Sunday, July 31, 2011

More Little Travels

I’m sure it says an awful lot about my life that I’ve been so itchy for travel these days. In part, it reflects my summer reading, including Teale’s Journey into Summer and Graham Greene’s Travels with My Aunt.

But here in Central Missouri, this hottest part of summer presents us with another kind of “cabin fever,” analogous to the kind we experience in the icy-cold winter months.

So yesterday we took another little in-state road trip, in part on a quest to check out some restaurants that have been “on my list.” But mainly, just to enjoy a change of scenery and see something new.

East on 50, North on N

From Jeff, we headed east on Highway 50, through Linn, Missouri, home of “Linn Tech” and possibly one of Missouri’s narrowest towns (check it out on a satellite view—it’s basically a widening of Highway 50, which is its Main Street; at most the town is about two blocks “wide”).

We turned north at Freedom onto Missouri Route N in Osage County and continued through Ryors to Hope. How about that! We went through Freedom and Hope in about fifteen minutes’ drive!

That area there—Route N and Route J, and the land between those roads and the Gasconade—is really pretty and makes for a nice drive.

Pershing and Hop’s Hideaway

Our first stop was at Pershing, Missouri, a community that you simply don’t arrive at “by accident.” It’s in Gasconade County, at the end of Highway OO (double letters = extra small). Imagine a town situated at a dead end! (Well, the roadway splits and continues as two gravel county roads.)

I’d heard about a restaurant there called Hop’s Hideaway. According to a man we talked to once at a church supper at Bonnot’s Mill, Hop’s Hideaway is a hidden treasure, absolutely worth checking out. The buzz online about it is pretty good, too.

From what I’d gathered, the restaurant was pretty remote and kind of “backwoods”; I’m not sure what gave me the impression, but I had the idea it was in a low area, off in the bushes or something. But it’s nothing at all like that.

Pershing, the town, is perched on a ridge and has marvelous views of farmland to the north and south. Hop’s Hideaway is right on the side of the road, with a sign and everything. It’s in an old store of some kind—maybe a hardware store, or a grocery—one of the few storefronts that was probably ever in Pershing.

Pershing, by the way, has an interesting place-name history. It was named in 1921 for General John J. Pershing, the great commander of American troops in World War I. Originally, however, the town’s name was Potsdam, a name transplanted fondly from the Old World by the Germans who settled the area.

(Robert Ramsay, in Our Storehouse of Missouri Place Names, points out that Wilson Avenue in Columbia was once called Keyser Avenue—after a family with English roots, no less—but “Keyser” was too close to Germany for comfort, and patriotic Teutoniphobes changed the name. Ramsay mentions his relief that efforts to rename sauerkraut as “liberty cabbage” were unsuccessful. I feel the same way about more recent attempts to rename french fries.)

What’s Pershing today? A very small town with an awesome view. A place completely off the beaten path. A town where several old buildings are crumbling, where you can take a lot of neat photographs of decrepitude.

But it’s also a place, we noted, where several of the homes had many hummingbird feeders and purple martin boxes. We saw lots of pretty flowers—hollyhocks, zinnias, that sort of thing—growing in the hot sunshine and smiling.

We parked in a gravel lot next to Hop’s Hideaway and admired the view across the roadway. How far could we see? Northward, at least a couple miles to the hills on the other side of the Gasconade. It was so refreshing, compared to going to restaurants in the city, where the scene out the front window is constant traffic and passersby.

And there was no traffic. As we stood in the parking lot, a young girl emerged from the side door of Hop’s. (We would later realize the side door is where everyone goes in and out—not the front door, which is the door we used, being ignorant strangers from out of town.) She started absent-mindedly pitching rocks from the driveway toward the blacktop and soon approached us and asked us where we had come from.

We certainly weren’t from Pershing! We chatted a bit and learned that she lives in Hermann but was vacationing with her grandma in Pershing. She said she really loved it there; she loved the quiet atmosphere and the friendliness of the people. And she had discovered Elvis Presley via her grandma’s record collection! She seemed to know every soul in town.

I’ll save an “official” review of Hop’s for later, when we’ve had a chance to visit it again and really sample the menu. As it was only late afternoon, we weren’t very hungry yet, so we just had some onion rings and beers. (Don’t worry, folks, I had a Busch N/A, but it tasted more or less like a beer. I was glad to see they offered an n/a option besides soda and milk and stuff.)

So no review for now—but let me briefly say that it was fun to get there, and relaxing to be there, and we didn’t regret the trip for a minute, even if just for libation.

But we weren’t done yet. We backtracked to J and to N and continued north on N. (By the way, y’all, there’s another fun restaurant called “The River’s Edge,” a little north of Pershing, off of J, at the “burg” of Fredericksburg, which is right on the Gasconade. But we didn’t go there yesterday. But someday I’ll get around to “reviewing” that place, too!)

Following the Missouri

So, north on N to Highway 100. Now, if you’re not familiar with these east-west routes, Highways 50 and 100 both run basically parallel to the Missouri River, both on the south side of the river. Highway 50 is farther south of the river and is more of a beeline; Highway 100 is a curvy-windy route that is more scenic.

Once we got to 100, we continued east on it, through the town of Gasconade, which is on the Gasconade, and then we crossed over the Gasconade. Highway 100 then angles northeast to Hermann (which seemed lousy with tourists), where we got on Highway 19 to cross over the Missouri on that new-fangled, wide Christopher Bond bridge (which lacks the, um, drama of the old Hermann bridge—but then I creak with age, so what do I know).

We weren’t on 19 for long, because just a little north of the river we turned onto Missouri 94, which is a lot like Highway 100, just on the north side of the river. It’s scenic, too. In fact, just beyond Pinckney, almost halfway to Treloar, there’s a place where 94 gets within feet of the river’s edge.

Our destination? Marthasville.


To be quite honest, I don’t know much about Marthasville, except that it is the home of one of Missouri’s—and possibly the nation’s—top heritage festivals, Deutsch Country Days, held every October (in 2011, it will be on October 15 and 16). We don’t hear much about Deutsch Country Days here in Central Missouri because it draws heavily from St. Louis and doesn’t need to advertise much to the small fry in Mid-Mo.

Outside of that, I’m truly ignorant about Marthasville—it’s on the Katy Trail, it’s small, it’s got some neat old buildings, it’s north of Washington . . . and Daniel Boone is or was buried just southeast of Marthasville, and the marker there is something to see.

There aren’t many restaurants in town—three, maybe. One of them, however, was the entire reason we’d aimed our car for Marthasville in the first place: Philly’s Pizza, which is currently rated by Urbanspoon as one of the top restaurants in the whole state.

Well, again—I’ll save Philly’s for a separate post, but overall, yeah, I can totally see why people are so excited about the place. Considering that the local grain elevator is right across the street from it, this restaurant’s pizzas—made with local ingredients from veggies to meats, by the way—are pretty damned good. Which shows you that “awesome pizzas” don’t always come from a dirty city with cars, taxis, and brusque people whooshing by.

By the time we left Philly’s, it was dark and time to head home. To make the drive as easy and quick as possible, we drove south on Highway 47, which included the current detour between Marthasville and the river (MoDOT—“bridge maintenance” at Tuque Creek). The detour would have been scenic if it hadn’t been dark!

Really, the drive home—south through Washington and then west via Highway 50 all the way home to Jeff—was pretty uneventful, except that we were pulled over twice by highway patrol officers.


Well, my left headlight must have gone out sometime after Rosebud! The second patrol officer, in Linn, told me to just drive with my bright lights on. So if you were out driving on Highway 50 last night and were annoyed by my glaring lights, I apologize, but the Law told me to do it!

So, it was a pretty good little trip for an afternoon and evening, and just as we’d had to trouble finding adventure, we had no trouble getting to sleep.

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