No, it wasn't an exaggeration: Gary, 53, and Mallory Ervin, 24, drove for nine hours before finally getting to Oman's Jebel Shams on The Amazing Race. "It was insane. I don't think they showed it, but I was like, 'Oh my gosh! Nine hours, we could've driven to Disney World from Kentucky!'" the former Miss Kentucky tells TVGuide.com. "I have never driven that long in my life." The elongated detour sealed the father and daughter's elimination, but the duo still managed to keep things close until the end.
TVGuide.com: What happened? Did you actually drive around for nine hours?
Gary: Yes. We had a map. Nat and Kat had the exact same map. The direct route to Jebel Shams was an interstate that went along the coastline. We took it and basically it was five hours out of the way. We had to go all the way back around the other side of the mountain. ... We filled up with gas twice. We ran through a tank and a half of gas.
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TVGuide.com: At what point did you realize you were going the wrong way?
Mallory: We felt like that a few times. That was the first time we really had a map and we kept on stopping because we didn't see any signs to Jebel Shams. We asked people ... and they'd be like, "Oh, no, no. Not good." And we're like, "What's not good? Well, maybe they're wrong." So we went on because we were like, "We should stay on this path. The map says this is the way to go. The map can't be wrong." And the next person would say, "Turn around. Go around the mountain."
Gary: Plus, the clue read, "Go toward where the asphalt ends." So we thought there was probably a clue box or a route marker on one of these dirt roads that we weren't seeing. Nat and Kat were doing the exact same thing. They had a 30-minute jump on us and that's what proved to be the difference.
TVGuide.com: How did you finally end up turning around?
Mallory: My dad is in telecommunications, so we finally get to a place that said "Oman Telecom" or something like that. So I was like, "We're going there!" I guess he liked [my dad] because he was like, "You come back to my house for tea! And dinner!" Maybe we'll go back! But we found people we finally trusted since he's in telecommunications.
Gary: Yeah, the people were so friendly. It was totally unexpected. People have a certain opinion of people from the Middle East, and that opinion is wrong.
Mallory: They were the most helpful and welcoming people that we met. It's a shame that we have a misconception of them here.
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TVGuide.com: What were you reading wrong on the map? Was it confusing?
Mallory: The map was wrong. We shouldn't have trusted it. I wish you could see it. It had two routes around this mountain and Jebel Shams was in the middle. We went on the north side, to the right, and the other teams went on the left. That was it.
Gary: We took what looked like the most direct route, but it was really an indirect, out-of-the-way route that you had to take to get there, which the other teams took. They didn't have a map, so they asked for directions.
TVGuide.com: How discouraging was it knowing you wasted went five hours going the wrong way and were likely last?
Mallory: We didn't give up, but what was really discouraging was that we weren't really in a race. We didn't see any of the teams. It was like, if we were going to go out, it's a shame we're going to go out by ourselves. When we saw Nat and Kat, that was like seeing a ghost. We couldn't believe it. We had no idea that a team was so close. Our spirits were renewed and we were still always racing, but it was frustrating. It was like we're going through the motions to get eliminated at the beginning.
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TVGuide.com: Were you able to make up any time at all on the tasks?
Mallory: Yeah, we know we were the quickest at the water task. We were really great with directions after the first bad bout with it. I think we made up a lot, but nine hours is pretty hard to make up! We probably shouldn't have been that close to Nat and Kat. I think they drove for six or seven hours. We made up maybe two hours on them and were just a few minutes behind. ... It's funny — a 16-hour leg. It was one of the record-breaking legs for The Amazing Race. I know the globetrotters got really close, but they gave up on a challenge and sat there for four hours. We raced for 16 hours and to lose by a couple of minutes was ... it wasn't meant to be, I guess.
TVGuide.com: You guys never fought. Was it hard not getting frustrated on this leg?
Mallory: I think because we've lived with each other our entire lives and we've gotten upset with each other before, it's like, been there, done that. My dad is very calm, cool and collected. Even if I get a little crazy, he's not going to say anything back. He's just going to keep driving and I'm going to keep talking to myself. It was important for us to set a good example and shine a positive light, especially in reality TV. I feel like we could've gotten a bad break and we didn't. That was always on our minds.
TVGuide.com: What was your favorite moment from the race?
Gary: The game in Russia — Gorodki. And probably the legs in Sweden and Norway. We were with Michael and Kevin, who were some of our favorites, and the two girl teams. We had a two-hour lead and we got to enjoy ourselves.
Mallory: Mine is being on the mat in Ghana in the second leg. We had the cabs break down and it was the beginning of the race. When Phil told us we were the ninth team and not the 10th team, that was probably one of my favorite moments of my life. We were still in the race and we knew we had what it took.
TVGuide.com: What are you up to now?
Gary: I'm back in Kentucky working. Mallory is in between careers.
Mallory: I'm getting ready to make a move somewhere. I'm thinking New York. I've had really positive things come from the race. I don't know. The race has been nothing but an awesome experience and we still can't believe we got to do it.