Midwest family adventure: Columbia, MO

A few weeks ago I had this daydream: A fall weekend in Columbia, MO – the crunchy college town that still possesses a piece of my heart.


image via painted post

We’d load up the bikes and hit the trail right away to do the 30-mile round trip to the blufftop winery overlooking the Missouri River. Then we’d get up the next morning and explore the Mizzou campus before heading to the Roots N Blues N BBQ music festival. Then we’d drive another two hours to meet one of my very best friend’s babies and hang until dinner time. Back in DSM late Sunday night. Crazy? Maybe. I started to think of it as a kind of parenting triathlon – a test of endurance.

Thankfully, the forecast for the weekend was gorgeous. But as anyone who’s spent more than 20 minutes with a toddler knows, their emotions are harder to predict than the weather in the Midwest. One minute, E can be happily flipping through a book and then you offer him a banana and the kid flips out.

Ultimately, the weekend turned out to be a lot of fun (despite a few scattered meltdowns), and I’m glad we pushed ourselves to make a little mini adventure happen. Here’s how it went down.


 The Ride

We parked at the Forum Blvd entrance to the MKT Trail, a city/county trail that hooks up with the much longer Katy Trail, which stretches most of Missouri. I think during my years at Mizzou, the MKT was the closest thing to my “third place” – aside from wherever I was living and working/studying. I’d go there to run or bike when I was happy or heartbroken, to clear my head and to think. Its crushed limestone mixed with the fall foliage flood me with feeling.


We made good progress — aside from a break that led to a tire blowout on Emmett’s trailer. (Sometimes toddlers don’t want to get back in the bike and stand and scream until a tire explodes, and then really want to help fix it.) 



It’s another 0.3 steep miles from the trail to the blufftop, and we totally earned the bottle of wine and picnic basket we enjoyed at the Les Bourgeois A-frame. We got back to our car a little after dark, with just a sliver of moon and a kid screaming the last few miles.




But to see the sunset over the fields and the shadow of The Big Tree in McBain? Worth it. Midwest, beautiful.


The Fest 

Confession: I’m not a huge college football fan. And without a crew to tailgate, I didn’t feel like timing a fall trip to CoMO with an SEC showdown. Instead, I saw a few of my favorite bands were playing Roots N Blues N BBQ and booked the adventure around that.

The Fest was way bigger than I expected, in a good way. We only went to Saturday of the three-day event, but the lineup was pretty amazing, there was tons of art, lounge-y areas and great food vendors (double yum) and the whole setup was super family-friendly.



There was even a carousel adjacent to one of the two stages. I made sure we got up front for the David Wax Museum because my friend Sam was playing with them and I love their sound. Then we mostly hung out on a blanket and listened to Lake Street Drive, Roseanne Cash, John Prine, Amos Lee and a liiittle bit of the Avett Brothers set before the wee one went totally loopy.


The Lou’  

I’m so glad we tacked on a few hours int he car to meet Miss Vivian.


I love few things more than pattering around the kitchen catching up with my friends, and that’s what we did. Before we took off for the drive back to Des Moines, though, we walked to the most amazing ice cream shop down the street from our friends’ flat.


Ices Plain & Fancy is pretty much mouth heaven. They make each serving special with liquid nitrogen in mixers in front of you and one bite into my salted carmel dolce waffle cone I nearly passed out from bliss.



It was so great to visit Amanda in her first few weeks of motherhood. (I even got her to try out her Ergo carrier!) Amanda’s a nurturer who seems to have it down already, but those first weeks were rough for me, trying to figure everything out and being exhausted and overwhelmed and wondering what was normal.


When it comes to parenting, Joe and I still have pretty much no clue, but I guess 15 months in, we’re a little more willing to pack ourselves up anyway and explore the world as a family — meltdowns be damned.

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