The major goals of any vacation include relaxing and "getting away from it all." One of the problems we encountered during our recent sojourn in Branson was getting anywhere at all amidst the frequent traffic jams.
But we're spoiled when it comes to traffic. We're from a part of the world where we generally have the roads all to ourselves. For us, a traffic jam means there are two cars ahead of us at a stop sign.
One day, as we crept along in Branson traffic, I espied a car that had plates from our home state of South Dakota. My wife had to restrain me from hopping out and tapping on their window to see if it was anyone we knew. Odds are it was; at the very least, we probably knew someone in common such as Bob and Wanda from Gann Valley.
Branson is a tourist Mecca. Drive slowly down its main drag - it's not likely you'll have a choice regarding the speed - and you'll encounter a goofy golf course or a water park or a go-cart track or a theater or a themed museum every 10 feet.
One of these themed museums is focused on the Titanic, the ill-fated steamship that suffered the double misfortune of being sunk by an iceberg and having Celine Dion record a sappy song about it.
The Titanic Museum features numerous photos and artifacts from the liner. The museum's centerpiece is an exact replica of the ship's grand staircase. I almost expected to see Kate gliding down the stairs to a waiting Leo.
We viewed a reproduction of a third-class room, which slept four and was about the size of a lunchbox. The Titanic had two bathtubs for her 700-plus third-class passengers. At that time, this was considered quite luxurious.
We viewed a mockup of a first-class suite, which had more square feet than a two-car garage and featured a bed the size of a Buick. We were told that one female first-class passenger brought along some 114 pairs of evening gloves. It wasn't made clear if she was a smuggler or simply a glove nut.
Another site we visited was the Hollywood Wax Museum. You can't miss this attraction due to its life-sized King Kong climbing a faux skyscraper. At least that's what you see when you approach from the east. Approaching from the west, as we did, it appears that you're being mooned by a giant monkey.
The Wax Museum contained a virtual "who's who" of big names from the big screen. This included Barbara Eden in her "I Dream of Jeannie" costume. I checked, and apparently her navel is too risqu to be displayed even in wax.
I was surprised at how large John Wayne was and how petite Humphrey Bogart appeared to be. I was also shocked at how shoddy some of the likenesses were.
"Who's that?" I asked my wife, "Ernest Borgnine?"
"No!" she replied, "That's Cher! Can't you tell?"
"Whoa! I guess those Hollywood makeup jobs really do make a difference!"
Next on our list of "must-see" sites was the Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Museum. This place was aptly named because some of the items it housed were truly beyond belief.
For instance, on display was The World's Largest Roll Of Toilet Paper. It made me wonder if a King Kong-sized commode had been installed in an adjoining room.
One of the really bizarre items was a Ceylonese snake mask. It had crazy, bulging eyes and was painted in a rainbow of psychedelic colors. As I walked past its case, I heard a tourist mutter, "If you can remember the '60s, you weren't there!"
Some things on display were obviously fake, such as a mounted fur bearing trout. I had seen one of those before, right next to a stuffed flying jackalope. This is what can happen when a taxidermist has too much time on his hands.
I opted to cap off our time in Branson with a helicopter tour. There was no question as to whether or not my wife would accompany me. She would much rather undergo root canal surgery than do any sort of flying.
With an upward motion smoother than most elevators, the chopper lifted off. Moments later, Branson and the Ozarks were splayed out below. I could see that the Ozarks aren't so much mountains as they are low, rolling hills and that Branson has been forcefully chiseled into their contours. I could also see a particular landmark.
"Get us closer to the Hollywood Wax Museum," I told the pilot. "I have a bone to pick with a certain giant monkey!"