The Virtual Race
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Leg 7
Hungary for Soup

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Patrick: Hi again, folks! Thanks for joining us again on this crazy adventure. Sorry about kind of leaving you hanging with our last report, but we couldn't give you the full story while things were still happening during the leg! We'll get you caught up now that we're actually at a Pit Stop.

We had a long wait for the Internet café to open. I spent the time catching up on my sleep while Kimber wrote up her last report for you guys. "Wow, it's been so long since I've written something like this with pen and paper I can hardly remember how," she said as she got started. "What am I going to do without my spellchecker?" Once we got inside the café, Kimber managed to wheedle some free time online so she could send her report off while I retrieved the e-mail that told us to go to the Heritage Rail Museum the next morning.

Kimber and I were sympathetic, but later we had a good laugh in private as we pictured Lori picking the car up, spinning it around, and giving it a huge body slam.
When we arrived at the museum the next day well ahead of the opening time, we were greeted by Lori & Bolo. As the other teams arrived, they told us about all the problems they had with their Trabant. Kimber and I were sympathetic, but later we had a good laugh in private as we pictured Lori picking the car up, spinning it around, and giving it a huge body slam. Hee hee!

Finally it was time for the museum gate to open. We took off as soon as the gate lifted, running behind Hayden until she pulled up because Aaron wasn't with her. I heard some yelling behind us, but didn't think much of it until Kimber called, "The gate fell on somebody!" I wondered who it was, but I couldn't worry about that, because I was more interested in finding the route marker. Hey, as long as it wasn't us, right?

We ran around for a bit, but then when we rounded a corner, suddenly there was a route marker with numbers taped to it. I lunged for it, but so did Adam and Jon. There was a lot of elbowing and wrestling, and when the dust settled, Kimber and I ended up with number three. We were all starting to come down from the hard run to the route marker when Freddy starting going apeshit about someone pulling the gate down. When he started screaming, I started trying to calm him down, and so did Jonathan (hard to believe, I know).

Freddy did cool off a little after the rest of us talked him down, but he continued to look angry and unhappy until he checked in at the Pit Stop. (Of course, some of that may have been due to what happened later on in the leg, but I'll get to that.) Kimber was a little surprised by it all. "Freddy's acting crazy, and Jonathan's telling someone to calm down. What planet did I wake up on this morning?" she asked.

It wasn't long before someone - a race production assistant, I think - called for the first team to go to the next route marker by taking the draisine (a weird motorized car-train thing). The gate issue died down for the most part, but Freddy was still wincing and gingerly touching his forehead when we started our draisine ride. Kimber shook her head, and after we'd gone a ways, Kimber shouted in my ear so I'd hear her over the noise of the engine. "Hera got hit just as hard as he did, and she's being more of a man about it." She laughed at my reaction, and added, "You know what I mean!"

In the Swim
It didn't take long for the draisine to get to the route marker and return to the other teams. We were off in a flash to hail a cab. There didn't seem to be too many around the rail museum, so we walked quite a way from the museum and tried again. We did eventually spot one. We tried to wave it down, but Aaron & Hayden saw it coming, too. We both raced to the cab, but Aaron reached it first. I tried arguing that we saw the taxi first, but no go. Argh!

Kimber got the driver to call another cab for us, though, and the second cab was only a couple of miles away, so within minutes we were also on our way to Hajós Alfréd Sportuszoda. We were fairly confident about our standing in the race, and we didn't think anyone was going to go for the Fast Forward. When we found out that Lori & Bolo got it, and we found out what Lori & Bolo had to do for it, we thought they were joking.

"Pig's blood?" Kimber asked in disbelief. "You are kidding me. That so belongs on another reality show."
"Pig's blood?" Kimber asked in disbelief. "You are kidding me. That so belongs on another reality show."

"What did it taste like?" I asked, slightly nauseated.

Bolo glowered - oh, my mistake, it was just his regular frown. "Like a kind of warm, thin, blood-flavored milkshake," he boomed. I tried not to laugh at the thought of young Bolo, wearing his very first skullcap, going into a McDonald's and ordering a blood milkshake with his Happy Meal. "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. But the raw sausage from a few days back was better." He laughed. "And I was worried about getting enough protein during the race!"

Anyway, back to our part of the race - we took a cab to Hajós Alfréd Sportuszoda, where we found the route marker for the "Swim or Paddle" Detour. Despite the fact that Kimberly wasn't that strong a swimmer, we decided to do the water polo because we figured it would be faster. We ran into the sports complex and found the pool area. Kris & Jon had just finished getting suited up and were diving in. I have to admit that I gawked a little when I saw Kris in the Speedo. "Damn, they're all tan and stuff," Kimber whispered. "Doesn't it make you feel like a pasty-faced geek all of a sudden?"

The Spice of Life
We didn't have any problem with the Detour - either the race producers told the water polo players to go easy on us, or the Hungarians really need to step it up with their sports recruiting programs. We took a cab to the next stop, the wine cellar of Gundel Restaurant, where we had to do the Roadblock. "'Who's ready to spice up their life?'" Kimber read. "Uh oh. Patrick honey, I know I said I'd do the eating tasks, but you're better with spicy food. Could you do this one?"

I agreed to do it, and seconds later I was sitting down next to Jon, who had already started in on the huge bowl of soup. I took a careful sip. The soup wasn't nuclear hot, but I was going feel the burn all right. I got to work on the soup, spooning as quickly as I could as Aaron and then Victoria sat down. "Is it as hot as vindaloo?" Kimberly asked. I just nodded my head as I sucked air in to try to cool my mouth down.

As I spooned, sipped, and gasped, I heard Kimber digging around for a bit, then she unwrapped something and put it on the table. I looked down at the thing. It was one of the bars of German chocolate that we'd bought at the end of the last leg. "Here, eat this as you drink your soup," Kimber advised. "Fats are supposed to help cut through the heat."

It sounded kind of gross, not to mention a waste of really good chocolate, but I'll be damned if she wasn't right! My mouth wasn't exactly back to normal, but the heat was definitely more manageable. I picked up the pace and was doing really well ... until I heard Victoria start to retch. In that instant, my 24 ounces of soup looked more like 24 gallons of soup, and my stomach started to protest. Victoria started to get sick again, but Kimber quickly covered my ears and kept them covered for the rest of the task, only occasionally lifting a hand off so I could hear her whispers of encouragement.

I barely heard the other racers talking about how Rebecca raced through her soup, so I was surprised when she and I finished almost simultaneously. I stumbled out of my chair and out of the wine cellar as Kimber carried our packs and hailed a cab. I leaned back and closed my eyes as she told our driver to take us to Point Zero. As the taxi started off, I felt Kimber's hand on my forehead. "You did a great job, Patrick. Here, you'll feel better if you open the window."

I stuck my head out the cab window and let my tongue flap in the breeze like a dog as our cab weaved through the streets of Budapest.
I stuck my head out the cab window and let my tongue flap in the breeze like a dog as our cab weaved through the streets of Budapest. At least our luck with cabs was still good - our driver whizzed by other speeding cars like they were standing still. Maybe he was practicing for the Hungarian Grand Prix! Anyway, thanks to Mario Andretticzy, it didn't take long for us to arrive at our destination. We spotted the funicular from the taxi, but when we ran to the ticket booth at the base of the funi, the carriage had already started on its way up the slope. Dammit!

"There are stairs up - do you feel well enough to climb it?" Kimberly asked. "Or maybe we should wait for the next tram, since you're not feeling good."

I could still feel my stomach wrestling with the spicy soup, but I shook my head. "No, let's take the stairs. Rebecca & Adam left the restaurant at the same time as us, and they could catch up."

"Are you sure?" Kimber pressed. I wanted to say "Hell, no - I want to take a Pepcid and a nap," but instead I nodded and hoped I looked confident enough in my decision to convince her.

The stairs were fairly flat and in ordinary circumstances, they would have been easy to climb. But the soup was really starting to get to me. I could hear it sloshing around in my insides as I took the stairs two at a time. I felt horrid, but at least I didn't throw up into my soup (and have to eat it, yuck) like Freddy did. It was a good thing I wasn't around to see or hear that.

"C'mon, hon," Kimber encouraged. "We're almost there!" I reached out and took her hand, and we held hands the rest of the way up the steps. And we didn't do it because I needed her to help hold me up. Nope.

We found the Fisherman's Bastion and ran to the Amazing Mat just as Jonathan & Victoria were stepping off. (Side note: I'd love to tell Jonathan to step off. Just thought I'd share.) Phil told us we were team number four. We were in the middle of the pack - again. We're starting to get tired of that position, so we're planning to really push it after this. Maybe next leg, we'll come in first!

Next week: lots of whining and not enough wine.

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