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April 11

Cave State

Chilly again this morning.  The weatherman promised it would be nice today, at least at some point.  Apparently that point was not this morning.  It was warmer than other days have started, though, so that's something.

We started the day off with a quick breakfast then headed out to West Branson to visit the "Talking Rocks Cave."  We arrived at the cave entrance around 9:45, just in time for the first tour of the day.  There weren't very many people there yet; only us, a couple from Nebraska, and a couple from near Shreveport Louisiana.  The lady from Nebraska was quite chatty, but her husband was not so much.  We would find out quickly that he is nearly incapable of operating when operating at any height above his own.  Anyway...  Charlie was our tour guide throughout the cave.  He started out by telling us some of the history of the cave, which was discovered in 1868 (or somewhere thereabouts) when a couple of kids were hunting for a rabbit that escaped down the cave.  By 1921, some guy had purchased the land and opened the caves for tourism.  At first, they only had a big ladder and some candle lights to show the cave off.  Eventually they poured concrete steps and wired in some lights so that it was a little more accessible.

The cave itself is 100 feet deep, 50 feet wide, and I don't remember how long, something like 100 feet.  You start at the top of the cave and work your way down.  It is constantly 62 degrees in the cave, which they advertise as a "cool-down" spot for most of the tourist season.  Today, however, we were using it to warm up!!!  After our initial introduction, we descended into the cave while being led by Charlie.  The guy from Nebraska was having a LOT of trouble getting down the steps, which were admittedly steep.  While in the cave we learned some interesting facts about caves in general, like the difference between stalactites (they have to hold on tight to the ceiling so they don't fall), and stalagmites (if you don't watch out, you might trip on them).  We also learned that there were over 6000 caves in Missouri, 20 of which the public can explore, and they were discovering an average of 100 more each year.  I guess that makes it the Cave State more than the "Show-Me" state...  The same phenomena that created the Ozark Mountains created all these caves.  The tour was quite good and we recommend it to anybody visiting the area.

For sure, the funniest part of the tour was when Charlie was describing why the cave got it's name, Talking Rocks Cave.  When the cave first opened, it was known as Fairy Cave since it looked like Fairies had carved the structures, or something like that.  At some point in the sixties, though, Silver Dollar City bought the cave and turned it into more of a tourist attraction.  They put speakers in there, Charlie explained it something like "rocks that looked like speakers," and the put in a light show and the works.  He said that they were out to scare people by it, but he didn't want to scare anybody.  He did have a light show and a song, though.  So he killed all the lights in the cave, which makes for complete darkness, which is pretty cool if you've never experienced it before.  He then stood over by some electrical panel and started up a CD that played an instrumental song, something you would normally listen to if you were trying to relax or were into New Age music.  While the music was playing, different colored lights would light up different parts of the cave.  The funny part was that Charlie was at the electrical panel the entire time, bringing the lights in and out.  Pretty high tech light show...

After the tour, it was back to the condo for some leftovers.  Also over lunch we watched an interesting "True Hollywood Story" about Cory Haim.  He's not looking too good these days.  He still thinks he can win an Oscar, but unfortunately he has been addicted to drugs for over 16 years.  I guess he's not addicted anymore (allegedly), but he still hasn't had a lot of work.

After lunch, down to the Branson Landing, a new shopping destination in Branson located right on the "lake," which really looks like a river since it is downstream of the Table Rock Dam.  Shockingly, there was a lot of shopping at the Branson Landing.  Jenny's eyes lit right up.  Ethan and I found some things to look at as well.  There was a Discovery Store there which had a lot of cool stuff, Joe's Crab Shack setup a kid's playground outside their restaurant, and they had a water show in the center of the mall.  

We visited other shops as well, but ended out short jaunt there by doing something very "Wisconsin-like," taking our 5 year old to the pub for a pint.  In the center of the mall was an Irish pub called Waxy O'Shea's.  It was a nice little place that had all the "regulars" on tap for our enjoyment.  Jenny had a Newcastle and I had a Smithwick's, Ethan had a chocolate milk.

On the way back to our car, Jenny ran ahead to check out some clothes at Aeropostale, so Ethan and I were left to entertain ourselves once again, if only for a short time.  We quickly spotted a clown on the other side of the street that was tying balloon animals, so we decided to go over and check it out.  As we got nearer, I noticed some of the clown's "flair."  One said "Never Trust a Skinny Clown."  Oddly, this clown was not slim.  The other button said "Tips Appreciated.  Suggested Amount $3,024.82."  I got a little chuckle, but just as I was comprehending this second joke, Ethan pulls on my sleeve.  I look down to him and his eyes have changed from excited interest to mild terror.  "I don't want one, dad, let's go," he said to me.  "What's the matter?" I asked him back.  "Nothing, let's just go."  As we got a little further away from the clown, I asked him again what was wrong.  He said, "That clown wasn't real, dad, he was a fake."  I asked him how he knew that, and he said, "he painted his nose on.  He wasn't real!!!"

We finally left the landing and the scary fake clown behind and drove to do a little go-carting followed by some more mini-golf.  The track we chose was called "Old Woody," a big wooden structure with loops and bumps on it.  Ethan and I drove together and Jenny drove by herself.  There was no shotgun start, so we really didn't get to race, though I'm sure Jenny would have smoked us since Ethan and I weight around 250 pounds combined and were also in a larger kart.  Instead, we had to be content with causing some poor young lady to wipe out as she tried to pass us.  She should have known better!!!  Go-carting was followed by 18 holes of Hidden Mine mini-golf.  The course wasn't very nice compared to the one we had golfed earlier in the week, but we had a coupon, so it only cost us $10.

Back in the condo now.  We're starting to think about the things we need to do before preparing for the trip home.  One more full day here, though.  Tomorrow we have a date with Silver Dollar City, only a half mile away.  We're hoping the weather improves from every other day this week.  Today ended up warmer, but was very windy and it rained off an on.  Tomorrow has lots of promise as it is supposed to be partly cloudy with temperatures near 70 degrees!  Let's hope the weatherman isn't wrong again.

As an aside, I wonder if people in Missouri recycle.  I dumped the garbage for the first time today and noticed that there was no place to put recyclables.  I guess I've also noticed that, when out and about, there is no place to put cans or plastic containers anywhere else either.  Strange...

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