A long holiday weekend was coming up and my husband, Joe, and I looked at each other Thursday evening. “We need a getaway,” we said almost simultaneously. Laughter turned to questions about how serious we were, followed by a rush to our laptops to make some last-minute plans.
Visiting Table Rock Lake had been on our radar for some time, but busy schedules always seemed to get in the way. Not this time. We made our choices online after we scoured the impressive variety of resorts and hotels in the area, packed the car on Friday evening and headed to the southwest part of the Show-Me State from our southwestern Illinois home.
We checked into a charming cabin at the Port of Kimberling Marina & Resort on Friday night and headed out to Vino Cellars and its restaurant, Bistro 58. The wine shop offered an end-of-the-week tasting that featured wine selections from around the globe and a menu that paired perfectly. We asked for a table with a view overlooking the lake and were seated outside on a spacious deck where the lake-fresh air sharpened our appetites. The Board – a cheese and charcuterie sampling, was a great start for dinner with the sweet and savory Milk & Honey Fromage Blanc surrounded by other cheeses, salami and toast points.
A shared Caesar salad made a cool and crunchy middle course that we followed with two entrees, the hearty Black and Blue balsamic onion beef filet served with smashed potatoes and corn, and Asian Marinated Shrimp with herb avocado cream and garlic linguine. We found a wine that pleased us both—satisfying my husband’s penchant for sweet and mine for more dry vintages.
“Dessert?” he urged. “Oh, why not. Vacation calories don’t count, right?” He assured me, as all good husbands should, that I didn’t need to worry. So we put our heads and forks together over a chocolaty dessert and talked about what we planned to do during the rest of our weekend escape. It was the best way to begin the weekend.
The next morning, we had a hankering to dip a line into the lake, which is famous for its bass fishing, as well as crappie, catfish, and bluegill. We booked a half-day rental for a 17-foot TRACKER® boat supplied by What’s Up Dock at the resort.
I explained to Joe that, as a child, I could always get bluegill to bite with my favorite bait of all time—balls of Wonder Bread. “I’d just attach the doughy hunks of bread to a hook and pull a fish out of the water every time,” I exaggerated. “Plus, I loved that I didn’t have to handle squirmy worms.” He noted that serious fishermen and women would scoff at my technique and that he read the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online fishing report for his casting clues. We each packed our bait of choice. The verdict between live bait and bread? We both caught a few species of fish, but it was pretty much even, to my hubby’s chagrin. We set aside our fishing rivalry and held hands like teenagers on the ride back to the dock, both pleased with ourselves and our great outdoors outing.
We enjoyed dinner at Keeter Center at the College of the Ozarks—also known as Hard Work U. A friend’s daughter had graduated from the school and told us about the dining experience there that provided work for students who attend the college tuition-free. The restaurant used many student-grown-and-raised local ingredients. I opted for the Barbecue Mac, with house-made pasta covered with hickory-smoked pulled pork. Joe opted for Pecan Crusted Catfish with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and red pepper cream. Even though we were already full, we couldn’t resist splitting a piece of decadent Gooey Butter Cake.
Back at the cabin, we enjoyed some time around the fire pit, cuddling, listening to soft nature sounds we would never hear in the city and just enjoying the quiet company we miss during our busy lives at home. Knowing we had a big day of adventures planned for Sunday, we reluctantly turned in.
Somehow Joe talked me into trying the Branson Zipline at Wolfe Mountain. We made our reservations online and then I suddenly found myself starting our Sunday fitted with safety gear and a helmet. “I guess it’s too late for me to back out of this now,” I joked. He just smiled. The zip line was located in Wolfe Mountain Preserve, so even before we took our course and headed for the first platform, we had a beautiful view of the mountains. Our guide told us he had helped people in their 90s enjoy the zipping experience, so my fears were unfounded. We chose the Ozarks Explorer course that included seven zip lines and 10 sky bridges, but there were shorter courses for those with less time. Our high-flying adventure took approximately two and a half hours and was well worth the terror I felt when stepping off that first platform. At the end, I was filled with pride and couldn’t wait to do it again. Those in our group who didn’t zip took the walking tour that followed the course so they could see their loved ones soaring through the canopy overhead.
Our afternoon adventure, also booked in advance, was a wild ride on the new Branson Jet Boats. We climbed aboard the vessel on Lake Taneycomo at Branson Landing for the one-hour guided tour. The boat looked innocent enough at first, but the guides told us to get ready for some acrobatics. They did not disappoint during the 12-mile ride with 360-degree turns, spins and slides kicking up sprays of the lake’s cool water. We got happily wet during the adventure.
A less intense cruise on Table Rock Lake was our Sunday evening dinner aboard the Showboat Branson Belle. The beloved paddlewheel riverboat replica served our meal along with a musical variety show and lovely sunset views of the lake. “Are you feeling anything after today’s adventures?” Joe asked me. “Just happiness that I actually had the nerve to do all of that. I feel great!” I said. We were justifiably proud of ourselves and enjoyed the gorgeous sunset with the knowledge we had tackled our fears and had only fond memories to show for it.
We were determined to squeeze every last minute out of our Table Rock Lake adventure, so we chose to get up early Monday morning to visit the 10,000-acre Dogwood Canyon Nature Park before hitting the highway for our drive back home. We said goodbye to the Ozarks at this beautiful spot on the south side of the lake by spotting bison and elk, and enjoying the waterfalls in the gorgeous canyon. My husband said he made a mental note to come back when we had more time to explore—maybe for our anniversary.
As we drove away, both of us knew the trip had been a success. Neither of us had talked about work for three whole days. We had time together to remember why we enjoyed traveling, especially together—even when pushing each other towards adventure. I ruffled his hair and turned on our favorite music as we headed down the highway to extend the good vibes we generated with each other over the weekend. With so much to do that we hadn’t even begun to see it all, another trip to Table Rock Lake would be on the calendar very soon.