Sunday, April 24, 2011

Only a few feet from the previous picture showing the approach to the bridge across the Mississippi, is this view, looking east towards the bridge that spans the Ohio as it meets the Mississippi here at Cairo, Illinois. We took this bridge, crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky and continuing on toward a place described on the map as the "Land Between the Rivers." Water, water, water!

Saturday, April 23, we continued on east from Sikeston, crossing the Mississippi River at it's confluence with the mighty Ohio, at Cairo, Illinois.

This picture of the US 60 bridge, looking back, west from the Illinois side toward the river, does not begin to do justice to this "Father of Waters," especially at the near flood stage and with the Ohio coming together with the Mississippi at this location.

For those of us from the dry deserts of the west this is major water! It seemed we traveled for miles and miles on roads just a few feet above the level of these rivers and the backj water that runs well beyond the normal channels. The farm land which stretches for miles on both sides of the river, already seems saturated with water from the storms now so prevelant in the area.

Friday, April 22, we stopped for the night in Sikeston, Missouri, not far from the Mississippi River. The desk clerk at the hotel recommended we eat dinner at the nearby Lambert's Cafe, a famous restaurant where they throw dinner rolls at you. It was only a quarter-mile down the road.

What a place! Huge, with hundreds of diners and bus loads coming and going. It is very "country," with all kinds of memorabilia decorating the place, including hundreds of auto license plates tacked to the wall. The menu is southern cooking at its best. Large portions, and to-die-for hot rolls, which the waiters throw at you from across the room! No kidding, that's what they do, from 30-40 ft away. I dropped both rolls thrown to me and the waiter was not bashful about telling me, "Mr., you messed up!" Regardless of what you order (we shared a rack of ribs), they come by with pans full of "pass-arounds," they call them, sides of beans, peas, okra, tomatos and macaroni, fried potatos, etc, etc. It is considered the "Pig-out" capitol of the mid-west. If you ever get near the place you need to try it out. It is quite the culinary experience!

We said goodbye to Kerry and Brenda Friday morning, April 22nd. We could only say that our stay was all we could have possibly hoped for and more! What a wondeful, fun-filled three days!

Kerry gave us a detailed print-out showing the route we should take to traverse Missouri and make our way to Franklin, Tennessee, our next desired desitination (a famous Civil War battlefield Terry has been wanting to tramp about on for many a year).

Mostly using US60, we made a very pleasant drive across the south Missouri countryside, enjoying each and every mile. The weather was threatening at times with some rain and wind, but nothing serious like what happened further north near St. Louis, where tornados did so much damage.

This is another look at the Dutton Family, taken during their show, all playing the violin.

We saw another show, which I don't have any picture of. They prohibit flash photography during their performance. They are currently the most popular of all the many groups in Branson. They call themselves, "SIX." They are 6 brothers who do their entire show with no musical instruments involved of any kind, except for their own voices. They are so, so entertaining! You need to try them on, if you ever get the chance. You will not be disappointed!

Our final show was the Dutton Family, another great LDS musical family who has developed over the years of playing together. They are so talented. They each play multiple musical instruments and some of them have been recognized as the best at what they do. What a great evening!

In this picture they have everyone out on stage. The grandma and grandpa Dutton are toward the back on the far right. Everyone can sing, dance and play an instrument,

Do you think this table top is a little high?

When we were seated here in this restaurant after the George Dyer show, it all seemed very normal, but before the meal was over it had slowly risen to almost chin level! It is a trick they love to play on unsuspecting tourists such as ourselves. Of course, the Beyeler's were in on it, but acted totally innocent!

It made for a good laugh all around! Who can you trust, if you can't trust your friends?

To our surprise and delight, who should be on stage with George Dyer, playing keyboard in the band, but Wayne Leavitt!

When we talked with him afterward, he said had he known Linda Burnham Chapman was in the audience he would have given her a "shout-out!"

George and Wayne were companions in the mission field. Wayne quit his career as a seminary teacher to become George's stage manager and support with the band.

It was fun to visit with him after the show!

Thursday morning we were with the Beyeler's again, attending a 10 a.m. show, starring George Dyer. Here he is, posing with us and with his 21-yr-old daughter, after the show.

We remember George Dyer singing a solo during a Sacrament meeting some years ago, in our home ward in Mesa. He had come as a guest of members of the Leavitt family, with whom he continues to be closely associated.

This good man is a real talent. He has a voice of opratic quality, as fine a tenor as exists today, anywhere, and a great stage presence and entertaiment quality besides. We truly enjoyed his show and getting to meet him and members of his family.

Wednesday evening, April 20, we attended the Osmond Brothers show at their theatre in downtown Branson. Jimmy, who isn't always with them, was there that night. They are all getting older, but they are still so good at what they do. They are funny, and they can sing. It was great entertainment! What a fun time!

Kerry and Brenda carried their own insulated drink cups with them, into the park. They have learned that it saves them soome of the expense on purchases of liquid refreshment in the park. Presenting your own cup allows for a drink at a reduced price!

Ah, but it's good to be with the "locals," who know all the inside information.

One of the many shows taking place at Silver Dollar City while we were there was this young group of dancers and musicians from Canada, who call themselves "The Powerhouse." They are good!

Linda, in her handsome black hat, looking down on one of the many venues inside the Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson.

What a fun, relaxing time for us, being here with our friends, the Beyeler's!

Wednesday morning, April 20, we were up early and off for a day at Branson's Silver Dollar City theme park. This entire area, we are told is honeycombed with underground limstone caverns, some with veins of silver and other precious metals; hence the name, "Silver Dollar City."

This was just about a perfect day, cool, mostly overcast, some sunshine but good for walking about for Linda, especially (she wore her new, black straw hat). the park is a little up and down, built as it is upon the natural, hilly terrain. It is a real fun, family park, with a variety of exciting roller coaster type rides (we didn't do that) and numerous live, musical entertainments. It would take more than a day to see it all.

this picture was taken as we entered the park Wednesday morning. Kerry is on the right in his red windbreaker. Brenda is just ahead in blue. They were so good to take us about to the different entertainments and help us from getting lost.

Here is a scene we would see over and over again, attending live performances by entertainment families in Branson. They bring their families with them and include them in their shows. It is such a wholesome, relaxed and fun-filled atmosphere! Great music, lots of energy and good humor. Always, in each show the entertainers take time for sincere tributes to men and women in uniform, love for country and respect for God and our freedoms.

Everyone who comes to these shows know these entertainment families are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many of them are active members of the ward attended by Kerry and Brenda. You can just imagine the spirit in these meetings when they sing the hymns or participate in the ward choir!

Shortly after our arrival at the Beyeler's, Tuesday afternoon, they wisked us off to nearby Branson where we enjoyed a very entertaining performance by the Hughes Brothers.

This is one of the largest entertainment families performing in Branson. They have their own theatre. At different times in the show they invite all the members of their combined family, wives and children to join them on stage for some of their numbers. They are good and very entertaining!

Tuesday afternoon, April 19, after a very scenic drive north from I-40, beyond Fort Smith, Arkansas, along I-540 (what a great highway!) and with a few twists and turns on narrow, winding mountain roads, we arrived safely at our desitnation, the home of Kerry & Brenda Beyeler, in beautiful Reed's Spring, a resort community outside of Branson, Missouri. We got a great welcome and began that very evening to take in the sights and sounds of what must be regarded as the entertainment capitol of Mid-America!

In Arkansas, we made a stop for gas and noticed this sign, posting information on a bad check passer, naming the person for all to see.

You can run but you can't hide in Varner, Arkansas!

The further east we drove, entering northwestern Arkansas from Oklahoma, and heading toward Branson, Missouri, the more we saw the beautiful Dogwood tree blossoms along side the roadway. Such a delicate white or pinkish flower that embroiders itself among the green shades of the surrounding vegetation. We have nothing to compare to it in our environment in the west that I can think of.

We made it as far as Santa Rosa, New Mexico on our first day of travel, east on Interstate 40, and took a room for the night at a Holiday Inn Express on the east side of town. The desk clerk recommended the US 66 Cafe as a place for good chile rellanos. We took her advice but were disappointed. The cafe and service were nice, but finding Mexican food to our liking, even in New Mexico, can be tricky.

The next day, Monday, April 18, we crossed the Texas panhandle, not stopping in Amarillo, but continuing on I-40 to the outskirts of Oklahoma City, where Linda used a coupon from her "Room Saver" booklet to get us accomodations in a brand new Comfort Inn, just off the freeway.

This is a view of the sunrise over Oklahoma City, taken from our hotel room the next morning, Tuesday, April 19.

As we obtained our breakfast in the hotel, later that morning, a television special was showing the memorial services taking place at the Murrah Federal building site, where so many inoccent victims lost their lives to an act of domestic terrorism on this date, 15 years ago. It was very sobering to view this scene of the survivors and the families of the fallen, who had gathered with others of their fellow citizens to the remember what happened on that fateful day. It reminded us again that our freedoms are not free but are purchased for us by the blood and sacrifice of so many others. These good people in Oklahoma City and the State of Oklahoma have pledged never to forget.

Whenever I ask Linda to pose for a picture during our travels, she takes the camera from me and takes my picture instead.

So, here I am, after we stopped at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Gallup, New Mexico for a bite to eat on the first day of our journey, April 17.

The Cracker Barrel has become a favored eating place because of its many, many restaurants, scattered across the country, almost always situated in sight of the freeway. They are always reliable, clean, good food and reasonable prices.

Sunday, April 17, found us again on the open road, leaving our home in Snowflake, Arizona on the first leg of a journey across country to first visit Linda's life-long friend Brenda (Reed) and her husband Kerry Beyeler in Branson, Missouri. From Branson we planned to stop at historic sites in Tennessee and other places in the South, finally arriving in Bedford, Virginia for a visit with Elmer & Sue Hodge and members of the Bedford Branch of the LDS Church. The Hodges have been storing items of our personal property ever since the completion of our Mission there in June of last year. This is our excuse to see them and the dear people of Virginia once again.

This was taken as we left Snowflake and headed north toward Holbrook across the vast openness of Arizona's northeastern plateau - not greatly changed for thousands of years. This is the land of the Navaho; of petrified forests, meteor craters, painted deserts and long, open, dry and uninhabited landscapes. My mother's father, Joseph S. Burk, freighted mail and drygoods across these lonely stretches between Springerville, St. John's and Holbrook, using team and wagon, keeping eye on the weather and hoping not to be caught on the open prarie in a blizzard where no protection could be had. the snows did catch him on one ocassion and he buried himself down in a snowdrift with his mail sacks and waited out the storm. His family and friends, knowing the storm had caught him on the trail, where amazed and grateful when he made it safely home.