Don't forget bungee cords, peanut butter, and the kindness of strangers.
Stop with the pine-scented candles already: This year, get an actual tree! It’s easy. All you need is a bungee cord, a cargo rack, and a bike. Yep, you heard me.
Step 1: Prepare your bike.
Unless you want the experience of biking home with a large hedgehog between your legs, you’ll need to stand the tree up and strap it on like a backpack. This works best with a cargo rack or basket to brace the trunk—especially if you plan to buy something larger than Charlie Brown's tree.
(Boring practical details: Make sure tires are properly inflated and, if you’ll be biking more than a mile or without a friend, pack a patch kit or spare inner tube. A tow truck may not have room for you and the tree in the cab.)
Step 2: Pack a three-strap bungee cord and some twine.
Once the tree is braced on the rack, the idea is for it to essentially spoon you the whole ride home. Trees do not do this naturally, so you’ll need a bungee cord or cargo net to secure your prickly passenger. A three-strap bungee cord or small cargo net works best. Basically, you want to wrap the cord/net around the tree, then get an arm through each loop, like the straps of a backpack.
If you need to test the length and stretch, have a friend the size of your tree lean against you while a second friend helps you position the bungee or cargo net. If it’s hard to move your arms, you probably need a something bigger … or a more helpful friend.
Step 3: Wear a coat with large pockets, made from material that can handle pitch and peanut butter.
This is not the time to tack on errands like dry-cleaning or groceries. Pack as lightly as possible. Add jingle bells or a holly sprig if you’re feeling festive, but be prepared to sweat more than usual. If you’re worried about your laundry bill, consider a plastic rain jacket or cut holes in a clean trash bag (use the yard-waste kind, not the kitchen waste-bin size, unless you’re especially vain about your figure). Peanut butter, hand sanitizer or oil can help remove any pitch that gets on your clothing.
Step 4: Once at the lot, choose a daintier variety of evergreen.
According to my own tree supplier, Douglas firs tend to be lighter than others. But whatever you do, choose a tree slightly smaller than you think you can handle—especially if you will need to use mass transit for part of your bike ride home. Trees are tricky to handle no matter how well prepared you are, and you might have to manage yours one-armed, at least at some point.
Step 5: Ask the tree lot to net or shrink-wrap your tree.
You don’t want to get a stray branch in the eye, and a compact tree will be easier to deal with. The netting or plastic may also make the ride more comfortable, and greatly eases maneuvering in a quick mass transit exit.
(Boring practical detail: If your bike doesn’t have a rack or basket to brace the tree trunk on, you can also ask your tree supplier for some extra twine with which to fashion a yoke. You’ll want a small, central loop that can hold the tree trunk, with two larger shoulder loops coming out of each side. Secure the tree with additional pieces of twine that bind the tree to your chest. You should be able to untie these yourself without much contortion or discomfort.)
Step 6: Recruit a helper to hold the tree in place against the cargo rack while you position yourself.
Or have them help you slip the trunk through the twine yoke you fashioned, and test to ensure that the knots won’t give way.
Step 7: Slip one arm through the bungee cord or net, then have your helper pull it around you and the tree so you can get your other arm through a loop.
Test to ensure you can move your arms, then thank the helper profusely, especially if they are a stranger. If he or she asks for a photo with you, don’t charge them.
Step 8: Take a test run on a side street or driveway to get used to the weight and movement of the tree.
Be prepared to ride mostly on the front end of the saddle or even slightly standing up. If you’re a woman, rejoice that you don’t feel this way more often.
Step 9: When you feel comfortable, move the pedals normally, but slightly more slowly than usual.
This isn’t your night to set a personal land-speed record. Take turns widely and gently, as your load will be harder to balance.
If you or the tree fall off the bike, calmly but quickly move out of the roadway. (Suggested whistling music: that old Fred Astaire ditty, “I pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.”) Re-secure the tree as in steps 6 and 7 and resume your journey.
Step 10: Be courteous on mass transit.
If you need to use mass transit for part of your trip, be sure to travel outside peak commute hours. The tree will impair your sight lines, and you’ll probably have to shoulder it while managing your bike with your other arm.
If there is an elevator available to the platform, take it. A few people will offer to help you. And if that involves carrying the tree out of the train, you should let them—because this is probably the stranger who's going to help you wrestle the tree back into its bungee-cord-backpack for the final leg home.
Step 11: Once home, be sure to drink something, but spare your tree the vodka.
Despite your friend’s uncle’s claims, a vodka-spiked water bath will actually dry your tree out faster. Give it a bucket of plain ol' H20, and don't forget to hydrate yourself. Happy trimming!