‘Tis the season to start reminiscing and loving all over again events in our past that make us happy. It just so happens for a lot of people that this season coincides with traveling, and for us, it’ll be both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Good thing we got primed early.
We are super lucky to live near a very unique shop whose owner also runs a tour agency. Even luckier is that we personally know said owner and we adore her! The shop, Modville, is located in Adel, Iowa. Its uniqueness is due to its inventory: anything you’d find from the 1950s, 60s or 70s, give or take a decade! We personally have been lucky enough to add a few treasures to our household from here: a vintage 1940s aluminum Christmas tree, a turquoise restaurant booth, beautiful blue and green glassware, an art deco mirrored bar, and two very comfortable chairs.
As two people who combined two overflowing households when we got married over five years ago, Dave and I do not need a single material thing. That fact, of course, doesn’t stop us from buying things, like the above objects we fell in love with at Modville. But it also gives us a reason to decide that our Christmas gift to each other should be nothing more than new memories. And what better way to make new memories than to travel to places we’ve never been? Dave and I signed up for an early November trip to Branson’s Sight and Sound Theatre, followed by several days in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
There’s something infinitely appealing about knowing the only thing we need to plan for a fun-filled, action-packed tour is what to put in the suitcase. Thanks to Modville Tours, we don’t have to fight traffic, buy tickets, find a parking space, make reservations, or any of the minutiae it takes to pull off a successful mini-vacation. Best place to eat? Where to sleep? Entertainment? Shop? Relax, talk, visit some place totally different than Iowa? Whatever we want to do, there are options to choose and the results are precious memories and new friends.
Going on a bus tour the first time was a bit out of my comfort zone. I’d thought about doing it after I was widowed. I worried I’d be either bored, uncomfortable or not enjoy where it was the tour took me. Silly me! I must have been thinking of our rickety old school buses or being drug to a kiddie park when I was teen because the types of trips offered today are totally different. The latest in bus travel technology includes seatbelts, wi-fi connection, restroom facility, wide windows, movies and comfort zoned temperatures. The destinations are advertised well ahead of time with plenty of reviews, live-stream videos of the amenities and entertainment, and all types of social media filled with descriptions and testimonials.
We arrived in Branson mid-afternoon in time to catch the fantastic production of “The Miracle of Christmas.” The Sight and Sound Theatre were that was performed is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. This was the third performance we’d watched there. The first two were “Moses” and “Sampson.” To watch the performers, the staging, the live animals and the technology that is used is like watching the set of a Hollywood movie – at least how I imagine that must be like. I highly recommend that if you have never been to Branson, go! I’ve been there in the summer and late fall. Although the weather can be a bit chillier than Iowa, I prefer the fall weather. Branson is decorated to the hilt for Christmas and there are wonderful shops, entertainment and, of course, fantastic food. After the theatre, we ate at a restaurant with a gigantic meatball in front. Oh, did I mention there are photo ops galore in Branson? Naturally, we have one with the meatball!
After spending the night in a comfortable hotel and eating breakfast there, we boarded the bus and headed to Eureka Springs, just slightly over an hour away. The Arkansas topography south of Branson is all Ozark Mountains, and it is so pretty! I sat next to the bus’s large window and took photo after photo of the changing trees, the rocks, the hills, and the occasional farm or small shack. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 20 or 30 minutes of the gorgeous forests that gave way to limestone and granite bluffs, dotted with grassy meadows. A few lakes and a meandering river added to the beauty. I realized that the old “Lil Abner” cartoons that portrayed hillbillies was a poor caricature of the poverty that every once in awhile popped its ugly head up as the bus meandered its way to Eureka Springs.
I also soon learned that I suffer from motion sickness. The meandering was side to side, up and down, curving through the Ozark Mountains. I put my camera down and got really quiet as soon as a headache and upset stomach made their debuts but thank heavens for Dramamine. I’m glad I saw the beauty and peacefulness that was so captivating, but I think I’ll forego zig-zaggy roads for quite a while now.
Oh, Eureka Springs! What a charming, historic and fascinating little town it is! I added a lot of firsts to my adventures list while we were there. At age 67, I’d never been to a biker bar. Not that it was ever on my bucket list, but I quickly put it on and then checked it off. A good friend of Amy’s runs it, and she and her staff opened it up just for us, complete with a delicious taco bar, drinks, and more fun photo ops. We even had the chance to participate in a hula hoop contest. To the entire bus tour’s surprise and delight, especially me, my husband – who always tells me he’s quiet and shy – captivated the audience with a little faux burlesque show with a hula hoop. Quiet and shy my foot! The man’s a dancing fool. And what a ham when it came to photo ops. But everyone on the bus was like that. It was like being transported back to when we were teenagers again. (I think the mental evaluation term is “second childhood.”).
The tour continued with a trip to the Christ of the Ozarks statue and the beautiful Thorne chapel built in the woods out of mostly glass. We actually toured the “haunted” Crescent hotel during a rainy, cold night and the “electromagnetic field (EMF) ghost meter,” which to my non-scientific eyes looked a little like Panera’s “your-food-is-ready” buzzer, did go off several times. . I do not believe in ghosts. Nevertheless, if someone told me I had to stay in a haunted house or hotel, I’d run like crazy. No ghosts were sighted, but the anticipation was fun and I did yipe and grab Dave’s arm once when a huge crash sounded as we listened to a historic accounting in what had been the morgue used by an evil so-called doctor. I was assured someone in the kitchen directly above us had dropped a pan.
I’ve just described the actual sights. But the best part of the trip was the people. How is it a group of strangers who get together for a few days become fast friends? The ages ranged from upper 80s to maybe late 20s or early 30s. The women outnumbered the men, but if Dave was a spokesman for the males, they had just as much fun and enjoyment as the rest of us. We visited back and forth. We bonded in so many different ways. For example, it’s a fact that every rest stop restroom facility seems to have been constructed thinking there should be an exact number of toilets in the ladies’ room as in the men’s. We quickly learned that after the five men had gone back to wait on the bus, if we posted guards and decreed the men’s room as a unisex facility, with 30 women, the wait time was cut in half!
All in all, a bus tour has proven to us several times that it’s one of the best investments we’ve ever made. Nothing beats a fun memory. And while it’s good to be home and looking forward to the holidays, the lure of trips yet to be taken beckons. I’m sure we’ll succumb to the Lure of the Tour. I could even get addicted!