In Which Elizabeth Goes To Kings Dominion

Occasionally, my friends will run a race or go to theme park without me and then make the grave mistake of telling me about it, at which point I strongarm them into writing me up a guest post. So let’s welcome back the indomitable Elizabeth, who is here to tell you all about the Halloween haunts of Kings Dominion in Virginia!

I went to Kings Dominion’s Halloween Haunt for the first time this year, and it did not disappoint!  There were two main components: scare zones and mazes (i.e. haunted houses). The scare zones were designated, themed areas where employees (I keep wanting to call them “cast members” because of Disney…) will jump out and scare you, or possibly creepily follow you through the entire area until you leave. I’m not sure why the mazes are called that, because they are really just twisty paths through the haunted houses, and you’d have to try *very* hard to get lost. One of my friends refused to go in the first one we encountered because she was convinced she’d be trapped inside, and we had to reassure her afterwards that there were not, in fact, any dead ends.
The scare zones were interesting to walk through during the day, because it looked like theming that wasn’t fully thought out: “Oh, some random watch towers? That’s…atmospheric, I guess.” But then once it was dark and the actors were in place it suddenly made sense that this was supposed to be a prison yard full of violent escaped convicts. The prison yard and the carnival themed scare zones were probably the creepiest, and one of the zones featured actors on roller blades that had some kind of sparking device on them that meant they would charge at you *while spraying sparks* and it was VERY startling the first time this happened to me. The actors in the french revolution-themed scare zone didn’t seem to be working that hard at actually scaring us–they had large fans that would snap very loudly, but the actors would just sort of snap them in a desultory manner without even trying to sneak up on you first.
Speaking of the French revolution, the main entertainment of the night was the big musical numbers that featured Marie Antoinette being beheaded, followed by song and dance numbers from contemporary musicals, like The Greatest Showman (why? I don’t know). The beheading scene was pretty entertaining but we left shortly after that.
The first maze we went through was “No Vacancy: Condemned”, which I chose because it was touted as being a “mystery” that you would presumably solve. This was also the only maze we encountered where everyone got a flashlight. I was disappointed that there was not an actual mystery–the plot of the house was that the woman who ran this hotel had a bad habit of killing the guests, which you found out when the “ghosts” jumped out and screamed at you about it. The flashlight element was pretty effective, as they kept the lights down and you were in control of what you could see in the rooms.
In general, the mazes were really well done and my main complaint was that I didn’t have enough time to appreciate all of the excellent set design and costumes because I needed to keep moving through the space to avoid holding up the line, as well as being constantly distracted by the actors. We didn’t go through every single one, but I’d say “Blackout” was the most disappointing haunted house. It’s called that because the entire thing is in complete darkness–which IS creepy, except what happened was that all the guests formed a giant conga line, so no one was bumping into walls. I’m pretty sure this was an excuse for the designers to cheap out on set design as well, because aside from a few times we walked through fishing line hanging from the ceiling, I’m pretty sure it was just a plain hallway with some actors in it. The actors would get right up in your ear to say creepy stuff, which did make me jump a couple of times, but overall I was not impressed.

IMO, the best-designed mazes were No Vacancy, Blood on the Bayou, and Lockdown.Cornstalkers was also good and had the advantage of being the only maze that was outdoors, as far as I know.

Thank you, Elizabeth! Next time I’ll have to tag along. 😀

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

An Open Letter From Elizabeth To A Stormtrooper

Intrepid interplanetary Explorer Extraordinaire Elizabeth is here to tell you all about her experience during the rainiest 8K ever!

“Watch out, there’s a Stormtrooper behind you!” was not something I had ever expected to hear in… any context except perhaps at Disney World’s “March of the First Order,” but I heard it this past Saturday while attempting to finish the Rockville Rotary Twilight Runfest. 

I didn’t see you for the first quarter mile or so, while I was still trying to keep up with Jenn. I had hoped that the rain might encourage me to push myself harder, but it turns out that once I’m soaked, it’s very difficult to find the motivation to go any faster than a brisk yet defeated walk. 

Then, I saw you jog past me. Well, this is a new low. Someone running this race in a full Stormtrooper costume is beating me. Then I noticed the red and blue lights of the police cruiser behind me and realized that, aside from a couple pushing a stroller with a child in it, I was the last person in the run. And that’s when I discovered that “not letting the Empire defeat me” IS enough motivation to get me jogging again. 

I have no idea if you’ll ever read this, but if so: Hi! I’m the woman in the light blue jacket who sped up each time you passed her. I hope I wasn’t too annoying, and I want you to know that you inspired me that night. I also want to say, kudos to you for running in the rain with that outfit – you never even took the helmet off, which had to be pretty stuffy. 

I also admired the Pride sticker on your right arm – I imagine the Empire isn’t very supportive of gay rights, so that was probably a great personal risk you took to wear it. 

I’m not going to lie, seeing the shadow of your helmet on the pavement coming up behind me was surprisingly creepy, as well as the sound of rain hitting your armor. Coming down the home stretch, I thought I’d be able to get across the finish line before you did, but you ended up a few strides ahead of me. Congrats! I hope you made your personal goal for the run. 🙂 

I’ll be on the lookout for you next time…
Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Runs A Very Rainy Twilighter 8K

A month or three ago, I convinced Elizabeth to sign up for a 5 mile race. She’s not really a runner (except when I make her), but she gamely agreed to give it a shot when I promised her the Rockville Twilighter 8K would be a festive night race with free beer.

And by God, I delivered a night race with free beer. What I did not deliver was just about anything else that might make a race pleasant.

Guys, it friggin’ POURED all day. I’m talking torrential rains. I was getting emergency emails with flood warnings for portions of the county. But there was no lightning, and thus the show went on! And my dear brave Elizabeth showed up all the same.

Dressed in exactly the long pants and jackets you would not expect to wear to a July race, we picked up our bibs at Rockville Town Center and then hid out in Starbucks for awhile. (PSA: Starbucks now sells stroopwaffels! Remember that next time you forget your race fuel.)

When the 8:15pm race time rolled around, absolutely nothing had changed: it was still raining absolute buckets. But the wind wasn’t too terrible and hey, as I noted early this year, there’s no level of wet beyond soaked, so we lined up. After a quick rendition of the national anthem by a very talented 14 year old, we were off!

The course left the shopping complex almost immediately, veering off into local neighborhoods. A few brave souls hunkered on their front porches and cheered us on, but for the most part it was quiet. There were a few more hills than I might otherwise have expected but nothing that slowed me down overmuch.

After completing that loop, we briefly retraced our steps figure-eight style before setting out for a loop in the opposite direction. This part was flatter, and featured a circuitous tour of the Montgomery College parking lot. There was brief overlap between those entering and exiting the parking lot (think entering/exiting WWoS during the WDW Marathon) and I looked for Liz but didn’t spot her before the course peeled off.

Shortly after that we popped onto a road – possibly Rockville Pike but I don’t think so? Anyway, we ran down said road before veering back into Rockville Town Center to finish exactly where we started.

And how was my race experience? Not bad, all things considered. I met my A goal – I brought it in under 45 minutes, what what! – and my supplementary goal, which was not to fall and snap any limbs, so that was a success. I did run into the same problem I had during the equally rainy 2014 Wine & Dine Half Marathon, where the reflection of the lights on the puddles and wet pavement sometimes made it hard to tell where, exactly, the ground is. But I made it!

The post-race party was supposed to feature music and beer and food. Maybe it did, but finishers were mostly just congregating under the eaves of the closest building. While I waiting for Elizabeth to finish I hightailed it over to the complimentary-for-runners Gordon Biersch beer tent and grabbed the first thing they had available before running back to the covered sidewalk. I’m 100% sure there was rain water in my beer by the end but it was pretty good! I think maybe a white ale or something?

Finally I saw Elizabeth running in, gallantly escorted by a Storm Trooper, obviously. She has promised to write her own recap of her experience so keep an eye out.

I gave Liz the other half of my beer and then we drove home, because OH MY GOD IT WAS RAINING SO HARD YIKES. Based on the higher bib numbers I saw vs. number of results, I’m pretty sure there was something like a 50% attrition rate.

But hey, we showed up and showed out! Go us!

What’s the worst weather you’ve raced in? Honestly I think the DC Rock ‘n Roll Marathon was worse for me…

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Elizabeth Runs Her First 10K Ever

I dragged Elizabeth with me for the Across the Bay 10K – and it was her very first 10K ever! I asked her if she wanted to write a post, so here’s her experience in her own words. – Jenn

So, since I never got around to actually…training…I figured if I had a time of 1 hour and 30 minutes (barely faster than walking, I know, shut up) I’d be satisfied. I started at the same time as Jenn and Sarah (apparently you could be in any wave you wanted?), but once the crowd broke up a bit I was on my own.  I did have to do a fair bit of weaving through the walkers at first, but pretty quickly got to a crowd of people going at approximately at my pace.

I made a deal with myself that I had to get halfway over the bridge before I could take a walking break, and I also used one of the port-a-pots they had at the center of the bridge, which was very strange to see but made sense, considering the bridge is almost five miles.  I never would have guessed it was that long, by the way. The more you know! 

I wished I hadn’t made that deal with myself early on, since the entire first half is an incline, but it was gradual enough that I only ALMOST felt like death once I got to the top. I probably should have taken pictures, but it actually wasn’t the best day for views, as it was overcast and grey. But! I had plenty of time to contemplate the ships floating out in the bay and the shoreline slowly coming into view through the fog, which typically doesn’t happen when I’m driving over the bridge at 65 mph (Editor’s note: THIS IS SPEEDING, ELIZABETH), so it was overall a positive experience.

Towards the end of the bridge my hips started to feel unhappy, which is a new phenomenon–usually my knees get sore before anything else when I run, but they felt fine! I suppose it could have had something to do with running downhill for 2 miles. At any rate, I took another walking break at the end of the bridge, and then ran the last 200 feet or so once I felt recovered. Final time was 1:29, just like I thought, woo!

OH! Towards the very end, I started hearing flute music, and sure enough, a few minutes later a gentleman passed me, who had apparently been playing the flute the whole race as he ran, I guess?  He was playing one of those patriotic tunes, but I couldn’t actually place it at the time, and I’ve now forgotten what the tune was.  It was something similar to Yankee Doodle, though.

Artist’s rendering.

Thanks again to Jenn for getting me to sign up for this. I am far too lazy to run otherwise, especially for anything longer than 5K.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Recaps The Across The Bay 10k

The Across the Bay 10k, spanning the entirety of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, has intrigued me for years. Thing is, it’s invariably the same exact weekend as the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, so I was never able to sign up. Since I chose the Dark Side Half over W&D this year, the weekend was finally free. I got to run the bridge!

Let’s back up. My friends Sarah and Elizabeth accompanied me on this adventure, which started with a jaunt to the expo and sleepover at Elizabeth’s place before rising before the dawn and heading to one of the race pickup locations (parking directly at the race start was discouraged as traffic was going to be congested enough as it was with one bridge closed). 

We boarded a shuttle and were at the start area in no time flat. There wasn’t much to it; just a porta potties and some inflatable arches. This is fine with me, but I take issue with their wave start system. First of all, they seemed to be arbitrarily assigned. I was technically in wave 4, Elizabeth was wave 3, and Sarah was wave 5. But Sarah is usually a touch faster than me and Elizabeth had never run a 10k before in her life, so I’m not sure how they arrived at these assignments.

But here’s the bigger problem: it didn’t matter at ALL. No one was checking bibs and waves weren’t enforced in the slightest. Not that it really made a difference since there was no signage or other clear indication of which wave was up anyway. And there were FIFTEEN MINUTES between waves. This is RIDICULOUS. The justification given is that this gives the walkers some time to get ahead, and while this race is indeed walker friendly, those walkers should be in the last waves. But they were not. They were doing whatever the hell they felt like. I saw walkers in the second wave. Sheesh.

Oh well. We all started in wave 4 and it was fine. I lost Elizabeth quickly and then Sarah; according to the latter she was just a bit behind me the whole time, which makes sense since her final time was about a minute slower than mine.

The race started just a bit from the bridge itself, and I’d say we were hitting the first portion of it in about a quarter mile. It was pretty congested to start but by the time my GPS watch registered the first mile things were clearing up considerably. Of course, there were walkers from earlier waves clogging up the works (Four abreast? REALLY???) but I was able to dodge them.

One interesting thing to note is that the water stops were cupless, I’m sure to prevent unnecessary litter in the bay. There were jury-rigged water fountains made with PVC pipe and water kegs at a couple points at the race. Given how short the distance, this worked fine for me, but some others might require a water bottle.

The bridge has a slight uphill for the first, oh, I don’t know, mile and half? It really wasn’t that bad; although that outdoor running is finally paying off for me! And of course hitting the crest of the bridge and beginning the downhill portion was delightful. That probably lasted for a good mile or so. Then there was a flat section, but by the time the bridge ended we were only a bit past the 4 mile mark. (Incidentally I never did see a mile marker and relied entirely on my watch, but other people claim they saw a marker or two so what the hell do I know?)

I know this is a pretty boring description what is supposed to be an EPIC, SCENIC course. Certainly the multitude of photographers would suggest that photos would be a highlight. But the day was gray and dreary and the sky and ocean were doing their best imitation of grayscale, and anyway I’ve driven over the same bridge like 87 million times, so I wasn’t super awed. Probably I’m a jaded jerk.

Also there were like twelve billion police there to, among other things, make sure you didn’t suddenly decide to hurl yourself over the bridge. They thought of everything!

After the bridge itself, we ran into what seemed to be a small office district, then onto the highway – which included a small hill around mile 5.5, which, like, COME ON, but such is racing life. Then it was around a corner and into a giant field and BAM! Done.

I  had a really good race – my IT Band, while taped up, didn’t give me any trouble, and my body was ready and willing. I finished in just under 58:11, which is darned good for me!

Sarah came in just behind me, and we grabbed some snacks and water before wandering around the finisher’s area while we waited for Elizabeth. There were a remarkable number of bars for so early in the morning, but that’s to be expected. There were also multiple food vendors, but only one selling coffee. I was FREEZING so I bought some, and then spent the next half hour fielding a volley of “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT??”s. Somebody ought to bring in a coffee truck; they’d make a killing.

Elizabeth crossed the finish line about half an hour later, at which point we hopped a bus back to the satellite parking (kinda but not really the wrong one but that’s a long and not that interesting story and anyway it was the driver’s fault). And then we walked into Annapolis and got brunch. And that was our race day!

All in all I had a nice time, and would recommend this race to anyone looking for a relatively easy 10k experience. Even Pat, who tends to look upon 5ks with a dubious eye, expressed interest. 

But is it worth skipping Wine & Dine for? SURELY YOU JEST.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Elizabeth Is Running Her First 10K Ever

You guys remember Elizabeth, right? I have dragged her along on several WDW trips. She is such an excellent travel companion that I am slowly grooming her for the cult of runDisney.

Kidding! Kidding. She makes her own decisions. Totally autonomous. And I’m sure my nagging and cajoling and promising to run with her had NO impact on her decision to sign up for her very first 10K in November – the Across the Bay 10K on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

She’d never classify herself as a runner, but I’d say that by now she’s done enough 5Ks to claim the title if she wants it. She can absolutely tackle the 10K distance as long as she puts in the training. It’s gonna be awesome!

I think a lot of us have been running distance races for so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be taking our first tentative steps into the race world, so I made asked Elizabeth to shoot me her thoughts on signing up for her first 10K ever. She even provided illustrations!

I am torn between my dislike of long-distance running and my affection for the Bay Bridge, which is apparently the scariest bridge in the country to drive over, but that only makes me love it more.  I figure 10K can’t be THAT much harder than 5, right? And those views! Anyway, the Across the Bay 10K seemed like the least-objectionable way for me to try my hand (foot?) at something a little more challenging, and Annapolis is a pretty fun area for doing some practice runs, assuming I don’t trip on the bricks.  Hopefully I won’t embarrass myself too badly come November. If nothing else, I’ll end up with a good “that time I freaked out trying to run over the bridge and had to be carried off” story.  🙂

Both of these together probably sum up my conflicted feelings: 

Do you remember your first long distance race? Have you ever dragged a friend into the running community?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Books The Last WDW Resort Room She’d Ever Expect

And now for another story about how booking a Walt Disney World resort room can be unnecessarily confusing. But we persevere.

A couple weeks ago I scored the big one: an email from Disney containing a unique offer code that would net me a discount on rooms. Sweet! Having been in talks with my mom to take a trip in early December, I immediately clicked on through, only to have the site tell me that the last name I entered (which, to be clear, is the only one I have) didn’t match the code.

Hmmm. That’s odd. So I called the Disney phone line and had them try. The polite Cast Member promptly informed me that the promo, which had been sent to my email address which is attached to my My Disney Experience account, was meant for… Elizabeth.

Clearly this was a goof on Disney’s part, but I can trace the error. Elizabeth took a trip down to WDW with me in early 2012, as the second guest on a resort reservation I made under my account. For some reason I started getting occasional emails to my inbox with her name on it later that year – clearly Disney had conflated her info with mine. By 2013 I had gotten enough misdirected mail to warrant a phone call, and it was promised that my account would then be mine and mine alone. Since then I assumed the matter put to metaphorical bed, but apparently that wasn’t quite the case.

The CM informed me that, regardless of how the error occurred, the system would not allow him to process the code without Elizabeth appearing on the reservation. As nice as that would be, she is rather tragically not coming – so I asked to be booted higher up to get it fixed. Another day, another phone call, and another CM later, and I was on the phone with guest services.

This CM told me that the code was definitely supposed to be for Elizabeth, but since it was sent to directly to my email address, they would honor it this one time – but they could not guarantee it wouldn’t happen again. Sigh. I gave them Elizabeth’s actual email address that’s attached to her MDE account and the CM told me that might help. We shall see. If they can’t tell the difference between two completely separate, unrelated people with separate names, addresses, and emails, though…

Anyway. As aforementioned, I was getting the discount anyway – which, incidentally, I think is the obvious and correct customer service move, very in keeping with the Disney difference, no? Next, to make my room selection – with dates, may I add, that were more than six months out. I mention this because the CM found:

  • NO value resort availability except for a family suite at All-Star Music, which two people certainly don’t need at prices higher than a moderate
  • NO moderate resort availability with the SOLE exception of Pirate Rooms at Caribbean Beach, which, bleh
  • NO regular, not-a-suite availability at Animal Kingdom Lodge and nothing at all Wilderness Lodge, the most reasonably priced deluxe resorts
  • Unknown how much other deluxe resort availability there was, but I was not prepared to throw down with their prices

Well, hell.

It slowly dawned on me and a quick Google search confirmed it: our dates coincide with that big cheerleading competition at ESPN Wide World of Sports. The added crowds don’t worry me – they’ll largely by busy with the competition, I’d imagine – but this kind of sell out… Yikes. But I couldn’t change my dates – a week earlier is Thanksgiving week which, no, and a week later my annual pass expires. And my mom is dead set on going during the holiday period. My hands were tied.

I wound up accepting the only room I could, really: that pirate room at CBR. This may well be the last room I would ever choose myself. I’m kinda off moderates in the first place; after staying at POR a couple times, I’m not convinced it’s worth the extra money. And CBR is currently under refurbishment. I understand a lot of it is scheduled to be done “late 2017,” but who knows what that means?

On top of that, I certainly don’t need to be shelling out extra for a room dressed up like a pirate ship, which while nifty, isn’t really my mom’s bag. Well, I’m not so much bothered that it’s not her bag as I’m not thrilled to plunk down extra money for something that’s not her bag. Especially when said rooms are reportedly as far from resort amenities as you can possibly get and the bus system is supposedly many-stationed and long of route. Boo. Boo!

It’ll have to do. I mean, it’ll be fine – it’s WDW! The pirate ship beds look kinda cool. My mom and I are good strong walkers and I understand CBR has a very nice trail for morning runs as well. Some of the promised new shops and restaurants might even be open by the time we get there. I’d just rather be at Pop, that’s all.

All the same: I’m going to Walt Disney World! Yay! Activate planning mode… NOW.

Anyone stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort? In the pirate-themed rooms even? Psyche me up!

For example, is Tim Curry there?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Week In Review: 6/13

Gotta start getting used to these outdoor runs, since I’m losing my gym.

Sunday | rest
Post-ZOOMA Half chill time.

Monday | walked 2.1 miles outside in 35 minutes; 70 minute ballet class

Tuesday | ran 11.11 miles outside in 2:00
Probably I shouldn’t’ve done this so soon after ZOOMA, but it was such a lovely day for a run I couldn’t resist.

Wednesday | walked 3 miles outside in 50 minutes

Thursday | walked 2.13 miles outside in 35 minutes; 70 minute ballet class

Friday | ran 6.23 miles on the treadmill in 1:05

Saturday | rest
Walked a LOT, though; Pat and I went into DC to see the New York City Ballet at the Kennedy Center, among other things. Hooray ballet!

Although I continue to largely stick to my off the cuff race plan, I did sign up for another race this week – the Across the Bay 10K. I’ve wanted to do this race for years now, but it’s always the same weekend as the Wine & Dine Half.

Whelp, for the first time in 3 years there’s no W&D for me, so I’m open! And when a friend asked if I wanted to run it, I couldn’t resist. I did buy race insurance, though, which is unusual for me, but with my schedule being so uncertain I think it’s worth it for the peace of mind.

Bonus: through combined peer pressure, I have successfully convinced Elizabeth to run it too! It will be her first 10K ever, so of course I’m going to pester her to blog about it.

Anyway. The Twilight Bark!

Fairytales & Fitness offers a peek inside Runner’s World headquarters.
Back At Square Zero fights the good fight against the menace that is runger.
Elbowglitter leaps off a boat in the name of triathlon glory and I am almost tempted to try one myself. (Almost.)
easyWDW thoroughly reviews Kona Cafe’s new offerings and now I’m kicking myself for not bringing Pat there. They have loco moco and everything!!
The Main Street Gazette visits the Nomad Lounge. Home of my own drink!
The Disney Tourist Blog asks: is Disneyland Paris right for you? (Not as right as Tokyo Disneyland, I’m betting.)
This Fairytale Life assembles a list of Mickey ears that LIGHT UP.
WDW for Grownups taste tests Homecomin(g)(‘) in Disney Springs.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn & Elizabeth Visit Kings Dominion

A couple weeks ago Elizabeth and I went to Kings Dominion in Doswell, VA, to run a 5K and 10K, respectively. Our race fee included park admission in the price, so we stayed on post-race to ride some coasters. Here are our thoughts on the experience.

JENN: Ready to talk about Kings Dominion?


JENN: Was it your first time there? It was mine!

ELIZABETH: I think I was there once as a small child? I seem to have a vague memory, but nothing stands out, so it might as well have been!

JENN: The nice thing about running a race through the park first was that it gave me a primer of what rides were available. For example, I might not have otherwise noticed the Boo Blasters. Since that’s one of the few non-coaster things we rode, want to do that one first?

ELIZABETH: Sure! So that’s one of those rides where you have a laser gun and shoot at targets.

JENN: It’s kinda like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

ELIZABETH: I really liked that fact that the targets actually responded when you shot them

JENN: Ha, that was indeed different.

ELIZABETH: I DID have a broken gun the second time, which sucked because then I couldn’t activate any of the ghosts.

JENN: It was actually a bit intense for a kid’s ride, though, if you ask me. It’s themed to a haunted house, and while nothing’s really actively scary, a couple scenes are a little much for a small child, I’d think. I’m specifically thinking of the skeleton army room where the lights go off and their eyes start flashing at you in strobe.

ELIZABETH: Oh yeah, that would have been creepy for a kid I think. I’m not sure how I would have reacted as a kid, but I think having a gun would have helped (i.e. I can fight back!).

JENN: I’m trying to think if we did any other non-coasters and nothing’s coming to mind? We were going to do the swinging ship but it started raining. They also have a water park section but it wasn’t open yet so no opinions.

Alrighty then! On to the roller coasters! Let’s start alphabetically and also with my favorite: Backlot Stunt Coaster!

ELIZABETH: That was definitely the best one. It’s a small coaster that’s themed like you’re in a stunt car for a movie shoot. It also launches you, which was fun and caught me by surprise both times we rode it. It was originally themed for The Italian Job, right?

JENN: Yup! Now it’s just generic stunts, but it’s definitely the most themed of the coasters here. After the launch and some swoops, you stop and there’s fire and a helicopter!

ELIZABETH: The fire felt really good because it was COLD.

JENN: It’s a family coaster, but it’s got some fun thrills and I enjoy themeing. I’m pro!


JENN: Okay, next… Flight of Fear. This disappointed me. It’s an indoor coaster touted as being in the pitch black but really it’s only in the dark… ish. Also there was a weird, I don’t know, construction site set up at the bottom of the building that was lit up but not relevant? Unless aliens are into, like, random tables and stuff.

ELIZABETH: Yeah. It’s like it was trying to be Space Mountain and failed. I mean, it’s worth riding once if the line isn’t long. But it was odd, and felt weirdly half-finished. I also don’t remember being impressed with the track that much. Space Mountain has those fun dips that take you by surprise in the dark, but we didn’t really get that. It was just a spiral downward. Sorry I keep comparing it, but that’s my only reference point!

JENN: Ah, yes, that is correct.

ELIZABETH: And there was the weird entrance area where it looked like it was going to be alien themed, and then was not. Slipshod at best.

JENN: Shall we do Grizzly next? Was that the really aggressive one? One of the wooden coasters was much jostle-y-er than the other. Wait, that might have been Rebel Yell. I think Rebel Yell was the wooden coaster that was trying to murder me.

ELIZABETH: Yes, I think it was the other one that felt more intense to me, but I could be

JENN: Well, let’s do both. Rebel Yell: it’s trying to kill you!

ELIZABETH: Haha, yes. So it was rough like your average wooden coaster is.

JENN: Yeah, but Grizzly was LESS rough. Rebel Yell had a stop so sudden it felt liked being stabbed in the uterus. Might be because in addition to the trestles, the track was also wooden.

ELIZABETH: But it’s pretty long and goes through the woods, which was nice.


ELIZABETH: Yeah man. A lot of the rides there seemed to have sudden stops to me.

JENN: Grizzly was a bit gentler, but otherwise I don’t think either was distinct from the other. Wooden. Varying levels of aggressive. Straight drops.

ELIZABETH: I always found wooden coasters less intimidating as a child, so they might be good for the younger set who aren’t sure about loops yet.

JENN: Back to modern metal. I think Volcano was the last one we did? Toward the end of the day it got more crowded AND started raining, which curtailed our riding. Anyway, Volcano was my second favorite after the stunt coaster. The vertical bit out of the volcano is fun! Although Pat misremembered it as being a vertical launch and I’m still a little sad it wasn’t. We did it twice.

ELIZABETH: Yes! Another launching coaster, which I personally like (none of that “waiting to ride to the top” business). I’m sure a vertical launch is harder to engineer but it’s a fun ride as it is!

JENN: I think that wraps up the rides we did. What did you think of the ambiance? I thought it was a step up from Six Flags, but not at Hersheypark level. Close, but not quite. Nowhere near Busch Gardens Williamsburg, can’t touch Universal, and not worth 1/100th of a Disney park, OBVIOUSLY, but then that tends to be the case.

ELIZABETH: I’d give it a solid…B? It was a little odd seeing all the rides that USED to have themeing but no more. The Peanuts area with the kids rides was cute.

JENN: It was! It does have a pretty robust kid’s section. The park is divided into lands but there’s no cohesive overarching theme so it doesn’t mean much.

ELIZABETH: Yeah, and we got turned around a lot, but then again we hadn’t been there before.

JENN: Ha, well, that’s ’cause we’re us. Remember that time we walked allllllll the way around Universal Studios in the wrong direction?


JENN: One thing I can say with confidence is that the food is more expensive than even WDW’s. I mean, $16 for a barely even lackluster chicken sandwich with a soda and fries? Not even Disney would stoop that low (yet).

ELIZABETH: Ah yeah, the food was a disappointment. The meal I got was much smaller than the picture indicated (not that other places don’t do that, but it’s still a black mark). And I did splurge on a beer, and I don’t even remember how much it was because I’ve blocked the memory, but it was ridiculously overpriced.

JENN: Yeah, I think it was like $11 for a Yuengling or something like that.

ELIZABETH: Some of the other rides we didn’t do looked pretty good – the pirate ship (which goes upside-down!), the swing ride, the Crypt ride. I have a weird thing about swing rides where they make me nervous though. I’m weird.

JENN: Hey, I’m terrified of haunted houses. We’ve all got stuff.

Sorry we didn’t do more at the park! We were tired and kinda cold and by the afternoon a bunch of people had showed up so the lines got longer and THEN we were in line for the wild mouse coaster and it got shut down due to rain so we were like the hell with it, let’s go home.

On that happy note: any final impressions about your first real Kings Dominion Day?

ELIZABETH: I’m glad I went! They have some good roller coasters and I’d go back, but it’s not quite up the the level of Hersheypark or Busch Gardens.

JENN: I agree on all counts. Thanks for helping with my recap!  😁

ELIZABETH: Glad to help!

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 fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The First Photos: Universal Studios Florida, 2011 – 2015

Obviously Universal Studios isn’t held as highly in my esteem as any Disney park. Clearly. No question. BUT. It’s still a good time. So, it too gets the First Photos treatment.

Once again, apologies for photo quality; 2/3 of these are really old.

The year: 2011
The companion(s): Elizabeth
The title of the album: CONSTANT VIGILANCE!
The why: Ha, so, I actually had to skip over a bunch of photos at the beginning of this album, ’cause… We totally went to Downtown Disney first. And while I love a good picture of a Grand Floridian tea cozy as much as the next gal, it hardly qualifies as Universal Studios. Instead, please accept this first photo within Universal’s walls, featuring breakfast from the Three Broomsticks. Question: What makes the best accompaniment to pancakes, which are essentially bread? If you answered “a croissant, which is essentially bread,” YOU ARE CORRECT.

The year: 2012
The companion(s): My cousin and his best friend
The title of the album: Mischief managed
The why: In MY day, there was no Diagon Alley. There was only Hogsmeade to qualify as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We had to make do with what we had. And we ALWAYS respected the spell limits.

The year: 2015
The companion(s): Sometimes coworkers; sometimes just myself
The title of the album: I solemnly swear I am up to no good
The why: Hey, remember when I showed you what it looks like when you approach Universal CityWalk at night? Well, this is what it looks like in the daytime. YOU ARE WELCOME.

We’ll finish up this park photo album exploration with a dive into my favorite photo of each album. Should be fun!

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 fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!