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THERE'S MORE TO AUTUMN THAN NEW ENGLAND

New England's reds and golds is a stereotype of the fall season. But so are the crowds.

The maples across America's middle can be just as brilliant as New England's, but seeing them can be a lot easier. And, depending on the route, it's unlikely you'll be run off the road by other leaf-peepers.Here are eight great routes. Although any could be driven in a day, each could make a fall getaway.

Vintage Kansas

Atchison's Victorian past gets no better display than in fall, when it is framed in reds and oranges. Follow the city's self-guided tour of 17 homes and buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and don't miss the view of the Missouri River valley from the abbey lookout at Benedictine College.

Then head south on U.S. 73 to the Victorian homes in Leavenworth, the historic buidings at Fort Leavenworth and the view from the bluffs. Continue south on U.S. 73 to U.S. 24 and west toward Lawrence. Look for bright colors west of Tonganoxie along a ridge on the north side of the highway.

Take U.S. 59 south into Lawrence, stroll the wooded campus of the University of Kansas and grab lunch in downtown Lawrence. Then head south on Haskell Road or U.S. 59 and east into Baldwin City for more Victorian homes and historic buildings - this time at Baker University - framed in autumn reds. On Oct. 15-16, check out Baldwin's Maple Leaf Festival.

Route: A 75-mile drive from Atchison southwest to Lawrence and Baldwin City.

Information: For a brochure describing fall foliage tours in Kansas, contact Division of Travel and Tourism Development, Kansas Department of Commerce, 700 S.W. Harrison St., Suite 1300, Topeka, Kan. 66603-3712; (800) 252-6727 or (913) 296-2009.

For a description of Atchison's self-guided tour of historic structures, call the Atchison Area Chamber of Commerce at (913) 367-2427 or stop by the visitor center at the Santa Fe Depot.

Ozark Hills

According to The Greatest Ozarks Guidebook, the Ozarks' forests "are a unique blend of what are probably more varieties of trees than any other part of the continent."

All I know, however, is that the hills across central and southern Missouri usually put on a spectacular show in October. And one relatively easy place to take in the show is Missouri's favorite summer place, Lake of the Ozarks.

Avoid the cluttered Missouri 5 as much as possible; take Missouri 7 from Clinton Lake southeast into Camdenton. A few miles east, take County Road A to the Swinging Bridge near Linn Creek. Return to Camdenton and head west on U.S. 54 a few miles to Ha Ha Tonka State Park. The crumbling remains of a three-story castle are an eery counterpoint to the misty hills and emerald spring below.

And grab a ride on an excursion boat on Lake of the Ozarks for fall foliage from a different perspective.

Route: About 90 miles from Clinton to Camdenton, Linn Creek and Ha Ha Tonka State Park.

Information: Contact Missouri Division of Tourism, Truman State Office Building, Box 1055; Jefferson City, Mo. 65102; (314) 751-4133 or (800) 877-1234.

Contact Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau at (314) 365-3371.

Ridges and Bridges

The bridges of Madison County predate "The Bridges of Madison County" by more than 100 years. And it's a good bet the covered structures in and around Winterset, Iowa, will stand long after "Bridges" drops off the best-seller list.

The six covered bridges are the focus of Winterset's 25th annual Covered Bridge Festival Oct. 8-9. Among the events is a 5-K run that passes two of the structures.

The rolling hills of southern Iowa offer good foliage throughout the fall, and Winterset's 43-mile route from bridge to bridge is a good beginning.

Route: A 43-mile drive to six covered bridges in and near Winterset, Iowa, and an extension to DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge.

Information: Contact Madison County Chamber of Commerce at (515) 462-1185 for a self-guided tour of covered bridges.

Contact DeSoto National Wilflife Refuge, Highway 30 along the Missouri River at Missouri Valley, Iowa, at (712) 642-4121.

Across the border

Talimena Scenic Byway is a two-lane highway along ridgetops in the Ouachita Mountains that run from Oklahoma into Arkansas. Hardwoods mixed among shortleaf pines create a stunning display during the foliage season, late October to mid-November.

From the west, the drive climbs Winding Stair Mountain and passes Horsethief Spring. The Robert S. Kerr Memorial Arboretum and Nature Center sits midway along the route; three interpretive trails lead into the 8,000-acre preserve named after the Oklahoma senator.

Crossing into Arkansas, the Talimena winds toward Queen Wilhemina State Park, with lodge, restaurant, hiking trails and dramatic blue mountain vistas. The Mena visitor information center is at this end of the route.

Route: A 54-mile drive along mountain crests in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Information: For information about seven scenic highways for fall foliage contact Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, 1 Capitol Mall, Little Park, Ark. 72201; (501) 682-7777 or (800) 628-8725.

Tennessee's roots

There are some pretty empty roads in this part of Tennessee - and the emphasis is on both "pretty" and "empty." Foliage peaks late October to mid-November.

From Lexington, Tennessee Highways 22A and 69 wind south to U.S. 64 just west of Savannah, a town rich in history. Ulysses S. Grant made his headquarters here during the Battle of Shiloh. (Shiloh National Military Park is southwest of here) and Alex Haley's grandfather operated a ferry nearby.)

Head east on U.S. 64; at Davey Crockett State Recreational Park west of Lawrenceburg, try a picnic or walk along a nature trail. Just south of the public square in Lawrenceburg is the Davey Crockett Museum, on a site where the frontiersman lived for six years.

To continue the drive, follow the scenic route that runs north of Lawrenceburg on U.S. 43 and then loops back west to Lexington.

Route: A 100-mile drive through south-central Tennessee, from Lexington to Lawrenceburg.

Information: Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, P.O. Box 23170, Nashville, Tenn. 37202-3170; (615) 741-2158.

Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula

The veins of history run deep on Keweenaw Peninsula in Upper Michigan, where the discovery of rich mineral deposits set off a copper rush in the 1840s. And the roads run high on this fingertip of land jutting into Lake Superior.

The Brockway Mountain Drive, a 10-mile stretch between two small towns at Keweenaw's tip, is billed among the highest drives in Middle America. Golden aspen and red maple are at their peak in mid- to late September.

Route: A 100-mile round-trip drive between Houghton and Copper Harbor on the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Information: Michigan Travel Bureau, P.O. Box 3393, Lavonia, Mich. 48151; (800) 543-2-YES.

Minnesota's Bluff Country

The stretch of Great River Road between Winoa and Red Wing, Minn., is one of the prettiest foliage routes in the state. But south of Winona are country roads where foliage usually peaks early to mid-October.

Bluff Country is named for the dome-shaped hills in the southeastern corner of the state. From U.S. 61, the Great River Road, take Minnesota 44 southwest out of LaCrescent to Beaver Creek Valley State Park and continue to Spring Grove, an early Norwegian settlement, and into Harmony, home of Minnesota's largest Amish Community. Then circle northeast to Lanesboro, a history-minded town near the Root River.

Route: a 95-mile loop drive in southeastern Minnesota.

Information: Minnesota Office of Tourism, 100 Metro Square, 121 7th Place East, St. Paul, Minn. 55101-2112; (800) 657-3700.

Colorado aspens

The Highway of Legends is a National Forest Scenic Byway that rises to a pass in the Sangre de Christo Mountains and back down again. Stands of aspens color the route, usually in late September to early October.

The route follows U.S. 160 and Colorado 12, beginning at Walsenburg and ending in Trinidad. The monumental landmark here is the Spanish Peaks, origin of fabulous legends of rain, romance and gold.

At La Veta visit Francisco Fort Museum, housed in a 19th-century adobe complex. Drive through rich valley pastures outside town and then head up to the 9,941-foot Cuchura Pass.

The road drops down into the Purgatoire River Valley and ends at Trinidad and its Crozan de Trinidad Historic District.

Route: An 82-mile drive on the Highway of Legends in south-central Colorado.

Information: Contact the Trinidad Chamber of Commerce at (719) 846-9285.