Fog Of Battle

Yesterday I embarked on the long one-day journey from Russell, Kansas to the Twin Cities. With two kids. It’s a little like running a marathon. No matter how well-conditioned you are, no matter how long you’ve trained, and even if you run a good race, you’re still exhausted at the end, and there are still many times along the way when you want to give up and quit.

The first leg we were on auto-pilot. No adverse events, smooth sailing. I hoped to make it to Liberty, Missouri before stopping, but settled for Kansas City, Kansas when Alex announced he had to go to the bathroom. Now. We stopped in a working-class area of KCK, and planned on just having lunch while we were there. We went into McDonald’s, and it was packed with about 200 uniformed high school Army and Air Force ROTC kids. We used the restroom, but it would have taken an hour to get through the line to order, so after talking Alex off the ledge because he couldn’t get a Happy Meal, we hit the Burger King drive-through.

Cameron, Missouri. With all the lunch drama in Kansas City, I got back onto I-70 without getting gas. So we filled at the Shell station at Cameron. After a bathroom break, I let the kids pick out a snack. Cameron said he didn’t want anything. Next thing I knew he was scrambling out of the back of the van, and throwing up his lunch all over the parking lot. Trust me when I say this was the best of all possible outcomes. We went back inside, splashed some water on his face, bought some peppermints (Alex announced to the cashier, “We’re baaack!”), walked around for some fresh air, got back in and carried on. Cameron is prone to car sickness, so I was hoping that, and some bad Burger King, was all this would turn out to be. He fell asleep right away, and even Alex did, after I threatened to leave him at the next stop if he caused any trouble.

Truro, Iowa. Kids sleeping, we’re cruising along at 79 mph. When I drive, I religiously stay in the right lane, except to pass. Which is what EVERYONE should be doing. I pulled out to go around a semi, and found myself stuck behind some jackass in a rusted out, faded black Suburban that looked more like a hearse. For several miles I was stuck behind him, next to the semi, with several cars behind me also trying to get around. Finally he pulled ahead of the semi, but didn’t move into the right lane. So I pulled into the right lane ahead of the semi. At this point this douchebag, on his phone, in his heap of a vehicle, caked in mud, probably because he recently buried a dead body somewhere, speeds up. Whatever. I just stayed in the right lane. Until I had to go around someone else. At which point this dumbass slows down again. He was intentionally fucking with me. If I slowed down to let him get ahead, he’d slow down too. Ordinarily I would just get off at an exit, wait a few minutes, and get back on. But the last thing I wanted to do was stop and wake two sleeping kids. He kept pulling this shit though. So I called the State Patrol, and gave them a description and license plate number (Missouri PJ1 D5Z). They did nothing. Finally once we got to Des Moines this loser exited on I-235.

I-35 between Story City and Clear Lake, Iowa. For the love of God, what are they feeding the animals on these industrial hog farms? The melted snow and unseasonably warm temps have created a stench that wafts out of feedlots that is not of this earth. It’s like Satan himself spent hours in a lab creating the single most offensive scent to add to his best-selling perfume line. He must bottle it and sell it at the Macy’s in hell right next to Sulphuria, Curdle au Lait, Skonque, and Aqua di Urinal. As God as my witness, I will never eat bacon again.

Clear Lake, Iowa. I need a break. And if I have to set foot in another McDonald’s I’m gonna hurl. Plus I need to just rest my eyes. Pizza Hut seems like an okay change of pace. Until we get inside. Wonder when the last time a health inspector paid a visit? Whatever, I don’t care. We order bread sticks and a pizza. Kids are hungry. We wait, and wait. Alex goes to the bathroom twice. Cameron is obsessed with a stupid prize game by the door. Finally the server comes over, tells us that she accidentally gave our bread sticks to another table. The Windholz Curse. But she gives us free drinks, removes the charge for the bread sticks, and gives us five extra. Not bad. Barry and David score plenty of leftovers.

Southern Minnesota. Dark. Crazy fog. Can’t see much of anything, including the fact that Alex is in the way back covering himself head to toe in Silly Putty.

Faribault, Minnesota. I can’t see a damn thing, but need to stop for gas. Take the exit, realize that this is the fucking exit where you can’t get back on the damn interstate without circling through half the town. I. Am. Pissed. Cursing Faribault. Cursing MNDot. Cursing anyone I can think of for sending me on this haze-filled drive through Podunk, Minnesota. Trying to get Siri to text my brother back because I can’t call him. Stupid bitch doesn’t understand a word I say.

Elko, Minnesota. Alex: “Mom, what are we gonna do about me? I’m a mess.” I’ll say. Didn’t know it at the time, but I’d eventually spend a solid 20 minutes picking Silly Putty out of his eyebrows, hair, fingers, Cameron’s iPod, clothes…

7:45 pm. Eleven and a half hours after we set sail from my parents’ house, we pull into my own garage. Tired, exhausted, stomach starting to hurt from road trip food and stress, I pile into the door. After a hug from my husband, he proceeds to tell me how tired HE is, and what a difficult week HE has had. If I weren’t too exhausted to fight, he would have had a cage match on his hands.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012