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I'm getting ready to blow your collective mind with a shocking revelation, guys: I never got to visit Disney anything as a child.
Every vacation of my childhood? BRANSON, MISSOURI
For those of you who don't hail from the Midwest and have no idea what Branson is, let me put it to you this way - they took an RV there on Roseanne once and described it as "The white trash Vegas". Personally, I like to think of it leaning more toward redneck than white trash, but again if you're not a Midwesterner, you might not realize the difference in those two terms. There definitely IS a difference, friends, definitely!
The reoccurring theme throughout the city? Hillbillies! No, seriously and guess whose big ole inbred family hails from Branson? Mine! Yee-haw! Even better? Hey there, raise your hand if your ancestors killed the Baldknobbers... The Miles boys were either murderers or heroes depending on where the story is told. I come from a long line of hardasses, you guys!
Anyway, the Old Man spent the summers in Branson throughout his childhood, and for a weekend each summer we did the same. Traveling in which ever 'slick' or 'classic' land yacht my dad decided was cool at the time (read: bronze Monte Carlo, navy blue Buick Regal, seafoam green Chevy Caprice) and made the trip down to the Ozarks. A pilgrimage to the ancestral stomping ground if you will.
When you're a child and you're on vacation in Branson, here are the things that you want to do as soon as you get to town:
- Go to Silver Dollar City
- Go to White Water
- Go ride go-karts
- Go play miniature golf
- Go see the magic show
When you're a child and you're on vacation in Branson with the Old Man, here's what you get to do as soon as you get to town:
- Go swim in the hotel pool while Dad takes a nap. It's a long drive, damn it!
- Listen to Dad say repeatedly that "A vacation's supposed to be relaxing! We're not going to run around like a bunch of idiots the entire time we're here!"
- Check the sheets to make sure they're clean.
- Ditto to the bathroom.
- "Eat something your mom brought if you're hungry because we're only eating out at suppertime. And no, we're not having McDonalds - if I'm gonna pay for supper, it's gonna be a steak."
Then when we finally got to leave the hotel, we were treated to a scenic tour of the city. Correction: we were treated to a scenic tour of the town as it was during Dad's childhood. The only problem with that? SHIT CHANGES OVER THE COURSE OF 30-40 YEARS, DAD! Hell hath no fury like a man who's lost in a city he once knew by heart. Fact!
Once the initial disappointment of traveling with Dad wore off (he was always bad cop to Mom's good cop) and we came to understand that he who makes the money chooses the activities, we enjoyed ourselves on our annual vacation.
Eventually we did almost everything we wanted to do and gained Dad wisdom in the process:
- Silver Dollar City - Supposedly a guy was decapitated once while riding Fire In the Hole according to our father. Jimmy & I were terrified of the ride 3 days before we arrived in Branson. When we were forced to actually ride it, I cried and squeezed my eyes shut while Dad laughed hysterically like a crazed lunatic. I have no idea if the decapitation story is true or not, but I will remember that story for the rest of my life. Lesson learned? If Dad starts doing the giggle, you're probably going to end up in tears.
- Go Karts - Dad liked to ride those every day, at multiple tracks. He taught us if you're "not a pussy", you go to the slick tracks because the karts are faster and you can slide around the curves. Also, if you're "not a pussy", you do everything in your power to wreck your kart into your family members despite the giant sign telling you not to wreck on purpose. Lesson learned? Dad enjoyed taking out his bottled up trucker's road rage more than any grown man should have.
- Miniature Golf - Dad cheats at every game he ever plays. "Hey kids! Look at that weird bird over there on top of the windmill!" Heads would turn, Dad would sink a hole in one. Every. Single. Time. Lesson learned? Never play anything unless Dad is on your team or you will lose.
- The Kirby Van Birch magic show - To my 10 year old self, Kirby was hot in an Uncle Jesse from Full House way. Just freaking dreamy! Once I got my picture taken with him which was both thrilling and mortifying. Lesson learned? Never admit in front of Dad that anyone is even remotely cute or he'll tease you relentlessly clear into your late 20s.
Notice that I left White Water off of the list? We never made it to the water park. Dad can't swim and neither can I - that lesson wasn't learned though, it was inherited...
I think my kids are due for a Branson vacation in the next few years and if they're lucky, we won't let PaPa drive this time.
When you look back on the vacations of your childhood, what was your favorite trip?