I was flying out of Killeen, not Austin, which I thought would save transfer time at DFW, since both flights were American Eagle and thus (usually, but not always as I found later) would be in Terminal B. Turns out the flight to DFW was oversold, so it was a very good thing I'd checked in the night before, online. What I had not known was that the prop-jet on the Killeen/DFW run loads from the rear, so my front-of-plane seat meant I was last to get off. The gate information given us coming in was wrong, and the new gate information was also wrong (but multiple changes of gate have become de rigeur for DFW. ) The flight up was crammed, but the flight to South Carolina wasn't, and I was where I wanted to be (back near the restroom in the tiny regional jet.) No seatmate, so I could stretch a tiny amount. I had a brooding sort of headache, controllable at that point with minor meds.
Picked up at the airport by Casey Berkshire, with whom I'd been communicating online, and her assistant Rachel (who would drive me back) and then off on the longish trip to Clemson through beautiful rolling green countryside. Since I wasn't driving, I just enjoyed the scenery as we jogged from one highway to another and went through some urbanized areas and back out into the countryside. Pleasant drive, interesting conversation. Clemson itself is set in and around what appears to be a very small town, rolling hills, GREEN (I think I said that before) with trees I'd love to have except that they couldn't grow here. They have their own hotel/motel, very nice--large comfortable room, etc.
That evening I was picked up by a faculty member who also heads the selection committee for the freshman book-to-be-read, and who drives an orange Mini-Cooper convertible...not sure of spelling her last name correctly, so not giving it (sigh. My fault.) She took me to dinner with another faculty member (epidemiologist--again me and my name problem, darn it!) and three students involved in a campus autism awareness organization. Really interesting people--we had a great time and talked a long while after eating (some of the best food I've had, period. That lobster bisque...incredible!) Two of the students--both seniors--had founded the campus group, had been counselors at a camp for the disabled--and were pre-med. One had done research in a hospital in Toronto and actually had a published journal article to his credit; the other was headed towards a research career (my guess, anyway) in genetics, but put in a second summer at the camp. The younger student was double-majoring in French and...anthro? Sociology? Splah-brain, sorry...but I think it was in the social sciences...and had spent (and was going to spend) an enviable amount of time in France.
I went to bed early enough, but the next-room-over had someone who wanted to play the TV loud, and on some political rant part of the time...the TV backed up to my headboard. Even earplugs didn't work, but they finally turned it off around midnight. However, the headache reacted to the noise as migraines often do, and by morning (after some fitful sleep) I was really glad I had the make-up kit with me to hide the raccoon eyes effect. The only drawback to this hotel was the lack of a good BIG breakfast in the morning. Continental just doesn't do it for me when I'm working or have a migraine, so the two little packets of Cheerios and the bagel with cream cheese were out of my system long before lunch. I needed a solid whack of protein. Casey picked me up and took me to the main campus where I met the lady from the bookstore who had books for sale, and where I was to sign books. Two students came by but the rest were probably still asleep (the previous day having been a festival day for new students that went on into the evening.) Then back to the hotel, for a brief "freshening up" and checkout, before I was picked up by someone else (beginning to get dizzy--except for the orange Mini, I was whisked around in a large white SUV the university uses for transporting guests, but the drivers change.) Thence to the university president's big white columned home set on a hill with gorgeous landscaping all around.
I met University administration, faculty, trustees, the head of the National Science Foundation (who was speaking to a different group there the same day) and a few selected students. The house was lovely, service impeccable, and the food delicious--special mention for Clemson's own bleu cheese, which is the best bleu cheese I've ever had, and I like the stuff. And there were a couple of slices of roast beef (yay!) for the protein contribution, which settled my stomach, though the headache was still there and the energy level wasn't what I like to have when facing a big audience. After lunch it was off to the venue where I'd be speaking, rimmed by tall black curtains to keep the sound from being too reverberant (it's the basketball coliseum, of which they used one end.)
They weren't kidding about the 3000-plus audience. Their president gave an excellent brief speech, the introduction was mercifully brief, and then there I was with the whole bunch staring at me (actually more were starting at the giant screens reproducing my head on either side. So I did my best, and it seemed to go well, and then I was done...zipping away behind the tall curtains to retrieve my suitcase from the back of the SUV, race back into the building to find a restroom where I could change into my travel slacks and more comfortable shoes and stuff the others into the suitcase, then back out and on the road (about 45-60 minute drive) to the airport.
I was at the airport by 3:30. The plane was somewhat late coming in (weather between us and Dallas) but that's a pleasant smallish airport to be in, for an airport these days. I had a hamburger and Coke and took more Excedrin. Once more the plane wasn't full, and I had my row to myself. On these tiny planes that's still not much, but it's a lot better than being squished the whole 2 1/2 hours, and no one to climb over to reach the toilet. We did some bouncing around, and a lot of twisting and turning around storms, on the way to DFW and then once there ended up at Terminal D (the international terminal) instead of B. But I had time, so the Skylink got me to Terminal B where I found my gate and was assured it was the right one. That was then--by flight time it was way the heck down the other end of the terminal. Naturally.
And it had one of the rudest gate agents I've seen yet, a vindictive nasty little fellow who deserves to lose his job. Not only did he react to another passenger's question angrily and rudely, but he called up other people to complain about that passenger, berated that passenger loudly (claimed she was yelling, while he was yelling) and made snide remarks about her to the whole passenger lounge. Yes, I will be sending a complaint letter. He was also rude to me but somewhat less extensively. Our flight was late taking off and partway to Killeen another passenger suddenly began having trouble breathing. I had met her at the "wrong" gate, where she'd been left by one of the airport people who'd wheeled her there, only to be told later that it was no longer the right gate. The gate agent there was going to call a cart for her--she could not walk the distance. Anyway, she got much worse on the flight, and the cabin crew administered oxygen--and when we landed, paramedics took her off first (of course) while the rest of us waited.
So: I had a great time at Clemson, even with the bad headache--it's a beautiful campus, but also has lovely people (and all the ones I met were also *interesting* people...people I'd love to spend more time with.) Travel is, as usual, a PITA these days...when I opened my suitcase this morning, I found the little TSA card that says they rummaged through, and there was also a beetle inside. That beetle wasn't there when I packed for the trip either here or in Clemson for the trip home. I suppose I'm supposed to be grateful it wasn't a cockroach, but ICK.
The headache is diminished but not yet gone, and I plan to sleep again today before heading for choir practice this afternoon.