I just returned from a week in Branson, Missouri where we had a large family reunion. We stayed in two large houses in a nice area near Silver Dollar City called StoneBridge Resort. There were about 30 of us total. It was a wonderful gift from one of my aunts, providing lodging and airfare to a central location to celebrate some big milestones of other family members.
The trip itself was a fantastic experience overall of re-connecting with all the families who were coming from Missouri, New York area, Washington State and Oregon. Young cousins who barely knew each other became best buddies. We reminisced about childhood memories and played games.
This post isn’t about the personal family experience though, it is about how important it is to leave your city- especially if you live in a very liberal area, and see what is happening in other parts of the country. Branson may be particular in that it appears to be mainly a tourist destination. Think of a religious, child-friendly Las Vegas. It is in the Ozarks – a beautiful wooded area surrounded by lakes. The natural setting is lovely, and we saw deer and turtles during our visit.
As you wind through hills, there are signs for “Vigilante Watchtower Zipline” located on Shepherd of the Hills street. A little further on, and there is a very long strip of buildings featuring attractions like Dolly Parton Stampede, Tribute Concerts, Go Karts, Water Parks, museums and more. Funky buildings like a replica of half the Titanic complete with fake iceberg, a giant meatball restaurant, a huge King Kong statue perched on a building are lining both sides of the street.
The largest grocery store option is Walmart Super Center. At the Walmart, there is no counter space at checkout for bagging groceries into reusable bags, simply a carousel of plastic bags that rotates allowing the cashier to put a few items into each small bag. Every time a group of us went to the store, we returned with at least 8 bags.
The most popular dining options feature BBQ and Pork tenderloins. At the main BBQ restaurant: Danna’s BBQ, all the food was provided with styrofoam cups and plastic utensils, and most people also got styrofoam containers for the inevitable leftovers due to the huge portions of meat. Their t-shirts proclaimed proudly, “Go Pig or Go Home”, a clear directive to the vegetarians in our group. The vegan option was a salad without the added chicken. In most restaurants that was the only option.
Our resort had no recycling options- just dumpsters. So, all bottles, cans and recyclables for our large group for a week went directly into land fill.
It was very disheartening to see how most people rely on plastic water bottles and throw everything away without a care. In Portland, OR we are used to having a veggie burger substitute option even at the meatiest of restaurants, reusable cups are a given, and every residential home has curbside compost and recycling. This trip made me realize how easy it is for us to be environmental here, and how much work is left to be done. Sustainability is a non-partisan issue that all of us must embrace, or our children will pay the price.
At one point during our trip to Silver Dollar City, my teenage son and I spent a lot of time around the water blaster ride. You basically ride down a water path on a boat equipped with blasters while people on the shore of the ride blast you with their water guns, and you blast them back- or hit unsuspecting people strolling in the area. You are mostly a sitting target getting hit from both sides. Seeing grown men who were clearly on the opposite political spectrum exchange blasts with my kid made me realize that no matter how divided we are as a country — we both willingly put those issues aside to just have fun. When face to face in a fun setting, we all want to enjoy life. It is just behind the anonymity and distance of the screens of our computers and phones, or when lines are clearly drawn at protests we feel free to hate on each other.
If we can all just agree that we all want the best for our kids and their future, we can put down the hateful rhetoric and work towards solutions that benefit all of us.
If you live in the comfort of a bubble that conforms to your ideals, you are living in a false reality. If you surround yourself with an echo chamber, you aren’t getting the full picture. Sometimes you have to go to places that make you uncomfortable to get a better understanding of what challenges we face. Then you can come home to appreciate your own city with its unique bubble of veg options, cannabis, and environmental focus that you realize is just as bizarre in its own way as the biblical Vegas you left behind.