The Virtual Race
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Leg 9
Stress and Pains Down in Africa

Busted
Patrick: Aaaaand we're back! We can hardly believe we're past the halfway point in the race, and we're still here. It's well amazing! Anyway, I'll get to my report on this leg in a second, but first things first: I'm writing this after a long evening of partying (the reasons for which will become clear later), so you'll have to excuse me if it seems a little disjointed. Okay, more disjointed than usual.

This race had more bunches than a banana republic!
We left La Pietra at 2:10am. We were in third place, just a couple minutes behind Freddy & Kendra. But we had to wait until 11:30am for the ferry, which gave all the teams plenty of time to catch up. This race had more bunches than a banana republic! We wandered back to the hotel to get some rest before the craziness started, and speculated what we'd be doing in Nice. "Well, we're already looking for a bust - I wonder whether we're also going to have to find someone on a topless beach using just a picture of their frontside!" I joked.

Kimberly just smiled. "Nah. Think of all those release forms. It'd slow the race down. Plus they'd have to pay the editors overtime to put in all that extra pixellation. Sorry to disappoint you, hon!"

"Hrmph. I think I'd be a great chest checker."

We'd planned to get some rest during the long ferry trip, but after eating something and finding out where the statue of Albert I was, we only had about an hour and a half of rest, so when we got off the ferry, we were more bleary-eyed than when we got on. We managed to grab a taxi without getting run over, and our driver sped us through town to the statue. We arrived at the same time as Adam & Rebecca. Kimber was excited about our next destination. "Ethiopia!" she and Rebecca shouted, and Adam shushed them both. (Yeah, Adam. What's wrong with that picture?)

We ran back to our respective cabs. I asked our driver if he knew of any travel agents on the way to the airport, but when we found out the airport was close by, we said the hell with it, and told him to go straight to the airport. Because of the traffic, we managed to catch up with Adam & Rebecca, who had pulled ahead while we were figuring out what to do, but we left them in the dust when I persuaded our driver to outmaneuver theirs for a little extra cash. Woo hoo!

The woman at the desk was wearing an expression that looked like she'd either just smelled something rotten or dealt with someone unpleasant.
When in Rome ...
Once we got to the airport, we learned that Air France had the earliest flight to Addis Ababa, so we headed straight to that counter. The woman at the desk was wearing an expression that looked like she'd either just smelled something rotten or dealt with someone unpleasant. Given the fact that there were other racers hanging around, it's entirely possible that she'd done both.

I approached her and started giving my French a workout. After half an hour of me pleading, joking, laughing, and flirting with the Air France agent, Kimber & I walked away with tickets on the 6:05pm flight out of Nice to Addis Ababa via Rome. We headed to the gate early to get away from the other racers, but there were Lori & Bolo. We walked up just in time to hear Bolo interviewing that he thought they were they only racers on that flight. Ha ha!

We flew to Rome, but our flight to Addis Ababa wouldn't be taking off until the next day. I tried to talk Kimber into splitting a hotel room with Lori & Bolo, but she wouldn't hear of it. "We haven't got enough money, even if we do split the room cost," she argued. "We've got to stay overnight in the airport."

"In the airport. Ri-i-i-ght. Listen, honey, why don't we try and see if there's somewhere nearby, and we can try to negotiate the price down or something?"

"Patrick, the hotels will be a cab ride away. And even if a hotel had a free shuttle service, we really don't have enough money for a room." Her face softened, and she snuggled against my arm. "Now, I know you have trouble falling asleep without wrapping yourself up in blankets, but you did fine when you slept on the beach. And aside from a little bit of a sore back, you did okay sleeping outside that winery in Hungary. The airport will be better than both places, I promise. There are cushioned benches. And there are private little nooks we can claim for ourselves " She grinned mischievously.

Dammit. She had me.

Hitting the Roof
After a night that was much too short, we flew to Adidas er, Addis Ababa. Other teams had caught up with us in Rome, so as soon as we got off the plane we started running. Fortunately our seats were close to the door, and Kimber had found out from one of the flight crew where we needed to go to sign up for the charter flights, but we couldn't keep up with Adam & Rebecca. Still, we signed in second for the first charter flight to Lalibela.

Now, about the charter flight: those planes feel as fragile as they look. You feel every bump and shift in those things! Kimberly gripped her armrests during the full length of the flight, which was mercifully short. Once we landed in Lalibela, we dashed through the tiny airport with Adam & Rebecca, Lori & Bolo, and Jonathan & Victoria. We easily found the Amazing Trucks and their accompanying clues, and after stopping to ask for directions, we chose a truck and a driver and took off for Lews Village.

We hadn't gone far before Kimberly started pointing excitedly. "Adam & Rebecca are over there ... there's the clue box! Stop here, stop here, please!" Kimber waited a half-second, then just like in Berlin, she threw open the door and clambered out even before the truck came to a full stop. Yikes!

The driver screeched to an abrupt halt, and I chased after Kimberly, yelling, "Kimber, you can't do that! If you get hurt, that won't help us in the race!"

"I'm fine!" Kimberly shouted back impatiently. "Come on, come ON!"

We tripped and stumbled over the uneven ground leading up to the clue box. Of course I didn't realize it at the time, but I discovered after the adrenaline had worn off that I'd twisted my ankle pretty badly. Anyway, we tore open the envelope and learned that the clue was a Detour - Raise the Roof or Mud the Hut. "Well, honey, which will it be?" I asked. "Shit or shingles?"

"Well, honey, which will it be?" I asked. "Shit or shingles?"
Kimber laughed. "There was no way I was going to do mud anyway, and now you've really turned me off to the idea." She wrinkled her nose (she's so cute when she does that) as she reread the clue. "Mudding a hut sounds like it'll take a while. And it's dirty! I say skip that!"

As we followed Adam & Rebecca down the hill, I called out, "It's too bad the two tasks couldn't be putting mud on the hut and gathering food for farm animals. Then they could've called the task 'Hello Mudder, Hello Fodder'!"

We found the location for the roof option, and with the locals' help, we completed the task fairly easily, although Kimber managed to sprain a finger. One of the medical guys from the production team was nearby, though, so she got her hand patched up while I finished the task by putting the jug on the top of the roof. "Just like putting the star on the top of a Christmas tree," Kimber said. "Now it's all done. Look at how awesome it looks!" I climbed off the roof and tried to see the hut through her eyes, but I guess Kimber has a broader definition of "awesome" than I do.

Hauling Ass
It didn't really matter, though, because Kimber was already moving on to the next clue, which not only specified that we had to deliver two donkeys to a farmer near St. George's Church, but also warned us about a Yield. "Come on, Kimber. I don't want to be Yielded," I said. "Let's get our asses to the church on time!"

"It'll be good practice for our wedding," she laughed back.

We chose two donkeys and wrestled with them for a bit until we finally got them walking along the road to the church. It was only a three-mile trek, but we didn't exactly travel a straight line. At one point, for example, we actually had to push them up some rocks. I scrambled ahead and managed to haul my donkey up, but Kimberly had more trouble. "Come on, Kimber, move your ass!" I teased.

So apparently donkeyspeak mostly consists of swearing.
"Why don't you help by speaking to it in your shared native language?" she retorted. She finally got the donkey up the rocky slope with a little muscle work and a lot of profanity. So apparently donkeyspeak mostly consists of swearing.

Once Kimber & I got back on a fairly flat road again, we started discussing the Yield. I thought we could use it on an annoying team (Jonathan & Victoria, obviously) just because I didn't want to go to the finals with a person I seriously disliked. Kimberly thought we could use the Yield on a tougher team like Kris & Jon. In the end, though, we didn't think we needed to use it. Yeah, we were just begging for karma to kick us in the ... well, you know.

A couple of miles later, we handed the donkeys over to the farmer and made our way to the Yield mat, where we declared our intention to not use the Yield. Then we opened the Roadblock clue. "You've got a better eye for detail, hon," I said. "That'll be four Roadblocks for you."

"Okay, I'll do it," she said, "but first I need to cover myself up a little." She looked down at her shorts and Tubey t-shirt, dug in her backpack for a bit, then pulled out a scarf, a pair of sweats, and a long-sleeved shirt. She pulled on the sweats, then ran off to do the Roadblock while trying to put on the scarf and long-sleeve shirt at the same time. Hee!

It seemed like the Roadblock took an incredibly long time. Finally I saw Kimberly climbing the stairs. She was crying, clearly moved by the experience. She made me promise that we'd come back here again, and she chattered about the church, the worshippers, and the crosses all the way to the Pit Stop. Phil checked us in and told us we were team number two. Woo hoo!

Oh, and the reason for the partying that I mentioned in the beginning? Jonathan. Is. Gone! That afternoon, as the news spread that he'd been eliminated, beer and wine appeared as if by magic. And there was much rejoicing! Yay!

Next week: a kinder, gentler race.

Discuss these racers.