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NASCAR driver shows off his Missouri hometown

  • Story Highlights
  • NASCAR driver Carl Edwards shares his favorite spots in Columbia, Missouri
  • He's a fan of Rock Bridge State Park, only 10 minutes from the center of town
  • Edwards also frequents Booches Billiard Hall for the "best burger in the world"
By Rebecca Angel Baer
CNN
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(CNN) -- Carl Edwards, one of NASCAR's elite, makes a living traveling at speeds upwards of 200 mph and is on the road more than 200 days a year. So when he wants to slow down, he heads to his hometown of Columbia, Missouri.

Shakespeare's Pizza is one of Edwards' favorite restaurants.

NASCAR driver Carl Edwards grew up in Columbia, Missouri.

He grew up in Columbia and couldn't wait to get out of town, but after living in North Carolina for three years, he was ready to come back.

"I realized after being away, there just aren't many places cooler than this," Edwards said. "So I moved back, and now I live here and I'm really proud to live here."

He competes in both the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series for NASCAR. He won a Busch Series Cup in 2007, finished last year's Sprint Cup Series in second, and is fiercely fighting for Sprint Cup honors this year.

Edwards has recovered from a frightening crash-ending to his last race in Talladega, Alabama, and is looking forward to racing in Richmond, Virginia, this week, hoping for his first trip of the season to victory lane. His fans are eagerly awaiting that trademark victory back flip. But through all of the excitement and acclaim, Edwards remains grounded and true to his Missouri roots.

He took CNN home with him to Columbia -- which is between Kansas City and St. Louis -- to share some of his favorite spots.

The day started at Rock Bridge State Park, 2,273 acres of natural beauty and serenity that is hard to believe is only 10 minutes from the bustling center of this college town.

"This park is one of Columbia's best secrets. It's a beautiful place to come mountain biking, hiking. There's a cave that runs under this ground that goes for over 50 miles."

The park boasts 15 miles of trails and endless possibilities for adventure, from hiking and biking to canoeing and even cave exploration.

When Edwards gets the need for speed at home, he opts for two wheels instead of four. He grabs his bicycle and heads to the Katy Trail, just up the road from Rock Bridge Park.

"This used to be an old railroad, and now it's a state park. It's 10 feet wide, it's over 200 miles long, and all of this is open to the public."

Edwards also showed us one of his favorite trail features: a beautiful giant bur oak tree simply referred to by Missouri natives as "the big bur oak." Edwards says it's one of the oldest in the state and thinks that it is one of the coolest spots along the trail.

All that exercise and fresh air can certainly rev up an appetite, and Edwards has two favorite places to cure that. For what he calls the best burger in the world, he heads to Booches Billiard Hall, one of his high school hangouts.

"We used to come here in high school when we probably should have been in school. We'd shoot pool, eat booch burgers and just have a good time," he said.

We were greeted by one of the owners, Charlie Kurry, who poked a little fun at Edwards' trademark backflip celebration.

"The only thing flipping in here is the burgers," Kurry said. Booches has been in operation in Columbia since 1884.

Next up is Shakespeare's Pizza, which has been serving slices in Columbia for more than 35 years.

"They can make you anything you want. They've got whole wheat crust if you're into the health stuff like I am. And it's so good, they even catered my wedding."

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These are just some of the hidden gems of Carl Edwards' Columbia, but this town has much more to offer.

There are museums, festivals and parades, and the University of Missouri has provided a lot of athletic excitement with its football and basketball teams over the past few years. It's a perfect weekend getaway from its larger surrounding cities. And if you live farther away than that, it's worth the trip!

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