We don’t take many days off during the growing season, but when we do we often like to explore the back roads of rural Missouri to see what we can find. As farmers, landscape geologists, history buffs, and railfans there’s more than enough to keep us occupied. Such road trips let us sit down, listen to music, see scenery, and take lots of short walks/hikes that don’t tire us out, since the idea is NOT to expend energy. Past short trips have included NW Missouri, the Niangua River, Royals baseball, lots of birding days, and in mid-May this year, north-central Missouri. Even days off involve farm work, and this Tuesday morning was no exception. Prior to leaving, we had to milk the goats and do all other animal chores then spend a few hours harvesting strawberries and doing various necessary daily greenhouse/field work. We finally pulled out shortly after 10 am.
We started out heading northwest through Fayette, exploring the pecan groves along the Missouri River bottoms between Glasgow and Brunswick.
We enjoyed this old bridge and vine-covered barn, though the light was difficult on the latter. On some of these back roads we had the windows down and music off for a while to enjoy the prairie birds, such as dickcissels, meadowlarks, and bobwhite quail, that we don’t get on our farm.We stopped for a picnic lunch at this very nice town park in Marcelline, with a view across the pond to the historic railroad depot and the normally very active BNSF railroad tracks that connect Kansas City and Chicago, though nothing appeared in our hour here. The Marcelline depot is a beautiful historic structure, now a Walt Disney museum which we chose not to peruse on this day. Nice to see some care being taken of history, though it’s unfortunate this is no longer an Amtrak stop.Marcelline was a major railroad town once upon a time, as this large abandoned yard on the edge of town testifies (those tall structures in the distance are abandoned coaling and service towers for steam engines). I’d give a lot to see this view at its peak.Those who think north Missouri is flat and boring should get off the highways. We quite enjoyed the rolling hills and pastures, hinting at the long-destroyed native prairie we’ll never experience in full.Late in the day, we found this fantastic old bridge over the BNSF line while looking for good railfanning spots. We’ve seen many of these riding Amtrak from La Plata northeast to Chicago, but hadn’t found one on the ground before. We stayed a while here, relaxing in the shade and listening to birds while snacking on good farm food and reading. We were growing frustrated, as we hadn’t yet seen a train on the day despite this line often hosting 3-4 trains per hour. Finally we were rewarded with an excellent view as an intermodal thundered by just inches below our feet, engineer whistling & waving at us.At this point we needed to head home, intending to wind south through the hills toward Boone County, though a flat tire killed that plan. By the time we changed it out, the sun was getting lower and we needed to make it home for animal chores before dark. So we detoured over to US-63 and gritted our teeth as we blasted south toward home on the soulless leveled highway with none of the charm of real Missouri roads. But it got us home in time, for better or worse, relaxed and happy with another day’s exploration of rural Missouri under our belts.