Six Great Daytrips

Summer break is ticking away. Your big plans got compromised: work deadlines, honey-do projects, ball games. You’re mired in commitments you made six months ago. And back-to-school bells are ringing.

If your getaway got away without you, adjust your goals.

Daytrips can save the day.

An African proverb reminds us that “the man who lives at the base of the mountain is the last to climb it.” If your mountain is Columbia, there are delightful daytrips just minutes away.

Boonslick North: You may not get past Rocheport, with its quaint B&B’s, kitschy antique shops and an old-time general store, plus great little restaurants and a winery up the hill. And you can tool around town — or on the Katy Trail — on a bike. Venture upriver for a brief stop at Boonsboro, and Boone’s Lick salt factory, a state historic site. Head up to Fayette and dine at Emmett’s. Then drive to Glasgow and have a sarsaparilla at Hendersons, the oldest operating soda fountain west of the Mississippi.

Kingdom Come-on: Yes, Churchill and the Gipper put their stamp on Fulton, but there’s so much more. If your paradise got lost, find it in the chapel where John Milton got married. It’s next to the Berlin Wall. The old Brick District sports a great browser’s bookstore, and Bek’s restaurant serves up the best sliders on the planet. Find a B&B and curl up with Henry Bellaman’s book about Fulton (Kings Row) that gets credit for inspiring Peyton Place, soap operas and reality TV. Head east to Crane’s Country Store in Williamsburg, which has seen three different centuries. Sit in an overstuffed chair and read the morning paper while eating a “one meat/one cheese/2 dollar sandwich.” Then get up and look around six rooms and 5,000 square feet of stuff. On the way home, take Highway 94 and stop at the River’s Edge Restaurant in Portland for some fried chicken and fish.

Battles and Bridges: Drive the short hop to Centralia. Chance Gardens is worth the stroll. And history buffs will get a double dose of Jesse James and Bloody Bill at the sites of the Centralia Massacre and the Battle of Centralia. Drive north a few miles to the Union Covered Bridge for a picnic, and read the graffiti carved in its oak shoulders.

Weinstrasse: The vineyards in this valley saved France, so the least you could do is join in the local joie de vivre. Take your pick: Hermann knows how to please you, but don’t wait until Oktoberfest. Beat the crowds and roll into19th-century Rhine River living — German food, culture and architecture everywhere you turn. Upriver on the other side, Augusta awaits, with enough wineries and B&Bs to keep you busy for a week. Back across the river, Washington is my pick for your new favorite town. The city has it all: charm, beauty, history, culture, great B&Bs, eclectic shopping, food and fun. Mayor Sandy Lucy runs an art gallery featuring husband Gary Lucy, my pick for the artist most likely to join George Caleb Bingham and Thomas Hart Benton as Missouri’s greatest. Who knew? Well, just about everybody in St. Louis.

Speaking of Bingham …

Theater District: Only 40 minutes away, Arrow Rock sits in a different time and placeYeah, you’ve heard about the history and the park and the best professional theater troupe this side of Broadway. But there’s more. If you think youve been stuck in close quarters, stroll through the Sappington Cemetery nearby. Ol’ Doc Sappington had four daughters, and each married a Missouri governor — Meredith Miles Marmaduke married one, and Claiborne Fox Jackson married the other three. After Jackson outlived two and married the third, Sappington advised Jackson, “I’m all out of daughters.” They’re all buried here, and seem to get along. A cannon shot from Arrow Rock, Blackwater was a dried-up railroad town that sprang back to life when Mayor Bobby Danner, a New Orleans French Quarter hotelier, led the town through a dramatic makeover. You’ll find antique shops, an old jail and a community theater. And it’s the only town of 199 residents with a Museum of Independent Telephone Pioneers. Dine at Danner’s refurbished Iron Horse Hotel, and then go upstairs to stay in one of seven remodeled rooms with names like the Marrakesh Express and the City of New Orleans. You just might have the ride of your life.

Best Of Both: Yeah, Rowdy Yates (aka Clint Eastwood) rode into Sedalia every week on Rawhide. And the Missouri State Fair cranks up this month. But explore around the fringes. Eat your fill at Kehde’s BBQ dining car. The Bothwell Hotel is Sedalia’s answer to Columbia’s Tiger, albeit less ritzy. And the Bothwell Mansion on the north outskirts is a hilltop castle.

Meanwhile, your castle is only minutes from these destinations.