Jason’s note: This is the third in a short series of the annual Offutt Family Vacation Extravaganza.

The heat at Silver Dollar City made it hard to concentrate on anything other than how much sweat had soaked into my underwear.

That’s what quality of life boils down to, how comfortable a person is in their underpants. Let’s throw in socks, too. I don’t know how people who wear neither get through the day without snapping at some point and mule-kicking a lemonade stand.

There were plenty of lemonade stands in the theme park, all sitting on fresh, black pavement. I’m sure the scalding walkways had no basis on: 1) the number of lemonade stands in the park, 2) the amount of money park goers spend on lemonade, 3) the cost of a cup of lemonade being approximately that of the gross domestic product of Liechtenstein, or 4) the fact I was too tired and sweaty to effectively mule-kick anything.

Too bad. Lemonade almost resulted in a park-wide shutdown.

There are many things a parent should trust grandparents with. Christmas cards, making sure a Crock-Pot doesn’t catch the house on fire, subtly reminding you your hair is sticking up, and, most importantly, the grandchildren.

For the less adventurous (and by that, I mean people like me who will throw up as soon as the roller coaster starts), there’s a shortcut in the park in the form of a bridge that swings from the movement of those walking on it. This shortcut may sound relaxing, maybe even a little fun, but the bridge is designed to make you doubt the stability of the universe.

The family – everyone but Grandma, myself and the toddler – mounted the bridge and headed for a different part of the park that undoubtedly had more lemonade stands.

I was going to take the long way around, pulling the toddler in a fold-up wagon we purchased because despite the fact she would demand to walk, she’d want someone to carry her after 20 feet.

My wife came back for me with, I imagine, the sole intention of laughing as I nearly fell on the bridge. I don’t understand how my body works. Playing catch with my son, I can snag almost everything he wings toward me and I can throw the ball exactly where I want it to go, but I also routinely trip over my own feet walking across an uncluttered floor.

We left Grandma in charge of the toddler.

At the end of this walk of death during which my wife repeatedly jumped on the bridge to make it swing although signs were posted specifically warning against this, we discovered we’d lost Grandma. You know, the woman we’d entrusted with our child.

Although it may seem difficult to misplace a grown person pulling a bright blue wagon full of loud toddler, given the number of people at the park, the sweat in my eyes, and the possibility of a lemonade stand obscuring them, it’s possible.

There’s a fear parents get at the prospect of their child missing that sends some of us into a frenzied search resembling the flight pattern of a buzzing insect. That was me.

After an extensive multi-person hunt we finally found the two sitting where we’d left them – a spot we’d searched more than once.

“We went to get lemonade,” Grandma said.

At that moment, I knew I was ready to go home.

Next week: Branson in broad daylight and the ride home.


– Jason’s newest novel, “Bad Day for a Road Trip,” is available at jasonoffutt.com.