The struggle continues…

We are trying to get to Cornell for a scientific conference. We’re supposed to be there right now. Last night was an epic run-around of sitting and waiting in lines and repeated announcements that we’ll be boarding a plane any minute now…and a final announcement that no, you will not be boarding a plane today, try again tomorrow. Our heroic quest has become a stalled adventure, where we are left noodling around the edges of the Shire, unable to reach Osgiliath, let alone Mordor.

Our plan for the day is to take a shuttle to the Minneapolis airport and sit around and stand in line some more while we listen to excuses from United Airlines. Maybe they’ll put us on a plane; I sure hope so, since Liz has a poster presentation this afternoon, and I’d like to get this damn ring thrown in Lake Beebe today.

I’m beginning to appreciate why Frodo and Sam couldn’t be dropped off directly at Mount Doom by the eagles. It’s because the eagles needed maintenance, they didn’t have aircrews to man them, there was lightning on the runway, and we already have your money, suckers. Also, one does not fly into Mordor.


  1. says

    It’s a 19 hour drive from Morris to Cornell. We’re going to pass that time shortly, and we haven’t even left Minnesota!

  2. drsteve says

    But reaching Mordor on foot may entail battling and at least seriously wounding a large spider, which would probably have some unfortunate knock-on effects on your reception at the event. . .quite the dilemma!

  3. annattheft says

    Thank you so much for this! Made my day, from “noodling around the edges of the Shire, unable to reach Osgiliath, let alone Mordor” through “One does not fly into Mordor”!

  4. StevoR says

    @1. rietpluim : “I’ve always assumed that Mordor’s air defenses were pretty good.”

    nazgul on flying Fellbeatss. Plus dragons maybe? Certanly lots of Orc archers and who knows what other Sauron dark magic and great big eagles with hobbits on backs = rather conspicuous..

  5. charley says

    This kind of thing is one of the reasons we’ll be driving from Seattle to Michigan again this year, camping at your tidy Buffalo River State Park. I’ll wave from Fergus Falls.

  6. billseymour says

    Oh, dear!  Problems with the early legs of a trip tend to destroy the whole trip.

    My next trip, if I’m still able to travel, will be in November to Kailua-Kona on the leeward side of the Big Island.  My plan is to take Amtrak between St. Louis and the San Francisco Bay Area, and fly between SFO and KOA.  Fortunately, I’m retired now and have all the time I need; so I’m allowing an extra day westbound in case the California Zephyr gets stuck in a snowdrift…or something.  There’s probably about an 85% chance that all will go well, which will give me a whole day, probably including a fifty minute ride on BART, to get from the Hyatt House Emeryville, just across the tracks from the train station, to the Grand Hyatt at SFO, just a quick Air Train ride to terminal 3.  But United has already changed my flight times twice since I made all the reservations…we’ll see how it goes.

    Best of luck to you for the remainder of your trip.

  7. says

    Years ago, I had to go from Bloomington, IL to Memphis, TN for work. This is a commuter flight, generally non-stop on a twin turboprop plane in the 30 seating capacity range. I was due to depart 8 am and arrive maybe 10ish. I don’t remember exactly. I arrived after 9pm. Sat in the Bloomington airport for 10 hours. Begged my boss to let me just drive, but no…”we’ve already got the plane ticket”…stick it out.

    Fuck flying indeed. The only way I’d get on a plane at this point in my life is if my life depended on it.

  8. joel says

    The likeliest reason the hobbits didn’t just fly on eagles to Mt. Doom is what @1 rietpluim said. The eagles are rather large – able to carry men on their backs while flying – and thus plainly visible from far off. There’s a reason the eagles didn’t fly in to Mordor until right after the ring was destroyed.

  9. annattheft says

    Re: Mordor’s air defenses were pretty good

    Surface to air elven arrow has entered the chat.

  10. Snarki, child of Loki says

    Rule of thumb: when an airline gives you an estimate of delay, multiply by pi.

    Most annoying delay ever, for me? A little puddle-jumper from JFK to Philly. Biking would have been faster.

  11. says

    Before you trash the eagles’ record on customer service, reliability and convenience, remember how Gandalf was able to charter that emergency flight out of Isengard on pretty short notice. Might have been a different story without that.

  12. says

    I have had nightmares with United. My departing flight was delayed by two hours which meant I missed my connecting flight and had to spend the night in the airport. On the return trip, the departing flight was late and I had to literally run through the Denver airport to the VERY last gate to board my flight. When I got there, I was told the jetway was broken and couldn’t get out to the plane. That got fixed and then they announced that the door to the aircraft was “broken” and they had to bring in another plane. Remember when you could smoke on airplanes and they served complimentary beverages? And the planes arrived and left on time?

  13. mordred says

    I like travelling by train. Modern reliable trains. So, not the baldy maintained old timers the US seem to have.

    On the other hand I had a few old railway workers in the family who would frequently tell me how much more reliable the German railway was in the time of steam and mechanical switches and signals.

  14. birgerjohansson says

    Maybe PZ should lease a Piper Cub, it is faster than a car and at least as fast as train.
    För greater comfort and speed, lease an Antonov-2.

  15. Larry says


    Sounds like you’ve some experience riding Amtrak, building a one-day buffer before your flight. However, based on my experience, Amtrak doesn’t need snowdrifts to be delayed. It can manage that all by itself. My Calif. Z experience had us arriving into Emeryville, 6-1/2 hours late.

  16. numerobis says

    Remember when you could smoke on airplanes and they served complimentary beverages?
    Yeah, that was awful.

    And the planes arrived and left on time?
    No, I do not remember that.

  17. numerobis says

    Sigh. This forum software behaves differently from all other forum software on the internet.

  18. Sunday Afternoon says

    I’ve always rather liked MSP airport – I’ve been through there many times for work. I’ll be back at UM Twin Cities at the end of July for a conference and can take the tram from the airport to my hotel!

    I recall a thunderstorm passing over MSP airport one day many years ago when I was flying back to California. The announcement requested that we stay back from the windows during the storm. My traveling companions and I promptly sat in the first row and enjoyed the lightning show.

  19. chigau (違う) says

    numerobis #24

    Sigh. This forum software behaves differently from all other forum software on the internet.

    In what way?

  20. says

    @20 birgerjohansson said: lease an Antonov-2.
    I reply: one of our members saw an Antonov-2 in a hanger in So. Cal in the mid1990’s. It had the name ‘Linen Butterfly’ painted on it. It is a single radial engined ‘cloth’ covered plane, holds over a dozen people. It was nearly invisible on radar and was being studied for its ‘stealth’ features.
    @ 19 mordred said: Modern reliable trains
    I reply: I wish the united states had them. Here, the tracks are owned by Crapitallist Rail Corps. and not maintained (see recent rail bridge collapse) the trains must travel at a crawl to prevent derailment and everyone wants to waste massive amounts of jet fuel and be treated like cattle by the airlines just to save a few hours travel time.

  21. Ed Seedhouse says

    @24 “This forum software behaves differently from all other forum software on the internet”

    But this is true for all other internet sites. It’s a feature of the internet.

  22. beholder says

    @27 chigau (違う)

    numerobis #24

    Sigh. This forum software behaves differently from all other forum software on the internet.

    In what way?

    I won’t speak for numerobis (you aren’t getting a good forum framework out of blog comments no matter which way you slice it), but if FTB has any of: a markdown document and/or a list of compatible HTML tags, a way to edit the typos in my comments, or a method for unprivileged (l)users such as myself to browse my own comment history, I would be thrilled to find out.

  23. Steve Morrison says

    @#7: The problem with the fell beasts argument is that the good guys didn’t know the Nazgûl could fly on them until well after the Council of Elrond. Remember that Legolas shot one of them down months later and they still didn’t know what they had seen. Therefore, the Nazgûl could have played no part in their failure to ask the eagles to help on the quest. The Orc archers might have been a factor, though, as well as the need for secrecy.

  24. joel says

    @32, Steve Morrison: No, they didn’t know about the winged Nazgul, they only knew in general that Mordor was really, really well defended. In the Council of Elrond, Gandalf actually said, and Elrond agreed, that secrecy was their best strategy.