The Amazing Race – The Family Edition

Remember that post where I confided that I would never do the Amazing Race because it would likely result in my or Tex’s death? Well I ate my words because shortly after that we embarked on the challenge WITH OUR SON. Only not exactly, because Phil Keoghan wasn’t there to stand at the finish saying “Man, you guys made it just under the wire and phwwwwooooar what is that smell? Unwashed, you know you can bathe at the rest stops, they allow time for that.”

The justification for this endless trip was that Tex had a conference in Newfoundland therefore we should explore the province. The wrench in the works was that a nonstop flight from here to Newfoundland was EIGHT HOURS. I’m going to retype that so you can picture the bloody carnage from stuffing me into a small space for that long. EIGHT HOURS.

Tex would have been able to poop from at least five new places on his body from being ripped so many new @#&holes had we chosen to fly for eight hours straight. My son would start talking like he worked on an oil rig after hearing me use so many curse words; “Mother of &!#$, grilled &%$#?% cheese again? Aw hell.” After three hours on a plane, I become a rabid caged animal with a filthy vocabulary. This necessitated a stopover in the throbbing metropolis where my family lives. Thus the Amazing Race the Family Edition began

The Race : To and from Canada’s Most Eastern Province In Search of Adventure and The Best Places To Pee In A Bush

The Team :

Unwashed, whose hygiene habits make her the ideal candidate for not showering for days while traveling from place to place.

Tex, whose patience and problem solving skills will be tested during this competition. Mostly by his wife.

Mini-Tex has the ability to sleep anywhere; this quality will be exploited by his adventuring parents.

The First Leg : Location – Toronto             Duration : 8 Days

Challenge – Ride a combination of six trains, a bus, a subway and two streetcars to have coffee, dinner and a chess game with twenty-seven separate people. Mini Challenge for Mini-Tex – Terrorize his grandmother’s cat.

Commentary : Unwashed bravely took on this leg by herself. It was a marvel the way she refrained from punching cars in anger when Torontites cut in front of her stroller in the rain. Likewise Mini-Tex handled his challenge with aplomb using a combination of yelling “Cat! CAT!!!” and playing a one sided game of catch with the feline using a dodge ball.

Second Leg : St. John’s                  Duration : 5 Days

Challenge – Keep ahold of the stroller on enormously steep hills and consume the contestants’ body weight in fish following hiking up three thousand stairs. Also look somewhat professional for Tex’s conference.

Commentary : There were a couple of anxiety filled moments with the stroller where it was a millisecond away from careening out of control but the couple showcased their fitness and speed through their reaction times. Mini-Tex once again proved that he is the world’s best sleeper by snoozing through the 684,000 steps down Signal Hill and the 1,239,000 steps back up Signal Hill. Supposedly there are an equal number of steps down as up, but contestants always report that going up is twice as hard particularly with an unconscious toddler on your back. Unwashed received a standing ovation when she made it through the entire conference without tucking her skirt into her tights.

 

Third Leg : Traytown- Grand Falls – Woody’s Point                        Duration : 8 Hours

Challenge – Keep all contestants happy and alive while driving across the second smallest province in Canada

Commentary – The contestants almost narrowly failed this challenge when they chose to stop at the gas station/restaurant/karaoke bar/convenience-store/church for supper. In general, the greater the number of slashes in a restaurant’s name, the greater the likelihood of walking away with food poisoning. Luckily what the contestants were served could not be categorized as food, so they were saved.

Fourth Leg : Woody’s Point                         Duration : 5 Days

Challenge – Hike until the contestants’ legs fall off or until one of them is discovered frozen in a snow bank.

Commentary – All three contestants made a valiant effort towards the goal. Most notably hiking along cliffs, up an 800ft waterfall and attempting to scale Gros Morne. They got points for skirting avalanche areas but alas no one was discovered in a snow bank.

Woody Point Sub Challenge – Locate, kill and eat a softshell crab

Commentary – Not surprisingly for those who have read Cowboy Cookin’, Unwashed was the weakest link during this challenge, refusing at first to touch the sea creatures and then showing hesitation about pulling their legs off. Mini-Tex stepped right up to the plate, removing legs with abandon and zooming the legless crab body around the dinner table like a NASCAR.

Fifth Leg : Cornerbrook                                 Duration : 2 Days

Challenge – Meet a childhood friend and terrorize yet another cat.

Commentary – Once again Mini-Tex readily met his challenge with gusto, chasing Unwashed’s friend’s cat around the house and then perching on the stairs yelling “CAT! CAT!” when the irritated feline retreated to the basement.

Sixth Leg : Cornerbrook – Grand Falls – Traytown                      Duration : 10 Hours

Challenge – Listen to the Frozen soundtrack on repeat until everyone begins making plans to assassinate Olaf.

Commentary – The crew achieved their goal and was rewarded with a hearty meal of stuffed squid when they arrived in Glovertown although none of them ever want to build a snowman again.

Seventh Leg : St. John’s – Take Two                                            Duration : 4 Days

Challenge – Eat each contestant’s weight in seal.

Commentary – This challenge demonstrated the extent of Tex’s selflessness; upon discovering that seal meat tastes like wet dog fur, both Mini-Tex and Unwashed refused more than one bite. Tex took it upon himself to consume seal flipper pie, seal flipper stew, seal flipper soup and seal flipper sausage. Mini-Tex and Unwashed took to the playground while this was occurring so Tex could eat the goods(?) and then air out the smelly apartment afterwards.

Eighth Leg : Toronto then London, Ont                                    Duration : 3 Days

Challenge – Visit with Grandpa, see real dinosaurs, jet off to London and baptize Mini-Tex in front of a confused congregation.

Commentary – Real dinosaurs were seen with ease, and Ferris wheels were ridden multiple times. Generally children are baptized in front of parishioners who know them. Given that Tex, Unwashed and Mini-Tex are nomads, this becomes challenging.

Ninth Leg : Toronto to Winnipeg                                               Duration : 3 hours

Challenge – Unwashed needs to survive the flight without a working television (Damnit West Jet) while flying alone with a toddler and refrain from sinking her teeth into the arm of a fellow passenger in frustration.

Commentary – There were a couple of close calls with the fellow passengers especially the woman who wore vanilla scented perfume but the contestants survived.

 

So there it is, four and a bit weeks away from home. I won’t be repeating that. Although that’s what I said last time.

Things Travel Guides Ought To Tell You About Newfoundland

  1. It’s always referred to as “the Rock”

This makes the place sound sexier than it is. In our extensive travels of the island, I met no former pro wrestlers. This would have been disappointing if Dwayne Johnson was my type, as it is, I’m partial to Pierce Brosnan and his squinty eyes. Also it should be called “the Cliff”, there were hills everywhere. I thanked the fates that we chose to bring an umbrella stroller because I forget to put on the safety strap when using the nice stroller and it tends to roll away on me. I would have spent the entire time speeding down hills after the Bob had we brought it. Also, at one point in Cornerbrook, I’m fairly certain we were walking perpendicular to the ocean. The city is built into the side of a cliff.

  1. It is Hawaii of the North but don’t tell the locals this- they’ll injure themselves from laughing so hard and then you’ll feel badly for harming the Newfoundlanders because they were so kind.

Mini-Tex made friends with bunch of firefighters and got to drive two of the big red trucks. While my son and I were waiting for a firefighter to return with a giant prize bag of firefighting related goodies and a personalized hat, I shared the Hawaii comment with the rest of the fire company. Once EMS finished stitching up the firemens’ sides after they busted a gut laughing, I shared that as long as one dresses for the cold, the outdoors are pleasant and that the untouched beauty of the island reminded me of Maui. They still looked at me like I had three heads. What can I say? Rugged, wild landscapes are my thing, regardless of climate.

  1. Newfoundlander is a synonym for Mother Theresa

In the same way that Canadians wear pins of the flag abroad, I feel like Newfoundlanders should have some sort of distinctive marking to let others know that they’ll give the shirt off their backs and then apologize for shivering. We encountered countless kind people, but the ones that stood out were the firemen, the Airbnb host who made us stuffed squid for dinner just so we could try local food and the park ranger who took her lunch break to drive home, get us her daughter’s toys and three pairs of snow shoes from her personal collection. The ranger lent us all of this during our stay.

  1. If given the chance, the island will kill you and swiftly bury the remains. In snow.

Tex and I are outdoorsy; we’re accustomed to signs like “No cell signal. Be self-sufficient”, or having to make a call to his parents or the ranger to say that we’ve made it out of the bush safely. Newfoundland took this, and ratcheted the difficulty and fear level up about thirty-seven thousand notches. There’s nothing quite like avalanche warnings with accompanying messages of “Do you have a pickaxe and collapsible shovel with you?” to make a person question their decision to hike with their baby on their back.

 

We were never in the avalanche areas of course- the map outlined their locations and Tex claims he understood the inscrutable instructions to skirt the danger areas. Had I been traipsing through the wildnerness with anyone else, I would have turned back. As it is, the man has two more professional degrees than I do and I take him at his word. So away we went through deep, deep snow.

 

There’s only been one other time in my life, where I’ve had to cling to various plant life to hold myself onto the mountain while hiking. And that was in Maui, where there was no snow and I didn’t have a two year old on my back. The adrenaline released by the prospect of tumbling off the cliff with your offspring sharpens your reflexes. That said, Mini-Tex loved every minute of it and talks about scaling the 800 foot waterfall.

  1. Seal tastes like wet dog fur

I suggest combining a gram of it with a pound of ketchup to render it palatable. It was Tex’s goal to eat as many forms of wildlife as he could in as many ways possible. We ate moose pie, moose soup, moose burgers, moose sausage, seal flipper pie, seal flipper stew, seal flipper sausage. The man would roast up a porcupine and declare it scrumptious. On occasion, Tex reminds me of Bart Simpson when the cartoon family visits New York City. In the episode, Bart attempts to attract sympathy and spare change from his fellow metro passengers by claiming that he was born without taste buds, then licks a subway handrail as proof. The difference being that my face after tasting seal looks like Bart’s whereas my husband wears an expression of contemplative delight.

None of this is published in the travel guides, but I thought you should know. Also don’t eat seal. It’s not an animal cruelty thing- it’s a taste thing. Even months later, I still sometimes burp the flavor.