My 20th Anniversary Journey — O. Henry, the Frontier, and the Land of Oz

Four our 20th Anniversary my wife wanted to go to the Land of Oz.   So I went to Travelocity and the little gnome made us some reservations (I would have preferred a munchkin but I’m not a complainer) and before we could say “Come here Toto!” we were off to see the wizard.

We stopped half way in Greensboro and stayed at the O. Henry Hotel.  Hands down the finest hotel I’ve ever stayed in.  Best service, most beautiful lobby, and best breakfast ever.  When I walked through the lobby at 9 PM that evening (I had to run to the car to get something for my wife), the person behind the counter said, “Good evening Mr. Mitchell — is everything okay?  Can I help you with anything?”  “No thank you,” I said, shocked she knew my name.  Outside I found a white-gloved bellhop humming softly and polishing the brass handrails.  at 9 PM.  The O. Henry is about details.

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The next day we stopped in Boone, NC and visited Hickory Ridge Living History Museum.  It was too early in the season to have any blacksmiths, farmers or craftsmen re-enacting anything, but it was still fun to tour the cabins.  I love frontier stuff.  As many of you know I’m studying Frontier Rough & Tumble Martial Arts under Mark Hatmaker and hope to launch an FRT program perhaps as early as next year.

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Later that day we arrived at our mountain lodge — 4 Seasons Resort in Beech Mountain.  Nothing fancy, but they got the job done.  Clean and comfortable but the A/C was no good (thank heaven it got down to 60 at night and we didn’t spend much time there anyway).

The next day we got the heck out of Kansas entered the Land of Oz.  The story of this place is too complex and interesting for me to do it justice but here’s the nutshell version: The Land of Oz theme park opened in 1970.  But a serious fire and economic crunch of the Energy Crisis put the park out of business in 1980.  After that, vandalism, weather and partial sale of the property took its toll.  But in the late ’90s interest re-surged.  The park, now a quarter of its original size, is now under renovation.  It’s only open on Fridays in the month of June and one Weekend later in the year for Autumn at Oz.

I didn’t have high hopes going in, but they shocked me.  When Dorothy — who to my astonishment sang every bit as well as Judy Garland! — went over the wagon and started singing Over the Rainbow I was misty-eyed and profoundly moved.  And when she went skipping down the yellow brick road and I watched 35 children and adults, including yours truly, go skipping after her, I got chills.   Was the one hour tour worth $25/person?  For a fan of the movie, you darned tootin’.

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My wife and I have had some fun trips in our 20 years of marriage.  But this one was a tie with New Orleans as our most fun trip ever!

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