Monday, July 13, 2009


The past few years, Dana and I have taken the opportunity to go on vacation by ourselves while our youngest son is at church camp. This year, we decided to spend a few days in Branson, MO then drive down to the Buffalo River below Harrison, AR and spend a few days there. We got up Monday morning (07/06), saw the boy off to camp, threw our stuff in the pickup and hit the road!

In Branson, we stayed in a cabin at the Westgate Resort. Rather than staying in the lodge at the resort, we found some cabins located on the property that were owned by private individuals. We chose one of the cabins owned by Ron and Linda Blevins. We didn't know the Blevins nor did we know anyone that had rented from them, but the online reviews were all positive, the cabins looked we took a chance.

The Blevin's cabin we stayed in was A3 and it was PERFECT! Full-size kitchen, flat panel TV with DVD player, screened-in back porch complete with another TV and porch swing...and the piece de resistance--a king size Sleep Number ® bed! There was also a juccuzi tub. The cabin was tastefully decorated (as far as cabin decorations go) and furnished with the basic cooking utensils, plates, etc. We didn't cook, but did make use of the coffee maker. Even though we were inside the resort, we felt like we were off somewhere in the Ozark mountains; very private and quiet. Just what we were looking for. The really nice thing is the resort is located just off the "blue route"/Shepherd of the Hills Expressway in Branson which gave us very easy access to all the attractions we wanted to see, without having to drive on Hwy 76! You know what I'm talking about if you've been there. We stayed two nights in this cabin.

Tuesday we went to Silver Dollar City--west of Branson. SDC is like stepping back in time, when things were a little simpler and less hectic. The park features over 50 different crafts shops from wood carvings to candles to homemade candies and blown glass. The "town" is designed to look like a typical 1880's mountain settlement with the shop owners/craftworkers dressed in period clothing. There are 30 rides and attractions for kids of all ages. You won't get hungry there either--there's plenty of food! We spent the day just enjoying the various shops; no standing in line for rides for us this trip. We did make sure we bought some of the made from scratch candy and a bag of pork rinds!

DogwoodCanyon_10Wednesday was spent in Dogwood Canyon, south of Branson. We had heard about the park from family members and friends. The canyon/park was created by Bass Pro Shop owner, John Morris, and encompasses over 2000 acres of streams, waterfalls and pools teeming with brown and rainbow trout. The park also boasts herds of elk, deer and North American bison. The hiking/bike trail(s) in the park are paved and cover a little of 7 miles that wind through the canyon. You can see more of the pictures I took here. We rented bikes and rode some of the trails, took a break for a picnic lunch we had packed, then took their tram tour through the canyon and mountain ranch where the big animals were. A long day, but well worth it. I'd like to go back in the Fall and get some more pictures. That evening, we drove down to Ponca, AR and our cabin at Buffalo Outdoor Center.

Buffalo Outdoor Center (BOC) was started in 1976 by Mike Mills as a canoeing operation. Mike and his wife, Rhonda, have since added 18 cabins and a lodge. Area activities include canoeing, hiking, wildlife watching and camping. We like BOC because of its remote location and the shear beauty of the area. On our way to BOC, we stopped and picked up some steaks for grilling and a few other groceries for our two day stay. We had booked a cabin in the valley this time--we stayed at BOC in 2006 in their Mountain Sunrise cabin and figured we would try something different this time. The thing we really like about BOC is the quiet and solitude. There is no TV reception in Ponca and our cell phones had no was GREAT! We took some books, some DVDs (the cabins do have TVs and DVD players) and left work at home! They steaks were GREAT, by the way.

Thursday morning we slept in--8:30 AM! We had tickets to Noah - The Musical in Branson for that afternoon, which wasn't a really good plan since we had already been there earlier in the week, but that's just how the schedule/ticket availability worked out. The show was really good, even though I'm really not a "musical" guy. The stage sets/props were very impressive and they did a pretty good job of sticking with the Biblical text...for the most part. I won't spoil it for you by telling you if they made it off the boat or not. 8^)>

Whitaker_Point_02 Friday morning we got up early in order to beat the heat for our hike to Hawksbill Crag aka Whitaker Point. The dirt road off the highway is a 12-mile trek up a sometimes very narrow dirt road just to get to the trail head. The hike into the crag is fairly easy and about 1.5 miles through the woods. The view from the crag is breathtaking. We sat out there for quite a while just enjoying the view of the valley and enjoying the cool breeze. The hike back--although the same distance--was a little tougher since (a) the temperature had risen probably 10 to 15 degrees since we started in on the trail (b) our water wasn't cold any more, but we were glad to have it (c) the return trip is more uphill. Needless to say, we were sweaty messes by the time we made it back to the truck.

All-in-all, a great week--just the two of us. I love these kinds of trips where we can go at our own pace, stop whenever we want (or not), actually carry on a conversation without being interrupted, and eat at restaurants WE like. I also love trips like this that commemorate important stages in our lives--this was our "29th wedding anniversary trip." Who would would have "thunk" it?!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Catching Up

Wow! It's been over a month since I've posted here. I've been busy working on my office bookcases--I'm building and painting all the components before I install them, so that's taking a little more time than I would prefer. Hope to have that completed and have pics up soon.

Doobie_Bros_(11)I've let my photography fall by the wayside lately; gotten out of the habit of taking my camera whenever I go out. I did manage to take a few pics this past month. A couple of friends from high school and I attended the Doobie Brothers concert in Muskogee, OK earlier in June. Got some pretty good photos before security informed me that a "camera with interchangeable lenses was not allowed. The band considers that to be professional photography." Everybody else and their dog was snapping pics with their point-and-shoot cameras--in spite of the "no flash photography" signs posted everywhere. Oh, well. More Doobie photos here

2009 Hogs 'N Rods (Retouched)Also went to the Hogs 'N Rods Rally in Collinsville. There were a lot more vendors this year than in the past. I don't own a motorcycle or a "hot rod," but I love looking at the paint jobs. More Hogs 'N Rods photos here.

Let's see, in the world of politics, BO continues to be hell-bent on taxing the dog-snot out of those of us that chose to get off our butts and work for a living. Funny, I thought he promised not to do that. While the rest of the country/world was going nuts over Michael Jackson's death, our self-centered Congress passed the "cap and trade" bill. It still has to make it through the Senate, but I'm not so sure there's enough "No" votes to shoot it down.

It cracks me up to listen to all the global warming people talk about how we need to save the if we really could. I think we should be good stewards of what we've been given, but there's nothing--repeat NOTHING, we can do that will stop the inevitable. The book of Revelation says this place is going to be burned up and replaced with a new one when Jesus comes back. Why would we want to save this dump? The new one has GOT to be better...especially without the politicians!

Happy Birthday, America
In spite of all of the silliness and greed that goes on in America, I still thinks it's the best place in the world to live. Sadly, I don't think we are far from collapse thanks to the "hope and change" we got back in November 2008. I hope I'm not here to watch it happen. Until then, Happy 233rd Birthday, America! Thank you to all the men and women who have and continue to serve and protect us...military, police, fire, etc. You guys are the real American heroes.