If you’re heading to Table Rock Lake this summer and passing through Kimberling City, keep your eyes peeled for a slice of island life along MO-13. Just look for the bushy cane plants and wide leafed elephant ear a mile-and-a-half south of the Kimberling City bridge.
For those in the know, the Cruise Inn & Throttle Down is a popular biker motel for those joy riding along the twisting Ozarks’ highways. Since 2006, the roadside motel has been best known for its dive bar, impressive beer selection and the juicy burgers made fresh in house. But this summer, Chip and Evie Meyers – the laidback owners at Cruise Inn – unveiled a new attraction. “We built our own island,” Chip says.
High up on the hill side with a million-dollar view of Table Rock Lake, Cruise Inn now features a tropical tiki bar where frozen drinks laced with rum are served in red plastic Solo cups from of a replica VW bus. From the road, the white and red time capsule looks like the real deal. But saddle up to the bar to order a drink, and you'll realize the bus is one hell of an imitator; the only real VW parts are the headlights, bumpers and wheels, which all came off a VW bus in California.
Just like Chip and Evie, the tiki bar is rooted in island vibes. Before moving to Kimberling City and purchasing the biker motel in 2006, the couple lived on sailboats for 15 years and cruised around the East Coast, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands and the gulf.
When they lived in Florida, Chip says the duo ran charter cruises from Miami to the Bahamas on a 54-foot boat. “When we pulled in to New Orleans, we traded it for an 80-foot topsail schooner,” Chip says. It was the kind of boat you’d half expect Captain Jack Sparrow to appear on, with its billowing white sails and sleek wooden deck. The look of the ship wasn’t lost on Chip and Evie. “We dressed like pirates, filled a barrel of rum and took people out on booze cruises,” he says. Even as he mans the tiki bar in Kimberling City, Chip’s left earlobe is pierced with a gold pirate sword and his green parrot Louie sits on his shoulder licking beads of sweat from Chip's cheek.
“Then Katrina came by and it all disappeared one night,” he says. “That was our sign it was time to come home. But I missed my island, so I built one.”
The motel already had the in-ground pool and concrete deck, so Chip and Evie spent last winter expanding the back patio, bringing in bright yellow tables, replacing Cedar trees with more tropical plants like elephants ear and installing the imitation VW bus. Inside the bus, the drink menu is much different from the basement dive where Chip has some 120-plus beers to choose from.
Out on the sunny deck, the tiki bar is all about rum. There are even slushy machines churning away in the background, and each red Solo cup is garnished with a colorful umbrella straw. The Lazy Island comes loaded with coconut rum, Triple Sec, 7 Up and club soda, while Amy’s Amaretto is a spiced rum concoction with pineapple juice, coconut and amaretto. With a cold slushy in hand and the colorful Louie chirping away nearby, it’s surprisingly easy to forget you’re landlocked in the middle of the country, which is exactly what Chip and Evie are going for.
“There was a guy sitting here the other day,” Chip says. “He said this was the best piece of Florida he’d ever been on in Missouri.”
Cruise Inn & Throttle Down, 9687 MO-13, Kimberling City, Missouri, 417.779.4158, cruise-inns.com