Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Branson, MO & the Fulltime Families Rally

Prepare yourself, the time is now September 1st and we are headed to Branson, MO from East St. Louis, IL.

Route 66 was our guide
We have become absolutely terrible at making and keeping a plan. So much so that we planned for our typical travel day lunch: a stop at a rest area and doing a picnic. That was well and good until we drove past a billboard for a quirky little sub shop. And then another where it billed itself as the sub shop with the V-Dub. How could we not stop? Well, of course, Mandie did a first quick check on Google Maps' aerial view to verify that the parking lot wasn't a trap.

Planet Sub
After leaving lunch, we passed my next favorite - a sign for a Route 66 roadside attraction, the world's largest rocking chair. Again, Mandie did a quick check of the drive and made sure that there wasn't anything majorly in our way and we headed for it. It was located at the Fanning 66 Outpost. The shop was pretty kitschy and full of Route 66 crap. I'll be honest- I think we gave up some mullah to them for a couple of little things. Oh, and the rocking chair was cool. Quite big- I do think it holds a world record.

Family Selfie
Kids and a chair
Just chillin' on my shoulders
Fanning Outpost
Fanning Outpost
Nice relaxing porch
The remainder of the drive was pretty easy. We got to America's Best Campground before too long. All of the sites are pull-thrus but a bit on the narrow side. The parking pads themselves were mostly level, but between the sites are on a hill.

America's Best Campground - nice place
Our site on the hill
The pool was well used by the kids
I've mentioned it before- the real reason that we were in Branson was because of the Fulltime Families "NOT Back to School Rally." We got there a week+ ahead of the rally. It was great to get a bit of "one-on-one" and "small group" time with other families. I think the first night, we ended up down at another camper where a bunch of them sat and played with Legos. It was great to see the kids playing with new friends.

It was our first official 2-week stay anywhere. It was nice having extra time to actually relax at home and still go out and do things:
  • No pictures, Mandie, Paige, and Logan went with folks from the rally to the College of the Ozarks (aka, Hard Work U) where the students work off their tuition at the school
  • More no pictures, Mandie and Paige went with folks from the rally to the Titanic museum
  • Still no pics, but Paige went to an IMAX movie with rally folks
  • Finally pics! The 4 of us went to the "Top of the Rock" cave tour (a bit of a misnomer- there want much caving to it!)

    All ready to go in our golf cart
    Our first cave
    The rules specifically forbid swimming, but these folks had their swimsuits on
    Lots of water falls
    LIES. All LIES.
    Pond/water inside a cave
    See that drink Paige has? We bought it at the "Bat Bar". Very overpriced.
    The grounds also house a golf course
    View of Table Rock Lake
    They also had a museum, but we didn't go
  • And pics again, we went to Branson Landing for a day of shopping and dinner out

    Look at that parking job!
    Shoe shopping for Paige
    Drinks for Mandie
    Crawdads for me
    And Ridemakerz (playing not buying!) for Logan
    Dancing fountains
  • And, of course the rally where we were one of 40+ families; where our kids would leave to go find other kids to play with; where I ran (yes, my fat ass ran) between buckets and pretended to empty a black tank with a pool noodle; where we had an 80s prom; where we made new friends and the kids made new friends; and where people understood this wanderlust in us. And. so. much. more.

    Pre-rally Pot Luck
    Making New Friends -
    Road Working dads commiserate together
    We got our first taste of a Krispie Kreme Hot Now doughnut
    Connectivity & Apps Coffee session
    Mandie Hosted a Tweens Get To Know Each Other night
    Session on Escapees SmartWeigh and the importance of weighing your rig
    Looking back at this photo, Logan said "I love her. And I love her."
    Taco Night!
    I won't lie- a little jealous of this setup.
    My beautiful family
    Parachute Ranger off of the camper
    My budding photographer
    80s Night was a hit!
    The boy can DANCE.
    (Photo credit: Jason Liske)
    An amazing group of fulltime families
    (Photo credit: Jason Liske)
  • We finished the week out by taking Paige to go zip lining at Branson Zipline.

    Sissy- afraid of a little ole bear
    Ok, not a sissy - she's totally bad ass. No fear!
    I only got to see a couple of ziplines that she did, but it looked like fun!
    All smiles.
    Super-duper high up there.
    Look close, she's freaking waving!
And then she stepped off of a 100' high platform for a controlled fall to the ground. Ballsy, she is. Click for video:

Click to watch
I picked up a new goodie and that's my "The Claw" awning anchor. I think I've mentioned that I use support arms for my awning. It typically lets me deploy it upon setup and not retract it until we are packing our site up. To those poles, I take a ratchet strap to a tie down point on the ground. I had been tying down to a dog anchor but had issues in some grounds being too hard. In fact, that's exactly what had happened here in Branson. I had read about The Claw anchors and decided to give it a shot. Longest story shortest, these things are awesome BUT don't waste your money on the "RV Tie Down" kit; but the anchors separately. The kit comes with a crappy hammer and crappier straps; but the storage bag is cool.

Kit Contents - anchors, nails, straps, hammer, and bag
Anchor in use
Anchor and support pole in use
The other excitement was of an Unlimited Data plan named OmniLynx out of the Huntsville, Alabama School System. Unfortunately, it was a wild violation of their terms & conditions to open it to the public and Verizon shut them down. But, I got almost 3 months of super cheap unlimited internet.

The holy grail- unlimited data
A bit of surprising fun- Mandie volunteered us to be the "official rally photographer". I have a Flickr album of 400+ photos from the event. We aren't in all of them (or really a whole many); but you can see how much fun we had.

By the time our departure day rolled around, we were genuinely sad to go. But, the wheels keep on turning on this house of ours and we made our way to Kansas City to visit with Mandie's aunts, but that's a blog post for another day.

As usual, this is just a smattering of picture. There are many, many more pictures on Flickr from our time in Branson (in addition to the rally pictures above).

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