Ever since I moved to the Black Hills, I've heard folks talk about the region's "Banana Belt" weather. I've always thought it was kind of a goofy, made-up term. My wife and I live in Spearfish - in the northern Black Hills. My father-in-law lives down in Hot Springs - the southern Black Hills. He's always giving me trouble about the northern hills being the "Tundra" and his area being the "Bahamas of the Black Hills." And he often talks about the "Banana Belt." Earlier this week, I was finally able to wrap my head around the Banana Belt concept. Here's how... Last weekend, we spent four days in Iowa with my family and the temperature outside was in the single digits most of the time we were there (I know, I know - it gets plenty cold here in the hills too - stick with me.) When we left northwest Iowa on Monday morning, the display in the car said that the outside temperature was a whopping SIX degrees! We drove west, on our merry way, for the next several hours back toward the Black Hills. As the morning hours went on and we made our way through Sioux Falls and then Mitchell, the temperature rose a few degrees - the normal sort of temperature increase you expect to happen during late morning. By noon, the car thermometer said 19 degrees. Respectable enough for the middle of December. The temp continued to climb "normally" until just outside of the Black Hills. At New Underwood (east of Rapid City only 20 miles) the temp was 26 degrees. That's when things really started to change. And I mean - FAST. You see, that area - from just outside of Rapid City, on west to the Black Hills proper - is what people (like my father-in-law) call the Banana Belt. I'm no scientist, but it has something to do with being on the leeward (downwind) side of the Black Hills and the way the air warms as it descends down from the higher peaks. As we cruised along Interstate-90, mile by mile, degree by degree, the temperature climbed. By the time we hit Rapid City (less than 20 minutes later) the car thermometer said 46! That was 20 degrees in 20 miles. By the time we got home to Spearfish, the sun was setting and it was cooling off again, but that was the most concrete evidence of my father-in-law's Banana Belt theory that I'd ever experienced. So - on that one - I'm now a believer. As for his "Tundra/Bahamas" theory - I'm not buying it.