Friday, October 05, 2007

Change of Plans

One of the days of our trip was designated for arriving in Branson, going to a show, and seeing this fountain at a mall that cost $7 million to build. It wasn't the day of the trip that I was looking forward to the most, but it seemed like something to do.

Mom and I arrived in Branson and the mood of the trip changed. We drove through a city of bad (and I mean bad) drivers, saw trashy store front signs and flashy billboards, and noticed buildings packed so closely together that it just made us feel uncomfortable. We decided quickly to find this fountain and head out of Branson.

Finally, we did find the fountain and it was impressive. There was music playing and water shooting up and the Bellagio's fountains are way cooler. There were people sitting around watching the water spray up in the air. I took out my camera, because that is what I do, and snapped a few quick shots. Mom said, "Okay. We saw it. Let's leave." She was not a fan of Branson and I have to admit I wasn't either.

The fountain that we visited and people watching the water.
Fountain7 mil fountainPeople Watching

With the change in plans, we needed a place to stay. Mom called while I drove and we found a hotel in Springfield, Missouri. Our hotel experience was not the most pleasant, but at least we had a good meal at the Springfield Brewing Company. After two dinners of ribs, we both wanted to have either a good burger (no fast food) or a decent steak. I searched online and found the Springfield Brewing Company, which advertised prime rib. We agreed that the menu looked a little more diverse and decided to give it a try. (Is it odd that I based the fact that they might have good steaks based on the fact their appetizer menu had spinach dip, chipotle sauce, and pita bread on it? I just figured if they had that type of appetizer menu, they must have a chef or two that knows how to cook a good steak.)

When we got there, Mom and I found it to be delightful. For an appetizer, I got the Bavarian pretzels, mainly because I never considered this as an appetizer before. A little heavy on the salt, but the pepper jack cheese to dip them in was great! My entree was the Redbird Pie. It was "seasoned ground beef and onions topped with brown gravy, green beans, corn, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, shredded cheddar cheese and topped with a flaky pie crust." It wasn't too shabby. I forget what Mom ordered, but I think it was a burger of some sort. She enjoyed it, I remember that much. She ordered a beer, brewed there of course, and I ordered a root beer.

And wow! It was probably the best root beer I have ever had. The menu stated it was made from birch bark, star anise, vanilla, and peppermint. It so good. If they would have sold it, I would have bought a case. As it turns out, the place was a good place to pick up gifts for Liz, James, and my dad. I bought some six packs of micro-brewery beer for each of them, mixing and matching. This evening was a pleasant surprise on the trip.

The hotel experience was not good. It is a corporate hotel, but managed by some cheap people. Little things added up to a long list of complaints and I don't typically complain about hotels. Our room had fingernail polish (purplish-red) all over the walls, table, and lampshade. It was splattered in such a way that it was most likely the remains from a fight. The bathroom door didn't work right and the light switch was oddly on the outside of the door. It was a room for two, but only had a single cup serving of coffee. Mom went to go swimming in the morning and the pool was so dirty she couldn't see the bottom of the pool. She went to the counter to complain to find a sign that indicated the only way to get an extra towel was to bring the wet one to the counter. There was also no one at the front counter for over a half hour, while customers were waiting.

All of this is little, but one of the more annoying things, at least in my opinion, was something my mom noticed. She works in the food industry and she is aware of which products and the quality of those products that her competitors make. There was cereal in the lobby in the morning in General Mills containers. Except it wasn't General Mills cereal. It appeared the people running the hotel had emptied the original containers and kept refilling them with imitation products. But they also didn't do their homework since a type of cereal (a knock off of Frosted Flakes) was in one of the containers. Frosted Flakes are produced by Kellogg's. It just showed another way the management of this hotel was trying to cut costs. It's not so much that they didn't have General Mills cereal, but that they were falsely advertising that they did. Oh well, Mom did make a complaint to corporate.

In the morning, we hit up a couple of attractions in the area before driving through Oklahoma and into Kansas. We went to this exhibit called, "Wonders of Wildlife," that was next to a large Bass Pro Shop. It was an educational tour filled with some wildlife and interactive displays. There was an annoying family walking through about the same time as we were where the grandma let the kids run around and bump into/push/be rude towards others. We kept trying to hold back or get in front of them, only to find them popping back up. Oh well. But some of the exhibit was cool.

This bird kept flying by people, probably expecting food. Except there wasn't food to feed it. Who knows?
Posing Bird
This was an exhibit to show the parts of a fish. Mom stood in the mouth. It was funny!
Mom in Fish
These are called Look Down fish. Anyone think of Dick Cheney here or is that just me?
Look Down Fish
Frogs, aka Green Duckies, for DM
It was behind glass and hard to photograph, but here is a Bald Eagle. Man, these are big birds!
Bald Eagle

After we went to the Wonders of Wildlife exhibit, we went to Fantastic Caverns. Advertisements showed this to be a tour of a cave involving a motorized vehicle and Mom was a fan of that. She is still recovering from the hip replacement surgery and doing well, but the idea of riding through a cave sounded good. And I like caves, so it worked out well.

This cave is one of four in the world large enough to drive through. It is the only one in America and possibly North America. We piled into this car pulled by a jeep and we were on the tour. I do like caves. (There will be another post about caves soon.)

Fantastic Caverns (14)Hall of Giants (2)Hall of Giants (8)Hall of Giants (9)Hall of Giants (10)Hall of Giants (14)

While we were disappointed in Branson, it was okay. We had a great time in Springfield, even with the bad hotel room. I got to add another cave to my list of visited places (I'm becoming a cavern junkie) and had a great meal. It was cool.