The last two days in Columbia, Missouri have been work days. That being said, I made sure to maximize my time when I’m not in the office, and as I hoped I’ve been able to visit some of the small towns around here and experience a bit more of Columbia itself. Here are some highlights!
I can’t resist a good diner, so when I saw a tiny one in the center of town it became #1 on my list of places to visit. I went there for lunch on Wednesday, and boy was it good! The Broadway Diner has been around in some form or fashion since 1949. Their signature dish is called “The Stretch” – which is: hash browns topped with scrambled eggs, chili, cheddar cheese, green peppers and onions. It even has an upgrade that douses the whole thing in gravy and bacon. I opted for something less debilitating and enjoyed it nonetheless. It was interesting to see the young college crowd and the old timers co-mingling so seamlessly. Several nights a week are 24-hr affairs; I’m sure they’ve seen it all.
After work, I drove west. I’d discovered an abandoned truss bridge on Google Maps several weeks ago, and after a 35 minute drive I stood on the wooden deck of the Imhoff Bridge. It was built over the Lamine River, near the town of Blackwater, in 1908. It was closed in 2013 due to safety concerns and has remained closed much to the chagrin of local farm traffic. The deck was still in good shape, so I crossed and took photos. As I made the return trip across the slats, I just froze. I don’t know what it was specifically, but I was suddenly aware of my height above the river. It wasn’t anything unusual, but it reminded me of the first time I’d crossed the Avant Bridge back in Osage County; the fear was immediate and palpable. The emotion passed after a few moments, thankfully, and I continued my crossing. Aside from that brief moment, it was very serene.
My friend Judy Walker had told me if I was ever nearby, I HAD to stop in Boonville. It was only a few miles away, so I followed her advice. To my great amazement, there was a gigantic railroad bridge crossing the Missouri River in town! It hasn’t carried a train since 1986, but was designed so the middle section raised up to allow large boat traffic through. It was glorious! The town is working to restore the bridge for use in the Katy Trail State Park. More on that in a moment. I took a few minutes to walk around downtown while I was there; it’s a quaint little place! I’ll have to return here.
Dusk was approaching, so I headed back towards Columbia. I coasted through the communities of New Franklin and Rocheport, wishing I had more time…so I decided to come back the next day.
Lunch on Thursday was another goodie: Booches Billiard Hall. I thought it was odd when a pool hall was recommended as a good lunch spot, but when I walked in I understood. Booches has been around since 1884! At some point, they expanded their billiard business and started offering food. The establishment features a delightful wooden bar up front and multiple pool tables in the back. Cash only and their menu’s about as flexible as the Olympia Cafe from Saturday Night Live. Cheeseburger! No fries, chips. Their burgers were featured as one of the Top Ten Burgers in America by USA Today some years back. Can confirm, it was truly delicious. I don’t fault them for keeping it simple.
After work, I set out westward once more. I stopped back by Rocheport so I could walk around their tiny business district. It felt like a New England town somehow, though I can’t exactly explain why. A few blocks away, the Katy Trail skirted the edge of town. The trail is 240 miles long and follows the old MKT Railway line through central Missouri. It started with an abandoned stretch of rail in Columbia in the early 80s and has expanded every few years as more right-of-way becomes available. It crosses several old bridges in the countryside and goes through one tunnel…conveniently close to downtown Rocheport! I loved getting to explore it and touch the blasted rock walls for myself.
I had plenty of daylight left, so I continued to Sedalia. I knew nothing about the town except that they hosted a big State Fair annually. Imagine my surprise when I arrived and discovered their downtown was FULL of great old Victorian architecture and a few neon signs! I also didn’t know that Scott Joplin, the famous ragtime musician, taught piano lessons there. They have a big annual festival in his honor. There was so much to see! Of particular note is the Sedalia Trust Building, built in 1886.
I was hungry again, thanks to my walks, so I drove around until I found something local and unique. I found exactly that with Kehde’s BBQ, which serves out of an old train car! The burnt ends were delicious and I loved gawking at all the little details of the interior. It reminded me a lot of the Southern Belle, a train car restaurant in Heavener, Oklahoma.
Once again, dusk was approaching. Clouds had moved in, too, so night was coming quickly. I left town on a different highway and didn’t really plan on stopping. I did find a cool arch bridge near Otterville! That was a lucky find.
As I weaved down the rural Missouri highway, I noticed the clouds starting to light up. There was a break in the clouds near the horizon; as the sun was setting, it was poised to shine just a little more light on my evening. Suddenly, the wisps of cloud lit up in the most beautiful way; I pulled over near the town of Pilot Grove to bask in the glow. I felt lucky to have been in a place to experience the beauty of that fading light; I only wish Samantha could’ve been with me. I can’t wait to see her tomorrow!