If you're remotely considering airline travel anywhere east of the Mississippi that will require a connection through Atlanta anytime in the next couple of months or so, a word of advice: Don't!

Drive. Hitchhike. Ride a bike. Hire a limo. Take a Greyhound. Go on horseback. Roller skate. Anything would be better than enduring the black hole that is Atlanta's Hartsfield airport these days.

Going to south Georgia recently for the Sunbelt Expo, I spent 10 hours getting from the Memphis airport, through Atlanta, to Valdosta, Ga. Total flying time: 1 hour 20 minutes.

Coming back, 11 hours 10 minutes. Total flying time: 1 hour 40 minutes (longer because one segment was on an ancient prop plane instead of a jet).

That ain't exactly a stellar ratio of travel-to-waiting-time/frustration. I could've driven there and back in the same time, or less, without all the airport security hassles and the frustration of sitting and waiting through delay after delay after delay.

(We won't even consider the additional delay for the Atlanta-Valdosta flight occasioned by an airport tanker truck operator pumping 6,000 pounds too much fuel into the plane, necessitating our waiting 30 minutes or so while it was sucked back out so the plane wouldn't be too heavy to get off the ground. What kind of attention span is involved, one wonders, that allows a tanker jockey to put 1,000 gallons too much fuel in an airplane?)

At that, I fared better than some of my co-workers. Their Valdosta-Atlanta return flight was cancelled, so the airline (which shall be unidentified, except it's name starts with D and ends with E L T A), put them on a rickety van for a four-hour drive to Atlanta, for a supposed 9 p.m. connecting flight, which finally left around midnight for Memphis. They got home about 1:30 a.m. the next day.

However harrowing our experiences, they are not the exception, but the norm these days, an Atlanta airport employee told me. Almost every flight in and out faces delays ranging from minutes to hours.

It seems one of the main runways is shut down for resurfacing, which means hundreds of flights per day have to compete for landings and takeoffs on the remaining runways. Toss any kind of adverse weather into that scenario, and it becomes Snailsville.

The resurfacing project was contracted for 90 days, I was told, “but already they're behind schedule, and with winter coming on — who knows?”

Travel travails aside, some of the best cotton I've seen this year was in the Valdosta-Moultrie area. They apparently had a better growing season than most Delta farmers. Soybeans still in the field also looked great.

It was interesting, too, to see all the vegetable crops along the road to the Expo. Fields of cabbages were being harvested, collards were growing off well, and fields of what appeared to be squash/zucchini were a mass of bright yellow blooms.

But I'm still trying to figure out the sign I saw near Moultrie: “Used cows for sale.” Probably woulda been a faster way home than flying…