Fastest route not always best; a Branson travelogue

Published 9:11 am Saturday, June 27, 2015

School’s out and that long-anticipated vacation season is here. My husband, Jerry, and I have just returned from a week in Branson, Mo., and I thought I’d pass along information I learned. If you’re considering Branson as your destination, be aware that no matter what route you take to get there, it is a long way from Andalusia!

Perhaps your goal is to get there the quickest, shortest route, and that likely would be through Memphis. If that is your choice, the best route is to go up I-65 to Fultondale, and go West on U.S. Hwy. 78. From Memphis you will take US Hwy. 63 N. through Jonesboro and to Hardy, Ark.

This is a good, four-lane highway that will take you through a lot of farmland and rice fields on both sides of the road. In Hardy, you will turn onto U.S. Hwy. 62/412 E. If you enjoy shopping in a quaint, arts and crafts sort of places, then plan to stop here. The road from Hardy will take you to Harrison, Ark., and is a pleasant, scenic drive through the Ozark Mountain range. Arriving in Harrison, you will turn north onto U.S. Hwy. 65, a good, four-lane highway that will take you straight into Branson in about 25-30 miles.

Traffic is Memphis is almost indescribable to us small town folks, and if you don’t have a GPS, then make sure you have specific driving directions to get you through. If extremely heavy, fast traffic bothers you, or if you are nervous about driving in such circumstances, then perhaps another route should be your choice.

Jerry and I chose to take a more leisurely journey to Branson, but turns out our trip was only a little over 700 miles, and we traveled two days. Our chosen route took us to Greenville to Ala., to Meridian, Miss., which is about 3.5 hours away. In Meridian, we “picked up” I-20 to Vicksburg, a distance of about 170 miles.

I had always wanted to see Vicksburg and I thought this would be my best opportunity. It is an old town with brick streets and is situated on the banks of the Mississippi River. We got off the main road and traversed through the main street of town, literally ending at the river. If was a hot, lazy Saturday afternoon, and the scenic old town appeared sleepy in the hot, humid air. We crossed the river there on one of the oldest bridges across this mighty river and immediately turned northward onto U.S. Hwy. 65 in northern Louisiana.

We traveled parallel to the river through flat, river bottom lands where fields of corn and soybeans were almost all you could see on either side of the highway for probably a hundred miles. It was an awesome sight to see fields so big that you could not see the end. U.S. Hwy. 65 is a major north-south corridor from just south of Vicksburg to Des Moines, Iowa. This route took us through Pine Bluff and Little Rock, and all the way to Branson.

Driving northward from Little Rock through Conway, we began to climb into the foothills of the Ozarks. The remainder of the trip was very scenic, and the road was good all the way. You will arrive in Branson at U.S. Hwy. 76, better known locally as “The Strip” or “Country Boulevard.”

You’ve probably guessed by now we did not enjoy the ride through or around Memphis. It’s just not for old folks who are not travel savvy!!

In closing, I would suggest that you plan your route carefully. Sometimes the shortest distance is not the best, and is not always the fastest way.

Carolyn Wilson