I love the holidays, all the holidays! So, when I saw an advertisement by our community’s Travel Club for a bus trip to Branson, Mo. And noticed how many Christmas shows were included, I asked, “Where do I sign up?”
It was going to be a two day bus ride to Branson. I took reading material, crossword puzzle books and a cozy throw for my legs for the trip. It was a brisk fall morning when we left and most of us had long pants and jackets to keep us warm, except for Jack Cherry who had on shorts. Most of us kidded Jack about the shorts but Jack said he was fine.
The highlight of the trip was not the comfortable seats, the great bus driver, movies, being given drinks and snacks along the way; I expected no less because our wonderful hosts were Lee and Diamond Bishop.
The highlight for me was all brightly colored the trees we saw along the road. Living in Florida is wonderful but I really miss the changing of the leaves in the fall. As we rolled along the highway we saw silver maples, tulip poplars, majestic oaks, Chinese elms, sassafras trees and many more all in various stages of changing colors. I had a hard time concentrating on Vince Flynn’s thriller, “Consent to Kill” as we traveled along the highway and saw so many beautiful trees with leaves of vivid red, vibrant orange and bright yellow.
We stopped at the Macon Mall and had a quick sandwich at Subway. As evening came around, we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express in Jasper, Alabama. Brian, our bus driver, dropped us off at Ryan’s Steakhouse for dinner while he went to the hotel to get our keys. There were many choices but after sitting on a bus all day, all I wanted was a small salad. Our hotel was nice hotel, had comfortable beds and good breakfast.
Next morning we were up bright and early and back on the road. We started our day in Alabama but by the end of the day we had passed by Tupelo, Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee, Arkansas and finally Branson, Missouri.
We arrived at the Radisson Hotel in Branson. The Radisson would be our home away from home for the four days we would be in Branson. Brian collected our keys, unloaded the bus and announced that we would be going to Florentina’s Ristorante for dinner.
When we got settled in our seats and before we started to roll, Lee announced, “Thought I would let you know that Jack Cherry is wearing long pants tonight. Laughing and clapping ensued throughout the bus.
I enjoyed a very rich Fettuccini Alfredo while Randy had the Chicken Parmesan. While enjoying our meal, we enjoyed chatting and getting to know our tablemates Brad Smith and Jane Desourza.
When we returned to the hotel we decided to walk around a bit. We walked down one level to see where the breakfast room was and discovered something quite wonderful.
Over the years, the hotel had been the sight of many military reunions and veterans celebrations. Members of these groups would donate pictures and memorabilia to be displayed in the hotel. The displays pay tribute to all branches of the armed Forces and civil service men and women who have proudly served the United States of America.
I spoke with Kathy Tedder, front desk supervisor, and asked, “How did the collection get started?”
“Mike Radford in 1992 leased our restaurant here at the Radisson. He was big in the veterans task force here in Branson. He renamed our restaurant the Veterans Café and decorated it with military memorabilia. Well, he got so many military groups in that his collection just grew. People would come and say, “Hey, I’ve got my dad’s stuff, can I sent it?” And, so, they started down our hallway. Mike lost a loved one and got out of the business and left his collection, most of it, to the hotel and so, that’s how it got started”.
“It’s amazing, we are blessed,” Kathy said.
I will share with you that walking down the hall looking at all these personal photos, shadow boxes filled with uniforms and other memory items gave me chills.
It was time to head back to our room and get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we start our tour of Branson.