Amazing Race withdrawl: A way to while away some time while you cope

As a friend of mine and I were making plans for next Sunday night, she said, “And, you’ll get home in time for Amazing Race.”

“Oh, no. That’s over. The laid back team won. I wrote the last recap,” I said. This conversation reminded me a bit of the end of the movie The Truman Show when Truman (Jim Carey) decided he didn’t want to remain on TV nationwide and flew the coop. The channel went to fuzz and once the TV land audience got over cheering him out of their TV screen, they changed the channel. Next Sunday night a friend of mine is giving a poetry reading and I’m glad I’m not wrestling with a conflict. (Yes, yes, I know there’s such a thing as TiVo, but basic, basic cable has already created havoc and mayhem in my family’s life. We are TiVoing NOTHING)

Still, when people are in our living rooms for weeks on end, it’s odd to not have them there anymore. Here’s a way to bring them back just a little. Besides, if you felt that the teams whizzed through certain parts of the countries they visited and you wanted more–particularly a landmark they visited, it’s attainable. I discovered the Amazing Race 12 videos on the Amazing Race Web site the night Survivor China took its place and found myself clicking on one after another. Maybe I needed to clean house or something and this was a dodge, but they are informative and entertaining.

One thing I found out is that when the teams are eliminated they don’t go home to pine away. In this season, those who pooped out early spent two weeks or so in Portugal at a villa having a fine time bonding with each other and taking in the scenery. There’s one video, “Racers Going Out on the Town” where everyone took in a winery and a bicycle ride. For losers, that sure isn’t shabby. Kynt and Vyxsin didn’t get eliminated quickly enough to make it to Portugal. Either did Nate and Jennifer. So, if you’re going to get eliminated early in this game, don’t despair. You may spend some time in paradise.

Also, there are videos that show some down time when the team members still in the race could enjoy the country they were in, such as the dip in the Adriatic Sea in Croatia before the leg to Italy. Those videos are under Web Clips. Each episode has several videos. These are the behind the scenes stories–the stuff that was edited out.

The videos from Phil’s Diary give more insight into each country’s culture and particular sites, such as the pit stops. Phil’s an engaging guy so it’s clear why he has a traveler’s dream job of a lifetime. Also, these are great for anyone interested in how shows are put together. So if you’re feeling as if you need a bit more of Amazing Race 12, turn up your speaker volume and enjoy. None of the videos aren’t long, all around five minutes.

If you wondered if Nate and Jen just couldn’t stand each other, think again. In the Elimination Station video, “The Great White North” she’s sitting on his lap. For a look at what happened at the finish from the other racers perspective, check out Reunited. You’ll see Don cry, hear about Ron crying and then feel like smacking a couple of the racers upside the head. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “I could have been a contender!” you’ll know what I mean.

From my perspective, these guys all made it onto a reality television show, they are celebrities in their town, they were lifted out of the day to day lives that most of us lead figuring out how to find a travel bargain so we may get a neat vacation once in awhile, and they had the chance to bond with people they would have never met otherwise. Big deal that they didn’t win a million dollars. It’s poor form to whine. But, then again, it’s probably natural to do the shoulda, coulda, woulda kvetching for a little while, particularly when someone has a camera in your face and prompting, I can imagine, “So, how do you feel that you didn’t win a million dollars?”

Amazing Race 12, episode 11 recap (finale!)

After 10 cities, 4 continents, nearly 30,000 miles, and the eliminated racers cheering on an airport tarmac this episode of Amazing Race 12 truly felt like a race to the finish. Besides getting my heart rate up a bit with wanting either Nick & Don to win, or TK & Rachel, it gave me a push to put Alaska on my go-to-soon list.

As tense as the teams felt, this was an episode when thrill was the theme and whoever thinks up these tasks should get a bonus. I loved it.

First, there were the sweeping shots of Taipei and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Plaza where the teams left off in episode 10. Then, next stop, Anchorage, Alaska. Christina & Ron, with their first place edge. pulled a smooth move at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport –a good tip to keep in mind. After booking their seats on China Airlines, Ron asked if they could get an upgrade to the lounge. Sweet. They used it for the Internet to find the address of their first stop in Anchorage–6th Avenue Outfitters.

Don’t these folks ever drink coffee? While Christina was doing a Web search, I would have been looking for coffee. I mean, they already knew when their flight was leaving. They already had their assigned seats at the front of the plane because Christina asked for them so they could get off the plane first. What’s the hurry? It’s not like they enjoyed the lounge at all.

In the meantime, it was amusing to watch Don & Nate and TK & Rachel wonder and worry about the whereabouts of Christina & Ron since the dynamic duo was no where in sight. Ah, the sigh of relief when the two showed up, trotting down the steps from their lame lounge experience. As what happened with many of the legs of the race, the teams ended up on the same flight–and as with most situations in life, the worry was for naught.

Up to this point, we also got a recap about what was going on in each team’s mind. “My dad and I are stronger and smarter,” said Christina. “Staying calm…to slow down and do one task at a time,” said Rachel. “To have respect for my grandfather,” said Nick. Christina’s little comment dropped her off my “who I want to win” list. One needs to keep in mind, pride comes before a fall, particularly on national television.

Ron & Christina did keep their first place lead for a long, long while. As TK remarked, “I’ve seen Ron run like a Ninja.” Ron never did let that hernia get to him. Matter of fact, I don’t think he said the H word once this episode, even when he was scaling up the sheer ice cliff with the aid of ice climbing gear.

Speaking of gear. Here’s where Nick & Don had a big heartbreak. All teams got to 6th Avenue Outfitters without a problem, but Nick didn’t read the clue carefully enough and left the gear they needed behind at the store. At the first Detour, discovered at Ship Creek Boat Launch, they either had to fillet cod–huge, huge fish, or grab crab. One of the cod held a clue inside. One of the crabs had a marking on its shell that would lead them to a clue.

Ron’s reaction to filleting fish was a hoot. “This isn’t an easy task for a city slicker…This is a lot of nasty guts,” he said. But he chopped away with determination that paid off since he and Christiana found the clue before TK and Rachel had jumped into the crab tanks to start grabbing.

Poor Don & Nick. Once they got to the dock and discovered they needed gloves and a knife, they had to hustle back to the outfitters to pick up their gear. Oh, the horror of traveling when it’s discovered something important has been left behind. What could have ruined everything wasn’t that bad. Don had only one stern remark for his careless grandson, dropping the lecture pretty quickly. I like that guy. Besides, the outfitters couldn’t possibly have been all that far away or TK and Rachel spent way too much time in the crab tank before switching to spilling fish guts. In no time at all Don, with tools now in hand, slit open that fish like a pro and found the clue placing Nick and him close on the heels of TK & Rachel.

About this point, I noticed that the Amazing Race music had really picked up the pace. The music was racing as the teams raced in speed boats up 2-Mile River to the glacier that each team member had to climb up using climbing paraphernalia in order to get to their next clue. “This is awesome!” shouted TK during the speed boat ride. For the audience there was some wonderful shots of the landscape as the teams zipped between the river banks and by what looked like small islands of ice.

Christina had the hardest time with the glacier climbing task and called out a tremulous “Daddy,” as if Ron could give her a hand up or come down to get her or something. He was pleased as punch with himself over his own climb since he’s afraid of heights and quipped that maybe he ought to take lessons. Finally Christina hauled herself up and over, maintaining their first place spot as they climbed into a helicopter.

The teams’ helicopter rides to their next stop, Merrill Field afforded them a gorgeous view of miles of Alaskan wilderness. “Sigh.” I did think, “My, this leg of the race isn’t particularly environmentally friendly,” but that thought left as quickly as it came. Once in Merrill Field the teams had to take a taxi to Goose Lake Park, which is back in Anchorage. Here, one person from each team had to do a task with incredibly confusing directions. I tried, but I couldn’t keep up.

Here’s the idea of it. There were items from each leg of the race. The team member had to gather 10 items together, but they had to be in a certain combination. If they got that combination right, their next clue popped up out of a black box. It reminded me a bit of the party game where there are assorted items on a tray. People look at the items for one minute, then the items are taken away. Whoever can remember the most items wins.

Christina’s smarts didn’t help her much as she wandered among the chicken, donkey, bowl of camel’s milk, vaulting pole, bicycle, gas tanks, U-Turn sign, Blackberry, stilts, and a cleaning guy from Japan. Yes, three cleaning guys from Japan were there (one for each team). Eventually she resorted to swearing, i.e.,. “Africa frickin’ and “Netherlands frickin” etc. etc. She even said the F word once–there was a bleep in place of what she said–and I started liking her more again. Then she said a “Lord help me” and I thought, “Yep, I’ve been there too.”

In the meantime, Rachel kept at this daunting memory game and Nick worked on his. Don turned to Ron while they watched and said, “No sense me doing this. I’d be there forever” while Christina wondered how she’d ever get the donkey up on the platform.

Finally, Rachel figured out the combination of items and the clue popped up. The cleaning man was in the mix of items because he is an animal in case anyone wonders what humans have in common with donkeys. I didn’t quite figure out the combination myself, but this was a brilliant way for the Amazing Race to give a recap of the other episodes. At one point Rachel looked at the pole and said, “I don’t remember that,” and I’m thinking, as the show played black and white footage of her vaulting over the ditch (I think it was her) using a pole, how could anyone forget Don stripped down to his underwear?

So, there is Rachel & TK vaulting ahead while Christina is still praying and Nick looks up in disbelief that his brain is not functioning as well as he’d hoped. At this point I figured Nick & Don were not coming in first. There was still one more stop to go. Taking a taxi, the teams had to head to “the Cook’s eye view of the Sleeping Lady” which is a statue of Captain James Cook in downtown Anchorage.

There, they got another clue that told them to head on foot to the salmon hooker, a statue of a fish. That clue told them to head to the finish at Girdwood Airport. There was a bit of excitement since Christina figured out the item combination not long after Rachel did but TK and Rachel kept their lead and finished first with their eliminated fellow racers clapping and yelling for them. TK’s first comment, as he’s clutching his head at the finish line, “I can’t believe it. This is freaking me out.”

I’m not sure what I’d do if I realized I had just won a half a million dollars with my significant other laying claims to the same amount. Even after winning the race, those two stayed calm. “She’s petite, but she’s tough,” said TK. “TK’s my best friend,” said Rachel.

It does seem that everyone who finished in the top three got what they most needed from this traveling sprint around the world. Christina & Ron got a better relationship like they wanted. “I learned a lot. How to become a better person,” said Ron. Christina agreed that their new improved relationship–their friendship is worth more than a million dollars. Nick and Don wanted quality time, which they certainly got. “I got everything I wanted from it and more,” said Nick. I thought about the tattoos that he and Don now have to always remind them of Italy. That’s certainly more than they wanted.

Despite not getting a million dollars, I’d be thrilled if I were the other two teams. Each of them got to go around the world on someone else’s dime and see things they never would have seen otherwise–plus a helicopter ride in Alaska. How cool is that? Plus, a million may be more aggravation than it’s worth–maybe. Who knows what’s in store for TK & Rachel except for some talk show appearances, new cars and a house possibly? Best thing of all about this race, Don proved that if you’re pushing 70, don’t let that stop you. Get your bag and go.

**All pictures from the Amazing Race Web site.

Amazing Race 12, Episode 10 Recap

I was pretty on edge at the beginning of this episode, as my favourite team, TK and Rachel, were so far behind from last week’s episode. But whatever. First off, I should say Happy Birthday to my least favourite contestant, Jen. Yes, this episode takes place on her Birthday — what a way to spend it. The first task is head to the Floating Garden on the top of the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka. The gardens didn’t open until 10am, so all teams except TK and Rachel wound up waiting together for the gardens to open. Once they made it to the top, they found a clue telling them to head to Taipei, Taiwan!

Perhaps one of the highlights of the whole episode happened on the way to the Airport in Osaka when Nate talked about how excited he was to go to Taiwan because he loves Thai food. Switch over to a clip of Ronald talking about how he was a bit worried because they were up against such ‘smart’ teams. Yeah, right.

Anyway, TK and Rachel, who were quite far behind, had a bit of a meltdown finding the floating garden, because they had their minds made up that a garden should be on the ground. Then, when they finally made it to the roof, they uncharacteristically started fighting, and ended up walking right past the clue. I yelled ‘Nooooo’ at the screen, and maybe they heard because they found it moments laters! You can thank me later, guys.

Then, of course, moew airport drama ensued. Christina and Ronald scored the first flight out and convinced the ticket agent to tell Nate and Jen that they were all sold out. Their scheming worked, though–they ended up getting into Taipei before the other teams. And, in an amazing stroke of luck, TK and Rachel caught up with Nate and Jen and Nick and Don at immigration at the Taipei airport. Yay!

The first task in Taiwan was to take a high speed train to Taichung, and then a taxi to Jiji. Once there, they encountered a road block (a task only one team member can do.) This road block involved getting into a car with a stunt driver, who would first drive onto a teeter totter in the air, and after much precarious rocking back and forth, the team member would then have to get into an amphibious car and drive underwater for 17 seconds. Rachel and Nate both had a blast at this task, while Ronald and Don looked like they were going to vomit.

Then came the dreaded speed bump–TK and Rachel had to take a taxi to a field, where they have to don suit and run through a barrage of firecrackers. The key here is they had to run, so the task was completed in no time, and they quickly caught up to the other teams. Jen and Nate were none too impressed with TK and Rachel’s speedy progress this episode, and she made her feelings clear by talking about ‘ripping out his dreadlocks.’ She also lamented the fact that she and Nate had to work so hard while TK and Rachel just ‘slacked off.’ Yikes. Nate and Jen? You should take lessons from TK and Rachel. They still like each other.

Speaking of the other teams, they had to hop back on the high speed train and head back to Taipei, where they had to find a tea house and drink a cup of tea to get their next clue. The clue was written in Chinese on the inside of a tea cup–it was up to them to figure out what the clue said and how to get there. As it turns out, the tea cup was leading them to a popular night market, where they had to find a scary-looking clown on a unicycle for their next clue.

The next clue let them chose between Fire–lighting a spirit lantern and sending it up to the sky (incidentally, nobody chose this task)–Earth–walking a 220-foot stone path in their bare feet, then walking back again. Teams did this with many cries of agony. TK and Rachel got ahead by jogging along the path, and it made me wonder why more people didn’t do that; it seems like it would be less painful that way. Not that I have any experience with stone walking … just sayin’.

The next stop was the pit shop at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial. Not surprisingly, Christina and Ronald came in first. But as for the other three teams, it was anyone’s guess. Jen and Nate made an interesting choice on their way to walk the path of stones — instead of taking the usual cab, they decided traffic would hold them back and so they hopped on the subway. It could have been a brillian move, or a fatal one. Ultimately, it was the latter — they were the last team to arrive at the pit stop. TK and Rachel came in second and Nick and Don squeezed into the third spot.

Although I’ve been hard on Nate and Jen, I felt pretty bad for them as they learned their fate. They both started crying, not only about their elimination but also about their relationship falling apart. They acknowledged that they should have spent more time being nice to each other than trying to win, which makes me think that maybe they’re not as dense as they usually seem to be. Plus? It was Jen’s Birthday. Ouch. Now every birthday will be a reminder of the time she blew a chance at $1Million.

All in all? A great episode. Though I wish they’d stop with the suspenseful music already — the show is nerve-racking enough without it.

(All photos from The Amazing Race Official Site)

Amazing Race 12, episode 8 recap

Hot on the heels of last week’s heart-pounding adventures in Florence, Italy, the teams are on their way to Mumbai, India! I’m currently reading a book about Bombay so I was quite excited to see some of the sights, at least vicariously.

Anyway, all the teams head to the airport super early, only to find that it’s closed. All the teams except Nick and Don, that is, and they enjoy a good night’s sleep after making a phone reservation for the first flight out. Once the doors open to the airport, it’s a war of the line-ups again, like it is in every episode. What I can’t figure out is, if there’s two line-ups within plain sight of one another, why doesn’t one team member go to one, and the other to another and just signal each other if one finds a good flight first ?!

Anyway, the first three teams find a flight that gets them into Bombay at 10:35pm. Despite being told that the next flight didn’t get in until 1am, Kynt and Vyxsin managed to find a flight that got them in at 10:50pm, and made a big production of pretending that they were really stressed out and disappointed to make TK and Rachel think they hadn’t found a flight. And since TK and Rachel are my favourite team, I was pretty annoyed by this whole thing.

BUT when the teams got to Mumbai, their first stop is a newstand that doesn’t open until 6am. So in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter when the teams arrived — they all had an equal chance. Wicked.

So once the newstand opened, they had to go through the daily paper and find a teeny tiny ad telling them where to head. Teams with good concentration and focus got ahead. Meanwhile, Jen and Nate, who started off the show by saying that they were embarrassed by how much they’ve been fighting, spent precious time–you guessed it–yapping at one another. Henceforth, they were the last ones to get to the detour.

The detour was a choice between posting a huge, multi-piece Bollywood poster on the wall of an underpass, or stringing 108 flowers for a wedding garnish. TK and Rachel used this as their chance to get ahead–Rachel is a florist in real life, so the flower task was a snap for her. Ronald and Christina had yet another nasty fight over this task, and it was pretty painful to watch.

And as for Kynt and Vyxsin and their speedbump? Their task was to do some yoga, which they did with ease, and it made them all the more calm and focused for the flower-threading task they did next. By the time they finished, they were neck-in-neck with Nate and Jen, speed bump be darned. I guess I don’t even need to tell you that Nate and Jen were bashing each other during this task too — Nate told Jen she should be better at stringing flowers because she’s a girl, and she snapped back that he should know how to row a boat, then. Meow!

The next clue had a bright, shiny U-Turn beside it — everyone avoided it, except for Kynt and Vyxsin. At the time, the only people behind them were Nate and Jen, and when I saw them stopping at the U-Turn, I did a small squee of joy because I was sure they would U-Turn the bickering couple. No such luck though — they chose to U-Turn Nick and Don, who were well ahead of them, because ‘they’re usually one of the slower teams.’ Huh? Nick and Don have kicked ass in this game if you ask me.

The next task was a roadblock (meaning only one person can complete it) and it was a physically demanding one — teams had to deliver heavy metal propane cans door-to-door and wheel them around on a bike. Which left me wondering why Ronald took on the task with his hernia and all — I think it’s probably something Christina could have handled. Anyway, Jen earned rare points in my books by insisting on doing the task instead of Nate — I like women who are willing to take on the heavy lifting. My loudest laugh-out-loud moment was during this task–Kynt had some trouble with his bike and rammed the cart into a cement wall — luckily, some villagers stopped to show him how to use the brake.

This episode was tense, with the Goth Couple and the Bickering Couple neck-in-neck for most of the duration, but in the end, a careless mistake–not getting the proper receipts on his gas can deliveries–cost Kynt and Vyxsin the game. They came in last only by a hair, and I’m sad to see them go.

As for first place? I’m happy to say it was TK and Rachel who took the top stop, and they won themselves a fancy trip to St. Maarten.

Only four teams left — we’re down to the wire now! Stay tuned.

Meandering through Tuscany

Although, Amazing Race does afford a glimpse of fascinating places, the pace and editing of a one hour show doesn’t allow time for savoring the places through which the teams are racing. Senses don’t get triggered much, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a country that triggers my senses like Italy does. Not in a sensual way. India is more a bombardment that can be overwhelming. Thailand comes close. Because Italy–where the teams went this past Sunday— is definitely a place to sensually savor, here is the video “Tuscany, Italy–The Charmed Land” that does just that.

The video shows off the lushness of several Tuscany cities and the countryside through photographs set to music. The close ups of gelati, Italian ice-cream fired up my taste buds for sure. Italian ice-cream is sublime. This lovely and engaging blend of people, artwork, shops, food and buildings will transport you back to Tuscany if you’ve ever been– and make you want to go immediately if you haven’t. Great job to durangowrangler.