This Is Why Santa Flies: Our Christmas Road Trip

December 19, 2010 – For most of us, long gone are the days when the holiday road trip to see family was a mere song-filled jaunt over the river and through the woods. These days it's all black-topped, dotted-lined highways engineered by road planners to maximize highway hypnosis and minimize scenery, all while enabling speeds at which the slightest error of judgment will kill you and your family. For me and mine, it's a nine-hour risk from southern New Hampshire to western Maryland. For some perspective on that, we could almost drive the entire length of the United Kingdom in that time.

However, we've taken this journey many, many times in the past three years and are actually considering adopting most of the relevant highway system between the two regions. Watch for our signs. This time, we made the uncharacteristic decision to get up early enough to start the trip at 4:00 am.

So yesterday, while the sun was still hitting its snooze alarm, we left New England, which was still naked from lack of snowfall, to head south to an area that has already seen multiple inches of snow. As luck would have it, forecasters are finally calling for snow in our area of New England the day after we leave. Of course. That's what I get for being so hard on Frosty.

To keep me occupied and to transfer some of the boredom of the long trip to you guys, I decided to keep notes and post about it. Merry Christmas, everybody.

3:50 am: Pack Car. Badly.

3:55 am: Repack Car. Serviceably.

4:00 am: Me and my wife briefly try to figure out who gets first driving shift. She got the last speeding ticket. I fall asleep at the wheel even on short jaunts to the grocery store. Her rock beats my scissors.

4:05 am: GPS wants to know what route to set. We tell it anywhere but via New York City. It calls us wusses.

4:10 am (Don't worry. I start keeping longer increments soon): Surprised at how many people leave their Christmas lights on all night. Thankful for the Christmas send-off, though, since soon enough our only lights will be lighted highway signs.

4:15 am: The ache in my bones makes me suddenly realize that Santa must be getting too old to work the night shift. Make mental note that, when my kid gets old enough to find out it's not Santa putting the gifts under the tree, I’ll use that as the excuse and avoid the whole “I’ve been lying to you all these years” conversation.

4:17 am: Cross border into Massachusetts. Not the milestone it sounds. We’re right on the border, so we cross by accident just about every day.

4:50 am: Despite being straight-jacketed into a car seat and being woken at 3:30 in the morning, baby manages to be resourceful enough to find a large package of goldfish crackers, rip it open, and pour the entire contents into her car seat. It looks like a blast, and I make my second mental note of the trip to try that myself at some point. Meanwhile, I spend the next 15 minutes cleaning them up by shoveling them out the window like coal in a steam engine furnace.

5:10 am: Put on the cardboard snowflake glasses that I got at the Hershey Sweet Lights Show that makes all points of light turn into glowing snowflakes. Tollbooths and truck tail lights mesmerize me for the next half hour.

5:30 am: Can't get stupid Tom Cochrane out of head. Turn on Christmas music.

5:40 am: Connecticut welcomes us.

6:00 am: Discover that a triple-decker toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce is starting to sound pretty good.

6:10 am: Stop at McDonald's. Close enough.

6:30 am: Fall asleep. Instead of dreaming of a white Christmas, I dream I’m living in Florida on a boat in somebody’s driveway while Alex P. Keaton’s ex-girlfriend yells at me from the front yard. Decide to cut back on watching Cougar Town episodes.

6:40 am: Dawn breaks. We pull over and fix it.

7:40 am: I awake and we find a parking lot to switch driving shifts. A starling murmuration dances mere feet away from us. For the millionth time, wish I believed in good omens.

7:50 am: Cross border into New York. Start seeing signs of past snowfall that continues the rest of the trip. Looks like the remnants of some grand party that we missed.

8:00 am: Tire of Christmas music. Pop in Leonard Cohen.

8:10 am: Briefly wonder what a Leonard Cohen Christmas album would sound like. Figure it would be sad and regretful enough to make God want to revoke the holiday out of pity.

8:45 am: Cross border into Pennsylvania. Realize this blog post will be boring if something doesn't happen soon. Decide to exaggerate.

9:00 am: Saw an old woman get hit-and-run by some kind of flying caribou.

9:30 am: Saw a logging truck with a station wagon driving underneath it.

10:00 am: Stop at a rest stop. Hit the vending machines.

10:15 am: Learn that road boredom is the one thing that two sticks of Twix can't fix.

11:30 am: Middle of a boring stretch where I try to take pictures from a car doing illegal highway speeds. 

12:00 pm: Arby's for lunch. Will avoid punch line in hope of future sponsorship.

12:15 pm: Cross border into Maryland. Always dug how medieval our state flag looks.

1:00 pm: Make it to my parents’ house. Try to do the math in my head, taking into account stops, but it doesn't work out. Math says we should still be in Pennsylvania somewhere. Give up. Greet family.

In the end, leaving at one of the hours that God ignores his creation made the trip feel like time travel somehow. Unfortunately, instead of using all the daylight we saved to spend time with family, we crashed and slept through most of the day, nullifying the whole point of a 4:00 am departure.


too bad we cant blink ourselves places like I dream of Jennie or shoot ourselve through tubes like drive in banks or better yet step into space crafts and zoom away like the Jetsons but I for one are glad you made the effort to drive to see family at Christmas

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