Monday, January 15, 2007

Christmas and New Year in the USA

It was indeed a long flight to the USA this time. After 7 hours to Singapore and a 3 hour layover, I connected to a 16 hour direct flight to Los Angeles. The latter flight, however, was quite comfortable as Singapore Airlines have configured their long haul Airbus 340-500 to executive economy which gives passengers a lot more room. The food and entertainment were also excellent. They even have a stand up bar down the back where you can stretch your legs, enjoy a few drinks and snacks and swap travel stories with other passengers. After a night in a very comfortable hotel at LAX I continued my journey to Sioux Falls, South Dakota via Denver. Luckliy I missed out on the blizzard caused three day shutdown of Denver airport a few days later. Some people never made it to their Christamas Day destination.
It only took a walk out of the airport into a freezing cold car park to remind me it was winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Not that any snow was about, it was just a grey day with a brown landscape, frozen rivers and ponds and a temperature well below zero. We stayed a few nights in town to do some Christmas shopping and then headed north to the family home.

Preparations for Christmas were in full swing but we took time off for a limo ride around Sioux Falls to see all the Christmas lights. Some people go all out. There were some tremendous sights from simply religious to kitschy over the top Santa spectaculars. Mid western Americans really get into the season's celebrations. No catering to any religious minority there. It's a full on Christmas! People wear themed t shirts and electronic ear rings, some radio stations play 24 hour Christmas songs and even the gravestones in the cemetries had lights and/or wreaths on them as did the roadside accident memorials.

My request for snow was looked upon with some scepticism by the locals. Instead we had a minor ice storm which turned the landscape into a sparkling fairyland and the roads into death traps.
Outdoor activity is severely restricted due to the weather conditions, especially sport. But we managed to keep active with a few games of ten pin bowling. This is better known as "get the foreigner drunk" and turns into a game of 20 pin bowling with a moving head pin as the consumption of MJD seems to increase with every frame.
Christmas day was fun with all the family (20+) turning up for a lunch of roast turkey, honeyed ham, mashed potato, corn casserole and a lot of other goodies.

We all took part in the "greed game". Simply explained this is where everyone brings a few presents of useful and sometimes quirky nature. These are put into the centre of the room and are "won" by tosses of a dice. Once all are distributed and shown off, another round of dice tossing allows these presents to be "stolen" from each another. Needless to say my coverted electric toothbrush was to disappear a number of times (Thank you, Melissa who is now off my friends and family list!). At least I ended up with a decent bag of Caribu coffee and an ice scraper (something you really need in Australia!).
After Christmas, we took advantage of rather mild weather (zero degrees) and headed up to Minneapolis for a few days to see more family and had fun there too. Great food and drink and not the least, great company.
Back in South Dakota, we had a night out at the local casino run by the local Latoka tribe. I won a bit on the slots and saw an old rocker from the 70's, Eddy Money (no, I hadn't heard of him either) make a complete arse of himself on stage. Why don't they know when to quit. He was so p'd he could hardly stand up. But his fan club loved him and one young lady (about 25) got escorted from the auditorium after flashing her boobs at him. Actually that was the best thing that happened at the concert.

It snowed on New Years Eve. Not a lot but enough to turn the countryside white, clean and beautiful....well, in my eyes anyway. We had a small get together with plenty of wine and snacks and eventually hit the sack around 1:30am.

The week after we wound down catching up with family and friends and hit a few of the post holiday sales. Over the three weeks, apart from good home cooking, we ate a bit of Mex,a few Perkin's brekkies (pancakes to die for), lots of Culver's burgers (and frozen custard - chocolate, of course)and a great steaks at Foleys and the Texas Roadhouse.

Despite these endulgences hardly any weight was put on. You gotta believe me!
All too soon it was time to head back home. This time I did the Sioux Falls-Denver-LAX-Singapore-Sydney route in one hit, forty hours door to door. Never again! Am getting too old for these sorts of marathons.
At least it was good to get back to a warm climate and be actually able to open a bar b q that was not frozen or snowed shut, cook a steak, drink a red wine and soak up summer, all alfresco, without freezing essential parts of the body off.

Now it's back into work on the farm. Luckily the weather had been hot and relatively dry while I was away so there is no hint of fungus in the vines. The downside of that is that the younger vines are suffering from a water shortage with premature ripening and leaf drop evident. There is no spare water in the dams to irrigate so they will have to tough it out this year.
Climate change is a fact of life these days. One has to deal with the changed conditions. I ordered three additional 10,000L house tanks. There is a 12 week delivery delay so obviously others are coming to realise that you need to be prepared for what is coming also.