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Fun in faraway places

Several years ago, my family decided to schedule our vacation time as a group, pack up our vehicles and head out for a week of excitement and adventure in a faraway place.

Our vacations fall on the first week of June. Previously, we have visited Gatlinburg, Tenn., Panama City, Fla., Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Most recently we traveled to Branson, Mo.

A big part of the fun in the family activity is the anticipation and planning that takes place in the months and weeks leading up to our departure. The trip is a topic of conversation at each of our family gatherings during the year – Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We use the Internet and chamber of commerce to gather information about the place we’re going to visit and make a priority list of the attractions we want to include on our itinerary.

The preferences of each family member is taken in account in the planning. Copies of the daily itinerary are provided a few days ahead of the trip.

The possibility of the best-laid plans of man going astray happened to us on the Branson trip two weeks ago.

Our plan called for an early morning departure with a stop for breakfast at a Hardee’s in north central Mississippi two hours later. Unfortunately, that business has shied away from locating on a long stretch of U.S. Highway 72 in Mississippi, and we had to travel another hour before finding a fast food restaurant with a breakfast menu near Memphis, Tenn.

We also experienced the same problem at lunchtime when we were traveling through the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas and Missouri.

Five days in Branson turned out to be an exciting and fun-filled experience, in spite of our first-day traveling disappointments. We were surrounded by myriad entertainment venues made popular by super-star show business performers of years past. While many of them are no longer active on stage, the marquees of venues where they performed still feature their names.

The two dinner shows that received the thumbs-up from our party were “The Hughes Family Singers” – five brothers and their wives and 31 children – and the Branson Belle

paddle wheel boat, sailing on the Top of the Mountain Lake with its 700 passengers.

We also witnessed the area’s natural beauty on a two-hour mountainside golf cart tour, featuring a cascade of waterfalls and a drive-through cave.

Branson is a 497-mile drive from Hartselle with partial interstate and better-than-average two- and four-lane highways. Time requirement: 11 hours with stops.