Most of us like to avoid Interstate highways; a good alternative traversing east-west across southern Missouri is US 60. It’s one of those more pleasant roads across the state, but it’s not the only one. Parallel to US 60, about 20 miles to the south, is US 160 through the Mark Twain National Forest. I discovered US 160 about 1980 and have gone back every chance I get.
If you are coming from the east, divert from US 60 to US 160 at Poplar Bluff. From there it’s about 165 miles to Branson and another 47 miles north to the Rally in Springfield. The road is a lot like the Blue Ridge Parkway, only without the mountain vistas. Better curves await you than on US 60, and it’s straddled by farms and towns along the way. Even if you are not coming from the east, from the Rally site you could do an all-day trip clockwise or counterclockwise from Springfield, going US 60 one way and US 160 the other.
Southern Missouri is in the Ozark Mountains, so by definition, countless other roads are worthy rides and remember—on US 160 you are only 20 miles from the border of Arkansas, which is also Ozark country. Remember your grade school science classes about where the southern edge of the ice sheet from the last ice age ended—right there in southern Missouri. That means hills, valleys, rivers, undulating hills and roads that swoop through and wrap around them. That’s the Ozarks!
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! If you are coming from the east or going to the east after the rally, Grass Roots BMW is a class act dealership in Cape Giradeau, just off I-55 on the Mississippi River across from the southern tip of Illinois. If you need service, you can’t go wrong. Cose by further east is the Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky. From US 60 in eastern Missouri, carve your way down to New Madrid and cross the Mississippi River onto Route 80 east to Mayfield, Kentucky. Take route 80 east to KY 68, across the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, which flow north at that point to join the Mississippi. Two old, spectacular, narrow steel truss bridges have been replaced by some pretty suspension bridges, but riding across those rivers is still spectacular.