35 degrees is a whole lot warmer than 25 degrees, so I took advantage of the Christmas Day heatwave for a bike ride around South St. Louis County while the family all took the afternoon naps you have to take when there’s a Christmas morning with an almost-6 year old and an almost-4 year old in the house. I took a left and then every right I could until the No Outlets pushed me left and across the main drag to explore the other side’s subdivisions. It was quiet with few cars and just the occasional kid throwing a holiday football or a grown up taking out the trash (Americans generate something like 68% more trash in Christmas week than a regular week). I said my how-you-doin’s, but this isn’t the same kind of south, so I mostly got the cold shoulder, except for the one lady working ahead of the game and taking down her garland: “Did you get that bike for Christmas?” Good guess, lady, but nope, just out for my Christmas bike ride! Pedal, pedal, pedal, every street looked the same, every cul de sac the same three or five house curve. I snapped this picture in the Kirkey one and wondered if anyone ever sits on this tiny bench, and what would they think if they came out of their house and some stranger was sitting there. I wonder if this is just for show. I popped out at one of this regions many finer strip malls, sat in front of the closed Starbucks in a chair that wasn’t even locked down (we’re not in Baltimore anymore!), and made a phone call while waving away the many folks who hoped to get a cup of coffee out of the house only to be thwarted by holiday closings. Wanting to escape family seems to be a universal response to seeing family, no matter how much we love them. And then I rode home, snaking around one development after another, learning the hard uphill-ride lesson that the developments won’t let you cross over–if you don’t live in Assumption Hills or whatever, you are just going to have the hard pedal up the long hill to get out and take a left again. It took awhile, but I found the house that was full of my set of sleeping grown ups and faking-it kiddos and settled in for more screen-staring, together. Best Christmas ever!