What do you get when you take two adults, one puppy, and roughly 350 pounds of Christmas presents, pack them all up into a compact car, and set them loose on a wild, cross-country road trip spanning 12 states and who knows how many different weather conditions in a 10-day marathon Christmas vacation extravaganza?!

I don’t have any idea, either, but we’re sure gonna find out!

I suppose you could say that the adventure I just described spawns from one of the key perks/problems with living on the other side of the country away from the rest of your family – in those few instances when you actually do want to see them, you know – birthdays, holidays, interventions – you have to travel literally all the way across heaven and earth to actually get there!  Of course, to make matters even worse, it doesn’t help that my wife and I actually both live a gajillion miles away from our most immediate of relatives who guilt us for not seeing them on a regular basis, and so thus in all fairness one whirlwind trip to spend the holidays amongst family became two cyclones before we even stepped foot outside the door…

I also mentioned that we’ll be traveling with our lovable, omnivorous puppy who might very well eat us out of car and home in the event that we spend too long waiting to fill up gas!  I’ve heard before that traveling with a puppy is kind of like traveling with a baby, mind you with the one exception that at least a baby would have the courtesy of pooping in an actual diaper. We just recently got her used to “going outside” for the third time in the last six months, so already I’m looking forward to sending all of that progress back to square one by confusing the living daylights out of her with new doors to stand by and new places that we’d prefer her not to mark.

And lest we not forget the actual drive time itself – a teeth-clenching 3,000-mile jaunt through frozen parts unknown, with one family living kind of in the north by way of West Virginia and the other living undisputedly in the arctic tundras of the north way up in Michigan!  I can’t stress enough how much I haven’t missed in the slightest traversing the icy, snow-covered roads of my hometown since that day some eight years ago when I traded in my winter boots for a pair of flip-flops and a beach towel to move down to sunny Florida where, if it ever snows down here, we’ve got a lot bigger global issues than just trying to clear out the driveway in the morning!

But pack us all in our hybrid, fuel-efficient jalopy and away we’ll go, balancing presents on our laps and begging our puppy Cleo to “just hold it until the next rest area” as we trek our way across America in search of tidings and joy with those we hold most dear … mainly because they were the first to tolerate our bad jokes growing up, anyways.  It’s a journey one would only in their right mind make for family, and even then there had better be some decent holiday goodies waiting for us at the other end of this long and dusty trail!

A pilgrimage of epic proportions, only to be repeated every couple of years, and even then only if we still happen to be on speaking terms with the lot of them (or each other even!) by the time we manage to find our way back home again…

Remember, folks – Santa may visit all of those people’s houses in a single night, but at least he does it while they’re all asleep, and he certainly doesn’t bring any pets along with him for the ride!