Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Navy Reunion - Branson, MO - Day 13

Starting mileage: 38372
Ending mileage: 38585
Miles driven: 213
Gas price: $2.49

Again this morning I could not face waffles. So, we packed up and headed out to get gas and a bite to eat on our way.

We opted for Krystal's for a drive-thru breakfast. It was pretty good. I got an egg, cheese & bacon sandwich on toast. Dave had his usual: sausage, egg & cheese biscuit.

We had debated about taking I-75 through Atlanta to get home. But, neither of us wanted to deal with the freeway. So, we stuck to our original plan and came home through the north Georgia mountains. A much calmer and prettier drive.

As I promised earlier in the blog, we did stop at the 1996 Olympic site for the kayak competition and take a few pictures. Because today was not a weekend day, the traffic was almost nil.

Today's drive took us from Tennessee to South Carolina to Georgia.

We stopped along Lake Ocoee to stretch our legs. Dave's enjoying the view. He said there were some scuba divers below him that he was watching.

This picture is a take-out spot for the rafters. As you can see, the area is ramp-like cement. On the near side of this picture (which you can't see) there is a series of steps.

Here's a shot of the Lake Ocoee Dam.

The following two pictures are of the Tennessee Valley Authority building. I think they create electricity, not sure. I do remember hearing about the TVA in school. I think the TVA was created during the end of WWII and was one of the core projects that helped to get the USA more financially sound as the war ended.

Here's a not-so-great picture showing the sign for the Olympics and the facilities that are available at this site.

Here's the row of flags that flew during the Olympics.

In this picture, you can see a cement walkway about in the middle of the picture. In the background, you can see a rocky area with water. This is some of the kayak event area. In the background is a bridge. We drove over this bridge to get to the picnic area (see later pictures).


Upstream view from the bridge

Downstream view from the bridge

Picnic pavilion area

Back in Georgia!

We stopped in Blairsville again to stretch our legs and get a bite to eat. We ended up at McDs (what else). This time, we did not get lost getting out of Blairsville.

We can hardly wait to get home. It's been quite a journey. We did have fun and we certainly enjoyed seeing the Navy guys and Pixie & Oscar. We truly missed having the RV and it made the trip much more difficult for us (and more expensive). In addition, I think if we had both been feeling a bit better and had it not been so hot, we wouldn't have minded all the totin' and dog walkin' as much as we did. Dave has been suffering quite a bit with his back, I got a bladder infection requiring drugs the day we got to Branson, I also developed severe jaw pain the third day after we arrived in Branson. I'm not sure if this is from the tooth that I had pulled prior to leaving for Branson or if I've developed TMJ. But, in the mornings, I cannot move my jaw--Dave isn't complaining as I can't talk for a while after waking.

It will be good to be home and let Kalli run. She needs the exercise as she only got one good run--the night she escaped.

We arrived home about 4:30 PM. The house was as we left it, except for the two-foot weeds that require more work from Dave--mowing. Kalli ran around and around in the back yard. She was so happy to be off the leash and free! Graykitty wandered around as if she couldn't believe she was home again.

Thanks to all you followers for your patience as I tried to catch up with the blog entries. We do not plan to travel again this year. We do hope we can save some funds to make our planned trip up the east coast in 2011. We want to go as far as Nova Scotia to do family research and family visiting along the way. Just in case we can make it, the way I plan, I'd better get my maps and travel guides ordered! And, we certainly hope we'll be able to join the Sailors for another reunion in Philadelphia in 2012. Adios and God bless each and every one of you!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Navy Reunion - Branson, MO - Day 12

Starting mileage: 38067
Ending mileage: 38372
Miles driven: 305
Gas price: $2.58

This morning we could have had the motel waffles fare for breakfast. But, believe it or not, I'm waffled out. So, I decided we needed a different breakfast. After loading everyone and everything back in the car, we were on our way for a quick stop at McDs and a fill-up of gas.

The drive today was through more new territory for us. Our route takes us out of Missouri into Illinois (a tiny spit on the lower end of the state) into Kentucky and on to Tennessee. The first three states I mentioned all converge at Cairo, IL.

We crossed the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Around the area of those rivers, the roads are built on the top of land dikes. It was a weird feeling to be high on the road with both sides dropping dramatically. Mostly the land on the side of the dike that was not on the same side as the river was planted farm land.

Here's a picture of the bridge crossing the Ohio River.

Ohio River view.

Crossing the Ohio River with the bridge that crosses the Mississippi River in the background.

Bridge crossing the Mississippi River.

We had decided to stop in Paducha, KY, to go to the riverside area. The town sounded so interesting in the AAA description. However, in my mind, I had pictured it more like a seaside town. Not so. It was very much a converted seaport/warehouse/cargo area. Along the edge of the river, they had constructed cement walls that were covered with beautiful murals. Here's a picture of one portion of the wall. It's hard to make out the murals as I was taking the photo toward the sun. The area was still undergoing construction. (Sorry about the lower edge of the picture being our windshield wipers.)

Just a block or two inland from the river wall was the old warehouse district. It has been converted into a great shopping area. The streets were brick and you could still drive on them.

We stopped at this bakery that I had read about in the AAA site. It was really nice and had a great deli in the back area. However, it was too early for sandwiches (and as I've said, we're sandwiched out). So, I purchased a few tasty morsels of baked goods for our nibbling.

Dave and I would love to return to this area to window shop. Some of the little shops looked really interesting. There was a large city parking area near the shops that we could park the RV in. So, it's a definite maybe for another trip.

From the riverside area of Paducah, we took some back roads to get to I-24 to head toward Nashville and on to our overnight stop at Kimball, TN (where we stayed on our first night going to Branson). Of course, interstate travel doesn't present much of anything interesting to share with you.

We arrived at the Super 8 motel in Kimball, TN, about 6 PM. We had asked for the same room that we had previously stayed in. When I opened the door to the room, Kalli about went nuts sniffing the bedspreads. I guess she could still smell her scent on them. She had not reacted that way at any of the other motels we had stayed at. So, I know it was her scent that she was checking out.

Today's drive was a bit too long for Dave. The last hour I know he was in a lot of pain. But, we made it and he collapsed as soon as he got all of our belongings into the room.

Near the motel, there is a small shopping area. So, I headed over there to get us some take-out Chinese food. I had expected it to be a regular restaurant, but it was a buffet. They had a huge selection of food. You get a medium sized take-out box and pay by the pound. I got 3 boxes and the total cost was $17. Quite a bargain for two people--of course, I got too much food, but what we ate was very good.

Peace and grace to all. Tomorrow's entry will be the final one for this Branson trip. Thanks for taking the journey with us.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Navy Reunion - Branson, MO - Day 11

Starting mileage: 37791
Ending mileage: 38067
Miles driven: 276
Gas prices: $2.42

Here is the round-trip route we are taking to Branson. I forgot to post this on the first day of the blog entries. This will give you an idea of the back roads travel we opted to take. We traveled the lower route going to Branson, and traveled the upper route returning home. The red circles indicate overnight stops.

I felt very organized this trip with my maps. I find planning a trip a lot of the fun. I had done all of my planning and printing on the AAA website using their TripTik feature. I had ordered all the state and area maps for where we were traveling. I highlighted our routes on all the maps, folded them for the best viewing, and added labels to the top of each folded map. This way, I could reach into my handy-dandy travel tote and pull out what I needed easily. Yes, I am a little more than "anal" when I plan a trip. I also had the AAA Tour books for the areas we traveled through. So, if I wanted to find out about a city, I could look it up and read about it. When I did look up a city, I read aloud so that Dave could hear the details. But, I'm not all together sure he didn't tune me out with his "hearing loss." LOL.

OK. Back to today's activities. Awoke at 7:30 this morning to get packed up to leave. The weather was hot again today, but the humidity was down a bit, which made it a little easier on Dave. Of course, he does the majority of the work in getting us vacated. He gathered the luggage cart from the first floor and made three trips to repack the car. He hauled two large suitcases, two backpack-sized suitcases, large metal dog crate, three large totes filled with snacks and dog supplies, litter boxes, pet dishes, two computers, and my Bi-Pap machine. The last item to get loaded was Graykitty in her crate. She doesn't like riding on the luggage rack and meows mightily all the way to the car.

We were headed out at 9:30 AM. Our first stop was Ozark, MO, where we found a QT gas station and filled up for the remainder of today's travels.

After we left Springfield, we turned onto Highway 60 and traveled that for the remainder of the day. The first part of the trip continued with more of the limestone earth.

Then we drove through mostly farm land. We are still trying to discern what crop they were growing. There was corn, rice, and cotton. But there is also the elusive crop we can't identify.

We drove through the business district of Willow Springs to find a place to eat lunch as it looked like a fairly large city. It was almost deserted. But, it was an interesting old town. Most of the old town stores were empty. So sad. We trudge along to Mountain View where we stopped at Blimpie. More sandwiches!

After leaving Mountain View, we were surprised to see a wide right-hand "emergency" lane that was etched with carriage ruts from the extensive Amish community. The road could have used a good pooper-scooping as well. However, it was certainly bio-degradable material! We did not see any Amish, but their farms and the road ruts were a sure telltale sign.

We drove through the Mark Twain National Forrest. The road was great and the scenery was beautiful. Rolling hills and some twisty-turny roads. Most of it was a divided four-lane highway, so the drive was pleasantly comfortable and gave Dave an opportunity to sightsee without running off the road!

Before reaching the city of Van Buren, MO, we crossed the beautiful Current River.

Van Buren is quite a recreational area. There are lots of campgrounds and great access to river activities. The area is known as the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. There are float trips you can take for a leisure view of the area.

We continued on Highway 60, which was a great driving highway. No traffic. Flat, wide lanes. At I-55 we headed north for one exit and stayed at the Super 8 Motel in Sikeston, MO.

Sikeston is the original home of the Throwed Rolls restaurant. I had hoped Dave and I could go there for dinner, but we couldn't leave Kalli in the room without crating her. And, the crate is quite a project to put together. If you have an opportunity to eat at a Throwed Rolls restaurant, do so. Mom and I did years ago when we went to Branson. It's quite unique to have rolls thrown across the room to you while you are served your dinner in buckets. It's fun.

At the motel, the room attendants were from India. When I would take Kalli out for a walk, those guys would back up about 15 feet to get away from her. I have never seen people so frightened of a dog on a leash. Of course, Kalli is far from threatening. She backs up herself whenever people approach her. I guess that's "tit for tat."

There was a McDs next door to the motel. So, I opted (at Dave's shock) to walk over and get us one of their new fruit smoothies. They were tasty and cool. The weather was still hot, but no humidity to speak of. Yea.

For dinner, we ordered a delivered meal from a rib place. Dave got short ribs and I opted for the unique and quite unusual (LOL) corn dog minis. I really didn't want another burger or sandwich. I balanced it out with their coleslaw. Dave topped his meal with apple pie and I topped mine with a chocolate fudge cake a la mode.

Shortly after dinner, Dave and Kalli opted for the following activity.

I watched some TV and after Kalli's 9 PM walk, I assumed the horizontal position as well. Can't wait to be home in just two more days!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Navy Reunion - Branson, MO - Day 10

After our morning routine, Dave and I went to the other building to have the breakfast buffet. Their breakfast offering is typical motel fare--make-your-own waffles, not-so-tasty scrambled eggs, OK sausage gravy, good biscuits, lots of good donuts, two kinds of juice, milk, & coffee. We had hoped to join Pixie and Oscar for breakfast as they fly back to Spokane today. But, they were busy packing and we didn't see them.

After our not-so-delicious breakfast, we went back to our room and called to see their plans. They must vacate their room around 11 AM. They'll chill in the comfy lobby for a while and then we'll take them for a late lunch to Culver's. As you read earlier in this blog, it's a hamburger joint with that delicious frozen custard. Actually, their menu is much more extensive than burgers and their food is a great quality.

At 1 PM, we picked them up and headed for Culver's. They enjoyed it as much as we did. I opted for the Reuben sandwich. It sure was good. Oscar just had a milkshake, Pixie had a burger, and Dave had a chicken pecan salad. Of course, we all topped off our meal with frozen custard.

We drove them to the bank and we had a last look-see of Branson. We kind of did the outer loop and what I'd call the scenic route. Glad we saw so much of the city. I must say, it was not nearly as crowded as when Mom and I were there about 15 years ago. The outer routes have helped and we were there in off-season.

We were back at the hotel about 3 PM and said our good-byes. It was great to be with them again and look forward to 2012 in Philly.

Dave and I went back to our room and chilled. I worked on the blog a bit and we spent the evening packing up our belongings. We had leftovers for dinner. I am so anxious to get home. We have had a great time, but it's very difficult to travel in motels with pets. They have been so good. We did not have a barking issue with Kalli, which I'm amazed at. Graykitty has adjusted nicely (as long as she didn't have to don her harness). She's a rare cat in that she will come to you when you call her, except when she's scared. So, we had little trouble in getting her put into her crate when we needed to leave the room.

It will take us three driving days and two more motel nights to get home. We'll be glad to get back to the south where it will be cooler. Gee, what's wrong about that statement?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Navy Reunion - Branson, MO - Day 9

This morning when I took Kalli out for her 7 AM walk, the weather was just stiffling. It had cooled down for a couple of days by a few degrees, but still mighty uncomfortable with the temps in the upper 90s and the humidity unbearable. Today it was to be hotter again.

I just couldn't imagine being outside in the late afternoon touring and being outside for the Shepherd of the Hills play.

So, I called Pixie & Oscar to see if they were game for cancelling our pre-paid events for the day. They were. Fortunately, the attraction was willing (after some cajoling) to refund our money. The heat/humidity was very difficult on Oscar; Dave is still suffering quite a bit with his back; and Pixie and I just couldn't imagine dealing with the humidity and heat.

We had promised to take Oscar to the Bass Pro Shop at Branson Landing. We headed off and got there about noon. It was so blazing hot outside (101 degrees) we were just all thrilled we had cancelled the outdoor event. Oscar found a few things he wanted to take back to Spokane.

We found some hot sauce for LD. It has been a tradition with us to purchase some hot sauce for LD from the area in which we travel. It seems that every locale has their own special sauce to share with the world. This sauce was called "Moonshine Madness" from the Ozark Mountains. Says on the bottle that "It's so friggin' hot it will make you go mad." But, I say, "They haven't had LD for a taster." That guy can eat hot at the level of nuclear braindamage. So, we'll see what he says.

For lunch we decided to go to Dick Clark's American Bandstand. Here's a partial shot of the place with Dave enjoying himself--doesn't he look just ecstatic??

The decor was mostly a 50s vibe. They had TV screens going that played excerpts from various shows with various vocal artists and groups. The food was mostly burgers and shakes. We did try something new. Fried pickles. Of course, it was me who wanted to try them. But, the others (except Dave--ye ol' stick in the mud) tried the delicacy. Honestly, they weren't half bad. They are dill slices that are battered and deep fried, served with a mildly spicy dipping sauce. I ate many more than I thought I would. Oscar had quite a few. Pixie had a couple. Not sure I'd order them again, but glad I tried them and can now say I've had fried pickles. Still looking for a joint that serves fried Mars Bars or Snickers Bars. :-)

We dropped P&O off at their building and we headed back to our room. Walked the dog and settled in for the evening. At about 7 PM we started getting hungry, so ordered food to be delivered. I have had all the sandwiches I care to have for a while, so I chose to have spaghetti delivered. Dave opted for another sandwich. We watched a bit of TV and then called it a night after Kalli's 9 PM walk.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Navy Reunion - Branson, MO - Day 8

This morning we decided to walk the dog and then get all dolled up for the pictures before breakfast. We wanted to have breakfast and just hang around with ye ol' sailors until picture-taking time.

At 10 AM, there was a mad dash to get in line for pictures. Had I realized they would be taking them for a few hours, I think I would have opted not to stand in line for 30 minutes. But, alas.

The photographer did have a great set up. They took the pictures and then immediately they were available for viewing on two laptops. Therefore, you could place your order then and there. Our picture didn't come out too badly; however, there were no photo packages available with wallet-sized photos. I certainly don't need an 8x10 of us and two 5x7s. For those of you who have received a photo from us in 2008, you will just have to make that one last another two years!

We did purchase the reunion booklet, which has everyone's picture in it. It also has candid shots taken throughout the reunion. So, we'll have that to share when I scan in our picture in a few months.

Because we had a late breakfast and took time for the pictures, we rushed back to the room to let Kalli take a walk. After that there was not enough time to get sandwiches ordered before we had to be back at the ballroom for our business meeting.

At 1 PM, the meeting started. It consisted of thank you awards for the hard-working volunteers, election of officers, and a selection of where the 2012 reunion will be held. In order to propose a location, it's a requirement that we have someone as a contact person that lives in the area that will make all of the arrangements. Of course, the officers and committee help, but they don't usually live near the selected city, so the contact person is essential. A guy who was attending his first reunion volunteered to host it in Philadelphia. So, that's where we are going in 2012. That area is filled with history and everyone is really excited.

The final event at the business meeting is to finish the raffle of donated items. The raffle is a major fund-raiser for the reunion group. This year we donated a Snuggie that I crocheted. I "hired" a model to don the Snuggie so folks could see that it wasn't just an afghan. Don't you just love the model!

Directly after the business meeting, we all adjourned to have group photos taken. What a madhouse to get all these sailors and their significant others to rally in one group. But, we did it. Here's the result. I am sure there were a few people that attended the reunion that didn't get into the picture, but just a few.

If you want to view the picture so you can see the Migneault's, double-click on the photo to open a larger view. I am in the front row, third from the right. I am wearing a brown shirt and slacks. Dave is directly behind me in a dark green shirt. Our friends, Pixie & Oscar, are on the opposite side of the photo. Pixie is the first person in the second row and is wearing a pink shirt. Oscar is next to her (he's tall) and wearing a white shirt.

After the photos were done, we had free time until the banquet at 6 PM (cocktails at 5 PM). We decided we would need a little protein before dinner, so ordered sandwiches to be delivered to the room.

Then, Dave took a nap. Here he is with his family!

We dressed for the banquet and arrived about 5:30 PM. This year, the reunion group paid for the meals of the veterans and their spouses with some of their funds. That was a great gift. And, we all appreciated it. Branson is a little expensive to visit as everything is about the shows. If you don't go to the shows (which cost about $30 per head), you won't experience Branson. So, the free meal was especially appreciated. Dave and I had the prime rib. I haven't seen such a big slice of prime in many years. It was huge and delicious. Along with the prime, we had a delicious salad, roasted potatoes, broccoli vegetable medley, and an ice-cream/cheesecake type dessert with raspberry sauce. Yum. I must say, I think this was one of the best prime rib dinners I have had in a long time.

Here's a picture of Pixie & Oscar all dolled up.

I should have thought to give our camera to them to take our picture. Pixie did take our picture, but I don't have it to share right now.

The DJ that was our entertainment was quite amusing. This guy must come with a trunk load of props. He had Indian headdresses, blow-up dolls, sailor hats, 70s Afro wigs, clown wigs, swords, and the list goes on.

We did not dance this year as Dave's back was still hurting a lot and my hips were fussin' at me as well. So, we just sat back and enjoyed those who could cut a rug. We left about 10 PM and headed back to walk the dog and get a good night's rest.

Tomorrow we all plan to go to the Shepherd of the Hills homestead and outdoor drama. We have been looking everywhere for a fan to ward off this heat, but no such luck. I just hope we can all make it through tomorrow's events. For now, I'll say bye-bye and have a GREAT day.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Navy Reunion - Branson, MO - Day 7

This morning we tried a new tactic: we rose later, walked the dog, and then went to breakfast to stay there until time for the tour.

We always enjoy being taken around an area to learn about its history and surroundings. We had a full bus and I was surprised that the tour was to last 3 hours. As we were told, it was a Gilligan Tour (3-hour tour). LOL.

I have included the following picture of the water tower that is downtown Branson because in a later picture, you can see it in the distance to give you and idea how far out from town we traveled on this tour.

Here's one of the original Branson Hotels (a far cry from today's offerings).

The Branson Railroad Station with the Hilton Hotel to the right. Branson was just to be a quick stopover between its two neighboring towns, which were to be the primary destinations. See how the best laid plans can go awry.

Here's a peek at the shopping area at Branson Landing.

This is the grave of Mr. Branson (middle left of picture) for whom the town was named.

The tour took us to the College of the Ozarks. It's a beautiful campus. It is a non-denominational Christian college. It is also a working college in which the student body must participate in 15-hours of work along with a 40-hour college program. There is no listed tuition because you are selected to attend based upon your offerings to the collge, such as what can you bring to enlighten the student body with your skills, talents, and character. You will graduate with no student loans to pay back. All of the buildings were built by the students over the years and all functions are run by the students, including the hotel and the Keeter Center. Of course, everything is supervised by professionals.

Here are a couple of links to the College and the Keeter Center. It's worth taking a peek as the pictures are beautiful.



View of the agricultural area:

View of the campus fountain:

The Keeter Center is a hotel and restaurant. They make their own ice cream from their own cows' milk. I understand the rooms run $169 a night (or somewhere around that). It's a beautiful center. They have a nice veterans museum as well.

Here's a not-so-good picture of the center, which was built by the students.

Here's Dave and Oscar sitting on one of the magnificant chairs and enjoying the ice cream.

I decided to get something unique so I ordered the Mexican Hot Chocolate ice cream. I did expect a cinnamon flavor and maybe a little spice. But, this ice cream was so hot, there was nothing refreshing about it. I had to toss it after a few bites. But, I will say, it was mighty creamy.

Check out this all-copper elevator:

Pixie got so engrossed in the museum, she almost missed the bus. Here she is strolling back.

We stopped at the chapel and went inside to view the wood ceilings and stained glass. Here's a couple of pictures.

We continued onward through the Ozark hills.

In this picture, the rock in the left foreground is table rock. That's the rock that surrounds much of the area. In the background is Table Rock Dam.

The rock that the area is full of is limestone (not shale as I had thought). There is little soil on top of the limestone and the building of homes and roads must be blasted through or drilled into the limestone. Most of the trees in the area are cedar trees as their root system is shallow and doesn't require much dirt. So we were told if you buy property in the area beware of property with lots of cedar trees as you will be building upon solid rock.

As I mentioned earlier, you can see the water tower in the far distant horizon on this picture. That's downtown Branson. As you can see, we are far from that area in this picture. Look hard, it's tiny!

Many celebrities have homes in the area, but our guide said they mostly live among the other residents--not separate as they do in, say, Beverly Hills. Here is the only "star's" home you can see from the road. It's Andy Williams' home. It's not the house that's most visible in the foreground, it's the one with just the roof showing. He is now around 83 years of age and still performs during the Christmas season.

We continued on our tour across the dam and could see the fish hatchery. Lake Taneycomo is stocked with hatched trout.

Our last stop on the tour was at the home and gift shop of a relative of Fiddlin' Jack who was mentioned in the book The Shepherd of the Hills. It was a quaint country store with unique gifts. I picked up some gooseberry jam. I was told it was a tart/sweet jam. Since I've never had gooseberries, thought it was something different to take home.

We arrived back at the hotel about 12:30 PM. We all decided a delivered sandwich was in order, along with a quick nap. But, by the time we walked Kalli and got settled in, we were afraid our sandwiches wouldn't be delivered before we had to board the bus at 3 PM. So, we nibbled on snacks that I had brought from home for just such an occassion.

Like good little sheep, we boarded the bus at 3 PM to head out for the Branson Belle dinner cruise. There were three tour buses filled with USS Princeton guys, spouses, and guests. By the way, there were 198 in attendance. Down a little from our last reunion, but still quite significant in numbers.

During the reunions, it's a tradition to honor those who have served aboard the USS Princeton and who have perished during or after their service to our country. Usually after a brief ceremony, a wreath is tossed into a body of water. But, due to 9/11, no item can be tossed into the lake. Therefore, we had a lovely service held on the lawn of the Branson Belle facility.

A lovely woman in southern belle garb facilitated the memorial ceremony.

Our chaplain, Rev. Hauk, delivered the memorial service and spoke about the men and the ship.

His talk was very interesting and heartfelt. However, it was 102 degrees (and extremely humid) on the lawn and few seats were available. I honestly thought we'd have a few people faint in that heat. It was blistering and Rev. Hauk's talk was a little long (he was teased later about it). I felt so bad standing there feeling sorry for myself in the heat. I kept thinking how selfish I was because so many past and present service men and women endure such hardships and pain to keep us free. Thanks to all our service personnel for their selfless sacrifices on our behalf.

Dave was asked to be part of the honor guard during the service. He was humbled by the request. Two of his known service comrads have since passed on (Vernon "Boot" McCalmant and Jim Erickson). And, both were deeply in our thoughts.

The Branson Belle facility provided someone to play taps for the service.

After the service, we all walked down to the Branson Belle. It's a paddle-wheeled ship that was built on the shores of Table Rock Lake. It was built in authentic style and is only for the entertainment of Branson visitors.

An interesting fact about the launching of the boat is that when it was launched, the builders didn't want to pollute the lake by oiling the skids. So, they lined the skids with 52,000 bananas and slid it lickety-split into the lake.

We were given assigned seating while we were still on the buses. That turned out to be not a good thing as many of us were scattered throughout the audience area; therefore, the Princeton group was not seated as a unit.

It wasn't long after we were seated that the dinner was served and the boat started its journey around the lake.

The meal was delivered quite efficiently and it was very tasty. We had a nice salad, pot roast, chicken marsala, brocolli/cauliflower medly, roasted potatoes, and a frozen ice cream/cheese cake dessert.

Following that meal, we were allowed to wonder the boat. Here's a nice shot of the grand staircases.

I did manage to go outside to snap one picture. But, it was so very hot, that I had no desire to wonder around the decks.

Dave tends to get seasick, so he stayed in the dining/show area.

While wondering around, I found a charm for our Branson trip. As you may know, we have been collecting charms since we got engaged. We have charms for every place we have been together. I purchased a little Branson Belle charm.

I barely got it purchased when the show started. And, what a show it was. I have to say, it was the best show we saw in Branson, with maybe the exception of the Acrobats of China.

The balconies were full of diners as well.

And, the band played on...

One of the routines was 29 show tributes in 10 minutes, including costume changes. I have no idea how they did it as there were only 5 performers and they did all of the entertainment.

Here's a few of their show tributes.

Next was Todd Oliver. You may have seen him on Jay Leno or some other well-known show. He is a vantriliquist and has two live dogs that he uses in his show. He had us laughing so hard I couldn't keep my eyes dry. Everyone was hysterical. And, his routines were so good, many of us repeated some of his material for the next few days. This is Todd's final season with the Branson Belle after 13 years. He will now be performing his own show in Branson. So, if you come here, don't miss it.

The finale of the show was a tribute to our Christian faith, our servicemen, and our country. I think the most remarkable feat that the ladies performed was that they were wearing black dresses for the finale. They stepped around behind a panel and never missed a beat as they stepped in front of the panel wearing very differently styled white dresses. We are still scratching our heads trying to figure out how they pulled it off. If you are ever in Branson, this show is a MUST SEE.

The ramp down to the boat was quite long and winding and relatively steep. The facility provided carts to take us back to the buses. Dave and I were the last to arrive. Some folks had gotten into buses that they did not arrive in. So Dave and I had to ride in different buses on the way back to the hotel. Sniff. Sniff.

After walking the dog, we quickly crawled into bed as we were exhausted. Tomorrow is our pictures, the business meeting where we will vote on our officers for the next two years as well as vote on our next location, the drawing for the remaining raffle items, and then in the evening is our banquet. I'm tired just thinking about it all. Nighty Night.