by lyle e davis
Time was when a young lad could walk down a country road, kicking up dust with his bare feet, a trusty old fishing pole slung over his shoulder, a can of nightcrawlers stuck in his pocket, right next to a neatly wrapped sandwich mom had made for him. Not a care in the world other than where to look for a good fishing hole and some good fun of sittin’, thinkin’, and dreamin’.
Well, those dusty roads have been mostly paved over now . . . and those bare feet are now shod in Birkenstock sandals (the next best thing to going barefoot) . . . that trusty old fishing pole has been replaced by high tech fishing gear, spinning rods and reels, fancy artificial baits, even, perish the thought, artificial worms!
That neatly wrapped sandwich mom used to make has been replaced by grand restaurants that serve such tasty snacks as lobster tails and steaks . . . and a dessert known as creme brulee’. (That’s French, I think. It means ‘custard pie with carmelized sugar on top.’ Still tastes right good whether you call it custard pie or its fancy name. Creme Brulee’ does make one sound right sophisticated, doesn’t it?
Sometimes a body has to just slow down a bit . . . lean back, relax, breathe in some fresh air, savor the aroma of life . . . and relax. Go back to those wonderful days of yesteryear when we really knew how to relax. The folks at Lake of the Ozarks go out of their way to bring you back to that point of relaxation. They just do it on a modern and grand scale.
That’s not the easiest thing to do in mile-a-minute California, where we are hell bent for leather to get this task done, that project started, and find time to feed ourselves and our family . . . often in a not-so-healthy fast food environment. But it sure doesn’t take long to get back in the right frame of mind when you head for the heartland of America, the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks. It’s fairly easy to find. It’s located just a little south of the middle of a state they call Missouri.
You may have heard of it. You’ll recognize it right away. That’s a state where all the women are good lookin’, the men are all handsome, the fish are always biting, the food is good, and where hospitality hangs on trees like the first crop of fall apples.
Having grown up in the midwest (don’t want to be a name dropper here, but it was Omaha) I have to bow my head in abject shame and acknowledge that I had never been to the Lake of the Ozarks before last week. I’ve missed out on a lot.
We, Evelyn Madison and I, were enticed into visiting Lake of the Ozarks by some super sharp public relations people who know their stuff. They corralled five journalists, told them we’d have free food, free drinks and free lodging. You mention the word “free” to a journalist and he or she will come a’runnin’ - notebook in hand.
We had been attending a travel writer’s convention in Kansas City, Missouri (which you also may have heard of) and these sharp public relations types heard about it and came right up to us and offered to entertain us for two and half days and to even get us back to the airport in time to return to life back in the fast lane. Turns out life in the Lake of the Ozarks is quite a bit more enjoyable than life in the fast lane. But I reckon the public relations folks knew that and that’s probably why they invited us, hoping we’d say nice things about them so others would want to come visit.
Well, we’ll try.
They trained us in to Jefferson City, Missouri, the capitol city, via Business Class Amtrak, fed us, showed us around and let us drink in the very comfortable small town feel of this historic town. Then, by van, we rode to Lake of the Ozarks where we hopped on board a magnificent ly large and plush Tropic Island motor yacht for a leisurely hour and a half tour of the lake.
Our luggage having already been placed in our rooms, we arrived at the plush Lodge of Four Seasons, a 2500 acre resort with rooms overlooking the lake, lots of scenic rest areas, including a peaceful Japanese garden area with giant Koi swimming in the crystal clear waters, heated swimming pool, tennis courts, and, of course, a beautiful golf course.
I was beginning to like this place already.
We had placed ourselves in the gentle guiding hands of one Marjorie Beenders, she who knows all, sees all, and has all the contacts. She and her sister, Jo Duncan, looked after us like mother hens, making sure all of our needs were tended to; those needs we didn’t think of, they anticipated and filled those as well. A gent by name of Steve Kappler squired us about in a van . . . and a pretty young miss, Rebecca Green was not only there to help us out, but to look mighty fine. The word gorgeous comes to mind. Together, we made quite a group and we had fun together as well. Lots of laughter, lots of good food.
Did I mention food?
Friday night, after catching a bit of a rest in our room, we headed over to Andre’s at the Lake - one of the premiere fine-dining eateries in the area. We met the legendary owner, Andre Torres. His son, Anand, waited personally on our table. Andre was born in Algiers, has worked in Europe, Africa and Asia, so presents quite an international table. Saturday morning I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
Lunchtime at the
Lodge of the Four Seasons
A fine fella by the name of Ed Franko picked us up at our hotel and took us to Bass & Baskets, a Bed & Breakfast owned by him and his wife. Deb. Ed is a retired marketing man from Kentucky Fried Chicken and he and Deb applied all his customer service training to pleasing their guests. Joining in on the fun were Richard & June Hackathorne, owners of Buck Creek Bed & Breakfast, Gary and Cindy Brooks, owners of Cliff House Inn, the elegant Kathleen Allers, owner of Castleview Bed and Breakfast, and Sue and Ron Westenhaver, owners of The Inn at Harbour Ridge.
Upon our arrival at Bass & Baskets Bed and Breakfast we found huge platters of scrambled eggs on large, home made toast, slathered with pure creamery butter . . . all on top of a huge slab of smoked ham, plenty of juices, jams, jellies, hot coffee, hot tea . . . a real ‘down home’ breakfast. Only those folks who grew up in the midwest will remember ‘down home’ breakfasts.
After breakfast we’d go out on the porch, sit on one of the several comfy rocking chairs, look out on the lake, and marvel at how lucky we were to be in this place, at this time, with a group of right fine people.
Sue Westenhaver caught my immediate attention by announcing that it was not uncommon for guests at their B&B to go skinny dippin’ . . . though for most guests our age, they called it ‘chunky dunkin’ . .’ I asked what time they went skinny dippin’ and she responded, quick as a flash, with an impish grin, ‘as soon as it gets really, really dark.’
These were fine, fun people. Evelyn and I decided next time we went back ‘home’ to the midwest, it would be to a Bed and Breakfast at Lake of the Ozarks. There’s a better than even chance we’d go to The Inn at HarbourRidge . . . naturally, as an official ‘observer’ and recorder of the skinny dippin’ phenomenon.
(Sue may have just been pullin’ my rickshaw, I couldn’t tell. I am, after all, a simple lad from the midwest who is mighty gullible and easily taken advantage of by beautiful women, of which Sue is one).
After breakfast we headed for our separate adventures. Evelyn would go to Spa Shiki for a relaxing spa session while I went bass fishing with a licensed guide, Win Stevens. The guide, it turns out, had a great sense of humor and was a joy to be with. He told Marjorie, our hostess, we’d have no problem finding him at the docks. “I’m a big, tall black guy; probably the only black guy on the lake. Your clients will find me with no problem.”
Win Stevens, Bass Guide, and friend . . .
He was right. There he was, at 8:15am, great big smile on his face, sitting in an awesome bass boat with about 12 different rods and reels and all types of lures and other baits. Paul Pihichyn, Managing Editor of the website for the Winnipeg Free Press, and I were the only clients for Win so we had plenty of time to chat. Win charges $350 for four hours, we were out for three hours. I learned later that Marjorie Beenders had also tipped him $40. She even picked up our daily Missouri fishing license ($7).
I had never been in a bass boat before and when Win opened up the throttle on his boat my eyes watered from the speed we were moving . . .kinda scary, actually. The lake was quiet at this early hour. Later in the day, the big, high powered boats would be on the lake and the ride wouldn’t be nearly as smooth.
Win is a medically retired police officer from St. Louis, Missouri. Though he had kicked down plenty of doors to arrest drug dealers and other bad guys he had torn his quadriceps muscle by falling down while mowing his own lawn. He doesn’t miss police work . . . particularly since he’s out fishing four to five times a week, either by himself or with clients; if not fishing for pleasure or guiding, he fishes in tournaments and winds up in the winner’s circle rather often.
It was as much fun talking and listening to this fascinating man as it was fishing for the feisty largemouth bass. A great sense of humor, an outstanding knowledge of the lake and the habits of bass and other fish, made for a true learning experience.
The three hour fishing trip ended all too soon. We have now experienced riding in a bass boat . . . going at a high rate of speed on a big lake. Believe me . . . when you hit a wake you’re gonna feel your spine crunch as you hit the water. Pretty boats . . . fast, but not for me. Too hard on this ancient frame.
Win’s truck and bass boat
As we headed back into the marina there was a fair amount of chop on the water due to other, larger boats creating wakes (large waves). Our boat was capable of 75 mph but we were only going 30 mph. Still, when we hit a big wake Win yelled, “hang on!” We did, but when we hit the bottom of that wake trough with a bang, it felt like my spine had compressed upon itself.
I do not think I shall become a bass fisherman. It’s too scary and hitting those big waves hurts!
Evelyn had originally been scheduled to go bass fishing but I thought she’d enjoy the spa visit more so I re-arranged her schedule. She visited the Spa Shiki at The Lodge of Four Seasons, where she received a neck and shoulder massage ($55 value), Reflexology, ($60 value), and a Mini Facial ($55 value). She emerged after a relaxing session in the steam room, feeling like a million bucks, before inflation.
After a brief rest we journeyed over to Osage Beach Premium Outlets where the ladies, and a couple of the gents, took to shopping the fantastic stores located in one of the best outlet malls I’ve ever seen. Before shopping, we were met by Candy Wilson, the outlet’s beautiful and witty PR and Marketing officer. To get us in the mood we played a “The Price is Right” game and I won an Oreck Steam Iron valued at $125. Imagine that. I win an Oreck Steam Iron. Just what I always wanted. I think I’ll give it to Evelyn as a gift, seeing as how I spared no expense.
They have park benches strategically placed throughout the shopping center. I believe these are for those glum looking men who are known as husbands and/or boyfriends. Though I spent most of my time sitting on a park bench waiting for Evelyn to finish shopping (and managing to hide my glum expression rather well - an expression I always get whenever Evelyn goes shopping), I brightened up considerably after learning Evelyn only purchased one item. I shan’t mention what it was (as I blush easily) but it was, let us say, a piece of women’s lingerie.
Osage Beach Premium Outlets
This outlet mall has more than 110 top-name manufacturers in 13 buildings spread over 61 acres. Impressive! Shopping makes a body hungry. Time for lunch. What better place to go for lunch than a winery?
We headed over to Seven Springs Winery, a relatively new winery nestled nicely within 160 scenic areas of rolling hills. We sampled Missouri wines, then adjourned to the patio which overlooked the scenic valley below and had a lovely lunch of soup, sandwich, and cheesecake for dessert.
A quick dash off to Ha Ha Tonka State Park (yes, that’s its name) where most in our party hiked up to look at the ruins of an old castle-type estate which had burned down. I stayed in the van because (a) I was tired, and (b) I’ve never been a great admirer of the ruins of a burned down building. It was a scenic area at which to take a breather, however.
We then were vanned to Tan-Tar-A Resort, a sprawing, 420-acre resort. A strange name, but very nice accommodations. Tan-Tar-A Resort is the second premiere full service resort on the lake (along with The Lodge of the Four Seasons). They have 950 deluxe guest rooms, pools, an indoor waterpark, a full health salon, two golf courses, three resaturants, and service, service, service!
Our luggage, as usual, had already been delivered to our rooms and we had a couple of hours to nap, watch tv, or just relax a bit before heading out for dinner. Tonight we would dine at Tan-Tar-A’s Windrose, an upscale steak and seafood restaurant.
I had Maine lobster tails, Evelyn had Chilean sea bass, and we had several fine wines which complemented the meal just Jim-Dandy . . . which is a midwestern expression which means “just swell.” After dinner we retired for the night as the next morning was departure day, early.
Sure enough, at 6:45am, there was our van and there were our various hosts and hostesses from the several Beds and Breakfast Inns - they had arrived to bid us farewell and to give us our final nourishing breakfast, all packaged up. We would enjoy our fruit juices, coffee, sandwiches and fruit while we rode comfortably for the three hour drive to Kansas City International Airport. We would soon return to San Diego but much the better for having met and shared time with some fantastic people.
You won’t find finer people than those in Missouri. They know how to make you welcome . . . and they do it with class. You take a look at the hotels they’ve built . . . the restaurants, the marinas . . . the bed and breakfasts, the inns, the shopping centers . . . the golf courses. There seems to be something for everyone in Lake of the Ozarks.
Lots of people have retired to Lake of the Ozarks . . . they like the relaxed lifestyle and the availability of all the good things big city life offers . . . but without the pressure.
On the chance you may wish to visit Missouri, we’re pleased to present the following suppliers with whom we were very, very pleased and are happy to recommend:
Lake of the Ozarks
Tropic Island motor yacht http://www.tropicislandcruises.com/
The Lodge of the Four Seasons & Spa Shiki:
Andre’s at the Lake:
Bass & Baskets Bed and Breakfast:
Cliff House Inn
The Inn at Harbour Ridge
Buck Creek Bed & Breakfast
Bass Fishing: Win Stevens, Guide:
Osage Beach Premium Outlets
Seven Springs Winery:
Ha Ha Tonka State Park:
Tan-Tar-A Resort & Windrose Restaurant
Just one of hundreds, if not thousands, of beautiful views of
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri