Fourth-Annual Xtracycle Tree Haulin (plus retrospective)

4th Annual Xtracycle Tree Haulin

We used to make a huge production out of the annual-tree claiming event. We’d load up the VW camper, grab a $5 (bargain!) Forest Service tree-cutting permit, drive up toward the snow for a while, and tromp around in the (snowy, wet, muddy,etc) woods, until we found a tree we could all agree on. Of course, said tree was always double the size we needed (they look smaller in the forest), so fresh we couldn’t bear to take it down until Valentine’s day, and that five-dollar permit usually involved an oil change, a swap to the snow tires, and at least a tank of gas. So really, $5 plus another eighty or so & change.


So when we seriously started doing the long-bike thing, we thought we’d give our auto-induced tree haulin’ a break for a year so we could support our local, neighborhood tree lot and find out if was really possible to haul (it seems so obvious now) our family tree via bike. I mean, it’s just a year, right? Then we’ll go back to fun way up in the snow.

Except, all of sudden it’s our fourth, haul-by-bike Christmas. It turns out we didn’t miss the old that much at all. In fact, we’d argue the new way is much, much better. Here’s why:

  • It’s faster (even when the actual tree selection takes longer, home is only a 15 minute pedal.
  • It’s cheaper. This one is hard for me to wrap my mind around. I’m cheap. CHEAP. And when I see a $50+ price tag for a Nobel Fir, I kind of throw up in my mouth a little bit. But I can do the math and have to admit that $50 beats that $5 tree permit when you consider all the automotive add-ons — and that’s without factoring car payments, insurance, depreciation, or your favorite pruning saw left in the snow at 4600′.
  • It’s more fun(ner): With the old way, sure we had a great time. But also, someone usually cried. Someone else swore or threw a tantrum or something (see lost pruning saw, above). And then when you were done and wet and cold, you still had to drive 90 minutes home. Have I mentioned how much I hate driving? And how much I like bike riding?  With the new way, we get all the adventure (see below), in a nice, family-friendly format. For example, this year it rained like hell. And it didn’t matter. We loaded the tree, and were home for hot cider in 15 minutes. No tears, no fuss, no cars.

It turns out that going by bike equals just the right amount of traditional family fun, without spiraling into that scary “if I hear another Christmas song I’m gonna scratch somebody’s eyes out” zone all to common these days. If only we could compress the entire Christmas madness the same way!

Looking Back

So as we dry out from this year’s wet-venture, we thought it would be fun to review and annotate some photos of our previous tree haulin’ fun..

2007: Year one – Babes on bikes

2007 Family Long Bike Christmas

Anne: Look at those cute fresh faced littles – I just want to squeeze both of them (and the big one too).

Tim: I can’t believe I have the same helmet. I think I replace beer coolers more often. And look at that little man. You mean we let him hang on to the bars with no seat or straps or anything? Quick someone call CPS!

2008: Year two – snow and ice, oh-my (next two photos)

Xtracycle Tree Haulin 2008: The happy family

Icy Xtracycle Tree Haulin 2008

Anne: This photo still makes me chuckle. The ski-googles are simply the best (I think this trip was only time he ever wore goggles on the bike). 

Tim: He sort of looks like Easy Rider meets toddler raincoat/après-ski boots.  I think the Christmas lights are a nice touch. Interestingly, this is one of our most-viewed photos. We’re not sure if it’s people looking for inspiration or a deterrent.  Snow, ice, freezing kids? That’s how we roll. Seriously, that glare ice had pretty decent traction, and it wasn’t that cold. And yes, I’m wearing the same helmet.

2009: Year three – beautiful, but cold

Xtracycle Tree Haulin 2009

Anne: brrrr, we were all freezing, I can’t believe we’re actually smiling. I’m pretty sure the kids were both crying moments before this photo was snapped. It took sooooo long for Tim and the nine-year-old to choose the perfect tree, I’m sure we were there for more than an hour. (btw, no wonder the boy was cold, he’s wearing Keen sandals).

Tim: I can’t remember what the actual temp was, but dang. COLD. So bad we had to duck into Starbucks (Starbucks!) half way home to warm up. We made it pedaling for six whole minutes. The smiling faces and beautiful purple sky here make me think of fashion magazine spreads where beautiful people in too little clothing attempt to convince readers that yes, this sunny frolic on the beach in Santa Cruz really IS taking place July, and wasn’t actually shot in January to accommodate the magazine printing schedule. Honest.

Yep, just like that. Lovely, but brrr.

2010: Year four – Oh, yeah. Check out the old pros

2010 Xtracycle Tree Haulin

Anne: Fastest tree choosing in the history of our family. Ever. We only looked at 2 or 3 and we were D O N E. Then it started pouring, and we stalled for a long time hoping for the shower to pass. But it didn’t. And we got wet, oh so very wet on the way home. But nobody cried.  So, I’ll call that a success. We rolled right by Top Pot Doughnuts and ignored the very loud boy on the back of the bike yelling, “Top Pot, Top Pot”. When we got home we had hot cider with whip cream. Yum.

Tim: If anything this year was too easy. Rain? Is that all you got? The first tree we picked up was nearly a keeper, and we were done by the time we got to the third. I bet we were in and out in 15 minutes, and that included some very slow strapping in hopes the rain would halt(it didn’t).

Though we’ve been coming to the same family-owned stand all these years, today was the very first time they noticed we were taking it home via bike. Maybe the first year with the Big Dummy drew their gaze (or could it have been the Rainmates chaps rain pants?).

So that wraps up the retrospective. Please post some links of your seasonal bike-hauls. We’d love to see them.

Happy Holidays to you and yours from the Car Free Days family.

– Tim & Anne

24 responses to “Fourth-Annual Xtracycle Tree Haulin (plus retrospective)

  1. Just started following your blog, and I’m excited. This post was perfect! I have yet to haul anything seasonal… I’ll work on it.

  2. Great story. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Not sure hauling a Menorah would make for a great picture…;-)

    I love that shot of the little one in googles, I can just hear the monologue running through his head!


  4. Pingback: Fourth-Annual Xtracycle Tree Haulin plus retrospective | Car Free Days | Every Day Adventurers

  5. Loved reading the post and your past mishaps at high altitude. 😀 Way to rock out carfree, guys! And nice tree, too!

    • Hey Rick – a big “rock out” back at ya for you guys at Xtracycle. I remember ~5 years ago reading all the “it changed my life” stuff on your forums and thought — “yeah right, those hippies are over reacting again.” Turns out, they were right. The X has changed our life! Happy Holidays!

  6. This year was the first year I brought our tree home on the bike trailer.
    (santa I want an Xtracycle =D).

  7. wow has it really been four years? a young couple rolled up to tree lot in West Seattle, with an extracyle 2 weekends, ago. One of the volunteers said how the heck am I supposed to tie the tree down to that? I said if they’re riding, they have it all figured out. ( I feel badly about getting my tree with my car.) Merry Christmas!

    • Crazy, eh, Marge? That means it was four years ago that we “met” you at that Buy Nothing Day ride. Time flies! And I like your logic on the tree — they rode their bike; I’m sure they can get the tree home.

  8. Well I did just get a Wald for the front of my ride…something with zip-ties…I’ll work on this for next year!

  9. Just this morning on the bus I was wondering when I’d see your Christmas tree-hauling antics online! Yay! And Tim, no more crying out “top pot top pot” on the way home!

  10. love the lighted tree and the speed lighting in the intro photo…really cool and fast. warmest wishes to you all during this festive, wet, holiday season….Arleen and Dick

  11. You guys continue to inspire. After reading your and other family cycling blogs I did my first tree haul last year. It was oh so ridiculously easy! It makes me wish we needed more trees!

    Unfortunately this year my daughter is really pushing to get the tree from the Boy Scout lot only a quarter mile away. I guess we are going to have to find a long way home or something…

    Happy holidays and happy riding,


    • Hey Max — Just take your tree out on the town!Some friends of ours get their their tree in the bike trailer. Then they go about 2 miles out of their way and tour the big local light show. I’m sure this family on bikes towing a tree confuses the heck out of all people cars in who are waiting to check out Candy Cane Lane! Seems like a great tradition to me!

  12. Tis the season for the reason

  13. I just found your page today, just curious what state you are in?

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  15. Pingback: Fifth-Annual Xtracycle Tree Haulin | Car Free Days

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