On Valentine's Day, we were in Branson, Mo. Who'd have thought one of our "gotta do someday" goals would happen so soon?

One day, the phone rang, and our son Stewart asked what we were doing Feb. 12, 13 and 14. He knew we have a busy schedule. We looked at our calendar; there were two events listed. We hadn't decided which one to attend.

We asked our son "Why do you ask, what's up?"

"Well" he said, "I have a four-day weekend and plan to go to Branson. O Sun (our daughter-in-law) and I would like for you to go with us. We will make the plans, buy two packages (each package included two lodging and two theater tickets), and you will be our guests."

Now we had three things on the calendar. It didn't take us long to decide Stewart and O Sun's invitation couldn't be topped. The AARP Valentine party and Ellis United Methodist Church dinner theater could wait untill next year.

We had fun from the time we left Hutchinson on Friday morning until we returned to Hutchinson on Sunday evening. The off-season turned out to be an ideal time to visit Branson.

As we traveled through Kansas into Missouri, we got better at map reading, snacked on delicious homemade energy bars and apple muffins and noticed the changes in the countryside -- ahead were long, steep hills to climb. Closer to Branson, we went past huge rock walls carved away from the highway. These rocks were covered with beautiful long frozen icicles. It appears that water had seeped out the cracks in the rock and froze as it ran down the side. Later, when the temperatures rose above 32 degrees, they melted.

We arrived in Branson and checked into the Grand County Square -- a great place. It was our home base for lodging meals and the music hall.

Stewart had a schedule made up. Good thing, because we never would have known where to start. We spent most of the time "oohing" and "aaahing," just gawking around.

First stop was Stone Hill Winery for a tour and wine tasting. The more we tasted, the better it tasted. After 14 samples, it was funny how happy everyone became.

Our second stop was Hard Luck Diner, where the servers sang songs to entertain the patrons. Following supper, we drove around town sightseeing on U.S. Highway 76, than to Old Town Branson after dark. The lights everywhere were so beautiful.

After a good night's rest and a wonderful free breakfast buffet, we stopped at the Branson Craft Mall to see engraving work by artist Les Seamster. Fantastic work. Seamster was an uncle to a friend of Stewart's.

We learned to use our GPS. The GPS lady helped us find Table Rock Lake by sending us on country roads away from the main busy route, which gave us the chance to see more things. At this time of year, with no leaves on trees, we could see down into the valleys and up high where huge theaters and apartments were built.

Back to Grand Comedy Jamboree, a two-hour show with great music, singers, dancers and two very funny comedians. During intermission, we got autographs and took pictures. They also honored the veterans.They had them stand for applause (our son included) as everyone sang a patriotic song -- so impressive.

We can't come home without souvenirs. The kids got us T-shirts with a big 76 on the front with the numbers filled with cars. We also brought home many pamphlets, a book -- "Table Rock Lake" by Tom Koob -- a DVD of the Comedy Jamboree show and a camera full of snapshots.

At breakfast on Valentine's Day, we exchanged cards and gifts, but the best part was sharing this verse:


It's wondrous what a hug can do. A hug can cheer you when you're blue. A hug can say "I love you so" or "Gee I hate to see you go."

A hug can sooth a small child's pain and bring a rainbow after rain. A hug delights and warms and charms it must be why God gave us arms.

Hugs are great for fathers and mothers. Sweet for sisters, swell for brothers. So stretch those arms without delay. And give someone a hug today.

And sharing hugs with each other.

When we left Branson, the fun didn't stop. We set the GPS for our next stop, the Precious Moments Chapel, with wonderful inspired artwork, biblical hand painted murals created by Samuel J. Butcher. It was our last stop in Missouri.

The next stop took us to Big Brutus, south of West Mineral. The largest electric shovel in the world was purchased in 1962 to remove the dirt and rocks over the coal seams, making it possible to mine coal in Kansas. Brutus was retired in 1974. Wow, a sight to see.

When our trip was completed, we were tired. We enjoyed the trip. Our son and daughter-in-law gave us memories we'll never forget. We hope we haven't bored you with the story of our trip to Branson.

Jim and Opal Flinn, Ellis, are members of the Generations Advisory Group.