ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Every holiday season, we expect to see people dressed up like Santa, and sometimes they turn up in unusual places. In Baltimore, two people dressed as Old St. Nick have been steering cargo bikes full of Christmas trees trailed by the scent of slow-cooked pork. WYPR's Emily Sullivan got on her own bike and caught up with them.
EMILY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: It's a bitterly cold morning, and Todd Coleman is loading five Fraser firs onto his bike.
TODD COLEMAN: So if I stack these right, I can usually get about eight on here, which is pretty fun. That's a spectacle.
SULLIVAN: He's gearing up for another day with his business, Pork 'N Pine. Together, he and his friend Mike Santoro dress as Santa and deliver a pine tree and pulled pork sandwiches throughout Baltimore by bike. The sandwiches stay in a cooler. The trees are strapped into a cargo holder. Picture a shopping cart attached to the front of a mountain bike. On top of the tree mound on Santoro's bike is a pink papier mache pig. It's looking a little sorry. One of its ears is dangling off.
MIKE SANTORO: I just found that in the dumpster this morning.
SULLIVAN: It's a metaphor for 2020, he says. The two were worried the pandemic would slow their business, but Coleman says the opposite happened.
COLEMAN: Actually, it picked up this year because everyone's just Googling, like, delivery for everything now. So Christmas tree delivery, we're the first thing that pops up in Baltimore. So people are just like, this is weird, but you guys popped up on the Google. We're like, all right.
SULLIVAN: They've sold 260 trees and about twice as many sandwiches this year, biking nearly a thousand miles across Baltimore to deliver them. After mapping out today's route, Santoro hops on his bike and turns up the volume on an eclectic Christmas playlist on a boombox. It has just one rule.
SANTORO: Anything that's not Mariah Carey. You can only listen to "All I Want For Christmas Is You" so many times.
SULLIVAN: Then we're off. The pair are donning Santa suits and wearing face masks behind their fake beards. As we bike, people roll down their windows, stop in their tracks, and more than a few pull out their smartphones to record the sight. The first stop of the day is just a few miles away.
LIZ GRAHAM: Hello.
SANTORO: Merry Christmas.
GRAHAM: Merry Christmas.
SULLIVAN: Santorum gets the sandwiches out of the cooler while Coleman unstraps a tree from his bike and heads inside the house. Liz Graham says she hired Pork 'N Pine to brighten up an otherwise gloomy holiday season.
GRAHAM: And we got pork sandwiches out of it, so that helped.
SULLIVAN: After Coleman sets the tree up comes the usual question. Could he pose for a picture with her and Elena Gaeta?
COLEMAN: You don't get to come out of the house dressed like a mascot and not get pictures taken.
GRAHAM: Can you guys answer something for us?
ELENA GAETA: Do you guys just literally drive the bikes through the city?
COLEMAN: Sixty miles every Saturday.
GAETA: Oh, wow.
SULLIVAN: The biking Santas say their goodbyes, deliver a few more trees, and then they arrive at the next home. Santoro does the honors this time, lifting a 7-foot fir over his shoulder and into the Orozco family's rowhome.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Hi.
SANTORO: Hello. Merry Christmas. How are you?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Merry Christmas.
SANTORO: How's it going?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We're good. We're surviving right there.
SULLIVAN: They're repeat customers. Simon Orozco says it's hard to beat pulled pork and punk Christmas music. His kids go crazy for it.
SIMON OROZCO: We were worried they wouldn't be doing it because of the pandemic, so then I looked it up. And I was like, oh, yeah, they're coming this year. Awesome.
SULLIVAN: And with that delivery, the biking Santas have finished their season, one filled with COVID puppies and social distancing.
COLEMAN: It feels good, feels really good to be able to give this to people.
SANTORO: I think this year feels even more rewarding than any other year because it has been such a bummer of a year.
SULLIVAN: Usually, to celebrate their final delivery, the pair hit up a dive bar before throwing a massive party. This year, they've had to make other plans.
SANTORO: We're going to get a bottle of mezcal and get to the worm.
SULLIVAN: For NPR News, I'm Emily Sullivan in Baltimore.
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