September 26, 2016

Dogpatch Arcade

Words & photos by Ryan 

      Dogpatch Arcade is a world of endless Skeeball and other vintage arcade games. Located on the Bagnell Dam Strip, it is one of the last true arcades in the Lake of the Ozarks area.
I’ll be honest, I used to favor a different arcade in the area until it permanently closed several years ago. I always knew that the Dogpatch Arcade was right across the street from it, but I had never visited Dogpatch until a recent trip brought me through the Bagnell Dam strip.
     At first glance, it looks like a barn. The arcade is situated between two Ozark-themed gift shops and only has one modest sign pointing to its location. Spiderman and the Batmobile stand at the entrance in the form of coin-operated rides. Just past these fiberglass guards stands a set of Dance-Dance Revolution dance pads, and past that you’ll discover many classic arcade games. Pacman, Donkey Kong, Street Fighter, Mortal Combat, and other modern racing games welcome players with the message, “insert credits.” Some games also give out tickets.
     After winning tickets, you can exchange them for valuable prizes such as candy, plastic insects, stickers and more. The two guys working the counter were life-long residents of Lake of the Ozarks, and they seemed to enjoy meeting people and giving out prizes. Their favorite game in the arcade? Deal or no Deal.

     A quick note to those who want to go: bring cash. These machines do not use preloaded “game cards,” but rather, good old fashion quarters. Yes, you will have a ridiculous amount of quarters in your pocket, but there is something insanely satisfying about popping a few quarters into the change slot.
     If you’ve never been to an arcade, it’s a different experience than just sitting at home in front of a television playing a video game. Arcades are becoming rare, and they echo back to a simpler time. Enjoy them while they’re still around!

September 14, 2016

Crystal Cove Bed & Breakfast

        Ryan and I have been married for four years now, and I wanted to do something special on our anniversary to celebrate. We just had our first child in April, and in case you didn't know, having a baby changes everything. We love being parents, but I thought surprising Ryan with a getaway for just the two of us would be a nice way of saying, "I'm glad I married you." Until we stayed at Crystal Cove I had never been to a bed and breakfast. When I found out Ryan had also never been to one, I decided to find a local B&B so we could experience another "first" together.
       When I started my search for a B&B I was picturing a quaint, refurbished house with rooms that had old furniture and a classic breakfast of pancakes and eggs. When I landed at Crystal Cove's website, it was not what I had set out to find, but it turned out to be exactly what I wanted. When I contacted them to make the reservation, there was only going to be a room available if it wasn't booked by a certain time. The staff was very accommodating and kept me updated on the room availability. When the room hadn't been booked, I jumped at the opportunity. That night I told Ryan what we were doing for the weekend, and he was excited to stay at a bed and breakfast for the first time. Most of the other B&Bs I found were what I considered to be the classic model of a B&B. Crystal Cove stood out to me in many ways, and it has set a high standard for what I should expect from other bed and breakfasts.

       Crystal Cove is situated on a mountainside overlooking Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo. The property is beautifully landscaped with waterfalls and ponds filled with koi fish. Fish food is also available for guests to feed the koi. The property is surrounded by woods and it's not uncommon to see deer or turkey meandering around the trees. There are hiking trails and a private dock on Table Rock Lake that guests can use. There are six log cabin suites, and one suite located around the side of the main office. All of them are decorated with their own themes. Each suite has a king-size bed, new Sealy posturepedic coilless mattress, a mini kitchenette, and a jacuzzi tub for two. Each cabin also has a fireplace and a large 37-inch flat screen television. Near the front of the property there is another cabin called the Coffee & Sweet Shop. It's free and open 24 hours. It has coffee, tea, and all kinds of sweet treats you can take back to your room. Guests staying in the cabins enjoy a large, homemade breakfast served in a dining room on the side of the main lodge.

        We grabbed a snack in the Sweet Shop shortly after we arrived and walked around the property. There was plenty of great scenery to take in. We were in the suite located around the side of the main office called the Victorian Honeymoon Suite. Our room exceeded the expectations I had, and my expectations were already high. There were a few extra amenities that this room had. Along with the other amenities I mentioned, our room had access to Netflix and a selection of Blu Rays in 3D (glasses included of course). Our TV was a 42-inch flatscreen, and we had a private covered deck with a porch swing. It was nice to relax on the porch together and reminisce about how our lives have changed over the last year. The next morning we enjoyed breakfast in our room. The staff alternates between savory and sweet for their breakfast dishes, and that morning we had sweeter entrees that included french toast topped with pecans, berries, and whipped cream with sausage links on the side. It was all delicious and a perfect way to start off a Saturday morning in Branson.

       Crystal Cove was a great experience. We would love to go back and hopefully stay longer than one night. For pricing (which is very reasonable) check out their website. You can book your stay through their website or by calling. If you've never stayed at a B&B before, or you're just looking for a relaxing getaway, consider Crystal Cove for your next trip in the Ozarks!

August 8, 2016

Alpena, Arkansas

Alpena, Arkansas

        A word of caution: you might lose yourself in a good conversation while traveling through Alpena, Arkansas. It may not be the biggest or most recognizable town in the Ozarks, but on our travels through Northern Arkansas, we discovered that it may be the friendliest.
        Last month, Ryan and I took the scenic route on our way to Eureka Springs. We ended up in Alpena during the Old Alpena Pass Crafts and Antiques Show. We pulled over immediately when we saw a long row of vendors selling soaps, jewelry, and homemade desserts. Across the street there were several stores that would turn out to have very friendly and talkative store owners. Everyone was very welcoming, and we could sense that this was a tight-knit community. The crafts show being hosted that weekend was part of a fundraiser to build a new community playground. Alpena is also part of Ozark Byways which is a regional revitalization project of the Rural Community Alliance. RCA is a non-profit organization that aims to help rural schools and communities "survive and thrive" in the Arkansas Ozarks. "The Winding Road" is the route that can be followed around northern Arkansas to get an off-the-beaten-path experience. 

Alpena, Arkansas

        After looking through the vendor booths, we meandered across the street to an art gallery. Alpena Chainsaw Art is a shop full of chainsaw carvings, wall hangings, concrete statues, and handmade walking sticks. Ryan and I enjoyed seeing those statues of who we assumed was Momo, Missouri's own Bigfoot, posed in mid-stride near the road. Along with this local legend, there were several carvings of morel mushrooms, bears, and eagles. Kay Jackson is the chainsaw-wielding woodcarver who works outside next door to her shop. People strolling by can stop and watch her turn tree trunks and blocks of wood into detailed works of art. Alpena Chainsaw Art is one of several unique shops along Alpena's main drag. As we made our way down Main Street, we were greeted by store owners welcoming us to look around. 
        There are several events coming up this Fall in Alpena that would be worth checking out. September 23-24 is the Ozark Byways Buy-Days which is a region wide yard and sidewalk sale. Individuals and businesses that are part of the Ozark Byways are all welcome to participate. October 8 will be the Smokin' in the Pass BBQ Cookoff and November 24 is the Gallop for the Gravy 5K Run. Last year the proceeds went toward Rural Community Alliance and Children's Charity Ministry. 
         Learning about the local things going on in this small community solidified my belief that the Ozarks region is the perfect place to take a drive and get lost. Ryan and I find something new and interesting every time we do.