There's always this great feeling right before the race begins, this calm before the storm. And as the teams arrive in this spectacular location Red Rocks Amphitheatre, outside of Denver you can't imagine that in an hour and a half, this wild animal will be let out of its cage. I always like to walk along the line of the teams' bags. I pick them up and see who is carrying what, to see who has planned ahead and who is completely unrealistic about what they're going to haul around the world for the next month. While some teams have decided they're on a luxury trip, the husband-and-wife team of Lake and Michelle Garner have packed really light.
The teams start arriving at Denver International Airport and have to get on one of three different flights heading to Brazil. After I've checked in, I put on a hat and sit in the corner to hear what the teams say to each other, since it's the first time they are allowed to talk to each other. They only have visual references to judge people, and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly they begin creating nicknames for each other.
Instantly the teams decide that best friends B.J. Averell and Tyler MacNiven are "The Hippies," since they are two guys who look like they rarely use a razor. Then B.J. and Tyler spot another team, Danielle Torchio and Danielle Turner. It's fair to say the two Danielles are shapely, and Tyler decides that they should be "the Double-Ds." It's amazing to see how quickly these nicknames stick.
It's been almost 20 hours since I said "Go!" and we've finally made it to the São Paolo Airport in Brazil. Just like the best-laid travel plans, things are already going wrong. The flight that was meant to land first was delayed, which changes the whole order for the teams. And there are some teams who haven't realized yet that the language in Brazil is Portuguese, not Spanish. And there's a team that ends up literally walking past the clue box more than five times, even though it's right in front of them. How they missed it I still don't know, but it's certainly going to be entertaining for those watching at home.
There are two popular ways of getting around in São Paolo motorbikes or helicopters so the race's first detour is a choice we've decided to call "Motorhead versus Rotorhead." They have to either assemble a motorcycle from scratch and be able to start it or take a helicopter over the city and look for a specific roof to land on for their clue. One team has decided to assemble their motorcycle in the street, and the locals are quite excited about one team member, Yolanda Brown-Moore, who has the most amazing legs on The Amazing Race.
Those of us working on the race have picked who we think are the strongest teams although I will be the first to admit that my predictions have been extremely unsuccessful every season, which speaks to the unpredictable nature of the show. It always surprises me that people immediately discredit older teams when, if you look at the history of the race, we've had an incredible showing from the older generation. In Season 3, Teri and Ian made it to the final three, and who will ever forget the gutsy performance of Meredith and Gretchen in Season 7? This year the oldest racers are Fran and Barry Lazarus, and right from the starting line, they seemed to show that they are one of the most energetic teams and certainly the most well traveled.
Most of the teams have finished the challenge and have arrived at this old warehouse to watch an indigenous cultural ceremony. The teams are required to take part in this experience by lighting a candle and handing it over to one of the locals in order to receive their next clue. Some teams are clearly on a mission to get their next clue and don't notice what's going on around them, while others get caught up in the moment and become visibly affected.
Finally, everyone starts showing up to meet me at the first pit stop. The first chat that I have with each of the teams always serves as a good indicator for what we can expect. One of the most common things I hear at the first pit stop is that the race is nothing like they expected and that somehow even the simplest of tasks such as reading directions takes on a whole new meaning. Everyone thinks it looks so easy on television, but they're shocked at how difficult it is to actually run the race.
One of the hardest things for teams to get used to is having their entire lives put under a microscope. They get so caught up in the moment that they forget that everything they do and say is being captured on camera. This means that any conflict will be analyzed by millions of viewers and ultimately the teams will have to face up to their actions. Some have told me after the race that they've actually made adjustments to their behavior after they watched themselves on television.
And this is just the beginning. There are still more than 50,000 miles to the finish line, and the cameras will be rolling every step of the way.
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