A few years ago I made the happy discovery of what it's like to make a long solo drive on Christmas day. At first it sounds sad, or even--to the melodramatic--tragic. But it's really, really not bad, as long solo drives go. There are, for starters, about 90% fewer trucks on the highway, and even if it rains the whole day--which it did--you aren't constantly engulfed by the powerwash that is the highway spray. I can count on two hands the number of trucks I passed. Gas stations are all open, and as long as you remember to bring a cooler, and as long as you charged the cell phone and ipod and your dad doesn't trash your half-eaten, carefully saved bags of salty snacks from the trip down along with all the aluminum cans you were going to recycle when you got back, you'll have plenty of yummy fun stuff for driving. And plus, if you are staying where there are kids, as I was, you can be assured of a nice, stretchy morning, beginning with thumps, giggles, and whisper-shouts "I'll wake her up!" "No I'll do it!"
While I am accustomed to waking up before 6:30, I'm not, I realized, accustomed to being videotaped only 4 minutes later.
But! All of this leaves plenty of time for setting up the wireless router for the niece's new laptop; failing to help the nephew open that pain-in-the-ass thief-proof (because human-proof) hard plastic gadget packaging; hopping around on the outdoor trampoline--I can still, 20 years later, do the seated twister!--; making a batch of mini-biscuits for the annual fambily brunch; performing a last minute sweep-save when the nephew feeds Jada a mini-cream puff; making digital, dancing elves out of the entire family, and keeping Tillie from chasing the nephew's remote-control motorcycle to downtown Knoxville (most easily achieved by having the nephew direct said motorcycle back to the house). And there's still time to load the sacked whippets in the car and make the eight hour return trek to Urbana--closer to seven if you're driving on Christmas day.