South Central Missouri's Alphabet Roads

Text: Rick Schunk • Photography: Rick Schunk

My Honda VFR's odometer spins past 30,000 as I enter the Missouri River town of Boonville. Over the years, I have ridden some of what I thought were the Show-Me State's finest back roads. However, these roads were mostly confined to Missouri's extreme southern border, where it butts up against the Arkansas hill country. Jumping off the main line, I had my doubts that the roads this far north would offer much excitement.

Crossing the mighty Missouri late in the day, I ride into Boonville looking for a side street to take me to the river's edge. I had been thinking of ceremoniousy dipping my front tire in the river to bookend the beginning and end of this tour, but abandoned the idea when discovering the closest I could get was the employee parking lot of the Isle of Capri Casino.

Once outside town, State Route 87, a lightly traveled two lane, becomes part of the national Lewis and Clark Trail, with Clark's Fork being the first town I pass through. Less than five miles later, I see the hamlet of Prairie Home and couldn't help mentally adding "Companion" to the town's name as a tip-of-the-hat to public radio's Garrison Keillor.

State Route 87, although interesting, doesn't pay any real homage to Lewis and Clark around here, and after 23 miles I'm relieved to see the familiar L&C sign leading me closer to their transportation route of choice, the Missouri River. A left turn onto SR 179 and 10 miles of riding bring me to the river's edge. After another 23 miles of rollicking blacktop, a tribute to the state's transportation department, SR 179 terminates in Jefferson City, Missouri's capital.

After passing up the continental breakfast at the Motel 6, I leave town with a desire to sample some of Missouri's alphabet roads and start out on County Road C. Rounding an uphill, off-camber corner, a splendid early 20th-century church catches my attention as I enter Russellville. Distracted, I initially miss my left-hand turn onto CR V. And although it's only a short five-mile jaunt, V demands concentration while also prodding the road racer in you to come out and play. Upon reaching CR A, a right turn delivers an arrow-straight ride, reuniting me with our friend SR 87. Running south for nine miles, I'm once again on the alphabet roads with turns on CR Y and W, and heading south to Lake of the Ozarks.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the November/December 2009 back issue.