What is this place?

I don’t even know where to start. This place is just so overwhelmingly shitty — what’s the word? — bizarre. Yet, we’re having a great time. We left Winfield, Kansas, where we stayed with Lisa’s auntie and uncle and visited her ailing grandparents. We made a pact to never get old . . . but I’m getting off the road to Branson.

After getting on I-44 at the Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma border we were bombarded with signs for all sorts of kitsch: caverns and cavalcades and country stores. Now, friends, I have relatives who love Branson, so I’m not getting down on the folks who visit this Vegas meets Niagara Falls meets the Black Hills meets the Wisconsin Dells meets the Grand Ole Opry. But the place! The place is overwhelming. The main drag through town has every kind of touristy store you can imagine, dozens of dinner theatres with tons of people (almost none we’ve heard of, except Yakov Smirnoff and a Hee-Haw dude), mini-golf, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, hotels, motels, jamborees, discount ticket vendors, carnival-type rides, restaurants, go-karts, and (yes) even a Wal-Mart. It goes on and on.

But we left the car at the hotel and walked about a mile down the road and stopped by a few stores, including Ozarkland. Imagine, if you can, all of those stores in San Francisco’s Chinatown that are stuffed with cheap Asian exports transported to a rather scenic part of the U.S. and filled to the brim with slightly-less-cheap Americana: magnets, bald eagle T-shirts, crafts, air rifles, Precious Moments (™)-type doodads, fudge, taffy, John Deere/Coca-Cola/etc. memorobilia, Black Hills gold, and so on.

We also stopped in a place selling beautiful fretted instruments: banjos, guitars, and lots of dulcimers. But the guy behind the counter made the mistake of talking to us right as we walked through the door and all the dulcimers were behind the counter and I panicked and we fled without finding out how much these quirky instruments that I could never play cost.

So on we went to mini-golf that Lisa wrote about already. I won. Ha Ha Ha!

We’ve barely scratched the surface of Branson, but we’re leaving tomorrow and are sort of relieved. It’s over-stimulating and a different vein than we’re used to mining.

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