May is an exceptionally fine time to travel in Missouri. Not too hot, not too cold, and with the kids still in school, the summer glut of cars has not yet materialized, so the byways are easy to navigate.
For our trip to Lebanon, I drive up and meet Paul once he gets off work in Jefferson City. Jeff is only about 1/2 hour from Columbia, so it’s probably the best thing to do, but I’m not particularly happy; even though I know Paul is probably right – that it would be silly for him to drive back and get me, then turn around and drive back the same way. But I can’t just let this go (its my nature) and so somewhat under my breath, I mention that when we were dating, his desire to impress me would have motivated him to make the sacrifice without a blink of an eye. He sweetly reminds me that this is no longer necessary (since we’ve been married over 30 years), and I can drive and have my own car. I have nothing further to say…for now.
We drop off his car at a friend’s house in Holt’s Summit, just a few miles east of Jefferson City. Following many thanks and a long drawn out good-bye we get back on the road, soon crossing over the Missouri River into Jefferson City. If you’ve never been to Jeff, the view coming over the bridge is spectacular. The river is wide here, smooth and shiny in the late afternoon light, and several barges, either docked or slowly moving with the current, dot the surface. Beneath the bridge, on the far side which rises sharply above the water, train tracks hug the bank and a freight train chugs toward Sedalia and further west to Kansas City.
But, as always I’m captivated by the almost surreal city-scape dominated by what many people swear is the most beautiful capital building they have ever seen. And frankly I agree. I won’t go into details now because this post is about getting to Lebanon. But the structure is exactly what you think every capital building should look like from the outside, and a feast for the eyes once you step over the threshold. Let me just leave you with this passing thought – phenomenal domed ceiling.
But it’s getting late and so we must be getting on before it gets too dark.
We take 54 south toward Eldon, which many people consider the entryway to the Lake of the Ozarks. The Lake, as this region is known by the natives is Missouri’s summer playground, taking up a considerable part of the state. With 55,000 acres of water, 1500 miles of jagged, cove-embedded shorelines, its the largest man-made lake in the Mid-West. And quite popular for summer homes (cabin/house/mansion). We don’t have one – but work hard to make friends with people who do.
Outside of Eldon as we cross White Creek. I see a sign for Bad Donkey Tattoo Company. If I ever get a tattoo (like never), honestly, I must get it there.
Before long we roll into Ozark Missouri, known for it’s outlet stores. For the last few miles, billboard after billboard have enticed us to visit these cheaper versions of the real things. We’ve stopped in many times before, picked up a few “bargains” and left happier I’m sure. But today, there’s no time. Personally, not being a marathon shopper like some people I know, I’ve always been more impressed with the Relax Inn Motel down the street and the Lake Galleon Unique Treasures (tourist) shop with it’s enormous palm trees and life-size octopus sculpture – two things that are rarely seen in Missouri and provide great photo-ops.
Just four miles to Camdenton, the highway takes a series of dips and dives. The road also cuts through hills exposing layers of sandwiched rock, perhaps thousands or millions of years old. The soil is richer, darker, redder down here, and the effect is amazing! Between the bluffs are stretches of grassy plains, clumps of deciduous trees or both. Overall, the landscape is a rainbow of green, every shade and hue, blended here, contrasted there. I stare out the window and forget to write – but it’s worth it. For I know too soon, around August, the sun will suck all the moisture out and the colors will become a monotone straw-like yellow.
At Camdenton we look forward to the Big Red Barn – another tourist trap and landmark. It’s noteworthy because not only does it have “fudge” but numerous signs painted on the sides scream, “Blow Out Sales!” We like this – we also like fudge. Additionally we forward to the reaching the Big Red Barn for it signals the turn off to highway 5 to Lebanon.
But today, we get nothing but disappointment. The highway department, in it’s infinite wisdom to make travel easier and quicker for travelers to the Lake have rerouted the road. (Obviously it’s been a while since we’ve been in this neck of the woods). Now the passerby misses the Big Red Barn altogether.
Candy-starved, we look longingly in the rear-view mirror and dream of better days. And make a mental note to turn off prior to the new section of road next time we come this way.
Next entry: Lebanon