October 3rd, 2021

Southbound US 65 in the Ozarks

I took another day trip today. I headed south to that mecca of family fun – Branson, MO.

This is another one of those places I have not been to for over 35 years. Last time I was there they were just beginning to build bypass highways around The Strip to alleviate some of the horrific traffic jams. I remember being stuck for hours in traffic and something really needed to be done.

I went to the old downtown area first. It was packed with people. I wanted to see the old “dime store” again. Dick’s 5 & 10 – a real piece of history. It had not changed from what I remember.

Talks about old school…

After that I went to The Strip and it HAD changed, just like the rest of the area around it. It was an even more touristy version of Las Vegas: “get your free tickets here”, “Elvis impersonator there”. All sorts of things to take your money. Too many places wanting it and advertising for it.

The thing I always liked doing there the most was the go-karts. Sitting three inches off the ground while hauling ass is a lot of fun. I will go back and do that again one of these days.

It was the same place, yet different. There are so many signs everywhere that it gets to be too much and really distracts from everything else. But, then again, I am a bit older now and notice that stuff more.

I remember taking off one Friday years ago, wanting to go somewhere so I went to Branson – it was only a few hours away. I had no job and very little money but always made sure to get away when I could, even if it meant ramen and mac & cheese (Golden Grain was the good stuff, not Kraft). I had a Sterno stove I would cook on, which was okay at lower altitudes but in Colorado it was useless – didn’t get near hot enough. I’d pack a joint or two and I was set.

My car at the time got 40 mpg so it was always cheap to drive. Of course, gas was much cheaper in the early 80s. Sometimes I would sleep in the car if the weather sucked, but it was a tiny car and not much room so that was a last resort.

This particular weekend trip I got to Branson and, of course, had no money for a hotel or even a campsite. I drove around and found a fairy quiet road and slept on the ground next to my car on the shoulder of the highway. It was a restless night since a bunch of drunks decided to stop down the road from where I was “camped” and started hooting and hollering.

I got up the next morning and drove around all day looking for things to see and do. That night I was invited to a party at a rented vacation house and they let me sleep in their driveway. The next day I left and went back home.

I had no money but I still had fun, and I made many trips like that – even going to Colorado with $75 in my pocket and coming back with money left. To this day I still can have fun and spend very little money. I am more about the memories and experiences and just the occasional souvenir.

The other thing was going to timeshare sales pitches when I was unemployed. I would go, they would give me a place to stay and a “free gift” or cash. One time I got a while house for a weekend AND $100 and all I had to do was listen to a salesman try to sell me a timeshare. A 90-minute presentation and a drive around the place. I got in the car and told him “Look, I am not buying anything. I am here for a mini-vacation and the cash. I don’t even have a job.”. We still had to ride around to make it look good and I was free to go. I did that several times and then they started saying you had to be “gainfully employed” in the fine print so that put a stop to that.

Anyhoo, I have spent a lot of time in the area in years past and it was always fun. Now there are even more things to do and some new ones, like zip lines which I want to try someday as well.

Until then, I’ll just keep having other adventures!

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