Join our Northeast News staff this summer as we hit the road and share with our readers a new weekly feature on where to go and what to do, just a few miles or hours away from home.
For our next adventure, Dorri Partain and her family visited El Dorado Springs, MO.
Curiosity about a few old black and white photos in an inherited photo album and the search for tourist traps was the inspiration for our day trip into a southern portion of Missouri.
For this journey, my teen son Ian and I were accompanied by my husband, Mike, who manned the steering wheel, while I kept an eye on road signs and the map. The fun part of the journey for us is reading the billboards and taking note of the farms and small towns along the way.
Not in a rush, we finally hit the road and were headed down U.S. 71 south and out of Kansas City by 11 a.m. Our plan was to head down to El Dorado Springs, then make a loop of sorts and head back to KC after a stop (or two) in Osceola.
El Dorado Springs is just east of Nevada on U.S. 54, but as often happens during summer, as soon as we turned on to 54 we hit a construction delay and spent a good five minutes waiting as traffic backed up. The good news was that the final section of our drive was on smooth, freshly laid asphalt and we entered town just in time for lunch.
A roadside sign directed us to Pappy’s Homestyle Cooking, so we passed a Sonic and a McDonald’s to try something different. The parking lot was nearly empty, so we wondered if we just missed the lunch rush, but the waitress let us pick our own spot and eventually we had the restaurant all to ourselves, so at least it was quiet, except for a country music radio station playing softly in the background.
The lunch and dinner menu offers several sandwiches and entrees, as well as salads and a salad bar. Mike selected the swiss and mushroom burger with a side of fries, Ian ordered the fish filets with fries and coleslaw, and I opted for the Philly cheesesteak and coleslaw. The interior of the restaurant was very clean and appeared to be recently painted and decorated.
A “Wall of Honor” indicated that Pappy, the namesake, was a veteran of the United States Navy.
Empty plates indicated everything selected was quite good, and the total for three, plus drinks and a tip, came to right at $50.00.
We had passed a large neon sign as we entered town, so we backtracked a bit where the sign pointed us to the Historic Downtown district, where we hoped to find some small shops to investigate. From U.S. 54, it’s several blocks south and we passed through a nice residential section on the way.
For whatever reason, the time of day or being a Saturday, even the local antique store was closed, so that was disappointing. But right there, taking up a whole city block, we found the source for the town’s name as well as the location for those old black and white photos I mentioned earlier.
Much like Excelsior Springs just north of Kansas City, El Dorado Springs (The Golden Spring) was founded and grew due to a bubbling spring that was claimed to have healing powers to those who drank from it. Around the water source, a park was formed, which includes the basin built around the spring, a band stand, and several fountains and memorials. The only fountain that was running during our visit was built from area stones and dated 1932.
Unlike the day when those old photos were taken, circa 1930’s, that showed dozens of folks enjoying the park and its features, only three other people were visiting the park while Ian and I walked around. To get to the spring, one has to descend into a stepped basin, where the water flows from a pipe into a drain. While clear and cold, a sign nearby denotes that since the water’s source is unknown and not treated, it is not considered safe for drinking. Another marker above the spring tells how it was discovered, while another marker just inside the park’s entrance states that the land with the spring was given to the town by N.P. and W. H. Cruce on July 20, 1881.
With not much else to see and another stop planned, we continued down Main Street, which is also designated as Missouri 82 and would connect us to Missouri 13. The road was winding, following the topography of the land, but the views were very scenic with miles of green, lush countryside surrounding us. Mike, who grew up in the country, gushed about how pretty it was, as we got closer and closer to the outer edges of the Truman Reservoir. White cranes were clearly visible, resting in the marshes as we enjoyed the scenery.
Just past the intersection with 13, we nearly missed and had to make a quick slow down and turn for the parking lot of our favorite tourist trap, Osceola Cheese. Mike and I first encountered this country store, featuring a huge variety of cheeses, meats, and treats, several years ago when we would drive down to visit Ian at Boy Scout camp for Parent’s Day.
Since it was a stop we would make on our way back from those visits, this was Ian’s first time to peruse the aisles. While I was still full from lunch at Pappy’s, the guys got some ice cream to enjoy while we wandered around, making a few choices to fill our shopping basket.
My choices were a package of fried green beans, a chunk of tomato basil jack cheese, a half roll of summer sausage, candy sticks and chocolate nut fudge, which came to $31.00 with tax. Ian also bought some cheese – it’s nice when hungry teens have their own money to spend!
Finished shopping, we were ready to head back home when we spied an antique mall just a stone’s throw from the cheese shop, so again we did a quick slow down and turned into the parking lot.
Davis Brothers Antique Mall is huge; after 30 minutes wandering along, I hadn’t gone into a fraction of the booths that filled the building. Additionally, there were vendors set up on the lawn outside, so we could have easily spent several hours there if we wanted to. Ian and I found a couple of things to add to our collections, and then we were back on 13 headed back to Kansas City. At Clinton, we switched to Missouri 7, which took us back to U.S. 71 for the final leg of our trip and made it back home around 6:30 p.m.
The following day, I compared the digital photos I took on my phone with those taken by my Great Aunt Thelma years ago. On the back, she had written the date she was there: July 16, 1933, just a few weeks shy of exactly 90 years from when we visited El Dorado Springs.