of African-Americans.  I wish we had more time to take the tour though.  After all it was the first presidential library I have ever visited (not that I like this Bill C.).

Third is the downtown marketplace.  We found big concrete unique Little Rock letters atop the farmer’s market.  And at the end of the colorful marketplace is the biggest ceiling fan I have ever seen! Finally, at the end of the block was the Capitol Building on whose grounds stood the Little Rock Nine, statues of the nine African-American students who became the important symbols of desegregation in Arkansas.

But when the repair was completed the next day, we were ecstatic!  For we were to spend a few celebratory days with Bill’s sister Rosemary and her husband Jack in Branson, Missouri, only 3 hours away, before resting awhile in their hometown, Pittsburg, Kansas.  And surprise of surprises…the Treasure Lake campground there is a true-blue RV resort.

First, it is right on the Strip.  Second, it has fabulous facilities: two pools, one indoor, one outdoors, a clubhouse, a lodge, tennis courts, mini-golf.  Third, the days were full of scheduled activities, free concerts, potluck dinners, karaoke nights, Texas Hold-em days, movie screenings, all kinds of tournaments, etc.  Fourth the campsites were paved, with cute picnic tables, and with lots of trees.

Missouri is the Show-Me State and Branson is its jewel. The city has more than thirty shows (including those of Andy Williams, The Platters, and The Osmonds. There are three outlets and many restaurants. There are several strips that burst into bright lights at night. We went to the Landing, the Showboat at Table Rock, and the Silver Dollar City.  

The Landing is about two miles of stores and restaurants on both sides of a road plied by free shuttle rides that take you to and fro.  In the middle are condo buildings and alongside is a river that runs through it.  But the highlight of our Branson vacation is the shows.

The Showboat is a dazzling night of music on board a 720-seat paddle boat, the largest of its kind ever built on a fresh water lake, Table Rock Lake ( the area is filled with many rock formations that resemble table tops, hence the name).  The full moon was enchanting and the show was first class, a high being the 39-song medley of greats. But the sure winner was the ventriloquist who used dogs, giving the appearance that they are talking dogs.  It was incredible!

Silver Dollar City is so different from traditional theme parks that are dominated by rides. First, it is built on top of Marvel Cave, a huge natural cavern where everyone that comes in has to be able to crouch through 4-feet high narrow passageways.  Next, instead of being dominated by rides, shows fill up your time.  It rained during our visit but we were sheltered inside show venues.  There were also nice sideshows and craft demonstrations. We also found a great BBQ buffet in a restaurant inside a cave. 

Gossamer Magic was spell-binding and I was hugely overcome when a big yellow van appeared on stage in an instant right before our very eyes!  The Stunt Dogs Show feature rescued dogs that have been in all kinds of TV shows for their wonderful antics.  And GAC Nights is the Grand American Country cable channel’s musical show at Echo Hollow, a beautiful amphitheater amid tall trees.

It was definitely a hectic time o we all looked forward to ten restful days in Bill’s hometown.

Next Stop: Pittsburg, Kansas