The Virtual Race
Leg 3
How Swede It Is

Two Racers Walk Into a Bar
Patrick: Hello again, gang! I hope you're all getting a sense of how much fun we're having on The Amazing Race. Just like you, we've enjoyed it from the comfort of our living rooms, and we were aware that not everything is shown in that single hour. There's plenty that goes on behind the scenes, too, like the interviews. Kimberly hates them, because she thinks some of the questions are dumb, and they give the producers ammunition to make us look stupid. So she can be a little blunt and surly with her answers. For instance, during the interviews after this third leg, the crew asked us how we thought we could improve things - was the leg too long, too short, and so on. Kimberly blurted out, "The hay thing sucked. Next time treat the racers to booze in the Ice Bar after you try to kill them with 200-pound hay bales." Hee!

Kimberly blurted out, "The hay thing sucked. Next time treat the racers to booze in the Ice Bar after you try to kill them with 200-pound hay bales."
But let's start at the beginning. After completing the second leg in sixth place, we were more determined than ever to pull ourselves up in the rankings. Our first bit of luck came on the bus, when Kimberly found a guy who knew exactly where the Ice Bar was. "How'd you know to ask him?" I asked her.

Kimber grinned. "He's a twenty-something Australian in a foreign country. I figured my chances were pretty good."

Thanks to our awesome Aussie, we were the first team to arrive at the Ice Bar. Kimber hit the target on the counter with her second shot glass. Woo hoo! I gave our Australian friend $10 for his trouble, then we snagged a taxi and headed to the world's largest Ikea. "But don't they all seem like the world's largest?" I asked Kimber as she reread the clue.

"Yeah," she laughed. "Let's hope our task doesn't involve trying to find our way through the store."

We found the Ikea and ran up to the doors, hoping to increase our lead even further, but the store was closed. Denied! Frustrated, we decided to make the best of it by staking out our overnight spot as close as possible to the main doors. "First a train bunching that helped us, now an hours of operation bunching that hurts us," Kimberly sighed. "I guess it all balances out in the end."

I frowned at her playfully. "You're much too reasonable. You won't make good TV."

Count Off, Build Up
It didn't take long for all the other teams to catch up, and by the time the morning rolled around, we were all antsy with anticipation. There's nothing like staring at other racers all night to get the competitive juices flowing! We ran in as soon as the doors opened and after a bit of searching, we found the cluebox for the Detour. I was hoping the task was going to involve eating Ikea's Swedish meatballs, but instead we had to choose between "Count It" or "Build It." "Let's do the counting - I'm good at that, and I suck at building this stuff," Kimber urged.

"No way," I argued. "I'm really good at setting up Ikea furniture. It'll be no problem." Neither of us saw either choice as obviously faster. I picked up a shrink-wrapped bundle of pots. "Does this count as one item, or three?" I asked.

"I'd count it as three, but we could do both counts," Kimber said.

I envisioned Kimberly counting aloud as she went through the stuffed animals - and me being distracted by her counting and losing track of my numbers. "Come on, honey, if we count together, at the same time, it'll be easy!" Kimber exclaimed.

"But it'll be less efficient, too, honey," I replied. I started pacing to work off the nervous energy that was starting to build. Why couldn't we make a decision?

Exasperated, Kimber sighed, "We could do the build, but you'd be doing almost all of the building, and I'd just be handing you parts. How much more efficient is that?"

Well, to be honest, I was distracted by the fact that Hayden came around the corner and collided squarely into my chest.
At that moment I was distracted by the arrival of other racers. Well, to be honest, I was distracted by the fact that Hayden came around the corner and collided squarely into my chest. I grabbed her arms for balance (yes, she has girl-stompers!) so neither of us fell - that would have been embarrassing! We murmured our apologies, and after she ran off, I must have been thinking out loud about Hayden's race uniform (heh), Kimberly asked, "Did you say 'Built'? Build it? Okay, if you're that insistent, then 'Build It' it is."

Now, I have certainly assembled my share of Ikea furniture, and I think Ikea delights in providing thorough assembly instructions with well-illustrated line art. They take pride in the fact that they do not lower themselves to written directions - even if twenty pages of intricate diagrams could be replaced by one simple paragraph. And as for the perverse Ikea elves that design the Allen wrenches - which must fit perfectly in their tiny little hands, yet which are so confoundedly frustrating for normal-sized adults -- well, here's to wishing they get acquired by Keebler and are forced to work long hours in the factory for substandard pay.

Anyway, back to the desk. I hadn't assembled this particular model before, but I felt oddly comforted by the minimalist diagrams provided. Our assembly was punctuated with statements like "Honey, pass me the lötskjeld - it's right next to the farneplass" and cheers of the Swedish Chef's infamous "Bork bork bork" when something actually fit together without pounding. Un-PC? Yes. Damned fun? Ya, you betcha! At least we knew we were having more fun than the racers who decided to count, if the yelling coming from Adam & Rebecca and Lori & Bolo was any indication.

We finally came to illustration #174 in the instructions and completed the desk. We used every single part ... except one nail that Kimber had managed to palm and keep hidden from our Ikea supervisor. Was it a bonus? A spare? We had no idea. The instructions mandated that we had to complete the desk assembly using every single part given to us, so I clenched my jaw, crawled underneath the desk, and pounded the spare nail in an inconspicuous spot towards the back.

Luckily, our IkeaBlondeRobotMonitor did not detect our creative use of the extra nail, so we grabbed our next clue and ran out. Actually, it would be more accurate to say we ran around in lost circles until we stumbled on the way out. "Damn," Kimberly muttered as we took the taxi to the Haggvik train station. "Maybe it was the Swedes who built the Minotaur's labyrinth!"

"I'll do it, honey. What the hay?" I joked. "You stay waaaaay over there and conserve your histamines."
A Roll In the Hay
After a quick train trip and tandem bike ride, we found the Yield (which we didn't use or have used against us), then the clue box for the Roadblock. I opened the clue as Kimberly sneezed. She'd started sniffling once we got off the main road, and now she was digging around in her backpack, looking for our carefully-packed tissues. "Who's got hay fever?" I asked. "It looks like it involves those hay bales."

"No WAY am I doing it," sniffed Kim. I couldn't really argue with her on this one. Allergies make her miserable and exhausted, and I just couldn't stand to see her suffering. "I'll do it, honey. What the hay?" I joked. "You stay waaaaay over there and conserve your histamines."

"And my antihistamines," she replied, smiling a little.

"Yes, and your unclehistamines too," I answered as I walked over to a nearby roll.

"Pick one with a clear path for unrolling," Kimber called. Good idea! I selected one of the hay rolls on the edge of the field and started to roll, then noticed there was a plastic netting around the roll. I gave it a tug, but it didn't come undone. I wondered if I was allowed to use something to cut the netting, then thought the better of it when I saw that Lena, Victoria, and Gus weren't using anything to help unwrap the hay rolls. Wishing I had a mask, I tore open the netting and started unrolling bale after bale, all the while inhaling hay dust, hay particles, hay pollen, and hay stalks.

Kimber cheered and sniffled from the sidelines, and at one point got so anxious that she actually ran onto the hay field a little ways. But then she started sneezing over and over again, so ran off the field. To calm her down, I started punning and telling jokes. "Hey, Kimber, how about a roll in the hay?" "I've got to bale us out of here." "We're unmaking hay while the sun shines." "I'm on a roll now!" And Kimber, bless her, didn't tell me to shut up once. How could I not love her?

After a few minutes I heard Victoria squeal, and out of the corner of my eye I saw her running her clue back to Jonathan. "That's OK, Patrick, there are still lots more clues," Kimber called, and then she let out the biggest sneeze yet. She leaned over, and started watching me from a bent position with her hands propped against her knees. She was really starting to look unhappy now. Poor schmoopiecakes! I unrolled a little more quickly, and after a few minutes, I found a clue. Woo hoo! (Achoo!)

Leaving Gus & Hera and Lena & Kristy behind at the Roadblock, we went back to Stockholm in search of the ship Af Chapman. Kimber's eyes were still swollen and watering from her allergic reaction, but she still managed to find out from the train conductor the exact bus line we needed to get to the ship. Score! We had no problem finding the bus stop, and it was easy to spot Phil and the flags from the bus. I ran off the bus and skidded to the mat with Kimberly only a few steps behind. We were team number three! We gave each other a "YAY!" and a hug.

When Phil asked how we felt, I couldn't help saying, "I feel like the God of Thunder - I'm Tor all over!"
When Phil asked how we felt, I couldn't help saying, "I feel like the God of Thunder - I'm Tor all over!" Phil, the greeter, and the production crew cracked up. "We feel great," Kimber said enthusiastically as she smiled like an angel. "We're in third place - that's fantastic for us! We just want to keep it going." Then she paused and looked directly into the camera. "But for right now, we're heading to bar. We need a stiff drink really, really badly." Heh. She knew that probably wouldn't make the show. But it was perfect, and definitely something that needed to be said.

Next week: We meet the salt of the earth in Senegal, where we find out there's something fishy going on ... and we're not referring to the way some of the taxi drivers behave.

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