Garfield goes to college, the humongous birthday nugget and chopped liver

Where to begin, where to begin, where to begin on Day 15 of the Great American Rail Trail Expedition from D.C. to The Mississippi River?

At the beginning I suppose.

We left Marion, Ind. Which turned out its first motor car in 1919. But while the industry by and large departed for Detroit long ago, Marion is still at least turning out auto parts. So there’s that.

This is Legs Diamond and his side kick, Mini-Me. I only mention them because we probably won’t see them again until we get to the end of today’s 36 mile ride.

They are but minor characters in our epic saga of life, the universe and everything.

Today we were on four trails. The Cardinal Greenway, Sweetser Switch, Converse Junction and Nickel Plate.

Nickel Plate starts at Lovers Lane, north of Peru. Talk about over-promising.

This is Deedsville. It is known for a long-abandoned seed and feed operation. And for a women’s softball state championship. So I suppose it all evens out.

Apropos of nothing at all (I love using that phrase because it makes me sound so erudite) I took this shot of strange looking things sprouting up along the railroad tracks.

If you look at the inset on the lower left you will see a remarkable resemblance to the alien predator plants in John Wyndham’s “The Day of The Triffids.”

Feel free to draw your own conclusions. I have.

Elvis has left the building.

Make no mistake: Railroads and the granaries are still the economic drivers of the Indian heartland.

Don’t ask. I just like taking artsy photos of towers and stuff.

I happened upon this big rock, see. And it was painted over with birthday greetings, see.

And I had to ask: What’s the deal with this big rock?

On further investigation it purports to be the world’s largest silver nugget. Which would have long ago gone to market except that the guy who claimed it couldn’t move it very far. Even with 12 mules.

Rural legend or fact? I just dunno.

I don’t even know whose birthday it was.

Can we talk about Sweetser please?

Sweetser is one of the most enthusiastic trail towns we’ve come to so far. They celebrate everything,! And I mean everything.

But mostly they celebrate Garfield.

Because, legend has it, Garfield’s creator, Jim Davis, was born hereabouts.

But wait a minute! James Dean was also born hereabouts. And nobody put an action figure of him aboard a college-bound train on the Sweetser Trail.

Which brings me to James Dean’s most famous quote: What am I, Sweetser? Chopped liver?

Sorry, Jimbo. I feel your pain. But we had to get on down, get on down, get on down the trail.

And so we continued to perambulate.

I spotted this poignant but always timely posting on the side of the trail. Please, if in doubt, do not wait.

Oh, did I mention that when we got to the Nickel Plate Trail we were just in time for the Sunday afternoon traffic jam?

This is Walt relaxing at the end of the Nickel Plate Trail, in Rochester. We might have continued but the trail simply disappeared into thin air. As though it has never existed at all.

Soon we will be in Illinois as we continue to follow the fragmented if fascinating Great American Rail Trail to the very banks of the Mississippi River.

But I swear, as long as I live, I will never forget James Dean’s haunting refrain:

What am I, Sweetser, chopped liver?

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