Monday, September 14, 2009

Gallatin, Missouri, Part 1

While the fastest cyclists in the world were touring Missouri this week, we did our own mini Tour of Missouri ourselves. Nooo, silly, not on bikes, but with my car. And this is why I haven’t been posting as often as usual. Plus, now that we spent a week out driving the wheels off my car, I’m behind with work, with groceries and other errands, with mowing the yard, well . . . with darn near everything. So I hope you’ll bear with some lateness and lameness.

We really did follow the cyclists, seeing them every day except for Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday, they rode into Jeff City for a finish. Friday was the time trial in Sedalia (yes, and it was fascinating to watch). Yesterday was the final race, in Kansas City, and we saw them ride repeatedly around the curvy and hilly Liberty Memorial area as they rode circuits all the way to the river downtown and back.

But I want to talk about Saturday. We tried to make it to Chillicothe in time to see them start, but we underestimated how long it would take to drive there. We were still en route at 1 p.m., when the race started. So with Sue looking at the map and performing mental calculations of our route, mileage still to go, and speed, and those same projections for the riders, we determined that we should be able to make it to Gallatin before they arrived in that small town.

And we just barely made it!

And like the racers do, once our rushing and speeding was over, the kickin’ back and enjoyin’-the-day began.

Gallatin, Missouri: The seat of beautiful Daviess County; a town with a four-way stop.

The scene on the town square was already set up when we arrived: A forest of U.S. flags planted in the earth by the courthouse swayed in the breeze, and the sun blazed on the dusty downtown as kids, their folks, and the older folks all gathered along plastic police tape to see the spectacle.

A van with loudspeakers preceded the racers along with the early contingent of cop cars and motorcycles. The van hesitated while one of the occupants announced what was going to happen. “I want everyone here to say ‘whoosh’ on the count of three: One, two, three . . .”

And everyone dutifully called out “Whoosh!”

The announcer then explained: “Okay, that’s just about the same time it will take for the riders to go through here!” (He then reminded everyone to stay out of the street, and so on.)

And then the racers came through, smooth like quicksilver but made of all muscles, tendons, bones, their sunglasses and helmets, their jerseys, their bikes, their tanned skin all shining.

Of course, it was amazing to see them; it always is. Their average speed that day was about 28 or 30 mph, I think.

But I’m sorry that I didn’t skip the view of the racers this time and focus on the faces of the people—like ol’ farmer Clem over there next to a vacant storefront. Or the three kids we saw later on, as they pedaled their bikes around the quiet sidewalks of the town square, their bike-enthusiasm switched completely on by the race.

It didn’t take much time for the streets and sidewalks to empty; the true cycling fanatics sped off to catch the stage finish in St. Joseph. And the locals stopped at the Farm Bureau tent for free hot dogs and watermelon slices or else just went straight back to whatever they were doing.

The whole place just cleared out. Saturday afternoon.

We wandered around, though. Plenty of beautiful, stately buildings down there, now vacant, needing attention, capital, a business, a market. It made me sad to see what looked like dilapidation in progress.

But as we walked and took pictures, we did feel a steady pulse, and I want to share that with you.

The first person we spoke to was standing in front of a striking mustard-yellow storefront, which appeared to hold the town’s only fine dining establishment, Seasons on the Square. We chatted about the bike race and about Gallatin in general, and about how the Tour of Missouri is great for tourism, particularly in shining the spotlight on smaller towns that could really use some publicity.

Or as I put it, “St. Louis and Kansas City are used to hosting national and world-class sporting events; but when was the last time Belle, Missouri, had the opportunity to be seen by a worldwide crowd of any type?”

We ended up going inside the restaurant to continue our conversation—the lady, Sheryl Warren, is the owner of Seasons, and she explained that she’s a nineteen-year resident of the area. She’s also a schoolteacher. (How about that! Two jobs!)

The restaurant wasn’t near opening yet (they would open at five), but I did get a chance to tell her I was impressed by her menu and wine list. Seasons offers a nice variety of Missouri-made wines as well as some other types for people who . . . just haven’t met the right Missouri wine for them yet.

The menu features appetizers of bruschetta, artichoke and white cheese dip, and something called a “portabella boat,” which is a grilled portabella cap topped with their signature artichoke and white cheese dip.

The entrees include chicken breasts stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and basil and topped with marinara; grilled portabellas; smoked, grilled pork chops; flank steak; ribeye; grilled sea bass with a honey-lime glaze served on a vegetable mélange; sautéed, herbed shrimp tossed with angel hair pasta; and an ahi tuna steak.

Each entree comes with fresh-baked bread, a choice of dinner salad or soup, and a choice of one side. The entree prices range from ten to twenty dollars.

Sides include baked sweet or Irish potato, garlic mashed potatoes, baked steak fries, and a vegetable of the day. You can get a grilled chicken salad with chicken that’s been marinated in a Cabernet vinaigrette.

There’s a chicken sandwich and a half-pound sirloin burger, plus a children’s menu, too.

There’s a nice view of the lovely courthouse, and in case you haven’t picked up on it yet, the owner is friendly and great to talk to. Even before it was open for customers, the place had a good vibe because of her enthusiasm and sincerety.

Since I haven’t eaten a single bite at this restaurant, I can’t do any real kind of review of it, but I can tell you that the place looks great, comfortable, upscale without being snooty, and I guarantee you that the next time we’re in that neck of the woods, we’ll give it a try. And I encourage you to do the same.

Seasons on the Square
105 North Main
Gallatin, Mo. 64640

PS: I’m not the only one who’s noticed Seasons on the Square. See here for more information!


Gallatin MO Chamber of Commerce said...

What a well written post! We are glad you enjoyed your visit to Gallatin. Stop by again soon.

Julianna Schroeder said...

Thank you! Missouri is full of great towns like Gallatin, and it's my pleasure to offer one small voice in Internet-land promoting our backroads coolness.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Julianna for you kinds words.
I enjoyed our visit that day and do hope you are "in the neck of the woods" sometime soon.

Sheryl Warren
Seasons on the Square, Gallatin

Julianna Schroeder said...

Hi, Sheryl, I'm *glad* to say nice things about your place! It's the kind of restaurant little towns like Gallatin aren't "supposed" to have. Fine, fresh cuisine in small towns breaks the stereotype, and it sorely tempts big-city types to take a break from their urban/suburban cocoons, roll the windows down, and get some fresh country air.

Since the Tour of Missouri has been cancelled, I suppose we certainly will make a trip *just* to visit Seasons on the Square.

Okay . . . and Jamesport looks like fun, and Poosey Conservation Area would have a lot to interest me, and I know Sue would love to explore around Lock Springs photographing the old buildings!

There is a lot of interesting stuff in your "neck of the woods"!