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Ozarks Rambles

Posted online

Music festivals and

bicycle tours are among the events to be included in this new feature

When we speak of a "ramble," the dictionary reminds us that it can be a meander, a leisurely stroll, or to rove without specific purpose or destination. I propose to take the reader along on these types of less-stressful journeys through the four-state Ozarks region, in a radius of about five to six hours driving time.

I fondly dedicate these journals to the memory of that master traveler of the backways and byways, Charles Kuralt, whose whimsical series "On the Road" graced Sunday morning television screens for so many wonderful years.

In his excellent book "Blue Highways," William Least Heat Moon said it for all of us when he discussed the impact of the interstate highway system on the meandering type of leisure travel that so many of us enjoyed in our youth.

Most of us recall when the biggest thing in the rear view window of our car was the roadside sign inviting us back to Ashtabula (or wherever) Ohio, not an 18-wheeler looming just off our bumper at 70 mph!

The public wanted to shave miles and hours off the long and hazardous five-day, cross-country, grinding trip that intrepid family travelers used to have to endure, and President Dwight Eisenhower suggested the (Interstate) Defense Highway System. This grid of high-speed connector highways would span the country from the East to the West coast, from Canada to Mexico.

The alternative plan of traveling on the older "blue line" highways staying off the interstate red routes and the fun of searching out the less traveled roads to some of the not-so-well-known tourist destinations has appealed to my wife and me for many years.

Both native Springfieldians, I was born in the middle of World War II, while my wife is of the "baby boomer" age. We both share many area excursion memories, including visits to Rockaway Beach when the water was still warm, or Clear Creek Park, an early swimming paradise, and Doling Park amusements.

Our daughter, Heather, has been essential and invaluable during these peregrinations. We are bluegrass and acoustic music fans, and my wife is the autoharp virtuoso in our group, so we usually attend half a dozen festivals during the year.

We take pains to enjoy the type of environmentally aware travel that advises one to "go into the woods quietly, take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints."

It is not our purpose here to advise fellow Ozarkians as to how to get to the Branson area outlet malls for some "power" Christmas discount shopping, or directions to the new Chateau on the Lake, much less where to park at our nearby outdoor sports shopping mecca during the hunting-season sales.

These and other major area attractions and destinations, including Silver Dollar City, Shepherd of the Hills, Fantastic Caverns, Exotic Animal Paradise, bring much-needed tourist dollars and visits to our area on their own merits, creating vital jobs and growth.

I hope to share with you some of the favorite spots and hideaways we've found over the past 15 years, including such helpful tips as when the off-peak seasons occur in different areas and how to get to the less well-known places and parks.

We'll cover the typical night lodging rates for a couple, or a couple with one or two teenagers along, and feature some helpful information and toll-free telephone numbers, or addresses, for the bed and breakfasts, camping spots, historic areas and state park cabins and lodges we visit.

Some of the get-togethers we will visit this year include the very exciting third annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering (and the Autoharp Festival) at the superb Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Ark., and make an autumn expedition down to the 51st annual Ozark Folk Festival (the third oldest in the U.S.) in Eureka Springs, Ark., in early October. Join us while we bicycle on the Katy Trail in "Missouri River wine country," sampling the vineyard tours and festivals while we visit Defiance and Augusta, making our headquarters in Washington, Mo.

In the nearby Kansas flint hills, where settlers gathered for the start of the Oklahoma Land Rush, we invite you to sample one of the finest bluegrass and acoustic music festivals in the hemisphere. The third weekend of September this fall will offer the 28th annual National Flat-Pickin' and Fiddlin' Festival, popularly known as the Winfield Festival, in southeastern Kansas. With the new road, Winfield is just a leisurely four-hour drive from the Springfield area.

This international gathering offers everything needed in the way of accommodations, from staying in elegant motor homes to nearby motels. Springfield area fans suggest braving the infamous Pecan Grove Campgrounds to camp in tepees, parachutes, tents and yurts.

I am amazed every year at the international travelers who end up in Cowley County, Kansas, for this regional happening. It is truly a modern bargain, featuring music and performers on five stages for four days, outstanding craftsmen selected by fellow craftsmen, and offering a variety of two-, three- and four-day festival and camping packages.

This legendary festival showcases acoustic music and entertainers from Celtic to clogging, traditional to Cajun, and the opportunity to meet thousands of interesting and lively folks from all over the planet.

It is hoped that various readers will see some merit in this "gentle travel" approach, and take a moment to share with us their favorite, less well-known spots and destinations. Let us know about a secluded honeymoon hideaway, a quiet trout stream, or a weekend in St. Louis, visiting the World Dog Museum in Queeny Park and the Railroad and Transport Museum.

If you wish, please write to us at Attn: "Rambles," Springfield Business Journal, 313 Park Central West, Springfield, Mo. 65806.

(Kenny Knauer is an organizer of the St. Pat's Parade, a participant with the parks, greenways and open spaces committee of Vision 20/20, and a long-time member and volunteer on the steering committee of Founder's Park.)

INSET CAPTION:

It is hoped that various readers

will take moment to share with us their favorite, less well-known spots and destinations.[[In-content Ad]]

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