When we were invited to join the MtnRoo Missouri Chapter of Subaru enthusiasts for the Ozark Riverways Romp, how could we refuse? After all, a combined driving tour and camping trip with a gaggle of fellow gearheads sounded pretty great. MtnRoo is a Subaru group that welcomes all makes to attend their events, so of course my partner Calvin and I took our 2013 X5 35d. This trip highlighted all of the reasons I love our X5 and just how capable it is.
The Ozark Riverways Romp was organized by Jacob Stolter, who is a published historian and has worked as an interpreter for many of the state parks in the area. The Missouri Ozarks are stunningly beautiful. The rural roads twist and turn through the thick forests and wide open meadows that are lush and green due to the countless springs and rivers. The rise and fall of elevation can lead you up to scenic mountain views or down into caves, caverns, and sinkholes.
The morning of the tour, a few of us decided to take the scenic route to Montauk State park where we would be meeting with the rest of the group. As a rally driver, my favorite road sign is the big yellow diamond that says “PAVEMENT ENDS” because, for me, that is where adventure begins. Shortly after leaving the pavement, we arrived at one of the many water crossings of the day. Stolter, our tour leader, was the first to drive into the creek in his Subaru Outback named “Oliver,” but unfortunately a wave of water pushed over the hood. He shut it off immediately in an attempt to save the engine.
Thankfully, Calvin and I have experience with both vehicle recovery and waterlogged cars. We grabbed our tow straps and shackles and together everyone formulated a plan to rescue Oliver the Outback. The X5 pulled the waterlogged Subaru out with ease. We opened the doors and water began pouring out. While Jacob grabbed what he needed from inside the car Calvin opened up Oliver’s airbox to find that the car had in fact ingested water. He wanted to dig into the car further, but we didn’t have the tools or the time to drain the cylinders, so we loaded up and pressed on to meet the rest of the group at the Montauk Lodge.
Once we met up with the rest of the group, we followed the Current River and waved at all the trout fishers that covered the banks. We followed a gravel road and crossed a small spring to our first stop, the Susie Nichols Cabin site. Nichols was a true Ozark Mountain woman who traveled by horseback, collected all of her water from a stream, cooked on a wood stove, and grew and preserved food from her garden. She passed away in 1959 and her board-and-batten cabin has been preserved as a historical site.
From there, the wide gravel road narrowed to a multi-use trail and began getting rougher.
Six Subarus being tailed by a polka-dot BMW was quite a spectacle for the horseback riders sharing the trail. Someone smiled and exclaimed, “Woah! I’ve never seen a BMW all the way out here!?” We splashed through the mud and crawled over rocks embedded in the road. The slower pace afforded me some fantastic photo opportunities. We finally made it to our lunch stop at Big Rock Candy Mountain, and after sharing a pile of nachos so large it barely fit on the pizza pan it was served on, we were refueled and ready for more driving. From here, we would be taking lettered highways which are like curling ribbons of asphalt perfect for a spirited cruise.
Our next stop was Welch Spring and Welch Hospital Ruins. We took a short hike down a trail that led us to cool turquoise water that flowed from an underground cave. Across the spring, you could see the ruins of a stone hospital building which would have been the modern-day equivalent of a health spa. Fresh air and spring water were pumped into the building from the underground cave for their healing properties.
Next, the group motored to a few more stops, visiting another geological landmark, a historic bridge, and a scenic overlook. Each stop gave the group ample time to socialize in the nature’s beauty.
The final stop, which happened to be my favorite stop of the day, was the Alley Spring and Mill. Water that flowed from the spring was used to mill grain into flour.
This driving tour gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful corners of Missouri from the seat of one of my favorite BMWs. The capability of the X5 made our weekend not just stress-free, but a lot of fun. Towing for hours down winding roads pulling a camper with confidence, recovering a soggy Subaru, a romp down a muddy and rocky trail, and cruising down miles of pavement with smiles on our faces and memories to last a lifetime.
Whether it’s on road or off, near or far away, I encourage you to follow your sense of adventure in your BMW this summer!—Kelsey Stephens
[Photos by Calvin Cooper and Kelsey Stephens.]