Jason’s note: This is the first in a short series covering the annual Offutt Family Vacation Extravaganza.
Taking a long car trip with the family is a valuable exercise in patience, tolerance, kindness and the type of restraint it must take for violent criminals to blend into society.
Children, and by “children” I mean our children, not those happy carefree types used to advertise breakfast cereals. Those kids make their beds and do their homework on time. Our children, albeit creative, intelligent ones who get good grades and return their library books on time, become neanderthals when shut in a moving car with their parents for more than two hours.
Sometimes I think my wife and I would be better off traveling with Koko the sign language gorilla and a checker-playing rooster. At least they could entertain each other.
I’m sure it’s like this with every family. My sister is still angry with me because I threw her Ken doll’s head out the window while going over a bridge on our trip to Washington, D.C.
I was 3.
This year my in-laws treated the entire family to Branson, Missouri: children, wives, husbands, grandchildren and our toddler, who sometimes claims to be a puppy so she gets her own category.
Ah, Branson. A place Independence native Paul Henning fell in love with so hard he created the TV program “The Beverly Hillbillies.” There’s even a Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area between the towns of Branson and Branson West. We went there. Lots of conservation stuff and cement (pronounced “see-mint” on Henning’s show).
The drive Google Maps promised to be 4 1/2 hours turned into 5 1/2. This was partly because Google Maps is often less accurate than presidential election polls and partly because the toilet gods rejoice in the fact our toddler still refuses to pee on the side of the road.
We finally arrived at our hotel in Branson West, a tiny town (population 438) that is, not surprisingly, west of Branson proper, which we avoided on our way in.
Branson’s population of 11,500 is dwarfed by the 7.2 million-per-year vacationers who cause the major thoroughfare known as The Strip to make a parking lot resemble a NASCAR speedway in comparison.
We eventually drove The Strip, but I won’t go into detail now. The horror is still too fresh.
The hotel was nice. We were not. There’s something about hotels that make children lose their minds. Shouting indoors (even when repeatedly told serial killers may be trying to sleep in the next room), jumping on beds, getting up at 3 a.m. to watch TV, and bellowing to everyone in the pool area Dad snuck in beer even though three signs said not to.
At least the Toddler didn’t throw up in the car, but you know, there’s always the drive home.
Next week: Silver Dollar City.
– Jason’s newest novel, “Bad Day for a Road Trip,” is available at jasonoffutt.com.