Thursday, October 31, 2013

In Which Jenn & Moon Have A Haunted Mansion Adventure

JENN: In honor of Halloween, I am SUPER EXCITED to retell one of my all-time favorite Walt Disney World stories. The year: 2004. High school orchestra trip. The scene: The Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion.

Picture it: Sicily, 1937.

MOON: Was it really THAT long ago?!

JENN: Yup! We are old.

MOON: ;-;

JENN: Yes.

MOON: Indeed.

JENN: This is why we return to WDW so much: to feel young and happy again. Because none of us are married with kids to take. But then none of us are divorced, either, so: winning.

MOON: That's what we'll call it.

JENN: Anyway: 2004. High school. Moon, Elizabeth, and I are all Sullen Teenagers. We hop into line for the Haunted Mansion, because even with the extra crowds from the music programs, the line is pretty short.

I think I had to coerce everyone into riding it with the promise that it wasn't REALLY scary, even though I was operating on hearsay at the time... (This is that first-time-on-HM thing I mentioned before.)

MOON: I remember moving through the line. I remember riding the train around in Tomorrowland (is that what it's called?) 100+ times. I remember lots of lines.

JENN: Yup, I understand you rode the Peoplemover repeatedly while we were on Space Mountain (but that's another amusing story, which we'll tell in a couple weeks).

But back to the Haunted Mansion. We had proceeded through the queue, exited the stretch room, and were snaking through the final portion of the line up to the Omnimovers. We passed by an HM cast member, all suitably creepy in his cape. This is where Moon made the grave tactical error of saying hello to him before walking by.

MOON: What can I say? I'm polite.

He took this as an invitation to begin stalking her, his face mere inches from hers. This would be amusing enough, but there was something even more beautiful ahead, because: Moon didn't notice for a good five, ten seconds.

She's walking, she's walking. The CM is matching her step for step, his nose practically touching her cheek. Suddenly Moon turns her head, SCREAMS, trips, and nearly falls on her face. It. Was. AMAZING.

MOON: I do not really remember this, I must be honest.

JENN: I promised you it happened. Elizabeth saw it too. We laughed at with you together! We even have a video somewhere from our 2008 trip where Elizabeth recounts the tale.

MOON: I remember being startled... but that's about it! Also. I am very easily startled.

JENN: Really?

MOON: And a secret: I looooove to be scared.

JENN: ... Really?

MOON: Yes! Why do you think we watch scary movies all the time? I love that feeling. It always makes me laugh!

JENN: Wow. I should've gone into that haunted house with you instead of Liz. I could've just shoved you forward and yelled "DON'T TAKE ME! TAKE HER!"

MOON: Haha, see... I would have been a CHAMP in that haunted house. Now. Obviously not my high school self.

JENN: That's it. Next time you and Andrew are coming with me and Liz to Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Howl-o-Scream!

MOON: Settled!

Do you have any funny memories in "scary" Disney attractions? If not a Haunted Mansion, in a Tower of Terror perhaps? Or anywhere else!

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at See ya real soon! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In Which Jenn Pits the Outdoors Against the Treadmill

Hey, remember that time several forevers ago when I said I had more to say about running outdoors vs. the treadmill? THE DAY HAS COME.

I know: I've already complained. Some people are treadmill people and some people are outdoors people, and rarely the twain shall meet. Still, when the treadmills at my gym both broke at once and I was forced outdoors, I had some good experiences - and some not-so-good ones. I decided, if only for my own personal amusement, that it might be worthwhile to quantify what I liked and didn't like about both experiences, perhaps in the interest of improving both. So here goes.


Hills, dips, grass, and other terrain changes. They work different muscles; they prep me for actual races, which tend to occur outdoors, of all places. But they make runs seem INTERMINABLE sometimes. I'll be tired and I'll hit a hill and I'll walk because HILLS and I'm TIRED. Oh, and the asphalt of paved roads and sidewalks can make my bones sad.

Scenery. I must admit - the changing scenery is nice. It's pleasantly distracting, propelling yourself forward to new places. Sometimes I take a different turn, just to find out what's up. And sometimes I meet a friend!


The surrounding population. I am not a people person. I don't mean to say that if you ever see me at WDW you shouldn't say hello - you definitely should! - but I'm shy sometimes and like to think my own thoughts quietly to myself without the presence of others when I'm on a training run. I pass people outdoors... and then keep going. And so do they. It's AWESOME.

Resources and supply storage. If I am five miles from my apartment, I am five miles from a bathroom. Unless I want to knock on the door of some poor unsuspecting person in the residential neighborhoods where I run, which I do NOT. Also, I hate carrying my water bottle and I have nowhere to refill it when it runs out. I am deeply suspicious of fuel belts. And we haven't even talked about food.

Late nights and early mornings. These are dark. The Bethesda Trolley Trail where I like to concentrate most of my mileage is not lit, and I can't get to portions of my route without running through it. This, obviously, is not safe for a variety of reasons. Which means that if I'm trying to run early in the morning or as night falls, there is a certain point in the course that I'll have to stick to lit neighborhoods. And even then running at 3AM would not my best idea.

Welcome to 7:45PM.

Weather. It can be a problem. Also, I DON'T LIKE COLD. That goes double for my lungs.

Pacing. I set my own pace, which is great because it lets me find a comfortable rhythm, makes it easier to walk for short stretches or do run/walk intervals, and helps me push myself for once, all good practice for races. But sometimes I'm not very good at pushing...

Timing and mileage. I won't have a GPS watch yet and MapMyRun is notoriously unreliable. :( Of course, I also don't have a display to stare at and get demoralized. Oh, and unlike my treadmill, the outdoors don't turn themselves off every 99 minutes.


No terrain changes. If I'm being honest with myself, this is no good for purposes of really, REALLY preparing for a race. But it's so lovely to settle into a rhythm, sweet and clear and forward-moving without fear of losing momentum because a stupid hill has popped up. Plus the treadmill is much softer and less bothersome to my bones. And besides, runDisney races tend to be pretty flat!

The time of the treadmill is happy. (Only Moon will get that joke.)

Television. I don't even watch that much television, outside of the gym. But there's something healing about finishing off my run with a mile of cool-down walking while watching Face Off on SyFy.

The surrounding population. I don't know why, but in the tiny basement gym of my apartment complex, I get weirdly self-conscious when someone else comes in to work out. An empty gym is a wonderful blessing, and a gym full of people makes me feel awkward. I know, logically, that no one is watching me and judging my form and thinking about how much faster they can run... but I can't help but feel that they're all watching me and judging my form and thinking about how much faster they can run.

Resources and supply storage. Lord, I do wish that the gym had a bathroom. Barring that, though, my apartment is a two minute walk away. Plus the treadmill has all sorts of slots to hold my stuff. When I ran twenty miles on the treadmill a few weeks ago, I got it all set up for myself - iPod and phone balanced on the display, water bottle in one alcove, Shot Bloks in the other, auxiliary water bottle on the unused elliptical machine next to me, ready to top me off. I didn't have to carry a darned thing.

Late nights and early mornings. Are great times to work out. I'm a total night owl, and the gym is 24/7. On those rare occasions I need to get up early instead, sunrise times don't matter. Heck, an eclipse would be fine too. Lights on, door locked, ALL THE TIME SAFETY!

Weather. BRING IT ON.

Pacing. Run/walk ratios are a pain on the treadmill, and for whatever reason it's harder for me to start running after a walk break on a treadmill. Yet setting a speed, sometimes outside of my comfort zone even, helps me push myself harder and farther than I've ever been able to under my own power.

Timing and mileage. Precision! Exactitude! A display that I, like everyone else on earth, sometimes find myself staring at with a dawning realization of horror that I am taking my first steps toward infinity!


I don't really have one. I like the treadmill, but outdoor running has its merits. Maybe it would be more fun with a running buddy. Things to ponder...

What are your thoughts on the outdoors vs. treadmill debate? Do you having anything to add to my praise/complaints? Anything I forgot?

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at See ya real soon!

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Fairest Week in Review: 10/28

I have exciting news! I just got the official email from Disney: I have been invited to participate in MyMagic+ during my December trip to Walt Disney World! I've customized our bands - pink for my mom and yellow for me because it would be too confusing if we were both pink and there's no purple hey why is there no purple? - and I'm very much looking forward to finding out what horrors lie in wait as part of My Disney Experience.

Awww, I kid, I kid - I've read about some positive experiences too, so I'm prepared to give it the ol' post-college try. The only bit that makes me sad is that I can't get my FasstPass+ all set up. I'm running into the same issue that Katherine of Food Fitness Fantasy has had: we're both of us saving up all our Disney Visa points to buy tickets while at the parks, so we've got nothing to link to our bands for the time being. Oh well. I'll just have to jump on the app as soon as I can!

36 MORE DAYS. (Source)

Anyway. Running stuff. Last week was pretty uneventful, training-wise, but I still suffered some digestive issues. In the past I've always been able to eat just about whatever I felt like and shortly before running to boot. Now, as I increase my mileage, I think that's changing. I'm going to take a shot at NOT eating before running and instead taking Clif Shot Bloks as I run. Hopefully that'll work, although those Bloks are kinda expensive. :\ Our runner lives are hard.

Musically, I've been ALL ABOUT the full show soundtrack for The Festival of the Lion King because I FREAKING LOVE The Festival of the Lion King. If you've never seen FotLK, I demand that you make it Priority One for your next trip. Do it do it do it!

Now that all my edicts are out of the way, it's time for the roundup, no?

- This is Halloween! The Affordable Mouse shares some haunted tales from Cast Members.
- Live, Run, Grow shows us how to get our race-day gear organized.
- The Main Street Gazette cautions us to stay on designated trails when running at WDW. Stay safe!
- Peer inside the mind of a marathoner on race day with Pink Elephant on Parade.
- Running the Wine and Dine Half for the first time? We Run Disney explains it all.
- The DisBroads school us on how to get into a sold-out runDisney race.
- The Runner's Guide to WDW features Gail Savidge, earner of 50 runDisney medals. Someday!
- Running with Pixies runs 4 Logan!
- The Disney Tourist Blog really wants to you to read their Tokyo Disney trip report. Not that I think you'll need much convincing.

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at See ya real soon!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Photographic Memory: The Sherpas of Expedition Everest

JENN: Photographic Memory time!

MOON: Okay! So, we're going to discuss another of Jenn's favorite photos. This one is... from Expedition Everest, right?

JENN: Yup! It's posted on the wall as you enter the final room in the queue.

MOON: I was TERRIFIED the first time. At least there were amusing things on the walls to keep my mind off of IMPENDING DOOM.

JENN: Oh, psh, eventually you got there. :) Moon and I have a great fondness for Sherpas.

MOON: Yes we do!

JENN: Do you want to tell the O'Bryan story?

MOON: How much of an orchestral lesson should I provide?

JENN: As much as you like, Dr. Professor Music Theory!

MOON: Well, I did just wrap a class... AND I lectured on Beethoven's 9th symphony, so I am pumped (as they say).

JENN: Who wouldn't be pumped after some Beethoven?

MOON: Concerning strictly the strings section of an orchestra, from the audience's perspective from left to right: 1st violins, 2nd violins, violas, cellos (basses behind cellos).

In most orchestral repertoire, the first violins typically are given the melody. This is very general of course, but typically the second violins and violas are tasked with the "inner voices;" they provide the harmony.

JENN: The semester when Moon and I were first and second chair second violins, our orchestra director O'Bryan told the first violins that we were "carrying them like sherpas." It was AWESOME.

MOON: Now we have an affinity with all sherpas.

JENN: Which means we spend the entire queue area of Expedition Everest squealing "Look! SHERPAS!" Good times.

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at See ya real soon!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In Which Jenn & Elizabeth Go to Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Hooray! Elizabeth is here again to help me with another review!

JENN: A round of applause for my faithful guest judge, Interplanetary Explorer Extraordinaire Elizabeth!

ELIZABETH: I dunno about interplanetary: after watching Gravity I don't think I ever want to go out there.

JENN: Haha, good call.

ELIZABETH: I have my moments.

JENN: So, a few weeks ago Elizabeth and I got a great deal on Busch Gardens Williamsburg tickets. This was the good news. The bad news was that the only remaining days of the season were all Howl-o-Scream days. O.o

Busch Gardens does not do Halloween Disney-style. It does Halloween SCARY-style.

ELIZABETH: It's what the people want, apparently. I thought it was pretty clever how they had the park separated into different themes. How many were there? Four?

JENN: Four or five, I believe.

ELIZABETH: Yeah. They had vampires, demons, pirates... Victorian zombies... you know, the usual. I think there may have been a few vampires.

JENN: The scare zones were very impressively rendered, especially, to my mind, the demon zone in France.

ELIZABETH: Yeah, that was pretty cool. They pretty much had a rave going. If your timing was right/wrong you couldn't see ANYTHING.

JENN: The demon actors even got a few people with the help of the fog machines. By "get" I of course mean "startle," not actually steal anyone's soul.

ELIZABETH:  At least, we didn't SEE any soul-stealing. But they didn't start sending people out to actually scare you until 6PM.

JENN: The pirate scare zone was my favorite.

Where was it we saw the guy with the bungee-chord thing? That would bungee out into the path from behind a tree? Was he one of the pirates?

JENN: Yes!

ELIZABETH: That was pure genius.  I wish I had that job.

JENN: They were also some of the most confrontational even while, to me, being the least scary.

ELIZABETH: Yeah, they stopped us a couple of times going over the bridge.  I don't think we got the one guy to ever say anything.

JENN: Unlike your Victorian zombie friend!

ELIZABETH: That poor guy. He seemed to be a good sport about it, though.

JENN: A scare actor in the Jack the Ripper scare zone in the England part of the park started stalking Elizabeth, so we just chattered at him until he eventually broke character. By the end he was trying on my sunglasses to see if he could perfect Elizabeth's over-the-glasses stare. Which he couldn't, of course. Ya gotta be part of her family to nail it.

ELIZABETH: It was a pretty good imitation, but the fact that they were sunglasses detracted a bit, I think. Especially since they clashed with the rest of his costume.

JENN: I fear I came unprepared.



ELIZABETH: It's important!

JENN: We caught all the Howl-o-Scream shows, which thankfully were completely harmless. Das Festhaus in the Germany portion of the park featured a sort of cabaret song-and-dance show populated by undead performers.

ELIZABETH:  I liked the announcer at the Festhaus. But the adult-themed one in the Abbey Stone Theater in Ireland was pretty cheesy.

JENN: Yeah, I think that's the same show from BG Tampa. Fiends got too cheesy for me.

ELIZABETH: It was a little much.  I mostly enjoyed your reactions to their antics.


[To clarify: The
Fiends show ends with a "monster" played by a hot guy who ends up ripping off all his clothes except a speedo. Which proves that Jenn will complain about anything. Now get off her lawn!]

ELIZABETH: Well I mean, clearly he was meant to be eye candy.  You gotta show off the goods.

JENN: I don't care how hot you are; if you're out in public PUT ON SOME BOXERS AT LEAST, JEEZ. Harrumph. Harrumph, I say!


JENN: I think I liked Dig It Up the best of all the shows; it was performed in the amphitheater in the Italy section of the park. There were a couple dancers, but mostly the musicians in this one took center stage, dressed as museum denizens. I don't mean the musicians were dressed like workers - rather, they were dressed like Egyptians and gladiators and cavemen.

Mind you, that was cheesy too, but the musicians were all really good! (Plus one of the trumpeters was both pretty AND decently clothed.) And it did spark one of my favorite games, Guess Which Members of the Band are Local Music Teachers.

ELIZABETH: My money's still on the tuba player. The ending was weird though.  I still think it looked like they were depicting an alien ship crashing into earth, which, at that scale, would obliterate all life. I thought it was rather dark, personally.

JENN: You know I like it cynical.

Did we see another show? I feel like we saw another show.


JENN: Oh, I think I'm thinking of the predator show!


JENN: Busch Gardens has a kind of mini wildlife preserve, and they do a predator show with adorable animals!

ELIZABETH: Even the rats were cute!

JENN: Foxes, wolves, a falcon, and the cutest barn owl in the whole entire world. His name is Cupid and he is stupid. I'm not saying it just because it rhymes; it's also true!

ELIZABETH: You can't have everything. He did his trick, though!

JENN: He did! Last time we went to BG, about two years ago, he was still in training, so we watched him get confused and lost when attempting to fly around the area. Now he does it like a pro! I wish I'd thought to grab a picture of him.

ELIZABETH: A couple of the kids were asking to pet him at the end.  I can sympathize: he looked so cute!

JENN: We also went through the Lorikeet Glen and looked at the birds there; very very pretty.

Let's see... we rode Curse of DarKastle, a spookily themed dark ride loosely based off Mad King Ludwig and his Neuschwannstein castle with ghosts and werewolves and such. I had an interesting conversation with one of the ride operators. It went like this:
GUY: [creepy low raspy voice, right in my ear] Imwrngyou.

ME: What?

GUY: [normal voice, smiling] I'm warning you!

ME: Oh, okay!
And then he laughed. I got laughed at a lot that day.

ELIZABETH: You just break the monotony!

JENN: We also rode ALLLL the roller coasters! Because that's how we do it! Alpengeist and the Loch Ness Monster once each; the former being essentially the Great Bear at Hershey Park (swoopy and twisty) and the latter being old and loopy.

ELIZABETH: And then we went on Verbolten, which I hadn't ridden yet.

JENN: We rode Verbolten twice and OH MY GOD was the first time satisfying. The very first time I rode it back in December (during their Christmastown event) I immediately thought to myself "Elizabeth must ride this!" I mean, at the one bit I was like, "I didn't even know they could DO that!!!" And then I rode it a bajillion more times.

ELIZABETH:  Shall we give away what happens? Or just say that there's a surprise?

JENN: I think I'll put a link to the Wikipedia article here, and people can spoil it if they want to. But seriously, if there's ANY chance you'll be riding Verbolten in the future, don't do it. It's SO much better when you don't know what's coming.

And it's almost as good when you don't tell Elizabeth what's coming, and then she turns to you right after and yells "You jerk! You didn't tell me about that!"

And then you bounce right there in your seat and laugh and clap!

ELIZABETH: Yeah... I got over it pretty quickly though, as the ride is pretty awesome. And it was better not knowing! Although I should have ben suspicious of the fact that you didn't gush about exactly what happens on the ride.

JENN:  Some of the finest self-control I have ever exhibited.

ELIZABETH: You should be proud.

JENN: In terms of thrills, it's probably the least impressive of all the coasters in the park. But in terms of theme, execution, and FUN, it's probably the best. Kind of Disney-like that way!

ELIZABETH: I was reminded of the Disney coasters, yeah.

JENN: We rode Apollo's Chariot three times, because that roller coaster is awesome. It has this very free-flowing, up-and-down track that gives you serious airtime.

ELIZABETH: It's like going over a really steep hill in your car, except better, and multiple times.

JENN: Sadly we were only able to ride Griffon once, but it was GLORIOUS.

ELIZABETH: We waited in the extra long line to be in the front.

JENN: Indeed! Griffon is a dive coaster with a 90 degree drop. They pause the car right before that drop and let you dangle there for a moment to contemplate your fate. Being in the front row for that reason is imperative.

And may I just mention again how incredibly SAFE I felt that whole time? SO SAFE.

ELIZABETH: Whatever do you mean?  Haunted houses are completely safe!  :)

JENN: This brings us to our final topic: the haunted house. Howl-o-Scream features five. We did one. Because um.

ELIZABETH: I decided that dragging Jenn in without warning was the best strategy, because she never would have gone otherwise.

JENN: See, we had just come out of the Fiends show, and we were discussing what to do next. The 13: Your Number is Up line was right there and (deceptively) didn't seem to have much line, and I JOKINGLY said "We could do that haunted house" and then Elizabeth was all "OKAY LET'S DO IT" and I was like "?????!"

ELIZABETH: We'll get her desensitized yet!

JENN: Because guys, before last Friday I had never been in a haunted house in my LIFE. I mean, unless you count Disney's Haunted Mansion, but there's no reason why you would. And I didn't even ride that until I was eighteen.

ELIZABETH: You were overdue.

JENN: Here's the thing. Several years ago, a coworker of mine decided it would be funny to jump out from around a corner at me. So I threw him on the floor and punched him in the head.

ELIZABETH: Which is why you don't do that to Jenn. Or alternatively: why she would survive a horror movie.

JENN: I am not a screamer or a clutcher. I am a flighter and a fighter.  I understand these things are frowned upon in most haunted houses.

ELIZABETH: True, but at least you know the scares are coming.

JENN:  I didn't know a darn thing! :D

I went through the haunted house as follows: one hand clamped down on Elizabeth's shoulder so she could lead me seeing eye dog style, with my eyes trained FIRMLY on the ground. And squinting, for good measure.

ELIZABETH: I tried to keep up a running commentary to keep things light.

JENN: Here is what I remember from the haunted house, which was themed to thirteen phobias:

Caskets. Floor. Corner of a hospital bed? Sheets of tarp you had to push through. Creepy little girl voice. Elizabeth saying "Look, a security guard!" (He was dressed normally and looked bored; I liked that.) A stuffed clown hanging from the ceiling. Mirrors on the ground. Rubber snake curtains. A broken mirror. The end!

So any real description of the house will have to come from Elizabeth because I saw practically nothing. It was GREAT. When we exited she had to tell me I could look up again.

ELIZABETH: And she didn't believe me at first!  Let's see, there was: death, claustrophobia, doctors, going to bed, mirrors, snakes, insects, clowns, bad luck. What were the others?  I can't remember, now.  Oh well, you'll all have to go and figure out the other fears!

JENN: One guy did come out from a small door near the floor and jumped at me, which I thought was very unsportsmanlike of him. He asked me if I was scared yet, so I said "Yes. Thank you." And then the people behind me laughed and declared it the best response ever. So there's that.

ELIZABETH: That was pretty awesome. He didn't seem to know what to do with that.

JENN: Didn't he? I didn't really see him. I'm working off peripherals here.

ELIZABETH: Oh, I forgot to list zombies!  There were zombies!

JENN: In the house? When? Totally missed that. Of course!

ELIZABETH: Yeah, they were one of the fears, one of the ones where stuff was hanging fro the ceiling I think. So I think I'm only missing three now.

JENN: Ohh, I remember pushing through "bodies" hanging from the ceiling.

ELIZABETH: There was a lot of that.

JENN: Y'know, it's funny - none of the phobias were things that particularly scare me on a conceptual level. It's the prospect of people jumping out at me that gets me all anxious. I was fine with the scare zones! What I need is an intermediate level. A haunted house where you can just walk through and be atmospherically scared. Or at the very least some sort of high sign that makes the actors leave me, personally, alone.

I want to point out again that I laughed my way down the 205 foot vertical drop of Griffon. And I felt so wonderfully SAFE!

Let's see, are we missing anything? We got the monster cake at lunch! It was green and purple.

ELIZABETH: Yes! Although it was definitely a yellow cake (a good yellow cake, though).

JENN: Cake is awesome.

ELIZABETH: And the Festhaus Sampler was quite good.

JENN: How was your strawberry wine crepe from France?

ELIZABETH: It was delicious!

JENN: All in all, would you want to do Howl-o-Scream again?

ELIZABETH: I would!  It was fun. I'd even try one of the other haunted houses.

JENN: Maybe we can get one of some of our tall guy friends to go so I can hide behind them. Andrew is 6'3" and Scott is 6'5", so I think if I could convince them to surround me I'd be in pretty good shape!


JENN: If they do a pirate house again I think I could survive that.

ELIZABETH: Pirates aren't as existentially scary as, say, ghosts.

JENN: Precisely.

ELIZABETH: I think that's actually the first time I've stayed at a park for the full twelve hours it was open!

JENN: Well there ya go! As always, thank you for your fabulous commentary. I hope we meet again on many another roller coaster, and the sooner the better!


Have you been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg? How about Howl-o-Scream? Or maybe something similar? Are you braver than Jenn about haunted houses? (Answer: yes.)

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at See ya real soon!

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Fairest Week in Review: 10/21

Last week I did something that will amaze some of you: I ran twenty miles for the first time. That's not the amazing part. I did it on the treadmill. And what's more, I didn't hate it! In fact, I was perfectly cheerful about the whole thing; it wasn't a hard slog at all. More on my treadmill strategy later this week!


Of course, what did turn out to be a hard slog would be my subsequent two runs of the week. Those twenty-milers kinda cook you a little, no? Anyone have any interesting advice or anecdotes about their loooooooooooong runs?

But I was rewarded on Friday with a completely different kind of workout: traipsing around a theme park! No, sadly, not a Disney park, but the best I can do locally - Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I even braved a vertical drop coaster (good times!) and my first real haunted house ever (WHY?????). More on that later this week too.

Speaking of Disney parks: I KNOW that the Avatar announcement was made. I know it's pretty much definitely going to happen now. I know that I need to read all the details to keep up to date on Disney parks, my favorite things ever. I just... I don't want to talk about it, okay? I... I don't want to talk about it.

So let's forget that ever happened. On to the roundup!

- More from people who aren't at ALL sure about this whole haunted house thing: Inside the Magic sent some timid souls to Universal Studios Hollywood Horror Nights. I feel ya, boys.
- The Runner's Guide to WDW isn't sold on runDisney's Pasta in the Park Party. Might be worth a try someday, just to see...
- Just starting your runDisney journey? The DisBroads will walk you through it.
- Margaritas, Miles, and the Mouse talks about the runDisney corral system.
- Pink Elephant on Parade has thoughts on running in a tutu.
- We Run Disney has tapering advice - Lord knows I could use it...
- The Disney Food Blog reviews the new cake cups in Fantasyland. Basically it is a cup of frosting. Basically I need it.
- Disney Tourist Blogs says nice things about my beloved Animal Kingdom. I SAID I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at See ya real soon!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Squirtgun To Your Head: Favorite Disney Character?

Hey, remember that post I promised for this week about treadmills vs. outdoors? Postponed to next week. Apologies! Hopefully I can appease you with the fact that Moon was available for this one! I can? GREAT! Right then; off to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Follow us on Twitter for more on that today!

JENN:  SQUIRTGUN TO YOUR HEAD! Who is your favorite Disney character?!

MOON: Mr. Ray. Or better yet: OOOOOOOhhhh Mr. Ray.

All knowledge exploring is oh so lyrical
when you think thoughts that are empirical!

JENN:  Haha, I thought you'd say Pluto.

MOON: Pluto was second choice.

Do you remember the bike puppet Mr. Ray from Finding Nemo: The Musical?

MOON: Yes! That was really cool. I want a bike like that.

JENN: I'll have to work on that for your next birthday.

MOON: Ha! Okay, squirtgun turned on you.

JENN:  Ack ack ack. Um..............



MOON:  ...Oh.

JENN: Mulan and the Cheshire Cat were fighting for the crown (lion and unicorn style!) but I went with Eeyore because I quote him often.

"We can't all, and some of us don't."

And of course, my perennial birthday favorite: "Can't you see the cake? The candles? The presents? ... Neither can I."

And like me, he is a master speller. "W-O-L. That spells Owl."


MOON:  Hahaha!

So, I'm sure everyone knows my mom is not doing so hot (although there has been progress and I am confident she will pull through!), so during her first hospital stay I brought Winnie the Pooh to read to her. My mom read to me a little when I was a child, but I have never read to her!

It was smooth sailing until Eeyore came into the narrative. Mom was not pleased with my Eeyore voice. I have to say, it takes a certain personality to nail it.

JENN: We should so do a Winnie the Pooh screenplay reading for her! I can be Eeyore, your dad can be Pooh, you can be Piglet, and Elizabeth can be Rabbit.

MOON: That suits us all pretty well!

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at See ya real soon!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

In Which Jenn Won't Shut Up About Epcot & Cultural Policy

Hi there! Jenn here. So, I'm having a really busy week - Elizabeth is crashing at my apartment tonight in preparation for our Busch Gardens trip on Friday, and I've been frantically cleaning between runs and ballet classes and work. And my room is still going to look terrible. Hopefully she won't actually see it. Elizabeth, if you're reading this, I hope you don't see my room. It's a mess.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Busy. Therefore a lack of posts. But lack of content makes me anxious, so may I offer you something I wrote a LONG time ago? As in 2009? For grad school? As my cultural policy final paper? 

Wait, come back! It's about Epcot! Cultural policy as displayed in World Showcase, with cameo quotes from books like David Koenig's Realityland and that massive Disney biography. It's long, but maybe it's kind of interesting? Possibly? As I said, it was written in 2009 and much has changed since then, but... well... anyway...

All sorts of cultural intersections exist within the Disney universe. From cartoons to movies to theme parks, numerous unofficial foreign relations have been umbrella-ed under the Disney name. It is in the moving pictures that Walt Disney made his first mark, but, being a fickle creature and easily bored, his attentions soon turned to a project he called Disneyland, and later Walt Disney World.

Though conceived as a place for families to have fun together, it was and is an inadvertent introduction to world cultures, especially for children who have little or no previous experience. In so innocent a context as Disney, this fact should be harmless, unremarkable. Yet many find the implications dismaying. “Millions of Americans,” comments Kurin as quoted in James Bau Graves’ Cultural Democracy, “learn about world cultures through Disneyland and Disneyworld [sic] where they see the pirate-like people of the Caribbean drinking, and pygmies of Africa rising out of the river to aim their spears at your body—with knives and forks presumably to follow. Only slightly less dismaying is Disney’s ‘’It’s a Small World, After All,’ a tableaux of cute, little, formulaically but differently costumed doll figures meant to represent all the world’s people singing the same song—each in its own language. Ersatz and folklore abound.”

Certainly stereotypical cultural portrayals should not be condoned, but in such cases as the above it might be gently pointed out that these pygmies and pirates exist within a blatant fantasy world. The ‘Jungle Cruise’ of the former is a tongue-in-cheek romp meant to be viewed as satire, and no one expects the dolls to come to life as true representatives of their countries (we hope). It’s all part of the Disney fantasy, and we are there to be swept up into the storybook.

However, there is at least one park where this is not entirely accurate. One thinks of course of Epcot and its World Showcase, where twelve countries plus one African Outpost have pavilions, microcosms of faraway lands. It may be argued that Disney treats them as fantasies, but they are presented as real-life approximations, as if someone ripped out a chunk of Italy, of Mexico, of Morocco, and then plunked them down next to each other and called it a day. In direct contrast to this idea, Disney Imagineers created concept art for each country; this can only suggest nations were treated as concepts, not actual locales. Not that anyone at Disney would dare suggest such a thing. It’s like being there!

But we must know better. Once again, these pavilions are often a child’s first introduction to a particular country’s culture, but here they are taught to believe that what they are experiencing is genuine. Might we not say then that Epcot’s World Showcase is a multifaceted cultural ambassador for a new generation? If so, how is it doing, and why is it doing it?

To begin, it is important to understand how Epcot and its World Showcase came to be. It didn’t start as Epcot, for starters. At birth it was christened EPCOT Center, and the EPCOT stood for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow; it wasn’t meant to be a theme park at all. Having made Disneyland a great success, Walt Disney (hereinafter referred to as ‘Walt’ so as to avoid confusion with the company and brand) really wasn’t terribly interested in recreating it in Florida, though by 1963 he was secretly buying up land to do just that. No, Walt’s new Magic Kingdom was a piggyback base for a much bigger project, a financial big brother for an idyllic community that exemplified the “EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise” (as shown in the famous Epcot teaser video). Walt’s heart was now in EPCOT center.

“We will never cease to be a living blueprint of the future,” said Walt in his promotional film for the project, “where people actually live a life they can’t find anywhere else in the world. Everything in EPCOT will be dedicated to the happiness of the people who will live, work, and play here, and those who come here from all around the world to visit our living showcase.” To Walt, EPCOT was a sort of American cultural ambassador in its own right, a means of showing off everything of which American industry was capable. Though he made mention in the film of sharing EPCOT’s advances with foreign visitors, his constant iteration of American industries, American technology, American imagination make it clear that he did not view it as a collaborative effort. One must not forget Walt’s distrustful nature after the labor strikes his studio suffered, or his consequent testimonials against “Commies.”

Unfortunately for EPCOT and, well, for Walt, Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, before his promotional video was even released. Nevertheless, even without its father and main proponent, the film was presented to the public, followed by Walt’s brother Roy maintaining that plans would go forth provided that they had a “solid legal foundation” and the help of the locals.

Of course, we all know that ultimately the parks were in fact built, if not entirely how Walt envisioned them. The important information lies in how they were ultimately created, and for what reasons. Walt was certainly an innovator in many ways; the thing is, his genius lay less in art and creation itself and more in his drive, passion, and determination that those who worked for him created the best possible work to match his creative vision:

[Some studio employees] cited Walt as an inspiration, setting standards, expecting perfection, drumming up enthusiasm, buoying spirits. “I think the outstanding thing about Walt,” Jaxon said, was his ability to make people feel that what he wanted done was a terribly important thing to get done.” Another called Walt’s “greatest gift” his knack for “making you come up with things you didn’t know were in you and that you’d have sworn you couldn’t possibly do.” Walt was also a great cheerleader, exhorting his employees to think boldly. “I don’t want just another picture,” he would tell them. “It’s got to be a new experience, a new theatrical experience.” When he was enthused, as he usually was, he got others enthused too. “He was very excited about everything he was doing,” John Hench observed, citing a quality Walt had had even as a boy. “And he lived and breathed it and it finally rubbed off on you” (from Neal Gabler's Disney biography).

And so with Walt dead, the company found itself, in the truest possible sense a metaphor could ever achieve, without its soul. It was Walt who had always had the image of EPCOT before him; his brother Roy and the rest of the team had been charged with making it all appear before him. The easiest thing to do would no doubt be to pull the EPCOT plan altogether, but so much promotion had been done already that this would be a serious loss of face; indeed, those within the company who did want to forget it found it impossible when the public continually made inquiries.  Further, it had become a matter of honor. They had to do Walt proud.

The guiding mantra so often invoked by underlings before—what would Walt do?—became something of a curse. “The powers that be grew so afraid of doing something that Walt wouldn’t, that it resigned itself, in animation, live actions, television, and them parks, to repeat what it had done before” (from David Koenig's Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation and Theme Parks). The paralysis spread through all facets of the company and landed square in the theme park projects, with the result that EPCOT morphed from an Community of Tomorrow to a Theme Park Similar to Yesterday’s, or as David Koenig so cleverly put it, EPTPOT: Experimental Prototype Theme Park of Tomorrow.

Similar to, but not exactly like. The company latched on to what bits of Walt original vision they could: “In attractive park-like settings, the six million people who visit Disney World each year will look behind the scenes at experimental prototype plants, research and development laboratories, and computer centers for major corporations.” Okay, so, they could create a park with a Future World, containing rides and exhibits themed to trends and advances in science, technology, and the like. This half of the park has a fascinating history of its own, but is not what we are chiefly concerned with.

Instead, we turn our attentions to the World Showcase, a brilliant funding plan if ever there was one. After all, why pay for your theme park when you can get other countries to do it? Gone were the days where Walt was “confident we can create right here in Disney World a showcase to the world of the American free enterprise system.” Instead, it was time to show America what the rest of the world was up to, at least that which they were willing to share. The company watchword was that Walt’s initial concept was “truly international in scope” and that, to quote Koenig's Realityland, “like at a world’s fair, participating nations would give visitors a taste of their native lands and show off products and culture.”

In the infant stages, the World Showcase was intended as a stand-alone attraction separate from Future World, with its own minor five-dollar admission. It was to be built in conjunction with an International Village for the foreigners who worked within the pavilions, thus at least partially fulfilling Walt’s original community dream. However, it was eventually determined that the two would join together in one park, as EPCOT Center. In a fairly obvious correlation, the planned pavilions became that much more “themed,” with more emphasis on rides and attractions as opposed to the World’s Fair model that served as an inspiration. Again from Realityland: “The plans struck a comfortable balance between Disney-style attractions [executive Card Walker] was comfortable with and futuristic-sounding elements the public might associate with an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.”

The first cultural issue came in the selection of those countries represented. The Disney company had become well practiced in hooking sponsors for their creations. Over fifty countries were courted, with individual presentations for each, including mock layouts and concept art. However, it proved a harder sell than the company anticipated, with multitudes of countries committing and then pulling out. Nevertheless, deals were eventually brokered with private companies within each involved country, and the following pavilions were open when EPCOT debuted on October 1, 1982 (in order around the lagoon): Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, the American Adventure, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada, with a tiny African Outpost stop; a few years later Morocco was added and then finally Norway, in 1988. Although persistent rumors abound regarding new pavilions, none have been added since then.

Here ends our history lesson. Now it is time to see what observation and field research can tell us. Extensive time spent in the World Showcase yields interesting ideas about how culture is being represented within the World.

Much of it relates to children, as they are as aforementioned the most likely to be encountering these cultures for the first time; further, they are the more likely to have trouble separating the fact from the cleaned-up fantasy. Epcot has long suffered at the hands of children, at least by proxy; early on billed as an “educational” experience, parents veered away, thinking their offspring would be bored when comparing “The World of Motion” to “it’s a small world.” This idea was not helped by the early absence of Disney characters (Mickey, Donald, etc.) within the park.

But the Magic Kingdom’s redheaded stepchild was unwilling to accept this fate, and so a campaign was brought about to make Epcot more child-friendly. Among the attempted kid-lures is a Kim Possible interactive attraction [now defunct], but more apropos to the art world are Kidcot Fun Stop stations, set up primarily in each country for kids to engage in small art projects. Often simple white masks on popsicle sticks, they are decorated to a theme associated with a given country, although occasionally other crafts or activities do pop up. So score one for the visual arts, anyway.

But Kidcot is there as a means to keep children entertained, not to ensure that children absorb proper information about a given culture. So what are they absorbing? Never mind the children; what is any old visitor absorbing? Why, whatever is being put forth in the pavilion, of course. Let’s break it down into positives and negatives, shall we?

Leading off with the positives: all of the above skepticism aside, the World Showcase does bring other cultures to the forefront of peoples’ minds. This is perhaps less impressive when it comes to your more commonly considered countries like Germany and France, but how often might your average Joe ponder the wonders of Morocco or Norway otherwise? And sure, people are all up in arms about Mexico and immigration and what have you, but in the World Showcase they are so much more likely to simply admire the beautiful Mayan pyramid and clap along to the mariachi band. Maybe its not the most profound means of considering a culture, but with so much contention between nations, let us not forget the power of positive relations.

Speaking of which, the Disney International program brings foreign workers into the country legally and without fuss. Great for the Mexicans of course, but this also assists America with its constant, desperate need for other countries to just please like us. Heck, Disney has the French volunteering to come live and work here. Hopefully the impressions of America these workers take back to their countries of origin are, again, positive.

Then there is the sampling of arts and artisans that the World Showcase provides. Both permanent and rotating exhibits and performers are nestled in the pavilions. In Japan there is a museum exhibit of tin toys, and Miyuki, a candy artist; in Mexico, Los Animales Fantasticos, painted wooden animal spirits [I think this is defunct?]. Norway’s beautiful church showcases the architecture of the Vikings, and Canada’s indigenous totem poles offer a fascinating view into both art and history. There are both French and Italian mime styles and Chinese acrobatics. During the holiday season, there is a native storyteller in every pavilion, such as China’s Monkey King and France’s Pere Noel. Add to this fusion music by Mo’Rockin’ and Off Kilter, then the more traditional sounds of China, and the UK’S British Invasion, and you have a veritable smorgasbord of local culture, assuming you are local to a lot of places.

Similarly, you have a wide variety of foods and, ahem, alcoholic beverages to try. There are of course restaurants offering the national cuisine in every pavilion, but Epcot will do you one better. The annual Food and Wine Festival features vestibules for every country in addition to at least a dozen more in between, all offering taste treats in sample sizes. Visitors can snack their way around the world in one meal.

All of this is good. Now for the bad! Starting with food, since we just discussed it. Epcot’s restaurants suffer from what you might call the “Chinese Food Effect.” That is to say, what your average American Chinese restaurant anywhere in the country offers is generally considered by native Chinese to be about on par with what’s served in the school cafeteria. The same goes for the vast majority of the World Showcase’s kitchens. You’ll likely enjoy the food and it’s not unauthentic, but it’s not exactly the finest example of cuisine, either. Further, the overarching food management pulls such tricks as serving the exact same plum wine in Japan as they do in China, which is to suggest that all plum wine as the same, which is akin to saying that all beer is the same, and we understand this to be incorrect.

The overall feel of a World Showcase pavilion is that of absolutely accuracy if the country was looking its cleanest and prettiest, yet somehow this does not extend to the costumes. While the architecture outside is a pretty facsimile, the uniforms are barely even that. Polyester and for the most part straight up ugly, this seeming nitpick is actually a great detriment to the experience. Fashion is considered an art, but even beyond that, traditional costumes are often a practical flashpoint of culture, representative of both practicality in daily life and a culture’s concept of what is lovely, what is to be highlighted on the body. That Disney chooses to disregard this importance is a disservice indeed.

One must also factor the matter of the current economy into the equation. Though Disney has made claims that park attendance has in fact increased over the past year, budget cutbacks tell another story; indeed, the entirety of the Downtown Disney club complex Pleasure Island was shut down in September of 2008. Yet Disney is as tragically injudicious with the knife as the rest of society, slicing out the arts before it goes elsewhere. African drumming group Tam Tam used to perform in the African Outpost, but now the only sign of their former glory is a few lonely prop drums by the Coke machines. Disney even staggers opening times for World Showcase to cut down on employees, with opening and closing times often two hours before or after Epcot proper opens and closes.

And then, inevitably, there is plain narrow-mindedness. Disney is very strict about its appearances. “I went to Germany to look for German musicians,” says Bloustein via Koenig, “and they were the pits. They were the worst musicians. There was no such thing as a young musicians in Germany. They were a bunch of old farts sitting in biergartens. And they only played for fifteen marks—twenty marks if you wanted to conduct them. It was just terrible.”

Ultimately he brought in a group from Hamburg, New York. He told the musicians: “’Now, if you can, for the first six or seven months you must always say you’re from Hamburg. And try to put on a perfect German accent. You know, [as if] you’ve only been in the States for six, seven years.’ As far as the company knew, the musicians came from Hamburg. I never said Hamburg, Germany. I never said Hamburg, anywhere.”

Similar stories abound:

In Italy, Bloustein wanted an improvisational commedia dell’arte group. Several months before opening, he recruited an authentic repertory company, completely with period costumes and masks, and gave them a trial run at the Lake Buena Vista Village shopping center. Passerby would stop for a moment and then continue walking. In the meantime, while attending a Renaissance faire, Bloustein discovered a trio of irreverent street performers called SAK Theater. “I brought up these three people from Minneapolis, and they were hilarious,” Bloustein recalled. “Within five minutes they had 150 people standing there—and sitting on the ground, and doing all sorts of terrible things. They just knew how to deal with a crowd. So I hired them and put them in Italy.” (from David Koenig's Realityland)


Let it not be surmised that Disney is at fault entirely for all that is bland, generic, and spit-shined for our cultural consumption. With the exception of Norway, all pavilions in the World Showcase are sponsored by private companies. As such, they have the option to pull their money, and hold some power over Disney even as Disney flashes their important brand name. Part of it is inherently a brilliant tourism ploy, for what better opportunity could you ever find? They reel in customers daily with their food and their merchandise and their pretty portraits of the ideal wine-filled life for the taking if you come to France, or the oceans of cheddar cheese soup that can be yours in the rustic wilds of Canada. As promotional materials go, you’ll scarcely see better. If a private company was displeased with the cultural portrait being painted, they could pull their money, or threaten to do so if a more accurate picture was not produced with haste. Yet the World Showcase has stood for twenty-five years unchallenged.

I found this carved on the inside of a bathroom door.

But Disney is very proud of its compressed globe. They delight in creating a fantasy out of cold reality. “The authentic avenues in the Morocco pavilion,” the Imagineers boast through Eisner's Imagineering book, “appear as though they have been in existence for centuries. Guests often comment that once they step away from the World Showcase Promenade and disappear into the backstreets of Morocco, they feel as though they are not in Epcot at all.”

One the one hand, we should fight against this mentally, that we wish our worldview to be washed and pressed before we touch it. But on the other… where’s the harm? Why should we not admire other cultures through the forgiving pink tint of rose-colored glasses? We vote with our dollars every time we pay for a ticket and walk through the gates of Epcot.

Eventually, Walt got his EPCOT, or at least an approximation on a very small scale, in Celebration, a fomerly Disney-run community just outside the property. But while it is in fact Disney operated and created with an idyllic and forward-looking existence in mind, it pales in comparison to Walt’s brainchild. Yet even if EPCOT-cum-Epcot is not precisely what Walt would have wanted, it is what he got, and many would cite it as their favorite among the parks. Part of that is no doubt due to the fact that you can in the course of an evening stroll through a dozen countries and sample their culture. Even if it is not the most accurate portrayal, it nonetheless requires that, for a few moments and through a haze of authentic local beer, we contemplate the country that brought us here. Contemplating must be the start of understanding. Inspiring understanding—could one not argue that was what Walt wanted all along?

There is so much more of Disney’s parks and culture, be it as regards the American parks and their cultural lens or how Disney merges with the locals in its parks in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Paris. The World Showcase is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg, albeit a particularly juicy one. Like Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged, we will never be done. At least, not until tomorrow. 

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at See ya real soon!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Fairest Week in Review: 10/15

Sorry about this whole day late thing! I had yesterday off and wound up getting in a REALLY long run - but that's this week's training, not last week's, so more on that later.

Speaking of this week's training, if you follow us (mostly me) on Twitter you may have suffered through a fair amount of me kvetching all last week about the broken treadmills in my apartment's gym. Yes. BOTH broke at the same time. I had to do THREE of my runs outdoors. I know I already touched on the subject once, but I think this week is going to have to include another treadmill vs. outdoors post, with multi-pronged arguments and charts. Okay, not charts. Probably.

Anyway, the treadmills were finally both fixed by Thursday, just in time to save me from the outdoor-run-ruining DELUGE of rain that assaulted the Baltimore-Washington area for many, many days. Thank God for small miracles, at least!

Ah... sweet treadmill.

Let's see... musically... um... I've been digging on Flogging Molly's "This Present State of Grace" lately. Um... This music segment was a lot more fun when Moon was involved. Which reminds me! Her mom is, in fact, responding to treatment! So hopefully Moon will be around more again soon!

b < -- (This comes to you direct from my cat Minx. She likes to walk across my keyboard. Repeatedly. Even when she has other path alternatives.)

Same to you, bucko.

Thank you for that valuable insight, Minxie. On to the roundup!

- Sarah at Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free in WDW ran her first runDisney 5K! Yay!
- The Disney Parks Blog just announced a running store opening at Downtown Disney! WE MUST VISIT.
- Prairie Princess Runners has the scoop on how to prevent melting away in your runDisney race costume - including a segment on running with makeup! (We here at FROA talk about that here.)
- Live, Run, Grow discusses the fine art of the ice bath.
- Sarah of Running at Disney got to run at Disney's Vero Beach Resort!
- Running, Loving, Living drives home the importance of the proper sneaker.
- I Run for Cookies shares my ire over this silly anti-slow movement that keeps popping up.
- And finally, Margaritas, Miles, and the Mouse shares the most apropos "Hey girl" ever.

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at See ya real soon!

Friday, October 11, 2013

In Which Jenn & Elizabeth Go to Hershey Park

Welcome back to my faithful pinch hitter, Elizabeth!

ELIZABETH: So - we're going to discuss Hershey Park?

JENN: Yup! Because Disney people tend to be somewhat curious about other parks.

ELIZABETH: What! But how could any other place measure up?

JENN: It couldn't. We just want to feel smugly superior. Also, roller coasters.

ELIZABETH: Ah, right. I will say that Walt Disney World could do with a few more roller coasters, but that's personal preference.

JENN: Disney coasters are awesome, but they're not exactly pushing the boundaries of what the human body can handle.

ELIZABETH: No - all that family friendliness, I suppose.

JENN: But first, some background! Elizabeth's mom's company holds an employee appreciation day at Hershey Park every year, and friends of the family are allowed to purchase discounted tickets. Naturally, I glom on to this any year I have the day free. And this year I did!

ELIZABETH: :) It's a good deal!

JENN: This year was my first time since... 2010, I think?

ELIZABETH: I think so, because I didn't go last year, and you didn't go the year before that. It was tragic,
especially since that was the ONE YEAR I actually got everyone there before the park opened. And they were all complaining at me, and I was like, "Jenn would understand!!!" :(

JENN: I totally would. ALL THE TIME ROPE DROP!

I don't think we need to do a full on trip report, since it was just one day and not a particularly complicated one at that, but there are some interesting things about Hershey I think are worth discussion.

Where should we start?

JENN: We've been going there for many years - since our middle school orchestra trips - and one thing I find interesting is about the subtle shift in ride type vs. ambiance. The ambiance, I think, has mostly stayed the same, while the rides have gotten more and more scary intense.

ELIZABETH: And I've been going even longer: i used to go as a small child because my grandfather's company had THEIR picnics there. They have definitely emphasized thrill rides more and more.

JENN: This might have been less obvious if the water park portion of the park had been open, but as it was there was little of note to ride that wasn't a coaster. The Reese's Xtreme Cup Challenge (a Buzz Lightyear-ish target game dark ride) and a couple basic boardwalk-type rides.

ELIZABETH: How many coasters are there now? Seems like they open a new one every year (not that I'm complaining).

JENN: A lot. Ten, maybe.

ELIZABETH: Yeah. And there are a few kiddie rides and things like the monorail and the kissing tower, but they're all significantly older than the new rides.

JENN: Definitely. Newness is directly correlated to scariness. I went on two new-ish coasters I'd never ridden before - Fahrenheit and Skyrush - and they were NOT KIDDING AROUND.

ELIZABETH: Especially Skyrush. I finally found my roller coaster match.

JENN: I personally found Fahrenheit to be the more intense of the two, but this might be a good time to mention your Skyrush experience...


So there are 4 seats across each row. The middle two have foot rests and, being closer to the track, experience the turns less sharply, I suppose. The outside seats (where I sat) allow your feet to dangle and apparently provide extra thrills. Also, the lap restraints don't include a shoulder component, regardless of where you sit, which adds to the feeling of insecurity.

Anyway, I felt like my head was whipping around for the whole ride, and ended up holding myself back in the seat as hard as possible, without opening my eyes.

JENN: The park also spouts a series of dire warnings leading up to the ride, both in the signs and the announcements. I generally ignore signs, because EVERYTHING has a warning sign, but when they said top speeds would be around 70 mph, I briefly considered asking to be let off. Not because I haven't gone 70 mph plenty of times, but because I've never done so on a coaster with a traditional drop. They've all been launch coasters.

ELIZABETH: Yeah! You definitely feel a lot of weightlessness on that one. Not that I was paying attention to much other than my inner voice saying "LET ME OFF!"

JENN: I quelled my fear with the logical reasoning that the two experiences are essentially the same; all that's changing is the axis. But for a moment I finally understood how Moon feels when we first drag her onto a new thrill ride.

ELIZABETH: Yeah. Poor thing.

I think I might want to ride it again, but in the middle seats, because GOOD GOD.

JENN: I actually wound up really enjoying the experience - possibly because it wasn't as terrifying as I expected? - but I do need to try an outside seat like you had. We'll just have to switch.

ELIZABETH: The other interesting thing about Skyrush was that it didn't go upside down. And they lift you up at an almost 90 degree angle.

JENN: But they really speed you on up the hill, so at least the suspense is minimized.

ELIZABETH: Let's see, what else about Hershey Park? They have a zoo!

JENN: You get free admission to the adjacent ZooAmerica, which features all North American animals. Just get your hand stamped, walk across a bridge, and there you are.

ELIZABETH: They have wolves! Who seemed very unimpressed with the whole thing

JENN: I rather liked the bears. Black bears are adorable.

ELIZABETH: They are! And we were able to get good views of some bobcats and lynxes, who had the right idea about the day and were napping. It should not be that hot in October.

JENN: It was REALLY warm for awhile there.

Now, about Chocolate World, just outside the main gate. The tour dark ride is free, and there are a couple other experiences like a movie and chocolate tasting that we haven't tried because they aren't free. There's also, of course, lots of chocolate in various forms.

ELIZABETH: Mmmmm, chocolate.

JENN: For those of you who have only recently ridden the Chocolate Tour dark ride, please believe me: THE SINGING COWS WEREN'T ALWAYS THERE.


ELIZABETH: And the roasting demonstration used to actually be uncomfortably hot, as I remember. But you still get a free chocolate sample at the end!

JENN: And that's what counts! We got a tiny sample package of Rolos this time around. But of course, the most important part of Chocolate World is dessert.

ELIZABETH: There are so many to chose from!

JENN: I was wildly tempted by all the baked goods they offered in the cafe area (FROSTING), but a milkshake had been calling my name all week. I ate a salad specifically so that I would suffer minimal guilt when killing a magnificent chocolate peanut butter shake.

ELIZABETH: And it was pretty magnificent. A little pricy, but it's actually good that they keep them kinda small since they're incredibly filling.

JENN: Yeah, I wasn't hungry again for another six hours or so. And for me, that's unheard of!

ELIZABETH: LOL, yes, it could have been a meal unto itself.

JENN: So, Hershey Park takeaways:

ELIZABETH: Go through the Chocolate World ride!

JENN: If you're uncertain about Skyrush, sit in the middle the first time around. In fact, maybe don't go if you don't like strong roller coasters. Poor Megan got all freaked out on The Great Bear and ended up sitting out a bunch of rides. (But ignore her; The Great Bear is AWESOME. Try it!)

ELIZABETH: Yeah, but even then, there are some tamer roller coasters and the water rides would have been fun if they were open.

JENN: So check the schedules!

ELIZABETH: Yep! I think they close in September some time

JENN: And get a milkshake. They're delicious.


JENN: As always, dear Elisabet, thank you for your gracious blogging assistance!

ELIZABETH: *bows* No problem!

JENN: I hope you'll come back for a post-Busch Gardens Williamsburg/Howl-O-Scream breakdown?

ELIZABETH: That should be doable. :)

JENN: You can share in my triumph or... not... depending on whether or not I brave a haunted house. (I'm just saying, don't put down money on it...)

ELIZABETH: Haha, I won't. We'll see - they're not my favorite either. Not that I get really scared, exactly, just that I enjoy most other rides a lot more.

JENN: I DO get scared. I assume. I've always been too scared to attempt a real haunted house, and therefore can't be sure how much more scared I get inside them. But we've been watching a lot of horror movies lately, so... we shall see! NEXT TIME!


Have you ever been to Hershey Park? What are your thoughts? Did you ride Skyrush? Did you... drink a milkshake?!

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at See ya real soon!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

In Which Jenn & Moon Discuss Running While Wearing Makeup

JENN: This is a topic that has been pinging around in my skull for some time: running in makeup.

I remember for the Princess Half Marathon I put on some foundation because it has SPF 15 and I am the world's palest pale person. By the end of the race I can't be sure I didn't sweat it all off. But I remember looking around and seeing all these fellow runners wearing beautifully made-up faces, often featuring thick-drawn eyeliner and glittery eyeshadow. Which I totally get, because it's the PRINCESS Half Marathon, and even for runDisney generally, costumes tend to be a thing and makeup goes with that.

I wound up wearing varying amounts of makeup for my last few races, but I'm just wondering... how does elaborate makeup work?

Moon, have you ever run in makeup?

MOON: I don't believe I have, no. To be fair, I rarely wear makeup in the first place. Although, I do have this cream that is supposed to keep makeup where you put it. I use it when I apply eye makeup because it tends to smear when I blink. I've used it a few times and as long as you give it time to dry, it works. So, I'm sure if we take it for a spin we can write up an amusing post afterward. ;)

JENN: I know this is super vain, but I feel like maybe if we wore makeup we might hate our race photos a little less... I don't know about you, but I went through all the photos from the Princess Half and was thoroughly repulsed by all but one of mine.

MOON: Um, most definitely

I hated my photos. But, I also think we had less photos than most people because we weren't decked out in costume.

JENN: We'll have to think of costumes for our future races. Something that goes with glittery eyeshadow.

MOON: I wouldn't mind going as a lobster. I still think about that guy every now and then. I wonder if he ever found his claw... [To explain: there was a guy dressed in a full-on lobster costume whom we later saw running the wrong way to the side of the course because he'd lost a claw.]

JENN: Now THAT is a Disney movie in the making.

MOON: Pixar! Get on it.

Clearly we don't have much constructive to say on the subject of running in makeup. Mostly, we want to hear from you! Do you run wearing makeup? When? How much? How does it work out for you? Let us know in the comments!

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at See ya real soon!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

An Ode to Bread Pudding (And a Gluten/Lactose-Free Recipe!)

This is a Jenn post. I figured I'd mention since it's not in the post title.

I am an acknowledged sweet tooth, and I'll be the first to acknowledge it. If there were any possible way to achieve a balanced diet while consuming only dessert, I'd be the first person on board. One year for my birthday Moon gave me a can of frosting, and I was thrilled because as far as I'm concerned cake only exists as a conveyance for frosting anyway. Yay for eliminating the middleman!

Indeed, there is no foodstuff in the world I love more than frosting. Except for one.

Glorious, glorious bread pudding.

I don't know why, precisely. I don't recall eating it as a kid so it can't be a nostalgia thing. It's not particularly fancy and rarely complex. Certainly it's easy and cheap to make. But there's something about the sweetness, and the texture, and the spices... in a word: yum. (But NOT yum-o because that is not a word. Neither is delish. STOP IT.)

And so naturally, as one of my ongoing Walt Disney World projects, I have been making a slow tour of the bread puddings of the World. I once kept a reservation at Boma, even though I knew I wasn't hungry enough for it, purely because the prospect of unlimited bread pudding was too idyllic to ignore. I nearly flipped my proverbial lid when I discovered banana bread pudding in the late lamented Main Street Bakery, and my raptures over the bread pudding that concludes a meal at 'Ohana were so intense my server insisted on bringing me another bowl. Next time I dine there I am seriously considering asking for it first.

I went on a solo trip two years ago, and my very first night was spent wandering through Downtown Disney. I marched directly into Raglan Road, plunked myself down at the bar, and without even glancing at a menu declared my intentions for Gir's bread and butter pudding. "It's big," warned the bartender. "You probably won't finish it." "Oh, no," I replied. "This is my dinner." "Then you're probably fine," he said, and showed me how to mash up the delicious pudding and pour vanilla sauce all over it. I ate every bite. (And then a Moroccan man tried to convince me to go home with him, but I'm pretty sure the two aren't related.)

Not pictured: creepy guy.

Occasionally I have been known to make my own bread pudding, which brings me to what the White Knight would refer to as My Own Invention. As an experiment, I've been cutting down on gluten in my diet, just to see if it does anything. I bought a couple boxes of gluten-free waffles on sale at Target, and found them fairly dry and crumbly and not particularly appetizing. Say, what does one generally do with dry bread products?


I pulled up a recipe I had used a few years earlier at Thanksgiving, pumpkin bread pudding, which can be found here. I combined it somewhat with this basic bread pudding recipe. For starters, the pumpkin recipe mentions sugar in the directions but not the amount in the ingredients, so I used the 3/4 cup from the basic recipe and it turned out fine. I also baked the pudding in a sous vide bath as recommended by the basic recipe and it worked, although I don't know if it necessarily made a huge difference.

As I mentioned, I replaced the bread with the gluten-free waffles. I had one full box plus an extra waffle from the other box, so I used seven waffles total. I think there was enough liquid to handle another two to four waffles if you wanted a denser pudding, but I'd use at least six or else you'll likely end up with something better described as pumpkin-pudding-with-sporadic-waffle-pieces.

I ripped the waffles up into small pieces after I took this photo.

Now for the lactose-free part: bread pudding recipes tend to call for milk and even heavy cream. Uh-uh. I replaced both with unsweetened almond milk and it turned out great. Would the taste have been richer had I used the milk and cream? Probably, but since I didn't compare I remain blissfully ignorant of what I was missing. Almond milk substitutes just fine; you could probably use rice or coconut milk too.

The recipe does call for eggs and therefore isn't vegan, although if anyone has suggestions on that front, lay 'em on me.

I hesitate to show you a bowlful of my finished bread pudding because it just doesn't look that appetizing. Bread pudding generally doesn't photograph well. But close your eyes and imagine it covered in ice cream and whipped cream and caramel sauce and tell me that doesn't sound AWESOME. I dare you.

One question remains: would bread pudding taste good covered in frosting?

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at See ya real soon!