Rural Missouri - April 2011 - (Page 36)

N E I G H B O R S No one knows Missouri’s backroads like John Robinson Asked for his favorite place, John is quick to respond. “If I had to name a favorite, it is the Jacks Fork River. It’s as close to heaven as I’ve ever been.” s John Robinson slips the But he believes the extreme southclutch on his Pontiac Sunfire, west corner of Missouri is the most the transmission whines in underappreciated part of the state. With protest. A faint scent of antiDiamond’s George Washington Carver freeze wafts from the engine. When he National Monument, the Spooklight, slows for a stop sign, a squeal points out Neosho’s flower boxes and the Elk River, that it may be time for a brake job. the area has a lot to offer. But give the car some credit: It’s been Another favorite from his travels is John’s faithful companion for 267,000 Allendale in northwest Missouri. “It’s the miles, most of it on a quest to travel most delightful community,” John says. every mile of Missouri’s state-mainEarly in the project, John decided to tained roadways. For 13 years, he chased proceed at a leisurely pace and really get taillights into all corners of the state. to know the places he discovered. “That Finally, in the summer of 2010, John was a dilemma in my driving,” he says. completed the last mile of road, ironi“The first place you come to, you run cally on State Route 1 in Clay County into people you really have fun with. north of Kansas City. A National Public Four to five hours later, I didn’t get as far Radio reporter was with him, and was a as I wanted to.” bit disappointed at John’s nonchalance He looked for out-of-the-way places upon completing the daunting task. to eat, such as Chim’s Thai Kitchen at “I said, ‘I’m just relieved,’” John Cooper’s Landing in Boone County or recalls. “It hadn’t hit me yet that I had French’s Highway House Café in Ava. “I finished my efforts. But, lo and behold, like the places that look lived in, where not two weeks later, there was an the kitchen’s had a real workout,” John announcement by the highway departsays of his favorite lunch stops. “If the ment that they were opening a new table is wore out and the seats don’t bridge. I thought, ‘You know what, this match, that’s fine with me. That’s where is a never-ending deal.’” you find the locals.” A former director of the Missouri Occasionally he got lost, most memoDivision of Tourism who now lives rably in Ripley County where Forest in Columbia, John set off on his epic Service roads rival blacktop. Once he got journey after realizing there was a huge stuck trying to find a shortcut in Knox chunk of the state he had never seen. County. He saw much beauty, but also Born in Jefferson City, he grew up in Former Missouri Tourism Director John Robinson has completed his quest to depressing sights that won’t make the Rolla and learned to love the Ozarks. travel all 32,000-plus miles of state-maintained road in Missouri. tourism brochures. John graduated from the University “It’s that homestead where the indiof Missouri School of Journalism in vidual has collected every washing machine, the roads in the state is like looking at the top 1974. He worked at a newspaper, every dryer, every car. Everything he’s ever owned of a mountain when you are trying to climb then an advertising agency, was Columbia is in the front yard,” John laments. it. You don’t want to do that. You get fired and returned to his capital city • John admits to growing tired at times followoverwhelmed and discouraged.” roots to try something new. ing the center stripes down so many roads. What As tourism director, John realized Not surprisingly, he got involved kept him motivated to complete the odyssey was many Americans were not getting the in politics. He started a political never knowing what was around the next bend. correct image of Missouri because consulting business and managed “You come around the corner, and here’s somethey were passing through the state several successful campaigns. It was thing new. I would get weary on the road just on interstate highways. “If you get Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell who suggested thinking about how I am going to get my arms your impression of Missouri from I-70, John would be perfect as Missouri’s chief around a project like this. But then you come we’re in trouble,” he says. “I mean, it might be a tourism spokesman. “There’s a certain pride you around the corner and there it is, the giant pecan, fairly efficient road, but it certainly isn’t the most have when you grow up in a state and have the the world’s biggest this or that.” aesthetically pleasing. Any of the towns just a opportunity to promote it,” John says. “With a In the works is a book about all the amazing stone’s throw from the interstate, you never know deep, abiding love for Missouri, I decided that was people, places and things John has seen in his what you will find.” something I wanted to do. ” journey. But the saga continues. “Frankly, I’m John’s travels changed his concept of Missouri Attending meetings gave John the chance to done driving the roads,” John says. “I have fulin many ways. His biggest surprise was what he drive many of the roads. If he was in Branson, filled the quest. But I’m still doing research and discovered north of the Missouri River. he would take care of business, then head down going back, making sure that the book will do jus“I just hadn’t paid attention as much to the Highway 86 to Blue Eye. If he was in St. Joseph, tice to the things I saw.” beauty of the land north of I-70,” he says. “If you he might stay for the weekend and travel up As for his faithful car? “It’ll top 500,000 miles.” go in November or late October, you are driving through Savannah to Rock Port, then drive back through those rolling hills framed by forest, and through Worth County, all on his own dime. You can reach John at 573-874-1560 or cjrobin@ the soybeans are turning from green to gold. It’s “One of the things I realized early on is I like a Monet painting.” couldn’t be in a hurry,” John says. “Driving all A by Jim McCarty 36 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - April 2011

Rural Missouri - April 2011
Memories of that Mountain Music
Growing pains
Mail Bag
International instruction
Best of Rural Missouri
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Prairie passage pit stop
Around Missouri
Valley of Many Deer Gallery

Rural Missouri - April 2011