On the road to Jackson

Just before the goats came, we took a road trip to Jackson, Michigan. The original plan was to drive out to Michigan on Hyla’s spring break to visit Michael’s family, and to return via Pennsylvania, where we’d pick up the goats in our car and drive them home.

Saner minds prevailed, though, and we found an experienced person to drive the goats from PA to VT in his very plush, clean horse trailer a few days after our return. With that arranged, we were free to take any route we wanted and explore a bit.

We’ve made this trip a whole lotta times and the obvious route (91 south to 90 west) is easy, but it’s boring. In the last 20 years, we’ve seen more than enough of the New York Thruway, and we’ve stopped at enough Roy Rogers service areas for a lifetime.

So we departed good old 91 when we got to Brattleboro and headed over to NY by way of route 9, through Bennington, to Troy, NY. The bucket trucks approved of our decision.


Once in New York, we opted for Route 86, the Southern Tier Expressway. Unlike the Thruway, it’s free. And it’s empty. For miles on end, we were often the only car on the road, and trucks were scarce. Until the last 30 miles or so, the highway was clear and smooth and swift (the last section had us bucking along like a galloping horse, dodging potholes and cracks that would give Pittsburgh roads a run for their money).

Just beyond the exit for the Seneca Allegany Hotel and Casino, the odometer turned to 111111, an event Michael had been anticipating and wondering about for months. It’s one of those meaningless milestones that we make meaning out of just because it’s cool. And it was extra cool that we were all together in the car, on vacation, when it happened.


Near the casino, road signs appear in both English and in phonetically rendered Seneca. And this is how we learned that the Allegheny river is called the Ohi-yo’ river in Seneca. Pronounced Oh-hee-yo, this is the source of the name of the state, and the river (“good river”) that is called the Allegheny River in New York and Pennsylvania, and, once merged with the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh, becomes the Ohio River. See what we learned by not taking the Thruway?

We also learned that it’s very easy to get lost in Binghamton, NY. Which is a shame because we were sure there was a cool college campus somewhere when we stopped there for lunch, but we never found it.

From there, it was on through the corner of Pennsylvania and into Ohio, where we found a place to stay for the night on the west side of Cleveland (another marvel, where the highway skirts along the bottom of Lake Erie and then takes a sharp left turn right through the center of the city), and a late-night dinner at possibly the loudest restaurant on the planet. The Boneyard’s menu proudly boasts: “Yes, it’s always this loud!”

The next morning, it was an easy drive to the Detroit area, where we were welcomed at Michael’s sister Laura’s house with an impromptu party, including Sara and Bob, and two of Laura and Lou’s boys. With one sister in the D.C. area, and four of the five nephews off at college, it’s nearly impossible to get everyone together these days, so it was a treat to see as much of the family as we did in one place (though we sure missed seeing the three nephews who were too far away to join us).

Halfway between Detroit and Jackson, we pass through Ann Arbor, home to one of our favorite spots on earth: Zingerman’s Deli. And by our good fortune, Anne was passing near that way on her way to the Detroit airport to fly back to DC, so we met up for dinner and ended up seeing all three sisters in one afternoon.

At Zingerman’s we browsed for cheese and sausage, and helpful cheesemonger Paul patiently let us taste cheese after cheese after cheese.

Paul, the cheesemonger

We talked goat versus cow milk, and thistle rennet, and we tasted great cheeses and not-so-great cheeses, until we finally selected five we wanted to take with us. And then we started talking bread. It just so happened we had a few loaves with us to share with family, including half of a sourdough miche that we had cut into at Laura’s. So I mentioned that, and got into a fun discussion with Paul and another guy behind the cheese counter about sourdough methods.

The next thing I know, Michael has gone to the car to get the miche, and Paul is slicing it behind the bread counter and sharing it around to co-workers.

Our Miche at Zingerman's

They were kind and said it was good. I don’t know what they really thought, but I give all thanks to the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge that I can now bake a loaf of bread that I’m not completely embarrassed to take into Zingerman’s.

From Ann Arbor, it was a quick trip to Jackson, where we spent the next several days, visiting with Michael’s parents. I have no idea why I didn’t take a single photograph while I was there, and I’m sorry now that I didn’t. We spent a lot of time talking, and quietly being together, and it was wonderful, as it always is. Michael’s parents have been so welcoming to me since the first time I visited their house, all those years ago, when Michael and I had just become a couple. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have these two gentle, generous, thoughtful people in my life.

Every time we leave, Michael’s parents stand at the house’s door (this time of year, it’s the open garage door) and wave to us as we pull away. They don’t turn to go in until we are far down the road. I’m so busy waving and watching them recede in the distance, it never occurs to me to take a picture, but I suppose I don’t need one, because I’ll always have that image in my mind when I think of Jackson. The image of two wonderful people at the heart of my family.

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