While making the 3-4 hour drive back to St. Louis from Kansas City recently, I was in no hurry. I was with my son, Russ, and we had marked off the afternoon for the trip. As it turned out, it took us more than 6 hours. Instead of racing the clock, as we usually do, we stopped along the way at such quaint little towns as Emma (pop. 233).
We were looking for the Cheese Shop, which turned out not to be in Emma, but in Sweet Springs, a few miles up the road. The shop was well-stocked with local produce: jams, honeys, breads, meats, wines.
Linda, the pleasant clerk, was offering customers a taste of Quark, a spreadable German cheese much like cream cheese, yet dryer and with a bit of a yogurt tang. But it has less salt and fat than cream cheese and more protein than Greek yogurt. I can hardly wait to tell my Germany friend about my discovery. He special orders Quark unaware that it’s being made in Central Missouri.
The Cheese Store also had Wurst House Brats, which I’ve been unable to find in St. Louis. Linda (the clerk) told me proudly that the Cheese Store sold the brats, frozen, for a dollar less a package than they do in Hermann—where they’re made! As it turned out, they had my favorite variety! Caramelized Pear & Gorgonzola. Had to get ’em. Linda sold me a styrofoam cooler and ice to house my brats, which wiped out my dollar-off-per-package advantage.
Moving on down the road, we stopped at Rocheport, which is usually overrun with cyclists and weekenders, but was pretty quiet on a 90-degree day in the middle of the week. The historic town with its quaint B&Bs, shops, galleries, scenic bluffs, trails and award-winning winery calls itself “a beacon of tranquility.” No wonder the place was named “One of America’s 10 Coolest Small Towns” by Frommer’s Travel magazine.
Les Bourgeois Vineyards
On the way out of town, we pulled into Les Bourgeois vineyard to take in their amazing view of the river and purchase a few bottles of their equally amazing wines. I’ve not been there for years, but the place looked pretty much as I remembered it. I like that in a vineyard.
Crane’s Store and Larry’s Boots
It was hard for Russ to pass up Crane’s with its famous “1 meat, 1 cheese, $2 dollar sandwich.” (You can shave a dollar off the price if your meat selection is bologna or a plain peanut butter and jelly.) The place has been around since 1899 and has everything you’d expect in a well-appointed general store, including a pot bellied stove. Russ says it’s the only place he knows of where you can fill your car with gas and then walk inside to pay. We checked the clock and decided to put Crane’s on our “Next-Time” list.
As we neared Columbia, we were tempted to stop at Larry’s Boots (10,000 pairs to choose from, according to the large highway sign). I’ve bought boots there several times. With 60 brands to chose from there’s something on their shelves for just about any size and taste.
Despite the dilly dallying, we got home before dark. Along the way we dealt with a few world problems and reminisced over bygone days and long-gone people. Sometimes it’s good to “take time to smell the roses,” as they say—to slow down and enjoy the little things we often miss as we race through life.