ADVENTURE NEAR OR FAR
ADVENTURES NEAR AND FAR
by Gerrye Wong, June 27, 2023
Every one of my readers seems to know that I am an adventurer, as I’ve always enjoyed seeing and doing new things no matter how near or far. As a result, I’ve gone to every state in the US and on my map have numbered almost 100 countries we have been to. So this column I thought I would share with you some of the places I’ve gone to recently to share my adventures just in case you might want to try them too. To surprise you, they are all in the United States for easier travel, but just as pleasurable as around the world travel.
Branson, Missouri has always been one of my favorite places to go because of the musical entertainment and the 50 theaters it offers to enjoy any type of musical entertainment you could ask for. Because of the pandemic, I had not flown to Missouri for five years and so this year when I went, I found many new attractions besides the entertainment theaters to attract visitors. Let me tell you about them today. Johnny Morris, Founder CEO of Bass Pro sports shops across the nation is a native of the area and his goal has always been to continue a mission to celebrate people who hunt, fish and are active stewards of the land and water to promote and protect the natural environment for wildlife and plant life. Thus he has established two private parks that I found worthwhile visiting.
At his Top of the Rock park, he tries to give an experience of the best of the Ozarks, where it can showcase the majestic beauty of the Ozarks never been seen before. This is a one-of-a-kind destination as a home to remarkable restaurants, world-class golf, and extraordinary attractions. I found at his Top of the Rock recreation area, a wonderful Ozarks Natural History Museum, which is a first for the region to celebrate the history and commemorate the people and animals that came before us. The museum is a subterranean adventure which walks you through the chronological development of the region, containing carbon data skeletons of ancient Missouri creatures, and true to life, dioramas of animals that once roamed the area. It even tours one through extensive displays of historical Civil War and American west galleries. Beautiful Indian relics of the tribes who lived in the area are also displayed with a wide assortment exhibit of Indian arrowheads.
caption: visiting the Natural History Museum of the Ozarks is a special opportunity to understand the area’s beginnings.
Families can spend hundreds of hours walking the grounds and painstakingly cutting through the trails so visitors like all of us can see the dramatic features of Nature. As we went through the trails that he has established, we saw stunning rocket formations, beautiful views of table rock lake, waterfalls, and the remarkable lost canyon cave. Of course, the best time to go would be just before sunset so one could enjoy world-class dining in a setting of the beautiful nature world of the Ozarks. Long touted and ranked as the #1 America’s premier wilderness resort, the adjoining Big Cedar Lodge is called the Classic American Getaway by Travel and Leisure Magazine.
caption: traveling by private jeep gave us a great two hour tour of Dogwood Canyon’s natural beauty.
An adjoining area that Johnny Morris has also developed is called Dogwood Canyon, where families could spend a wonderful day, because there are trails for biking, hiking, walking, or for seniors, a wildlife tram tour that took us on a two hour trip to wind around the canyon. When we crossed the Arkansas border on our private jeep tour, we mingled with herds of American bison, elk, and Texas longhorn, which is such a thrill to see them in their natural habitat. We even could glimpse from comfortable distance a newborn elk . People of all ages can enjoy the area, whether it be by horseback riding or fishing or just enjoying the restaurants and scenery that he has provided in this area. They even had Segway tours through the Dogwood canyons or self-guided tours which allows everyone to explore the miles of paved and rugged trails at their own pace. Bikes were available or people could bring their own bikes to provide an invigorating ride in this beautiful area.
caption: Seeing elk, bison and Texas Longhorn at Dogwood Canyon park was an interesting sight.
Of course, for people like us who love the game of golf, getting to play at Johnny Morris’ Payne’s Valley course which he had designed by Tiger Woods and the TGR design firm is a special golf experience. Again I can tell you that the beauty of nature is what is so spectacular whether you’re playing golf or doing any other activity, but the Payne’s Valley course is challenging, beautiful, and especially notable because of its 19th hole. At the 19th hole spectators can watch while you are given just one ball to try to hit across the water to an island green. It was a little daunting for me, a senior golfer to try to hit and show off to the gallery spectators that an old lady could hit the ball and try to make that island but miraculously I made it over the water but alas, it went into the guarding sand trap. Obviously that was an exciting experience. One will never forget the clapping of the surprised onlookers, and the staff taking your picture. After you hit the ball, you may go to the island and finish it or with your golf cart, drive through an amazing area among the walls of rock that are striated into many colors and even drive through a cave before you get to the clubhouse. It was an exciting and challenging bumpy narrow path along the rocky cliffs to finish off a day of wonderful golf.
caption: Payne’s Valley Golf Course’s 19th hole challenged golfers to hit island green with just one ball attempt. If beauty of nature is not your thing, Branson has many other activities you can enjoy and places to visit. They have a very unique aquarium which is new that had many experiences like being able to touch a miniature sting ray called a skate . A new attraction is a new techno-tainment, interactive adventure called Beyond the Lens which had scavenger hunts, escape challenges, ball pits and virtual reality adventures for all ages which are interactive. They even had a virtual fly ride that takes you across spectacular sites of America, which I found fascinating to view in my comfortable seat, which rocked as we soared all around the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, the Golden Gate Bridge and New York City. This was something very unusual I thought as an adventure which could be enjoyed by all ages. One could spend half a day inside if they tried all the games set up to play.
caption: Touching skates at Branson Aquarium Seeing exhibits at Beyond the Lens attraction
For entertainment at night there is more than you could ever think you could see on a vacation. We saw the typical Legends in Concert lineup of musicians and actors imitating your favorite stars. We also saw the traditional western country music shows put on by families that span three generations of entertaining Branson tourists called the Heywoods or the Baldknobbers. Even China has a musical show called the Chinese Shanghai Acrobats there and cspping off our last night in town, we were mystified by the visual magic of illusionist Reza.
caption: Entertainment at Branson’s many theatres featuring musical shows at its many theatres in town
And of course, we ladies had to shop as no matter how big or small the town seems to be, and we found a true gem in a local boutique QUEEN ELIZABETH, where former school teacher owner Elizabeth Fletcher has fashionable ensembles suitable for any locations, whether it be Branson, New York, Hollywood or Las Vegas. She actually has a Royal Family of 2 other boutiques in town to keep all the women in the area well-groomed and attractive. So as I said, the little town of Branson has something for everyone’s liking and taste.
caption: Lynn Berry welcomes us to Branson. Grand Glitz owner Elizabeth Fletcher has unique fashion boutique
Thanks to Lynn Berry, Director of Communications for the Branson/Lakes area. Chamber of Commerce, we got to see it all because she directed us to all the different unique new adventures that Branson now has to offer visitors. A true native of the area, Lynn is the inveterate lover and knowledgeable lady of this Branson area.
caption: Visiting St. Louis, Missouri’s famed Gateway Arch is an exciting ride
Only drawback to venturing to Branson, MO is there are no direct flights so we went through St. Louis where of course, we had to try ascending its tall circular arch which is probably the signature attraction of the city. Got to meet noted author Ed Shew whose book Chinese Brothers Frontier Americans which tells of the adventures of two immigrant Chinese pioneer brothers and is fascinating reading. He took us to a Vietnamese restaurant owned by a local TV chef, and directed us to explore the city’s landmark botanical garden with its Chihuly glass exhibit in the gardens.
caption: Author Ed Shew welcomed us to St. Louis and directed us to Botanical Garden’s Chihuly exhibit and his favorite restaurants
As I’ve always told you all, there is something notable and interesting in every city in our great United States, so if you’re not quite ready to get on a plane to other continents due to covid carefulness, there are plenty of wonderful places to visit in your own country, state and region to explore.
CALIFORNIA HERE WE COME…..
Right in our own backyard, the city of Santa Cruz is, of course, known for its beaches, fishing and popular wharf. But George Ow Jr., a native son, gave us a new perspective when he took us through the area of the Chinatown where he was raised. Raised there in the 1940s, he loves reminiscing about growing up in a simple way of family life of immigrant families and lonely bachelors who had left China for better lives in America.
caption: George Ow Jr. proudly shows us his Chinatown Memorial Dragon Arch located near a former Chinatown
Not wanting his forefathers and the Chinatown that was destroyed by a devastating flood in the 1950s to be forgotten, George has worked with the City to erect a beautiful Chinatown Memorial Dragon Archway adjacent to where his Chinatown once stood. It adjoins a pedestrian bridge now named the Chinatown Bridge which also has plaques telling of the history of the Chinese who settled in Santa Cruz over eight decades ago. George tells us he has also helped place markers in the local cemetery to commemorate those brave Chinese immigrants who came to Santa Cruz as far back as the turn of the Century.
caption: Ow points out plaques memorializing the area where Chinese immigrants once established Santa Cruz Chinatown
George Ow Jr.’s uncle, professional photographer, George Lee, amazingly chronicled photos of many of those people who resided in that Santa Cruz Chinatown of long ago, which was put into a book by his descendants and family called CHINATOWN DREAMS. It is a wonderful pictorial album telling of two families who settled in Santa Cruz and Monterey County, where pictures are better than 1000 words. For history buffs, take a drive to Santa Cruz next time you’re in Northern California to visit the bridge, archway and envision a simple Chinatown that once stood very near to the now popular Trade Joe’s parking lot today in downtown Santa Cruz. See…. I told you, exciting adventures are everywhere, near or far.
FINDING THE HEART OF SAN FRANCISCO
Even though there is forever talk about the poor state San Francisco is in, due to its homeless and crime-stricken reputation, it is still a city with many pleasures to be found. The San Francisco Opera celebrated its centennial season with a new co-production of MADAME BUTTRFLY at its beautiful War Memorial Opera house this month. The new staging, a co-production with The Tokyo Nikikai Opera Foundation, featured the costumes designed by the late fashion icon Kenzo Takada, founder of the global brand and fashion house KENZO.
It was nice to see Asian performers in the major roles of Madame Butterfly this time. Korean Soprano Karah Son made her company debut as the unforgettable title heroine Cio-Cio-San. Mezzo Soprano Hyone Kim played Cio-Cio-San’s confidant servant Suzuki. Music Director Eun Sun Kim, new to the company, received well deserved applause at the conclusion of the opera. So music wise, stay close to home and enjoy the upcoming season which San Francisco Opera Company will offer, as well as the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra concerts which plays across the street at the beautiful Louise Davies theatre. For upcoming Opera Season: www.SFOpera.com.
Hope this starts you thinking of a wanderlust path this summer because someone once said, travel is the elixir of life – and I totally agree. Sayonara and Bon voyage!