We rented a cabin in the woods.

Not a scary cabin, but what the owners referred to as a fishing cottage at the bottom of a very steep hill on the edge of Lake of the Ozarks. It was a vacation rental we found on HomeAway, equipped with a full kitchen, wireless internet, and a big deck that faced the lake.

Lake panorama wm

This was the first time we ever used a vacation rental website and are happy the property was a clean and beautiful as advertised. Our friend has had both good and bad experiences using sites like VRBO. Fortunately, these owners responded promptly and were very helpful.

My only critique there’s $90 cleaning charge added to the nightly rate. Since we haven’t used a vacation rental site before, I don’t know if this is normal. I can’t blame renters for preparing for the worst, but wish they’d just roll it into the nightly fee or take a deposit in case renters cause damage.

One of the best parts of the weekend was that Trayse could come, too! We still paid an upcharge to bring him, but it was less than what we’d pay to board him.

Trayse Face WM

“Did you fish?” friends asked.

“We talked to people who were fishing,” we replied.

So, we’re not the most outdoorsy people, but we enjoyed being outside. We saw deer casually standing at the fork in the driveway, a turtle swimming by the dock, and hawks circling above the trees. We frantically Googled whether or not hawks would carry Trayse away and decided to error on caution. I also saw a bug that looked like a twig on the deck. Bugs get weirder the father south you drive from Minnesota.

jake trayse outside wm

This little nook of Lake of the Ozarks was quiet and peaceful. We occasionally saw people boating and fishing, and heard but never saw our neighbors from their secluded decks. At night, we heard murmurs of conversation and laughter floating above the water. The way lakes carry sound is comforting and eerie.

sunset lake wm

We cooked several of our meals at the cabin. However, we did venture up the scarily steep driveway for Saturday’s dinner. I refused to even attempt driving up or down it, myself. Our car has four-wheel drive. We made it up and down just fine, but can’t imagine attempting it in the frost or rain. Heck, it was difficult to even walk down. Trayse did just fine.

We ventured to the Bagnell Dam Strip because it’s the location of the Thai restaurant from which we ordered take out. It’s zany. In a recent article about local apple orchards, Heavy Table introduced an Orchard Insanity Meter to help people navigate the spectrum between “a field with apple trees” to “the apple orchard as a theme park” a.k.a. “autumnal purgatory.”

This little strip of restaurants and touristy gift shops brought to mind the Orchard Insanity Meter. If there was a zany lakeside tourist street meter, the Bagnell Dam Strip might land at a 7.

We stopped at Tucker’s Shuckers to grab a quick drink while we waited for our take-out order.
My whiskey cocktail reminded me of a mojito. It was small but mighty.

“Do you want to try some oysters?” asked Jake. I pretended like I didn’t hear his question. In all honesty, I was apprehensive about ordering raw oysters from a restaurant I didn’t know much about, outside of a big city. I admit, this assumption may be unfair. I’ve never gotten ill from eating shellfish, but I have bitten into some funky oysters. “They specialize in oysters,” argued Jake and ordered a half-dozen ($10.99).

And you know what? They tasted very fresh. Anthony Bourdain often recalls the first time he enjoyed a raw oyster during his childhood in France in great detail. I can’t see how one could ever forget eating his or first raw oyster. During a spring break service trip during my sophomore year in college, I tried my first oyster. We sat on the balcony of a restaurant located on River Street in Savannah, Georgia and the girl with the roaring laugh walked us through the process involving hot sauce and soda crackers. They cost $.50 cents each. For the first time, I understood what it meant when cookbook authors and television chefs said they tasted like the sea.


Grandma’s Candy Kitchen advertised fudge and was located just across the street. Obviously, we had to visit. The phrase “Made with real cream and butter” adorned the wall behind the candy cases.

fudge wm

Sea salt and caramel fudge.

Wok N Roll caught our eye because the rental owners left a menu tucked inside their visitors guide.

“Thai hot, please,” I requested when I placed our order. “Which dish?” they asked. “All of them.

A friendly young man greeted us at the restaurant. He boasted about the fresh habanero peppers in their kitchen and a special dried chili mix they just received.

The heat level of the food was exactly what we hoped for, and everything tasted really good. Jake usually doesn’t gravitate toward Thai coconut curries, but really liked their Penang curry with beef. The pad thai was a little dry with a good flavor. Still, far better than when restaurants make Pad Thai with the cloyingly sweet sauce. It included plenty of chicken and cabbage, a vegetable that is always a welcome addition in my book.

Thai Food

Our little nook of Lake of the Ozarks was quiet during this fall weekend. We were content to simply sit by the water and stare upwards at the fall leaves and circling hawks. The lake is less than three hours away from St. Louis and we hope to return next year. There’s a lot more here to explore and eat, like lakeside restaurants, BBQ, and moonshine distilleries.

Trayse slept all the way home.

trayse car sleep wm

They say this is the fun lake.