The alarm was set for 5 a.m. and it did its job without fail. We got up and began getting ready.

The car was packed the night before with all the fishing gear and clothes, so the only thing that needed to be taken to the car this morning was the cooler after we got the ice and other stuff out of the fridge.

The car had a full tank of gas and was also raring to go. It was the 23rd of October and we were headed for Montauk State Park for our last trip of the trout season, which ends at the end of the month.  

It is a tradition for us to close out the fishing season in this way and we normally do it at the very end of the month, but this year the 23rd was working best for us.

We live in Crystal City, Mo., so our route to Montauk entails traveling south on Highway 21 to Highway 32, and then west to Salem and Montauk shortly afterward. The drive is three hours but I don’t mind it.

We’ve tried the Interstate 44 route, which involves getting off at Rolla and then heading south, and it still takes three hours but you don’t experience the nice drive through the countryside and as an extra bonus at this time of year, there’s all the impressive fall colors.   

Also, the Interstate 44 route involves getting into the middle of a lot of rush hour St. Louis traffic, especially at the time of morning that we like to leave.

I have always been a fan of small towns so I also particularly like all the small towns through which we pass, some of which are Hillsboro, DeSoto, Old Mines, Potosi, Caledonia, Bixby, Boss, and Salem.

On our first leg of the trip, going south on Highway 21, we met a lot of cars heading north to St. Louis taking their drivers and passengers to work. We were reminded of how nice it is to be retired and heading toward a fishing hole instead of off to work.

Our first stop along the way, a tradition for us, was at the Hardee’s at Potosi. My wife likes their biscuits and gravy and I, with my sweet tooth, like their cinnamon and raisin biscuits. We got fresh coffee for our travel mugs and we were off again.

The next interesting small town is Caledonia, population 130. This town was laid out in 1819 and features a lot of old, historic homes that have been restored. Every time we go through this town, I think that it would be a good place to retire.

The speed limit is 30mph through the town and I always slow down, not only out of respect for the law but also out of respect for the town itself. It is a neat town.

After Caledonia, the turnoff on Highway 32 is not too far away. The first sight after turning onto 32 is a school on the right. We see several country schools on our trip. Country schools always seemed to me to have more personality than those in the city.

I’ve often wondered what it was like to attend one of those one-room schoolhouses of the past. I’m sure those teachers earned every cent they were paid.

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