Washington’s softball team has been at least two time zones away from home for 15 straight days now. By the time the Huskies return to Seattle, they will have traveled 7,000-plus miles without ever needing a passport. UW players evidently have fought the temptation to wear "206” eye-black strips under both eyes in honor of their hometown area code. Washington has advanced to its ninth Women’s College World Series and certainly took to road less traveled. This NCAA adventure commenced May 13. Three members of the UW travel party are one year older, having had birthdays since then — catcher Alicia Blake, utility player Amanda Fleischman and student assistant Dru Hester. The vagabond Huskies flew 2,963 miles from Seattle to Boston for the regional held in Amherst, Mass. After surviving a 15-inning elimination contest that took five hours, 13 minutes to complete — the longest game in school history — U-Dub traveled 1,087 miles to Atlanta to face host Georgia Tech in the Super Regional. From there, it was 848 miles to Oklahoma City. It’ll be another 2,001 miles to get back home, unless the ladies get the urge to stop at Yosemite Park and take in the sights. Total distance on this Rand McNally Special is 6,899 miles, which does not include all those back-and-forth trips to stadiums, hotels, restaurants and various venues of distraction. The Huskies were not completely blind-sided when they were told to hit the road for the 64-team NCAA Tournament. In order for ESPN to have maximum flexibility for postseason games, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association decided last December all host sites must have lights. UW’s Husky Softball Stadium has no lights, and temporary lights were not an option due to the facility’s tight configuration. A $500,000 fundraising plan for lights is said to be in the works. The Huskies initially figured they would still get to host a super regional if they survived Amherst. "We didn’t think there was any way they would not allow us to host,” senior second baseman Ashley Charters said. Reportedly, the school’s bid to host a super regional on a lighted field roughly 145 miles away at Yakima Community College was rejected by the NCAA. So UW took flight, multiple times, with overstuffed duffle bags in tow. If the Huskies return home with their first national title in softball next week, the good news is they’ll be welcomed back by fellow students. The bad news is it will be finals week. Laundry is done twice a week. Time-killing activities include getting your hair and nails done, plus numerous movies, both in-room and at the local theater. "Angels & Demons” was a hit to those who saw it. For school work, there is a daily study hall with academic advisers. Lectures are faxed. Papers and tests are e-mailed back to school. "We definitely have the resources to help us keep up,” said freshman outfielder Kimi Pohlman, "but it’s still been a little challenging.” Charters graduated last winter. Therefore, she has no school stress and plenty of free time for movies. This has been psychologically difficult for sophomore shortstop Morgan Stuart, who is Charters’ roommate. "It’s hard because I’m really jealous of her,” Stuart said. "But it’s also nice because she doesn’t have the stress that other people have with school, so I can just vent to her my stress. She’s like, ’Oh, yeah. That stinks.’ Then we just talk about something else.” As for teammate entertainment, "Bailey Stenson is pretty funny,” Stuart said. "Niki Williams has turned out to be a source for some laughs.” Are you laughing with Williams or at Williams? "Both,” Stuart said. No one on the team has been nicknamed "Pig-Pen.” "We have bags everywhere, clothes everywhere,” Pohlman said. "I think we’re all a little bit messy.” Given their far-northwestern locale, the Huskies are no strangers to the road. Nearly every trip is a long haul. This season, UW trekked to St. George, Utah; San Diego; Palm Springs, Calif.; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; and Fullerton, Calif., in addition to their regular conference stops. "The worst part about being away is not being able to play in front of your family, your fans and your friends,” said Pohlman, who counted 11 Huskies fans in the stands at Amherst. There is another significant element to being on the road non-stop. "We’re girls,” senior outfielder Lauren Greer said. "There’s a little drama, but that’s just how it goes. I definitely think it’s made us a stronger team.” Charters downplayed any potential conflict. "It’s not like we’re going to pull each other’s hair out or anything,” Charters said. "We’re a pretty low-key team.” The Huskies already knew they were a good team, finishing second in the mighty Pac-10 and carrying a 46-11 into the WCWS. Perhaps spending two-plus weeks on the road has added an ingredient that might have previously been missing. Perhaps a potential problem now has been eliminated. "I don’t think we realized what our capabilities were,” Greer said. "We’re on a roll now.” The No. 6-seeded Georgia Bulldogs await the Huskies today at noon in the WCWS opener at Hall of Fame Stadium. "It feels like we’ve been gone forever, but I just try to keep in mind the trip is all going to be worth it,” Greer said. "The main goal of all this was to get to the World Series, and that’s where we’re at.” Stuart has no complaints and said: "I actually love being on the road. It’s been a real cool vacation for me, kind of. "Team chemistry has always been something I’ve considered to be an X-factor for teams. Being on the road, some might see it as a disadvantage, but sometimes you can turn it into an advantage.” If Washington returns home with the NCAA crown, no need to ask if the trip was worth it. John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.