Expedition Impossible - Behind the Scenes, Episode 5
by AFB Staff
[Editor's note: the following post originally appeared on Erik Weihenmayer's blog, http://www.touchthetop.com/blog/, and is being republished here with his permission. Among Erik's many notable achievements, he is a CareerConnect mentor as well as the first blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. This summer Erik has been starring in ABC's Expedition Impossible. You can catch the show Thursday nights at 9 EST. Learn more about Erik at his website, http://www.touchthetop.com/.]
Well ABC billed this episode as "A Blind Man's Nightmare" and it lived up to the hype. Though relatively flat, this is the type of terrain that is brutally hard on me. The loose rocks and uneven ground are incredibly treacherous for sighted people too—witness John's blown ankle. When I'm charging along behind Jeff or Ike, holding on to their pack, it's impossible for them to warn me about every danger.
As badly as we wanted to win this stage and talk with our families, we all knew that an injury could mean a helicopter ride home instead. So we had to reduce the pace and watch teams pass us. And that was even before we made some big mistakes!
You saw on the show that we messed up with the fish fossil. In our defense, nothing in the instructions or on the map said that you should keep the rock. In retrospect, we should have assumed that—despite none of the previous challenges requiring an item later—but at the time we were tired and looking at the home stretch so it just never occurred to us this silly rock was that important.
We made light of it and tried to have a good time with the fishmonger as you saw when Jeff offered to trade our GPS for a damn fish and then threatened to just steal a fish, proudly honoring his redneck roots. But it was discouraging to have to hike a mile back to the riverbed. Fortunately, Jeff remembered where he set it down so we weren't hunting all over again!
As we finished that afternoon, Dave Salmoni commented, "Until this stage you guys have come into the finish line with big smiles on your faces. This is the first day you've crossed the line with frowns." We were beaten down physically and emotionally.
Another goof up occurred after the rappel on the second day when we hit a riverbed and went downstream for a quarter mile instead of upstream. We were sliding on our butts down little waterfalls and thinking, "this doesn't seem right, the terrain is too sketchy." This cost us precious time and energy because we lost our focus and weren't communicating well. I knew Jeff was pretty upset because he turned quiet and stopped talking for a while.
Much of this stage, Ike would look back and there would be those persistent pesky fishermen. These guys are just amazing! As you may have noticed, they didn't seem especially fit but they are just tough dudes doing very physical work on boats out at sea. They were always on our heels.
And the Cops were always nearby too. Great folks. On the sections where we could run, they were right with us. Even in the thick of competition, Rob from the Cops team would shout out warnings about rocks I might stumble on. This was such a different reality than all that dog-eat-dog backstabbing on shows like Survivor.
After two weeks of sweating and suffering together, it's getting harder to say goodbye when a team leaves. Those New York Firefighters are definitely a class act. I don't think competition is necessarily in their blood—they run into burning buildings and save people's lives for a living—so they're more into helping other teams all the time. You saw this selflessness in a previous episode when they stuck by the Cali girls who were struggling, cold, with numb hands. We were all sad to see those boys go. I'm hoping to see them when I'm next in Brooklyn; they offered to let my kids slide down the firepole in their firehouse. We'll definitely take them up on this!
I have to say I was humbled by Akbar comparing me to the likes of Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, LaDainian Tomlinson (all NFL greats for those of you who don't follow American football). But come on Akbar, I'd rather be compared to Mohammed Ali...
Of course, the ultimate act of kindness came from our bros, the Gypsies. Right when Jeff and Ike and I were thoroughly crushed, their gift of a phone call and video from our families was almost overwhelming. We later found out that the Gypsies' own families were on hold when they made that gesture. So the producers had to make a hasty decision to accept the offer and then scramble to get our families on line.
Despite some blunders, Team No Limits is still hanging in there. The ratings for the show are still down against the posers on Big Brother. Apparently whining beats out drama these days. All I have to say is you ain't seen nothin' yet!
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