Getting to Versailles and Montreal

It’s well-documented that men and women approach travel quite differently. In fact, scientifically, it all stems from our cavemen ancestors.

About a gazillion generations ago, our forefathers (and foremothers) took trips; some for fun, like family outings to see the tar pits; others for necessity (when incredibly large sheets of ice began moving in their general direction). Either way, when these early humans decided to hit the road, preparations were gender specific, much like today. Cavemen wrote elaborate cave pictographs of how they would get there, complete with lines and arrows and images of fleeing animals; while the cavewomen gathered the food, prepared the food, packed the food, tossed in extra hides, made sure the family mastodon was fed, and rolled the stone over the doorway before they left.

My husband is definitely a product of his ancestors. He plans our trips by making a highlighted, well-documented, mile-by-mile visual of how to get to our destinations. He additionally makes sure we have gas in the tank. I pack the food and water, toss in extra coats, feed the dog, and lock the doors as we leave.

It’s important to note that we live in the middle of Missouri, in Columbia to be exact. For all our journeys begin from here. It’s also important to note there are two main highways that crisscross Columbia for traveling both north/south and east/west: respectively, highway 63 and highway 70, which we will always use to leave town. With our destination today, Montreal and Versailles, located south and west of us, either route would have sufficed, and both require crossing the Missouri River. As the longest river in the US, thick and dark, it originates in Montana in the Rocky Mountains, flows through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and then snakes across Missouri from east to west, meandering a bit before heading south around St Louis.

About 10 minutes west of Columbia, we pass over the Missouri River, also known as the Big Muddy on the Rocheport Bridge built in 1960, which arches high above us like a turtle’s back. On the other side, an immense flood plain spreads out before us with large lakes flanking the highway. These are leftovers from the flood of 1993, one of the most devastating floods in recent times. We climb out of the low lying area and reach Boonville about 10 minutes later.

Boonville is thought to be named after the sons of Daniel Boone, who started a salt company in the early 1800’s. However, today the city’s rich history is masked somewhat by the money-making Isle of Capri riverboat casino. The highway only skirts Boonville however, and soon we take a left turn on highway 5 South.

5 South is a beautiful two-lane ribbon which meanders through country dotted with crumbling silos, falling down barns, and various ramshackle homes and out-buildings. This road is truly for people who enjoy the country and want to get away from pretty much everything, like gas stations, places to stay, and food of any kind.

Not long after leaving 70 we encounter a road sign for the town of “Speed”. Now I know every US state has its share of odd, even humorous names, but in a contest, I’d put my money on Missouri any day of the week. Case in point – PeculiarHumansville and Frankenstein – beat that. So I wasn’t all that surprised to see “Speed”. But as we whoosh by I wonder how they came up with the name. Was it an indication of how fast everyone passes, or a clue to the town’s drug of choice? Either way, I kind of wish I was from there; talk about a conversation starter.

For the next 11 miles or so, there is little to report as the road twists in and out of low hills resembling a child’s chalk drawing. But then, we see a sign for Ravenswood House. I’m curious, but we are on a tight schedule so we keep going. But later, I discover this little out of the way tourist attraction is pretty unique. For just $5 you can step back into 1800’s and wander through 30 fully furnished rooms featuring items and clothing from all over the world. As a Missouri native I am always astounded to discover these hidden treasures in my own backyard. I make a mental note to return someday.

About 21 miles from Boonville, we hit Syracuse and turn left on highway 50 East (aka Highway 5/50/135). Four miles later we come to Tipton, which is not one of the towns we will be visiting. But it’s worth noting and stopping through…to see the water tower. Yes, the water tower. It’s painted like a giant 8 Ball, originally due to the influence of a local pool table company. But then again, does it predict your future if you shake it hard enough? Something to ponder.

Just past the Crazy Taco, highway 5 takes an abrupt right turn. It’s important to note that older highways were often the life blood of many small towns, bringing in visitors that would never have stopped there otherwise. And so most have gas stations, Dew Drop Inns and a smattering of local restaurants. Unfortunately, the popularity of super highways, which skirt around so many of these quaint locales, is slowly drying up business in these communities. And, it’s a shame for travelers as well, who miss experiencing these diamonds in the rough.

Next Blog: Palace of Versailles?

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