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Pausing in the Ozarks

Since October, my husband has commuted nearly every week from Maryland to Salt Lake City. This summer, we took advantage of my flexible teacher’s schedule to relocate to Utah and save him the weekly trips. As it worked out, we are both traveling more than ever this summer, by chance and by choice! We are both nomadic souls who rarely refuse an opportunity to be on the move.

We decided to bring a car out to Salt Lake City, taking a leisurely course through nine states. As a child, I had patient parents who drove us through much of the United States on long family camping trips. Over thirty years later, many of those beloved trip memories are turning fuzzy, and I was eager to make new cross-country memories.

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With my brother, causing trouble on a road trip circa 1983.

A bonus and challenge of the trip was driving Mike’s Tesla electric car, which has to be charged every 200 miles or so. A network of superchargers, many located near interstates, allows for “quick” charging, about an hour in most cases. Luckily the chargers are often near hotels, restaurants, or coffee shops. While the car charged, we slipped into those places for air conditioning and free WiFi, having a bite or catching up on email and news while we waited.

After lightning quick stops in Morgantown and Louisville, we slowed down for a couple of days in the Ozarks. We didn’t know much about the area, beyond a few references from movies and TV, not always of the positive variety.  We had few expectations besides a slower pace of life, much welcome after several days of moving at 70 miles an hour.

The farmhouse Airbnb where we stayed was charming, with glacial Internet service that encouraged us to unplug and enjoy nature instead of depending on constant technology. On the same land as the farmhouse was an original 1800’s log cabin, hinting at the area’s pioneer history. The Laura Ingalls Wilder home is not far away.

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Log cabin in Missouri, on the site of our Airbnb

Our sleepy break in the Ozarks featured one adventurous mishap in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways National Park, which connects 125 miles of rivers. We discovered just how scenic they are when our car bottomed out as we crossed one such river on our way to a trailhead. We spent over an hour stuck in the river, unable to move the car backward or forward, watching helplessly as water trickled inside. Luckily, two park rangers came to our rescue and towed us out. Our car and belongings were waterlogged, but otherwise unharmed. 

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Stuck in a scenic river.

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Our ranger rescuers

We celebrated in relief that evening with local moonshine, learning from our bartender that moonshine refers to unaged whiskey, and does not need to be bootlegged or made in a bathtub.

Among some, Missouri has acquired a less than savory reputation: in books, movies, and shows such as Gone Girl, Winter’s Bone, and Ozark, it’s depicted as a backwards, unfriendly place where few people would choose to live. It even made Fodor’s 2018 “No List” of worst places to travel for some policies and practices that are deemed less than progressive. Like any stereotype, though, there’s another side to Missouri for those that care to take a deeper look: scenic landscapes, kind and neighborly people, and the smoothest of sweet tea moonshines.

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Cave Spring by Thomas Hart Benton