Ozark Trip 2k3

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:48 AM

Well, as I said (I just love that one of my most used statements is my domain name, ahem, sorry) last week, I've been out to the lake. Table Rock Lake, my favorite, to be exact. Generally I stay in Stone or Taney county, best known for Branson, which comes to about a three and a half to four hour drive from here on I-44. It's always a nice drive, and likewise, it's always nice in the Ozarks… this time being no exception.

The weather was absolutely beautiful this week, making the trip even better than I expected. I went with mom and a close family friend who had gone down to the Ozarks with us last year. This year we stayed for five nights/six days at two different resorts — the old tried-and-true Rock Lane Resort (of which I am suppose to build a new website for soon) and Big Cedar.

Rock Lane is a forty something year old place that was first discovered by my grandparents in the 60's. We have been there enough to know everyone at the front desk (and stay in contact with them when at home) and the owner, all of whom couldn't be nicer. While much of the resort, including our favorite cove side rooms, have been or are now on the chopping block to make way for timeshares, 40 or so rooms remain and it's still the very best view of the lake I've seen. Rock Lane is on a peninsula, actually they own it, so it's very easy to get to the lake and walk the shore line. It also features a very nice, expanding marina and lots of Canadian geese, ducks, and other wildlife that wait for feedings.

As an added plus, Rock Lane is only minutes away from Silver Dollar City, both of which are on Indian Point, and only about thirty minutes away from Branson and just a few more from Kimberling City. At any rate, we stayed there for three days and enjoyed it immensely as usual.

Silver Dollar City was great, just like always, as well. Up until last year, we would actually buy seasons passes to the 'City, unfortunately, time restraints have prevented visiting it as much recently.Spring is a pretty good time to go there, although as a little tip from a wanna-be-local, I'd recommend the Fall for the smallest crowds. Christmas at Silver Dollar City (November 1 - December 31) is also not to be missed and everyone should go and see their six story Christmas tree with synchronized light and music show and their multimillion light bulb decoration job which takes two months to prepare (notably, SDC — like much of the Ozarks — remembers the REAL reason for the Christmas season).

Another favorite stop we hit was Scoops, the great ice cream shop across from the Route 165 scenic overlook. Scoops, which has won blue ribbons at the State Fair five years in a row (three blue ribbons for the majority of those years), makes all of their own ice cream and make one amazing chocolate ice cream ice cream soda. Like Rock Lane, we know all of the people at Scoops, and they too couldn't be nicer. I just wish I could bring some of their great ice cream home with me.

Speaking of food, a trip to the Wooden Nickle, located by Branson West (that's on the other side of Indian Point from Branson) should not be missed on ANY trip to the area. Their salad “tree” (named such since it is a round salad bar build around an old tree) is exquisite and their fried chicken is the best I've had anywhere. The salad bar can easily be a meal by itself for just $8.99 (this is a serious salad bar), but you can add three pieces of great chicken and an excellent baked potato for just $4 more. The salad bar has tons of goodies beyond the normal fare, including fresh baked breads, cut-your-own cheddar and pepper cheese, stew, and good pudding.

Well, before I move on, I might as well continue my food review with one more notable mention. Billy Gayle's Uniquables and Cafe on Route 265 looks rather unassuming. It's an old cabin with a few gas pumps out side and flea market fare in in the first few rooms, but the last brightly decorated room is home to (IMO) the world's best omelet. Yum! You get a large plate that is half filled by a square omelet, half filled by hash browns, and then topped by four pieces of Texas toast perfectly toasted. “Gayle's Famous Omelet” (without mushrooms) is my personal favorite and is one of the food highlights of the trip.

Moving away from food, after a stop at Country Mart for some bread (okay not away from food) for the geese and ducks, we headed back to Rock Lane and enjoyed the quiet beauty of the place. This is really a great place to accomplish my mission on the trip — to relax and enjoy. If you're looking to get away and the Ozarks are an option, consider Rock Lane. I've probably been there 20-something times and it's never been disappointing.

Well before I put everyone to sleep, I will stop for the night, and pick up tomorrow with the details of Big Cedar and another place that is quite possibly one of the Ozark's most beautiful areas. Stay tuned.

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RE: Ozark Trip 2k3

I have also made many trips to Branson in my lifetime. We usually stay closer to the main strip. One of my favorite places to eat (although there are many there), is the Wooden Nickle. The salad bar is the greatest built around a tree. We will be going there next month (June). I grew up going to Branson and I am enjoying taking my children there. Another good place for ice cream is on the strip called Cakes & Cream, they have great funnel cakes piled w/ice cream and toppings, you should try that also if you haven’t already. It’s good to know there are others out there that love Branson as much as I do.

Posted by Melissa - May 26, 2004 | 2:39 PM- Location: East Peoria, IL

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