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Corn country. Much higher than the stalks of Vermont, which has a tiny growing season in its forbidding climes. Corn abounds here in the plains, and so do we.

Paul Marshall has a deep and abiding homing instinct for what’s good in America. And that instinct was on the money this noon day in the Heartland. Paul got the inner voice: exit I-90 at Sandusky, Ohio. A toll booth attendant, who Rob surmised is an artist, perhaps a painter, forced into a day job, recommended we drive south one mile for a good meal. “But it won’t be a chain,” he warned. That was okay with us.A mile south through corn fields and big old Ohio houses brought us to Milan (pronounced “My-lan”), home of Thomas Alva Edison. The record heat wave sun beat down upon us as we walked across a gravel lot to Main Street, Milan, a perfect town square with gazebo and war monument on a rectangular lawn, with old brick and stone mercantile establishments, a barber shop, the Wonder Bar, and our goal: The Invention Café, with a light bulb on the sign in honor of Milan’s most famous citizen.

Inside, Invention Café is 1930’s décor that L.A. eateries strive to recreate from estate sales and eBay auctions. Chrome stools, booths, an American flag cut and painted from corrugated Quonset hut aluminum. Not for sale.Simple, fresh, delicious, American. This was our meal, served up by a bronzed blonde waitress, with great speed and kindness. Trash Hash is hash browns mixed with eggs, peppers, and anything else your heart desires. Omelet, raisin toast, elderberry pie. Couldn’t be done better. Reality based food thrives in the heartland. Only a mile off the interstate.

An hour down the road, we pulled into a large truck stop rest stop off the I-90 in Indiana, our 17th state of the tour. We all got out, lured by shiny objects and air conditioning inside the glass palaces surrounding the gas station. We all came back to the Yukon, and discovered that no one had actually pumped the gas we’d paid for. Such is the lure of the McDonald’s travel center, where Paul L purchased a 25 cent Indiana Lotto ticket from a vending machine. This is a brilliant marketing scheme. Who’s not going to fish a quarter out of his pocket for a chance to win $50? Which Paul didn’t.

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