Pandemic Tree

Every year for the past 20+ (except when they were out of town), my daughter and I have cut a Christmas tree together. We always do it on a Sunday morning. Our son was part of the tradition, but now just borrows the van to bring his own tree home.

Today was, ostensibly, no different. We had read that demand was unusually high this year, but were not prepared for the crowd, nor were we prepared for the fact that only Scotch Pines remained to be cut. All of the firs were gone already. And we were earlier than usual, as my wife insisted on waiting until after Hanukkah when the kids were little (unless the calendar made that impossible). The worker who greeted us told us that many people got their trees before Thanksgiving this year. When I said, “so they’ll be dead before Christmas”, she smiled, shrugged, and nodded. Warm weather and no snow also made it different.

There are those who claim environmental superiority for artificial trees, as though we were causing deforestation by cutting a tree. The place we go is a tree farm. They grow crops like any other farm in the area – just no corn or soybeans. They provide seasonal jobs for local students and longer term jobs for farm hands during the growing season. The trees absorb CO2 from the air and exude O2, just like trees in a forest. Cutting the trees gets people out of their houses and walking outside. I don’t feel bad about cutting down these trees.

The usual year involves a lot of wandering about, discussing the virtues of Canaan, Balsam, and Frasier firs; checking out the Blue Spruce and maybe a glance at the pines, Scotch and White. We pick out some trees and make note of where they are so we can come back to them to make our final choice. None of that this year. We cut the second tree we looked at, though we did take a quick gander at the woefully small remaining firs.

We cut the tree, took it home, and got it up and decorated. That’s all to make one small bicycling-related point. The ornament shown is from Markleeville, California, home of the Death Ride and home of the blog California Alps Cycling. Dang! Isn’t his name Mark? Maybe the town is named for him and I never realized it, even though he moved there only recently. Or maybe that’s why he moved there. Maybe we can get him to address that in a future post. Anyway, I bought the ornament while in town for the Death Ride about 30 years ago.

Paying for the tree was a new experience. Usually we go into a barn that has been turned into a small store. We browse their collection of ornaments and pick up some cashew brittle to eat on the way home – I mean to bring home to the family. Try the chocolate-covered. This year we paid at a window outside. Nearby, Santa Claus sat behind a snow fence. Kids could say hi to him from 6 feet away – no sitting on Santa’s lap this year. I’m hoping Santa will bring me a new president with a peaceful transition of power.

The Wish Book

When I was a kid we looked forward to the arrival of the big mail-order catalogs from Sears and Spiegel. We referred to them as “wish books” and pored over them to figure out what Christmas gifts to ask for.

Nowadays (I never thought I’d be using that word) catalogs seem to arrive on a daily basis. Some companies (you know who you are) send catalogs every week.

Image from The Gahan Girls

I was looking for a suitable image (hoping to find a Norman Rockwell-esque image of kids lying prone on the floor, feet in the air, looking at a catalog) to go with this thought but, instead, came across the gift I wanted for years and never got (and it’s not a Daisy Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle). It was a fake car dashboard so I could pretend to drive – one with working horn, turn signals, and windshield wipers. My parents thought it inappropriate. Kids shouldn’t drive ’til they’re 16, and driving is not a game, but to be taken seriously. Funny that I hardly ever drive now.

Anyway, last week I found myself looking, not through Christmas catalogs, but through listings for cross-state bike tours. While I know it will be years (if ever) before I can ride across the country again, maybe a state or two would suffice.  A couple of riders from the Twin Cities last summer wore a variety of jerseys from South Dakota rides. South Dakota had some great riding, so I’m looking there. (Greg and Dawn, if you’re reading this, tell me what you think of some of those rides. Or were all your jerseys from Nebraska? You’ll have to do some fast talking to convince me to join you for that one.) The Finger Lakes and Adirondacks were great fun, so I’m looking at New York rides. One of these days I’ll do the GRABAAWR (Great Annual Bicycling Adventure Along the Wisconsin River) and I’m thinking about RAW (Ride Across Wisconsin), a one- or two-day ride across the state. And maybe it’s time to return to Cycle Oregon, which I rode in 1992.

My summer 2019 travel budget will be taken up by nieces’ weddings out west, so I’m already thinking about 2020, with 2019 spent on day rides around here. Of course, 2020 is also the next Cycle America ride, which I won’t be on, though I may either join them across Wisconsin or buy them all a beer in Baraboo. If you’ve had a great (or terrible) experience with an organized cross-state or regional ride, tell us about it in the comments.

I know I linked to this before, but it’s time again. In 2011, my friend Keith Greeninger wrote the song “Hop in the truck”. It is sung from the viewpoint of a contractor looking to pick up casual labor to build a wall. Since our president has announced that he would be proud to shut down the federal government if congress doesn’t allocate several billion dollars to build a border wall, the half-fast cycling club dedicates this to the man of orange (not to be confused with the man in black):

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7rmx_YL9Vec&t=5s

So this post was written a couple of days ago and waiting to go up tonight…I’m listening to Astral Weeks by Van Morrison and realizing what this time was like musically 50 years ago – fall 1968 saw the release of “The Beatles” (AKA the White Album), “Beggar’s Banquet” by the Rolling Stones, “Memories” by Richard and Mimi Fariña, and the aforementioned “Astral Weeks”.  Oh, and “Electric Ladyland” by Jimi Hendrix. An embarrassment of musical riches. And that’s just off the top of my head from stuff I’ve listened to recently.

I have one standard for Christmas music – it has to be something I’d listen to even if it wasn’t Christmas. So I’ll leave you with this from David Grisman’s Acoustic Christmas (not from 1968, but 1986):