Monday, December 14, 2009

Top This, Griswold

We're kicking off our fun old fashion family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols--Clark W. Griswold, Christmas Vacation.

We enjoy a similar tradition in our family come the holiday season. Every year we venture out into the countryside to find the perfect Christmas tree. This past weekend we joined a three-car caravan that included my brother-in-law's family including my nephew's girlfriend; my son and his new wife; and me and Wendy.

It had rained hard through the previous night, something that didn't concern me initially as we rolled over paved roads to Manchester where we gathered for breakfast at the Whistlestop Cafe. While there, my daughter-in-law Lindsay warned that treacherous icy roads awaited if we ventured off the safety of the paved highway.

Pshaw! My brother-in-law Randy and I are both seasoned drivers of the north country. We have been braving Michigan's wintry roads for more years than my young blonde, daughter-in-law has been around. So after a leisurely breakfast--maybe too leisurely as my nephew Bill had to play percussion at a University of Michigan event in the afternoon--we hit the road again.

Randy led us all, winding into the countryside. Once the pavement ended, the roads did get a little slushy. Then, a little icy. Then, a LOT icy. Still, even when the roads were covered with a frozen glaze two inches thick that caused us to occasionally fishtail, we made uneven if steady progress.

Luckily, there were no other fools, er drivers on the road for us to collide with as we weaved our way towards Hillside Farm, our ultimate destination. We were doing just fine. Just one more obstacle left to cross before we arrived--the hill that gave the farm its name. My brother-in-law's small SUV almost made it to the top, nearly in view of the farm. Our mini-van made it about a third of the way. Neither of us could make it a foot farther if we had pressed the accelerator to the floorboard. And, yes, I tried.

The road by now resembled more of a bad bobsled run than anything traversable by conventional means (see picture below). Luckily, my son Greg riding behind had four-wheel drive. We would figure something out. But when I looked back, Greg had turned around and reversed course out of sight. Maybe to get help? Not likely if I know my own son. So my brother-in-law and I separately backed down the hill, somehow got turned around, then headed back the way we came.

Since the Xmas tree farm was off a major paved highway, we just back-tracked and went the long way. Well, my son and I went that way. My brother-in-law took what he said was a short cut. Took us a while but we finally all rendezvouzed at tree farm at about the same time. Now we had to really rush since Billy's performance was just a few couple short hours away. We had our tree cut and on the wagon faster than Charlie Brown picked out his tree in Charlie Brown's Christmas.

After a quick trip to the warming barn to pay for it all and spending a minute admiring all the beautiful Christmas decorations inside, we double-timed it back to our vehicles. My brother-in-law Randy rounded a corner towards the parking lot, wishing the farmhands a merry Christmas and saying he'd see them next year. The employees' responded with a puzzled look.

"Randy, don't you want your tree?" we asked. All our trees had been baled and were standing there by the shed.

Maybe he wanted to go through this all again another day. Some Christmas traditions you just want to enjoy over and over.


Blogger TechnoBabe said...

That sounds like such fun. Family, ice, tree farm. Even the restaurant name "Whistlestop Cafe" has a ring of adventure to it. I've only driven on really slippery roads two times and didn't care for the feeling when the car wouldn't go up an incline. I don't like sliding backward. We have our small artificial tree decorated with lights and all the angels I have collected throughout the years. Enjoy your holidays with your family and friends.

4:57 AM  
Anonymous Betty said...

Wow. I can't believe that some adventurous people actually DO things like this! It seems to me that I read in the newspaper (yes- a real old-fashioned newspaper) that a couple had gone on a similar pursuit for a Christmas tree and nearly died in the process. I guess their story wasn't all that different from yours, except they were missing for a few days!


8:23 AM  
Blogger Carine said...

beautiful views and a happy family. be safe in your trip Dave

3:06 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

TECHNOBABE--That's a gut-wrenching feeling to lose control of your car. I remember once doing a 360 on a fairly busy road and ending up on the shoulder. Could have been worse.

BETTY--I think I heard about that couple that ended up stuck way out in the boonies. We're not THAT adventuresome. Tree farms are as daring as we get.

CARINE--If I take enough pictures, usually a few come out okay. More often than not, they're fuzzy, dark, not framed properly, etc.

4:04 AM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Glad I don't live in Michigan...too cold for me.... All that ice, no thanks.... Dave you must have nordic blood running through your Glad you all had fun finding the perfect tree....

3:46 AM  
Blogger Merle said...

Hi Dave ~~ What a perilous trip to get your tree. Glad it turned out OK.
It doesn't always pay to look in a mirror. I get a shock at how old Ilook. And you got caught with your winter scarf on. Must have been very cold that day. Glad you enjoyed the jokes. Have a wonderful time
at Christmas, and a Happy New Year in 2010. Kind regards, Merle.

5:53 AM  
Blogger Nankin said...

I remember those days of cold and ice from living in Illinois. Texas is plenety cold forme in the winter. Of course I'm a born and raised Californian.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

LUCY--The Nordic blood usually doesn't kick in until February. By then our skin has been toughened by the frost and our blood thickened by the cold.

MERLE--Yes it was very cold outside, but quite a bit warmer inside. Didn't need the scarf then. Hope you have the best of holidays also.

NANKIN--Texas is a big state, I hear. Lots of temperature extremes.

3:57 PM  

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