We got back from a six day trip to South Dakota on Monday evening. The actual travel part of our trip was actually very easy. We flew out of Oakland and into Sioux Falls, SD with one stop in Denver. The return trip took us back the way we came. United may have taken a beating the press over the summer, but they got us there and back with no hassle this time.

The weather was bitterly cold in South Dakota. Wind chills were routinely down in the -31F range. The wind chill dipped to -64F one day. When we stepped off the plane in Oakland the temperature was 60F. That's a difference of roughly 90F (!) between the two locales. The only read downside to the trip was that we weren't able to do some of the things we'd planned because we would gotten frostbite. For instance, cross country skiing is just not enjoyable when your skin feels like it's burning because it has been exposed to the air for a couple of minutes. While we were in Watertown, we saw the movie Cast Away. It was a good movie. Not a great movie, but a good movie. The scene in which Tom Hanks' character performs dentistry with an ice skate and a rock (if you've seen the movie, you know which one I'm talking about) was a bit too much for me, though.

While we were in Watertown, we made sure to hit some of the area's high points:- Kones Korner - Redlin Art Center - Godfather's Pizza lunch buffet - Outfitter While we were in Watertown, we decided to make a trip to Minnesota to see my grandparents, uncle, and cousins. The drive between the two destinations is approximately two hours each way. This might lead one to believe that one could get there and back in less than one day. In fact, one might be so full of hubris as to think that one could get there and back before it got dark! How wrong one would be. Our first mistake was leaving on a day with a forecast of blowing and drifting snow. We didn't learn that travel wasn't advised until much much later. We left Watertown about 10 AM in a car packed with three people, a few Christmas gifts, and the standard winter survival gear for travel on the highways of the Upper Great Plains. We got about ninety miles from our house when the visibility dropped to zero, the wind chill dropped thirty degrees below that and the number of stranded motorists on the side of the road started to rise. We sought shelter at a truck stop just outside of Clara City, MN. We sat there for an hour or two before deciding to carry on. The last twenty miles weren't actually too bad, but it was nearly three o'clock before we pulled into my grandparents' driveway. As such, we decided to stay the night. The next day, we left my grandparents' house around 8:30 AM CST. By 10 AM CST we were stranded at the same truck stop just outside of Clara City. The Pontiac we were driving (if memory serves "Pontiac" is Native American for "Buyer Beware") had picked this brisk, bitterly cold morning to destroy its head gasket. The interior of the car actually got significantly colder when I turned the heat on, while the engine's temperature continued to rise even though the outside temperature was in the rage of 0F to -10F. Fun for everyone, as you can imagine. My father, who owns the Pontiac of which I write, came and got us from the truck stop ("our home away from home away from home"), while a towing service dragged the Pontiac back to Watertown. We felt a bit like the cast of "Gilligan's Island" as we left home on something like a three hour tour that stretched to two days.