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And They Still Charge THAT For Popcorn?

By Tim Butler | Posted at 2:15 PM

So, I give the theatre advertising company a call thinking maybe we could buy some time on a few nice “G” or “PG” rated films and spend, oh, maybe $500-$1,000. Yeah right.

Turns out that the company charges the better part of $13 dollars per CPM (that's advertising lingo for thousand ad impressions or showings), you can't pick what movies your ads show on — they must appear on all the movies — and you must show for at least seven weeks. Needless to say, even with an non-profit discount that comes out to the better part of $3,000. This amazes me, because these are highly untargeted slide adverts.

Anyway, I bring this up because it occurs to me just how much theatres make that you don't even think about. Not only do they get the better part of fifteen or twenty bucks per person on refreshments and tickets, then you watch numerous slideshow ads before… you see the really cool big screen motion ads. Then you finally get to the movie, but before you leave you see all kinds of ads plastered on the wall advertising various services as well.

With that much revenue, you'd think they could at least keep the floors from being sticky.

Ozark Trip 2k3 (Part II)

By Tim Butler | Posted at 7:58 PM

Big Cedar is a unique experience that is almost a trip unto itself. When arriving a Big Cedar one goes down a large hill from which you see beautiful Table Rock Lake and then proceed to a curvy road that passes through, not over, several waterfalls. Driving through the streams (they are designed to be driven through), you arrive at the registration building and observation tower.

Big Cedar is an amazing place. The registration building has a grand vaulted roof with cannoes and a huge chandelier hanging down. On each wall appropriate sayings are posted in big metallic lettering, such as “All Men Are Equal Before Fish.” Once you sign in, you generally must drive to your cabin or lodge room as the resort is sprawled out over probably the better part of a mile of road that goes in a U-shape around one of Table Rock's inlets.

Big Cedar's rooms that come with kitchens include complementary soda, appropriately rustic plates, a basket of snacks, and a table made out of logs. The cabins are decorated with various wildlife and pictures (PETA members should find another resort) all in some sort of theme. Each cabin is unique. For instance this past time we stayed in the Audubon cabin, themed after James Audubon. The cabin was filled with pictures of the Audubon's from the time James was born onward… and even some of his drawings. Other cabins include the George H. W. Bush Cabin and the Waylon Jennings cabin (which I've stayed in as well).

Big Cedar is hardly just a place to sleep however. The resort has miles of walking trails, complementary mini-golf, three exquisite restaurants, complementary paddle boats and cannoes (not to mention a full service two story marina) and more. There are also complementary shuttles to get you around and also to Top of the Rock golf course (if you aren't the putt-putt type).

Things just get better at breakfast. Big Cedar's main restaurant, Devil's Pool Restaurant (named after a spring near and historical site by that was rumored to be bottomless), has the best breakfast buffet I've seen anywhere. It is simply delicious. It features freshly prepared hash browns, fresh danishes, sausage, bacon and all the other fixings, but it isn't just your average buffet. It also has a chef that is constantly making omelets to order (I like ones with ham, cheese, onion, green pepper, and jalapenos) and the best Belgian waffles I've tasted anywhere. These Belgian waffles melt in your mouth with the perfect compromise between a crispy and soft waffle (I don't normally even like waffles!). All this is served up in a restaurant that faces the inlet from Table Rock Lake. The restaurant is also stunning at dinner time as the sun sets over the Ozark mountains and glistens in the beautiful lake water.

Big Cedar is overpriced, no doubt, but if the larger cabins have three bedrooms and a sofa sleeper, so you can keep the cost down if you travel in groups. The smaller Knotty Pine Cottages are as low as $99 at Christmas and are very nice too (all of Big Cedar is lit up at Christmas with thousands of Christmas lights).

At any rate, we then moved on to Dogwood Cannon Nature Park, which is owned by Johnny Morris, the same fellow who owns Big Cedar, Bass Pro Shops (including Outdoor World and the various Sportsmen's Warehouse locations), and Tracker Boats. If you go to Dogwood Cannon its worth the extra expense over admission to get the tram tour. Unless you are an avid biker, you won't be able to see everything otherwise, and even bikers can't see everything the longer tram tour covers. The longer tram tour is two and a half hours and follows Dogwood Creek through the stunning scenery and then eventually comes out in Arkansas where you can see Johnny Morris' Bison, Elk, Deer, and Long Horn Cattle ranch. From the top of the fields where the deer and the antelop roam… oh sorry, wrong thought. So anyway from the top of the hill in this area you can in all but one direction and the Ozark hills in the distance are part of the park. This place is massive by design, Morris wanted to be able to control the water table feeding Dogwood Creek to keep it pristine.

When you enter Dogwood Cannon you'll enter a place with miles of crystal clear streams, huge waterfalls and beautiful old trees. Whether you love to be out in nature or you're just trying to get your yearly dose of the outdoors, this is the place to be. Dogwood Cannon is probably one of the best views you'll see in the Ozarks, and that's saying a lot considering how beautiful the area is. Dogwood Cannon also has some interesting history, including being the place where they recently found the oldest human remains in Missouri. The park is loaded with wildlife including woodpeckers, woodchucks (back to that deep question I mentioned last night), deer, and a large amount of fish that the streams are stocked with (including very large rainbow trout).

If you go down to Branson, you really need to go to Dogwood Cannon. It's impossible to summarize how beautiful it is, but all I can say is that it is. If you aren't staying at Big Cedar, you do have to go on a bit of a ride to get there, it's just a few miles from the Arkansas border — 18 miles from Big Cedar and another dozen or two miles from much of the other things you might go to. But, it is worth it. Set aside a day and just go.

Back to the actual trip, the weather was perfect in Dogwood Cannon this time around. Last year when we went, it poured down rain during the second half of the tour. That made things interesting, to say the least.

In no particular order, I should mention some other worthwhile stops that we didn't make this time, but certainly not because they aren't great. Oddly enough, all of the added tips I can think of are right next to each other:

  • Caldwell's Main Street Flea Market — if you like flea markets even a little bit, this is a stop that cannot be missed! Located in Downtown Branson, just a few moments from Lake Tanneycomo, I've gotten a bit of everything here over the years — a marquee sign in good working order ($60), an Apple PowerBook 140 also in good working order ($30), a few books, and many other great bargains. Flea Country in Kimberling City is also good.
  • Branson Cafe — if you happen to be at Caldwell's around dinner, stop by the Branson Cafe. It's hard to miss the little restaurant in downtown Branson. Just look for the red awning and the doubt icthy design under the logo. :-) As the sign in the restaurant says, “if the Colonel has their recipe, he'd be a general!” They have great food that's really reasonably priced. They also have great homemade meringue pies and cookies.
  • Sammy Lane — while in the neighborhood, the Sammy Lane is a great boat ride. It's primarily targeted for families as it is a — GASP! SCARY! — pirate cruise, but the majority of the time spent on it is simply a nice boatride up Lake Tanneycomo. Unlike the Lake Queen that is also available from the same place, the Sammy Lane is a fast little boat and riding over Lake Tanneycomo's extra cool water is extremely refreshing in the middle of summer.

I'll probably think of more to say later. I think I've pretty much wrapped up my trip. We stayed at Big Cedar for three days and enjoyed the atmosphere for most of the time (if you go to Big Cedar plan some time that you can actually stay at Big Cedar during the day — there's lots to do without even leaving). Three days at Big Cedar means three visits from the “cookie lady” who drops gingersnap cookies in the shape of the Big Cedar logo tree off each evening… Mmmmm.

This time around we didn't stop, but I would add another great stop is the Hen House in Bourbon, MO (near Cuba). We usually stop there for dinner on the way home and take some of their delicious homemade pie with to enjoy later on. It's a nice little restaurant and one of the last ones right on the highway before you start getting near St. Louis. Bobber's Truck Stop and Restaurant in Sullivan also has good food (great Perch on Fridays!), although at times it isn't the cleanest place, which makes the Hen House all the more attractive.

Sigh, I wish I was in the Ozarks right now after typing so much about it…

Boom!

By Tim Butler | Posted at 7:50 PM

I had originally planned this as a pre-4th post, and I was going to introduce it by saying:

Ah, yes, it's that time of year again. That wonderful time of year. You know, the time of year when millions of Americans go and buy highly explosive materials and light them on fire. It's the Fourth of July!

At any rate I set a lot of the said stuff on fire last night. We had an hour long show that exhausted about half of my fireworks cache (I'm planning to shoot some more off for the next few days). If you didn't guess, I'm what you might call a hobbyist pyrotechnician. I enjoy finding and shooting off the fireworks almost as much as watching them.

Last night went really well too. About 8:45 P.M. C.D.T the entire family went out side to brave the mosquitoes, despite the the risk of West Nile Virus (a bird died of it about half a mile from here), and sat down. A card table full of fireworks awaited, and with that, I started by lighting a nifty new extra large round smoke bomb. It was a pretty blue one and put out enough smoke to make it a little foggy around the yard. Then I set off my personal favorite smoke bomb, Don't Smoke in a Can, which lasts probably at least a minute and dispurses a huge cloud of bright pink smoke. This thing is so powerful it shoots up a two inch flame at first and makes a loud sucking sound as it pulls air into itself.

I'll spare you the details of everything I shot off, but I'll mention some of the good ones in case anyone is inclined to rush back to the fireworks tents and grab a few more goodies before they pack up for the year.

  1. Pop Goes the Fountain (Black Cat): A long — very long — display of sparkling silver sparks and pops. It keeps shooting higher and higher. Really pretty fountain and well worth the $6.00 it retailed for (iirc on all prices).
  2. Boatload of Color (???): Really long, colorful fountain similar to the others but on a relatively large “cake,” causing the stream of sparks to move around. This one goes for about $7.
  3. Mammoth Fountain (Black Cat): Similar in length to Pop Goes the Fountain, but multi-color, including sparking silver, red, and green. Again goes for a very long time — probably about a minute and a half. It's a great deal at $5.50.
  4. Mini-fountains (Black Cat): A four pack in a little plastic bag set me back only $1, but these little fountains are perfect at dusk when you aren't quite ready to shoot off the more expensive fireworks. They went for about 20 seconds and were very colorful.
  5. 2 Cool (???): This one was probably about a minute long and did several different kinds of streams of color. IIRC, it also made some noise during the performance, and best of all, it cost only $3.95!
  6. Nuclear Meltdown (Black Cat): This one was our finale this year. It's very similar to the other two Black Cat fountains but adds to the excitement by stopping and then starting back up. It also goes up higher and is just generally impressive (third year I've been impressed by it!). Unfortunately this guy is only available at one of the more expensive tents and will set you back $11 for the pleasure of viewing it.

On top of these, we also enjoyed (as usual) artillery shells. Artillery shells come with a tube launcher and provide you with miniature versions of the big displays (chrysanthemums, circles, comets, etc.). These are much more cost effective than the one-use tubes and set you back only around $8-$12 for six to twelve shells unless you go for the fancy double or triple “break” ones (they do more than one effect at a time).

Well, it is getting late, so maybe I'll finish with some more fireworks reviews and the rest of my Branson post (from late May) tomorrow!

Happy Independence Day!

By Tim Butler | Posted at 8:47 PM

Sigh

By Tim Butler | Posted at 8:37 PM

Sunday Five

By Tim Butler | Posted at 7:59 PM

Busy, Busy

By Tim Butler | Posted at 6:57 PM

Thanks and Thanks Again

By Tim Butler | Posted at 8:06 PM

Pray, Please.

By Tim Butler | Posted at 8:27 AM

Friday Five after the Fry

By Tim Butler | Posted at 8:32 PM

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