Yes, we are home and this vacation summary is already over a week old. But I’ll still file it…for my own journal records if for no other reason!
(The first journal entry is here.)
Friday morning, a bit before 7, Keith & Carol Moran and Claire and I drove together to College of the Ozarks for the last Farmers Market of the season. (We had done this last year too and really enjoyed it.) We bought carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, brauts, a mess of peppers, and a T-shirt for Claire. Then we drove north of town and then west so Keith and Carol could see the spectacular views there. We were heading for breakfast at Billy Gail’s, a place we hit every year. Good food, good service, and a fun down-home atmosphere. Later in the morning we drove to Dogwood Canyon, a really lovely place in the heart of the Ozarks. We dared take the challenge of the 6 ½ mile self-guided walk through the canyon forests and actually down across the Arkansas border. We were absolutely delighted we did. Beautiful and interesting surroundings. Sweet fellowship. Creating significant memories.
We spent almost 5 hours there and I can’t think of what would make for a more peaceful, inspirational time. Oh yes, there was once more fun element to our day at Dogwood Canyon. We struck up a conversation with a fellow who worked there who was also the worship leader/discipleship pastor of a church down in Arkansas. Randy Franz is also the patriarch of a singing family that was well known by the Morans. Even more, he knew my cousin and an Omaha friend now living in Texas. Small world? Or perhaps, like the meeting with Tom and Barb earlier in the week, it’s just in the nature of divine appointment. Thanks, Lord. Claire gave him a copy of The Christmas Room before we left.
Claire and I closed out Friday evening with dinner at home, watching the Series game, and a bit of reading. Keith and Carol took off for a reunion with Carol’s cousin and we did have a late night cup of tea together before we turned in.
Early Saturday morning I headed over to Panera for a few hours work until Claire, Keith, and Carol came by and we went to lunch at the Keeter Center at the College of the Ozarks. As always, it was great. We also toured the lodge and the mill. We would have checked out the fruitcake and jelly manufacturing and the book store but they were closed. The couples split up in the afternoon, the Morans looking for an old family haunt as well as a brief tour of old town Branson while Claire and I took a roundabout way through the hills northwest of Branson to try and find Garrison, Missouri, an unincorporated “town” that was founded by Linda Wilson’s great grandfather. It was an adventure getting there but we finally found it “way back in the holler.” We took some pictures of the town’s two buildings: a general store that looked long closed and a Union Church made of stone in 1946 that also looked unattended. We also found an old graveyard on a hill above the highway and took a few photos there as well to pass along to Dick and Linda when we get home.
While we were involved in this “way out of the way” spot, our phone connection was off and we missed the call from Pat Osborne and our home security system. We learned later that Claire’s misleading directions had caused Pat to set off the alarm when he came over to handle trick or treat duties at our house. Poor guy – he not only had to listen to the beeping of the secondary alarm all night, he also had to convince the police that he wasn’t a burglar! And we thought we were having a Halloween adventure! We will make it up to you, Pat...somehow.
Meanwhile in the calm of a Branson evening, Claire made a delicious dinner for us all at the condo, a meal which starred several of the vegetables and brauts we had purchased at the Farmers Market at the College. Afterward, while the World Series played quietly in the background, we talked and played Taboo until pretty late.
Sunday’s schedule included the worship service at the gorgeous Williams Chapel on the campus of College of the Ozarks. It was really nice – biblical preaching, classic hymns by the congregation (how nice to do without the emotional coercion of a “worship team”), a gorgeous hymn from the student choir and orchestra, responsive readings from Scripture, and all in a truly glorious church whose architecture and atmosphere harkens back to when churches were built to purposefully inspire the soul to lofty meditation.
The Nelsons left us after church for some time with a friend who lives in the area but they are “moving in” to the condo adjoining ours this afternoon – the same condo where the Morans have been staying the last couple of days.
But before Keith and Carol left the area, they treated us to lunch at a Branson landmark, the Farmhouse Restaurant in old town. It was pretty well packed and we had about 40 minutes to wait before we could be seated. It was just enough time to stop in a Christian-owned shop next door where Claire found a lovely king-size quilt at a great sale price. She’s been looking for one for a few years now and so it was a real delight to buy it…and then celebrate over lunch. Saying goodbye to Keith and Carol was a little sad but we’ll be seeing them soon. What wonderful friends they’ve been to us over these many years!
The Nelsons arrived almost the same time we got back to the condo. While Allen napped and Claire and Cindy caught up over a cup of tea, I got in a two-hour hike, getting home just as the evening came on strong. The Nelsons had dinner out and turned in early. We watched the Broncos win a rather surprising victory over Green Bay and did some reading.
Monday’s highlights including a few games of chess, conversation, a couple of hours of work at Panera’s, and, in the afternoon, we took in one of the few Christmas shows that looked attractive to us. It starred country singer Billy Dean and was okay, but we found the comedian (these guys seem to be obligatory in a Branson music show) overbearing, inappropriate, and definitely unfunny. We bought Dean’s Christmas CD but we wouldn’t recommend the show.
Tuesday’s highlights included lunch at the Keeter Center at the College of the Ozarks, a splendid visit with students and a supervisor at the Fruitcake and Jelly manufacturing at the school, and attendance at a truly exceptional student drama, Railway to Heaven. We returned to the condo after purchasing a couple of items at the college bookstore. The Nelsons joined us for dinner. We had hamburgers, Italian sausage, brauts (made by the College of the Ozarks students), and vegetables for our menu. Allen graciously agreed to grill things out on the superlative setup by the pool. I decided to get a two-hour walk in and I did. But I hadn’t planned on the change of daylight savings time. I got too far out, lost track of time while praying, and ended up struggling through the dark in that last 45 minutes or so. Denny, you need to thin and plan better, old son.
Wednesday was a really productive day with a few hours work at Panera in the morning before meeting Sherry who came in from Wichita. While Claire and Sherry checked out a few shops and had tea at the condo in Branson West where Sherry was staying, I had my best walk of all my time in Branson. I hit a paved trail, pretty flat, and was right next to Table Rock Lake. Very pretty. Great conditions. A cool marina to check out at the trail’s loop. And pretty private. Great for prayers, for exercise, and for sightseeing.
I picked up Claire afterward and we drove down to the Keeter Center again, this time to buy a big bunch of jellies, apple butter, and summer sausage. Some of it was for a gift for my Aunt Farris and the rest will be used as Christmas gifts. The evening concluded with a simple meal back home and a catch-up talk with Allen and Cindy.
Oh yes…Wednesday marked our 44th anniversary.
Thursday brought a nice breakfast at Bill Gail’s with Sherry, the Nelsons, and us. Then Sherry and Claire and I headed up to Crane for another visit with my Aunt Farris and cousin Susan. We were there for about three hours. On the way back, we stopped at Reeds Springs to check out an antiques shop – as usual, no purchases, just looking around and talking. We dropped Sherry off at her condo in Notch Landing as her daughter Heather and her family are coming in tonight from Kansas City. In the mid and late afternoon Claire worked on the computer (Vital Signs matters, The Christmas Room) while I spent time writing at my Branson branch office, the aforementioned Panera’s. Our evening included a nice meal out (Farmhouse Restaurant), checking out the Christmas lights downtown, and a bit of chess back home. Very nice day. (But no hike.) Heavy rain.
Okay, let’s warp this up. The highlights of Friday included breakfast at Billy Gail’s with Sherry, her daughter and son-in-law (Heather and Tommy) and their teenage daughter, Hailey. Another 2 hour walk along Table Rock Lake. A bit of reading. Beginning to pack up. Dinner with and a couple of 36 hole rounds of miniature golf with the Nelsons. By 8:30 the next morning we were on the way home.
An excellent working vacation: rest, a nice change in routine, a bit of adventure, a lot of walking, good fellowship with friends and family.