The temperature hovers just under 40 degrees and it’s late in the fall when we set off for our next big adventure, an interesting mix of Canadian and Spanish named locations. We’ve talked a bit about Iberia, MO before – which is an area, rather than a city per se. Toronto on the other hand is a teeny tiny place and a far cry from it’s Canadian namesake. But I’m getting a head of myself.
It’s another one of those we’ve-got-to-get-away weekends. Work, work, work and little time for fun has left us not only tired, but grumpy. I’ve been burning the midnight oil on a couple of frustrating articles – that will no doubt provide minimal return financially for all the blood, sweat and tears I’ve given them. Paul is fretting over a project that is experiencing more bumps in the road than anyone on the team anticipated. We made a pact this morning not to use our cell phones, but I’ve already gotten a call from my agent, questioning a word I used in a recent article. But, it was also time to get away. I read recently that too many US folks live their lives without every stepping outside – they go from home, to car, to work with barely a breath of fresh air in between. In the process we are making ourselves VOC-saturated. Not a good thing, period.
But more importantly, we are removing ourselves further and further from nature and in essence creating a void that cannot be filled by any other means. Simply put we are starving for the outdoors.
Today, as we cruise down 63 south, it’s a perfect day to take a road trip, but if I didn’t know better, I would swear it’s September, not the middle of October. Autumn colors abound in trees that should have lost their leaves weeks ago. Green grass, bizarre this time of year. Climate change or an abnormality? Who knows.
We’re a bit concerned about our ride – our 11-year old CRV has been eating oil almost faster than we can refill the reservoir. We topped it off before we set off and carry extra in the back, just in case. It’s also very important that we follow a sort of protocol before we leave town. Paul takes care of gassing up the car, while I peruse the convenience store for previsions. Today my haul includes BBQ chips (large), generic rice crispy treats (single size), pistachios, a honey bun (for my honey bun) and water, to wash it all down. (It’s amazing we can function at all).
I love the outcroppings along this stretch of highway between Ashland, MO and Jefferson City, MO. Chiseled limestone, the result of early road construction, flank the road on both sides and I scan the layers for dinosaur bones that I know I’ll never find. The further south we go, the more apparent fall is truly here. Trees are browner with dry brittle leaves and the grass has a golden hue. Although the sky was a bit overcast when we started out, it clears almost miraculously as the we turn off 63 south and cross the Missouri River into Jefferson City following the signs to 54 south.
As we cruise past Brazito, MO, just south of Jefferson City, which besides having a weird name is barely a dot on the map, I dig into the pistachios. Road signs become more prevalent now as we get into vacation-land. Eldon, MO, 12 miles; Lake of the Ozarks, 19 miles. Highway 54 is in pretty good shape and the traffic in minimal as we pass through Etterville, MO and billboards pick up in earnest. We discover that “Marvel Cave is Awesome!” and there have been more than 2,500 wedding at Bridal Cave. (I am particularly enamored with the one for the Bad Donkey Tattoo Company and swear if I ever get inked, that’s where I’ll go).
The highway rises and falls more often now as we approach the Lake (a term of endearment for Lake of the Ozarks). We’re looking for Highway A. It’s confusing. We try old highway 54, but end up back on new 54 before eventually spotting A off to our left. A town pops up out of the blue – Linn, we think – a church kiosk sign reminds us that “God stretches our patience to enlarge our soul.” And there’s a little store called, “Just A Little Store,” too cute a play on words. There’s also this enormous—and very impressive—National Trap-shooting club where I counted over 50 individual sites in a long string that lined one side of the highway.
Although Highway A is windy, it’s not filled with those get-sick-in-the-car kind of turns. Two-lane, it’s also a pretty and well-maintained. Not too far in it sends us on a quick turn that whips us around and shoots us down like a flume-like slide that would be a favorite in an amusement park. We bottom out at Dry Auglaise Creek before ascending up,up up another windy hill.
We pass a sign, Toronto Drive. Can’t be far now.