The Drive. The longest slog. I left the house early enough – 10am – to make the 8 hour drive (had I gone straight through). Stopped for lunch about half-way, and traffic was moving well. No problems.
Then I missed a turn.
No, no horror stories…at least, not thosekind of horror stories.
The summer route I usually take is 95 North, then head west around Fredericksburg – on 17, to start, then winding my way up 81, through a corner of West Virginia an up into Pennsylvania. And I missed the turn off of 81 that I had intended on, and a few miles later found myself stuck in a horrible back-up. Over an hour to crawl less than five miles, around 5pm, in two-lane traffic, reminded me of driving around DC in rush hour. I watched my ETA (as figured by the GPS), creep later and later. I checked for an alternate route, made plans for a possible exit escape. Then realized that plan involved waiting it out for another 8 miles of inching along the asphalt.
I took the next exit I came to, and prayed to the GPS gods to be gentle. It took me along a short, scenic route, but redirected me back toward 81…several miles farther along than where I exited, but it was back toward 81.
To say that I was skeptical, and less-than-thrilled is an understatement.
But something interesting happened. That side road brought me down a hill, not a steep one, but enough that I could get a hint of traffic waiting on 81. And there was none. A few cars zipping along southbound, but almost no cars headed north. I was returning to the highway only a few miles from where I had exited, but I had bypassed whatever accident-thing that had stopped traffic. I was soon exceeding the speed limit (a relief, after the hour’s crawl), and a few moments later I was passing the exit I had originally planned as my escape.
Arrived at the hotel a little after 8p. Soaked in the hot tub to recover from the drive (and extra tension from the delay) before dinner, and moving over to the dorms the next day.
Day 0: Each Residency officially starts with an Orientation session, at night, that is part mixer, part reunion, part business, and part homecoming. New students are welcomed, introduced to the faculty, the graduating students, and generally get overwhelmed right off the bat. (At least, that’s how it felt two years ago, when I started.)
But first, I had to move, and other business to handle. I spent the morning putting slides together for my teaching presentation (finally figured out how I wanted to order things that had been floating in my head for the previous few weeks), transferred from the dorm to the hotel, dropped my stuff in my new room, and lingered on campus for less than an hour before cruising back toward the hotel and a (the?) local Starbucks, to sort-of-write, before my mentor meeting at 3p.
About that. Each Residency involves students meeting with their mentors, to discuss the thesis project, the terms of the contract for the coming semester, and whatever other business may need to be addressed. Normally, there is one night exclusively dedicated to the meetings. I am lucky. The mentor that I am (currently) with, after the initial “new mentee” meeting after the assignments (in my case, was done last June), likes to meet with his folks “off schedule.” Hence the chance for a leisurely 3p meeting before the Residency has even started.
And the writing I was doing? Brainstorming. With the end of the thesis in sight, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what to work on next. My ideal involves finishing my thesis with plenty of time to spare, so much time, in fact, that I am able to work on another project before graduating. Not only that, but maybe even getting enough of it done to see how well I can apply what I have learned to a project that’s NOT the thesis novel (which, as near as I figure, should suggest that I’ve incorporated the process enough to be able to apply it to future projects as well).
Then it was back to campus, getting ready for orientation, and a class dinner after.
Then came the Residency proper.