I typically have a fantastic experience in small, out of the way places. The best fish I’ve ever eaten in Houma, Louisiana. The surprising mural behind a chicken restaurant in Huntsville, Texas. The phenomenal singing voice of the hotel desk lady in San Simeon, California. Big cities are great, but small towns will always surprise you. Which is why, when I was handed tickets to Missouri and a mission to find 5 stories there, I was all for it.
The stories, well, I’ll get to those. They were great, and I was really happy with all of them. But when we weren’t shooting, me and my cameraman Mark Fuller had such a fun time. Some of the highlights of our trip to Missouri include:
Lambert’s: Home of Throwed rolls.
That’s right, throwed rolls. It’s a restaurant in Ozark MO where you eat chicken fried steaks and roast beef to your heart’s content, and it’s cooked expertly, and it’s served rocket fast. And, a server walks around chucking bread rolls at whoever needs one. There are also servers walking around with buckets of extra food – mac and cheese, roasted potatoes – ready to dump some onto your plate in case your meal wasn’t massive enough. Oh, and drinks only come in one size – which happens to be the size of your head. But you get free refills!
I’ve wanted to see Branson since that old Simpsons episode where Bart says “Dad says it’s like Vegas – if it were run by Ned Flanders.” And while it lacked the sheer magnitude of Vegas, it definitely didn’t disappoint – especially once we stumbled upon Wild Woody’s, the legendary twisted wooden go-kart course. After going around that course a few times – and almost losing all the food we’d eaten at Lambert’s – we saw the hype. Highlights include a to-scale replica of the Titanic, complete with fake iceberg and a fountain representing the leak.
The world’s largest Bass Pro Shop
When we landed Springfield Missouri, I hadn’t even left the airport before someone had asked if I was heading to the Bass Pro Shop. I, of course, hadn’t really planned on it, since I’ve never been to the one close to home, why go to one in Missouri? Oh, only because it’s the world’s first AND the world’s largest. It’s got alligator tanks, hilarious clothing choices, a food section, several kinds of camouflage crib bedding, a whole lot of Duck Dynasty gear AND the NRA’s museum, right inside, with a metric ton of guns and even a banister made out of old rifles, because, America.
This is one I’ve wanted to do for a while, and while driving the whole stretch is still on my bucket list, the chunk of Route 66 between Springfield and the Kansas border definitely gave me a taste of the amazing sights to see along the way. At first, Mark and I just stopped to take pictures at the various old buildings we’d pass, but then, we met Gary, of Gary’s Gay Parita. We stopped just to check out the place, and Gary was kind enough to offer us a root beer and share a story or two about life on Route 66. He also introduced us to his very strange head mechanic, Earl.
He also gave us tips on where we should go as we continued on, and the most memorable, magical place of all was Red Oak II, Missouri, a small town that had fallen into ruin in World War 2, until it was carefully moved and restored to its original grandeur – each building, each car, from the cemetery to the Blacksmith’s house. We could have spent hours here wandering around.
So, thank you Missouri, for being a delightful surprise. I have no idea if I’ll ever be back there, but if I do, I’ll definitely look forward to it.