Before I forget, I must write a quick recap of everything that happened earlier this month on our journey north to South Dakota during the pandemic. I will have to use my Google Photos library to help jog my memory. Sadly, I have run out of free WordPress storage, so you will have to visit Facebook for my photo gallery.

Thursday, July 2 – You already know this part—the flight there. I started writing my trip recap a few days ago and the flight itself was so long of a post I just left it at that and decided I’d sum up the rest of the trip separately. So yeah, we landed in Sioux Falls and Dad was there to pick us up and haul us back to Carpenter. Lauren and the kids fell asleep pretty quickly after an exhausting day of travel. Once we pulled in the yard two hours later, they were all awake and ready to greet Grandma… and then it was right back to bed.

Friday, July 3 – For some reason I thought John and Edie would be checking cows with Grandpa every morning, but there was really only one opportunity, and that was first thing Friday morning. And the cows we saw weren’t even Grandpa’s! We just drove to a pasture and got out to look at some cows, but the kids were dazzled nonetheless. John had been promised he’d get to do a lot of driving on the farm, and so he got up on Grandpa’s lap and steered. The rest of the day was getting acquainted with the Glanzer cousins—Hadley, Adrienne, and Auden. Edie became fast friends with the girls. John and the girls swam in the cousins’ pool, played in Alex and Ann’s new camper, went tearing around the countryside in their fun four-wheeler thing, and even fed bottle calves. John and Edie, native city folk, clearly had a blast! At night, Jordan, Abul and the Krogman cousins arrived. When the sun went down, the adults mostly picked up and headed to Alex’s for some boozing, which lasted until 3am or so.

Saturday, July 4 – Jordan, Abul, Mom, Edie and I started Independence Day off with a bang by taking a 4-mile walk around the section. The kids were quickly back to the pool for the bulk of the day. That afternoon we wished Peyton a happy 17th birthday, Jordan and Abul prepared dinner, and then we all proceeded to the yard for a bean bag tournament. When the sun began to set, several of us hopped in cars and headed to Lake Byron to watch the fireworks on the lake.

Sunday, July 5 – Lauren joined the same crew from the day before as we took an even longer walk, about 5 miles. The bulk of the afternoon was set aside for helping Dad and Alex change out eight semi tires! And then it was a family photo session. Alex and Ann prepared a feast for everyone, highlighted by northeastern South Dakota’s favorite regional delicacy, chislic—cubed and fried venison. Alex and I headed back to Lake Byron to get the 411 on operating a friend’s pontoon for the following day. Jordan even had some old friends out for the night. It had all the makings of a rowdy one, but despite our best efforts, we were unable to party til the wee hours of the night again.

Monday, July 6 – Now that the 4th of July crowds had long gone, we had Lake Byron to ourselves. Between the pontoon and Dad’s boat, everyone set out to sea. While some were dragged behind the boat on the tube, others laid back and lounged on the pontoon, basking in the harsh UV rays. I took one turn on the tube even though I really shouldn’t have with my neck surgically fused together. After a violent spill, I vowed to permanently retire from tubing. I think it’s safe to say most everyone was fried by the time 5:00 came around. Burned and dreary-eyed, we returned to the farm where we watched Hamilton on Disney+ before bed.

Tuesday, July 7 – Jordan and crew packed up and shipped out, leaving Alex and Ann wondering what other fun might lie ahead. Presented a few options, we decided on Storybook Land in Aberdeen, the most magical place in South Dakota. Alex, Ann and girls piled in one car, with our family and Emmy in another and we made the 90-mile trek. It was a gorgeous day for Storybook Land. With the pandemic, the park was pretty sparsely attended, so we ditched the masks and the kids ran freely. John hated his roller coaster experience, but other than that everyone had fun. We stopped for ice cream and hauled ass home. That night, Lauren and I baked three pizzas for the group. We hung around chit-chatting and reminiscing about old Grandma Bell stories. It was back over to Alex’s for some drinking games until well after midnight.

Wednesday, July 8 – We awoke to our final morning on the farm. I went for a solo walk out through some pastures and fields to soak in the atmosphere before heading back to the city. I forgot how many animal holes there are everywhere, but alas I was not attacked by a badger, skunk, gopher or other beast. Mosquitoes, though, were another story. Edie and John got their final cousin time and farm time. One last dip in the pool, one last time climbing up to the tractor cab, one last new fun thing as Grandpa hauled out the kids’ old go-kart. We had planned to stay the full day, but thanks to American Airlines canceling our 11:50am Thursday flight and putting us on a 7:30 flight, we figured we’d better get to Sioux Falls that night and stay at a hotel.

Thursday, July 9 – We woke up and flew home, again, you can read the story on the previous post.

All in all, a great visit back. It absolutely did not feel like we were part of the pandemic hysteria on the farm. The family was willing to risk the chance that we had been infected with COVID on the flight, which it turns out we were not. I think we can safely say that ten full days after return we are coronavirus-free.

While we were gone for 7 1/2 days, we were really only at the farm for 5 full days plus that half-day of packing and heading to Sioux Falls. Some year in the future, if we’re still in Austin, I would like to drive north in the summer, possibly in an RV, and park it there for a couple weeks. I can always work remotely, and Lauren can too at the moment. I suppose our next visit back could be around Christmas, but we all know Mom doesn’t care for her children traveling on crappy roads during the winter! If I were a guessing man, I would say our winter break could go in one of several ways, but I it all depends on what happens with coronavirus and if it’s still lingering around or in even fuller force in December. Either we travel to Minneapolis, some families visit us down here in Austin, or there is some sort of meet-in-the-middle idea. Another opportunity to return to the farm could be whenever Willow Lake’s 2021 alumni gathering is, as that is our class’s 20th reunion.