Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...
DRIVE, SHE SAID
Jane and Michael Stern, both 47, have been navigating the back roads of America for the past 20 years. To get Way Out West, they set their compass toward the Pacific, making 20-odd trips, covering some 150,000 miles over two years. "We'd decide we hadn't seen Montana, so we'd go spend a month there," says Michael, who is usually the one behind the wheel of their Jeep Wagoneer. "I drive too fast," he says. "I never ask directions, and so we get lost constantly." Often with serendipitous results. How else, for example, would they have discovered May's Exotic World of Giant Tropical Insects in Colorado Springs? While Michael drives, Jane complains. "I'm one of the great travel neurotics," she confesses. "What if I get an anxiety attack and there's no hospital for 200 miles? Michael likes to choose the skinniest roads on the map. The last route he look, we ended up in a ditch and had to wait 10 hours to be towed, while vultures gathered overhead." She keeps a survival kit in the car stocked with club soda, spray-on cheese, Triskets, M&Ms and, to combat bee stings, adrenaline.
Home off the range is a colonial house in Redding, Conn., now decorated with the 4-foot piaster cactus, 25-pound chile ristra and 8-foot-wide Longhorn skull that the Sterns, who met when they were students at Yale in 1968, could not resist on their last trip west. "We just celebrated our 23rd anniversary," says Jane. "In all these years, Michael has survived my kvetching. And I've survived his getting us lost in buzzard territory."