The Virtual Race
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Leg 8
Stomping Through Europe

Pining for Wine
Kimberly: Hi, TARflies! We're back again, although it was a near thing after Patrick ate that spicy soup. I'll tell you, he didn't have a good day after that meal. But fortunately we'd brought a little emergency kit that included Pepcids and Pepto, so after a bland meal and a good rest, he was good as new again. We were really raring to go when our start time rolled around 12 hours later. This time we were determined to do whatever we could to land on the mat first.

When we opened the clue and found out we were supposed to find a winery with a 14,000 gallon winecask, Patrick cheered. "Woo hoo! Maybe we'll get to drink some tokay!" We didn't have to walk very far before we found a taxi with a driver who spoke pretty good English. He got us to Budafok so quickly that we beat Kris & Jon and Jonathan & Victoria. Yay! But then we found out that we wouldn't be able to get inside the winery until 10:00 a.m., and in order to keep our spot in line, we'd have to sleep outside. Boo! Fortunately, the weather was cooperating, so sleeping under the stars wasn't too bad. It was a little cool for my tastes, though - I sure could've used a tokay then!

We lined up to get through the gate the next morning, and when the gate opened, everyone poured through. As we ran through the winery, we got tantalizing glimpses of caskets and bottles, some probably filled with very old vintages. It was an amazing sight for a couple of amateur wine buffs like us. "Can you imagine having a wine cellar even a hundredth this size?" Patrick asked breathlessly. I couldn't tell if he was breathless from his admiration of the place or the running.

"Let's win this thing, hon - then we can talk about building a wine cellar with the money," I panted back.
"Let's win this thing, hon - then we can talk about building a wine cellar with the money," I panted back. Surprisingly, everyone was very orderly - probably because all that running around winded us. But when we finally found the wine cask (it must have been around 15 feet tall!), Patrick & I got a burst of energy. We got the clue, read it quickly, and dashed out faster than we'd run in. We grabbed the taxi behind Lori & Bolo's and we were off!

Fast Flights and Fine Films
We decided the best thing to do would be to stop at a travel agent to get tickets to Corsica. Even though at that point we were ahead of most of the teams, Patrick didn't think there would be many flights between Budapest and Corsica, and he was worried that we'd waste valuable time at the airport trying to find out which airlines had the routes we needed. "We'll exhaust ourselves running from counter to counter," he argued. "I'm not even sure which airlines to start with. I'd rather have a travel agent do the legwork. They'll know about that stuff."

Our taxi driver didn't really speak English that well, but we caught on to what we needed, and he really came through - he pulled up to a place just a couple of blocks away where one of the agents spoke fluent English. And was she fast! When we got back into the cab, we had tickets on the faster flight - the one from Budapest to Lyon and Lyon to Corsica.

"Did you ever see Cheech and Chong's Corsican Brothers movie?" Patrick asked. "It was actually a really dumb movie. The funniest thing was that they named a character Evil Fuckaire. 'Don't be a stupid Fuckaire!' That was great." Then Patrick started spouting line after line during our cab ride to the airport. When we arrived and we assessed where the teams stood, he sobered up, especially when he found out we'd be riding on the same flight as Jonathan. "Well, we know who'll play the part of the Evil Fuckaire on this trip to Corsica," Patrick whispered.

We arrived on Corsica in no time, and we walked with Lori & Bolo and Jonathan & Victoria to Napoleon's birthplace. When we found it closed, Bolo suggested we sleep on the beach for the night. Patrick's back had started to bother him, so we agreed. Patrick & I did sneak off early in the morning to be first in line, but we were disappointed when we saw Adam & Rebecca already waiting. We all chatted a bit, and it was clear that they were hoping to go for the Fast Forward just like we were. All Patrick & I could do was hope that either we got to the Fast Forward before they did or the Fast Forward task was more mental and less physical.

The other teams eventually all arrived, and we were admonished to walk through the museum in an orderly fashion. Amazingly, all the teams obeyed, quietly moving up to where a Napoleon impersonator was waiting to give us our clues. When it was our turn, Patrick couldn't help but be silly. "I loved you in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," he quipped. "Are you still in touch with Joan of Arc?"

Driving, Not Diving
We strode back to the entrance of the museum and opened the clue. Patrick pulled the Fast Forward out and read it. "Okay, this is good! It should help that you've gone diving before and I'm certified."

"Certified? You mean certifiable," I teased as I started running to the harbor, which wasn't far from where we'd spent the night. "Who knows if the experience will help. But it won't matter if we don't beat Adam & Rebecca there!"

I was hoping Adam & Rebecca had really gotten confused and gone in the opposite direction, but when we got to the Fast Forward, we saw that they had already arrived and suited up. "There's a chance, Kimber," Patrick assured me, ever the optimist. "All we have to do is get the clue out of the lobster trap first. We just have to suit up quickly."

I looked around. "I don't see any more of those tank-suit things. I don't think we can race them to the lobster trap clue."

They should've done something that teams could compete against each other for, y'know?
"What? No way." Patrick started running over to where Adam was getting fitted, but an old salt stopped him. Patrick and the man spoke in French for a moment, then Patrick thanked him politely and walked away, frustrated. "We can't do it. Only one team at a time. They should've done something that teams could compete against each other for, y'know? How could a single team doing this task make for entertaining television?"

I was disappointed. "I know it sucks, hon, but there's not much we can do but get back into the regular part of the race. Let's go find those marked cars."

"Wait ... is that Jonathan & Victoria?" Patrick asked. "Quick, let's duck behind the cars and sneak past them!"

I didn't think we'd be able to creep by without Jonathan & Victoria spotting us, but they were too engrossed in talking with the old salt. After a bit of searching, we found the marked cars we were supposed to take to Calvi. We were both a bit feeling the pressure after we'd wasted the time pursuing the Fast Forward. In fact, Patrick was so eager to get started that he took off without me and the sound guy again, just like he'd done in Iceland!

Up Against the Wall
Patrick came to a screeching halt when he realized what he'd done and got out of the car. "I'm so, so sorry, Kimber!"

"Then quit leaving me behind!" I snapped, though I was actually more anxious about catching up than angry. "You can't win the race on your own. You can drive like that if you want - just do it when I'm in the car!" I remember thinking, Ugh, I must be getting tired.

We found the route to Calvi pretty easily on the map. We stopped for directions to Camp Rafalli a few times, but didn't have much trouble getting there. When we arrived, we could hardly believe who we saw. "Omigod, is that Jonathan & Victoria?" Patrick asked, dumbfounded. It was! I couldn't understand how they beat us there, since Patrick had driven like a man possessed.

"Lori & Bolo just arrived, too," I said as I jumped out. We ran to the cluebox and read it through the Detour choices of Climb Up or Fly Behind. "No way I'm doing the Fly Behind - that's too much like the hay thing back in Sweden or the iceberg one at the very beginning," I pointed out.

Patrick agreed, and we ran for the climbing option. "How long ago was it that we tried wall climbing?" he asked.

"That was one of our first dates. Maybe five years ago?"

"Yeah. Hopefully we'll sort of remember how to do it and it'll help. Muscle memory, y'know?"

"I'm going to be like an ant crawling up that thing," I said.
We arrived at the Climb Up staging area and I got my first real look at the wall as we were getting suited up. It looked huge, much bigger than the ice wall we'd gone up earlier in the race. And it looked like you could really hurt yourself if something happened and you fell off. I suddenly felt very, very small and fragile. "I'm going to be like an ant crawling up that thing," I said.

Patrick gave me a quick hug as we walked to the wall. "No, you're not. You're going to do great! You did fine on the ice wall, remember? That was only a few feet shorter than this wall." I must have still looked doubtful, because Patrick said, "Look, I'll go first, and you'll see. I have faith in you. All you have to do is watch me, do what I do, and have faith in yourself."

"And don't fall."

"Well, that too. But you won't." Patrick gave me another hug, then turned to get harnessed in. I kept trying to psych myself up for the Detour, and before I knew it, he was climbing the wall. It was kind of hard to see what he was doing with the winch and all, but I watched anyway while trying to calm my nerves. Soon Patrick reached the top and it was my turn. "Okay, Kimber! You can do it!" Patrick called down. "Just kind of scoot your way up with your feet, then work the winch, then do your feet again. That's it! Good job! You're doing it, you're doing it!" Aw. I had my own little cheering section.

I carefully made my way up the wall with Patrick encouraging me all the way. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Bolo struggling, and Kendra and Kris making slow but steady progress. "Don't worry about them, honey - just concentrate on your own climbing. You're doing fantastic!" Patrick called. Before I knew it, I was pulling myself over the top edge of the hill. "Great job, honey!" Patrick cheered as he hugged me and gave me a kiss. Aw! "Now let's go get our medals. We worked hard for them!"

Letting Out a Little Wine
We quickly found the Legionnaire, got our medals, and started down a 75-foot wall. I was surprised to find that the rappel off the fort was much easier than the climb up, despite the fact that the wall was almost twice as tall (yikes, it's scary to think about now!). Maybe it was because I didn't have to look down as much. In any event, it didn't take us long before we were on the road again, this time looking for Zilia. "You did really well, honey!" Patrick enthused. "I think we've only got Freddy & Kendra ahead of us, and they only left a few minutes ago. We should be able to catch up with them before they get to the next route marker."

We didn't have any problems getting to the winery, but we didn't see any sign of Freddy & Kendra until we pulled up next to their car in the winery parking area. I dashed out and read the clue. "Roadblock! 'Who's ready to have a barrel of fun?' What do you think? Barrel rolling?" I asked.

"Even if it is, I think you can do it, Kimber. They're not that heavy. Hey, maybe you get to drink some wine!"

"Okay, I'll do it!" I opened the more detailed instructions. "Hee hee, it's grape stomping. Woo hoo!"

Patrick cracked up. "Vintage Toejam Wine! Thanks a bunch for offering to do the Roadblock. Hey, we could say our wine has sole. I'm sure it'll have a heady bouquet."

"A footy bouquet, you mean!" I laughed back. "And it's just juice. Now I really wish I'd had some tokay!"

"Another idyllic scene ruined by that asshole," Patrick grumbled.
We ran to the grape-stomping area and found Freddy & Kendra. We had a grand old time with them laughing and joking about the task - until we heard Jonathan yelling at Victoria from across the vineyard. "Another idyllic scene ruined by that asshole," Patrick grumbled. "I can't take much more of him. Hurry, Kimber, stomp those feet!"

Kendra finished her bottles with a whoop, and hopped out to get her glass of Jam Juice. Freddy said a quick goodbye, saying, "Good luck, you guys - with the stomping and with Jonathan." Hee! I started stomping, jumping, jogging, and doing anything I could to squeeze more juice out of those grapes. By the time Jonathan had gotten into his barrel, I only had half a bottle left to fill.

"Why is the juice in her barrel going so fast?" I heard Jonathan ask Victoria. I ignored him and leaned into my stomps, trying to get every last bit of juice out of the grapes. "Kimberly, how are you doing that?"

"I'm not doing anything special," I replied, which was true enough. Like I'd give any advice to him! Victoria tried to tell Jonathan what to do, so he stopped talking to me to start arguing with her. Around the time Jonathan started complaining about his barrel being defective, Patrick gave me the cut-off sign. I was done! We took our full bottles to the winemaker, who was laughing his ass off. (Patrick & I later speculated he was either he found us all incredibly amusing, or he was very, very drunk.)

The winemaker stopped laughing long enough to pour me a glass of Jam Juice. "A votre santé et mes pieds," I said as I raised my wineglass. The winemaker looked puzzled, then started laughing all over again.

Patrick grinned. "Did you just do a toast to our health and your feet?" he asked. I smiled, took a deep breath, and gulped down the Jam Juice. "Uck," Patrick shuddered. "I hope you don't get foot and mouth disease. Or trench foot and mouth. Or ... "

"Enough already!" I interrupted as the winemaker handed me the next clue, which told us to head for the Pit Stop at La Pietra. As we scampered for our car, we could still hear Jonathan & Victoria yelling at each other. I shook my head in disbelief. Patrick asked me what I was thinking about.

"That it must sap a lot of energy to fight like that. Can you imagine how much better they'd probably race if they just stopped arguing?"

"They'd probably do a lot better," Patrick replied, "but thankfully they don't realize that. And that works for us!"

It was a short drive to the Pit Stop, but Patrick got us there in his usual speedy style. We arrived at Pit Stop in third place yet again. So much for first place! Patrick was disappointed too, but he wasn't too broken up about it. "We'll try again tomorrow," he said. "After all, tomorrow is another day! We'll get it eventually!" I sure hope so!

Next week: Patrick finally learns the fine art of falling asleep anywhere.

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