Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Double Dutch in Amsterdam

Who doesn't love Amsterdam?

This week The Amazing Race takes us to the Netherlands! The closest I’ve come to the Netherlands culturally is Copenhagen, Denmark, which boasts extraordinarily relaxed drug and prostitution laws along with prolific bicycle riding. Being of Danish descent, I felt right at home and greatly proud of my sturdy forbears. Several people even mistook me for Helena Christensen, but I digress. Let’s watch the hysteria unfold as we join our ten remaining teams heading for the Netherlands.

We rejoin Phil in Ireland where we left off with him last week – at the Connemara Heritage Centre, the Pit Stop for the first leg of the Race. Phil explains that the Racers get a mandatory resting period, so I guess this would be their chance to sightsee and partake in The Amazing Race’s “love letter to the earth.” I wonder how long they get. The second leg of the Race starts off in timed intervals, with Azaria and Hendekea, henceforth “the siblings” for short, collecting their “clue” first and the subsequent teams collecting their clues in the order in which they arrived at the Pit Stop. The siblings leave at midnight, and the clue tells them to fly to Amsterdam. I wonder if they’ll be able to crack that code. Phil steps in to explain that once the teams land in Amsterdam they have to take a train to the central train station and then search the city’s canals for a particular bridge where their next clue is waiting. Can I just tell you how much I would love to visit Amsterdam? I may even be willing to leave my hotel at midnight for such an opportunity. Hmm, maybe I would be a good Amazing Racer after all.

As soon as the siblings get into their car to drive to the airport, they start arguing over who is responsible for directions. Kynt and Vyxsin, from here on out “the Goths,” or “Jem and Rio,” which is still easier than Kynt and Vyxsin, let us know that each team only gets 59 dollars for this leg of the Race. Really? Is that enough for an airline ticket anywhere? Apparently so because everyone’s going to do it. Jem and Rio are excited for Amsterdam because it is known for being quite liberal and free-thinking. It’s a ginormous love fest as the rest of the teams pile into their cars and make their way to the airport. They are all in good spirits now and determined to treat each other kindly on this leg. The LA blondes complain that they haven’t had facials or manicures in a few days. Imagine that, having to wash your own face and file your own nails. I don’t know how the peasant masses survive. Grandpa Donald hits a curb, blowing his tire and causing him and Nicholas a huge delay. Why wasn’t the Nicholas-the-airline-pilot driving?

No Nicholas, don't move. Grandpa's got it.

And now the love fest comes to a screeching halt as Ronald and Christina – I haven’t come up with an apt nickname for Ronald yet, so stand by – load up their car and Christina realizes she’s forgotten her fanny pack. Ronald acts like this is the equivalent of planting explosives in their car to sabotage the entire mission. Kate and Pat, “the lesbian ministers,” tell us that even though they are religious, they know that God could care less whether or not they win The Amazing Race. That’s awesome and it endears me to them eternally. Grandpa Donald fixes his flat tire just as Jennifer and Nathan, the last team to leave, rip open their clue and head out.

Again we see the blurry luck involved in The Amazing Race as the teams begin to bunch up at the Shannon airport. The ticket sales counter isn’t even open yet, so everyone has to wait around until 6 AM. Here’s where I’d start getting really cranky. I don’t do well in the wee hours. If I were sent at midnight to wait for a 6 AM opening, I’d be quite put out. Ronald and Christina get the bright idea to check the internet for flights from a hotel along the way to the airport and the lesbian ministers decide to join them. The entire time Christina is checking on flights, Ronald is pestering her, telling her she’s going too slow and acting like she has ADD. Would you like to give those newfangled internets a try yourself, Ronald? I didn’t think so, so zip it. The lesbian ministers are surprised at how disrespectfully Ronald talks to Christina and I agree. I’m glad he’s not my daddy.

It looks like everyone had to drive about three hours to the airport because it is 6 AM when Nathan and Jennifer arrive. Now it is just a matter of how many seats are available on the first flight out. Here’s how it looks. There are plenty of seats on a flight from Shannon to Dublin, but limited seats on the flight from Dublin to Amsterdam. There are two ticket agents operating, but one of them is about 20 times quicker than the other one, so it’s turning out to be a matter of luck with which ticket agent each team gets. In the end Nathan and Jennifer get tickets even though they arrived after Grandpa Donald and Nicholas, just because their agent was faster. Grandpa and Nicholas are screwed. So! Also missing the first available flight to Amsterdam are Ronald and Christina, the lesbian ministers, and Marianna and Julia, or “the sisters.” The sisters are in even worse shape because they took so freaking long to get to the airport that they also missed the flight to Dublin.

Once on the ground in Dublin, Ronald and Nicholas race each other to the standby counter to see if they can still possibly squeeze onto that first flight to Amsterdam. There is a bit of a “situation” at the standby counter as Ronald overhears Nicholas talking to a ticket agent and decides that he is being too rude and pushy. Instead of minding his own business, attending to his own team, and bossing around his own daughter, Ronald decides that it’s time for him to give Nicholas an etiquette lesson. He tells Nicholas that he has bad energy, he’s playing the “bad cop,” and he doesn’t want to hear any response. All the while he’s shaking his finger at Nicholas. How obnoxious. Butt out, Ronald, you irritating meanie. Nicholas is all polite, calling him “sir,” and just letting him rant. Gee, which one do you think is mature and classy?

Manners by Ronald

Poor Christina is embarrassed of her dad. It turns out that Ronald’s bullying is all in vain because Donald and Nicholas make it onto the flight standby anyway and Ronald and Christina have to wait around for the next one. Take that!

Elsewhere the lesbian ministers are happy to not be in very last place when all of a sudden the sisters catch up to them. Kate is hilarious when she describes this moment to the camera, acting like she was happy to see them, but really being disappointed.

"So nice to see you!"

Once in Amsterdam the teams are all rushing to get on a train to the central station and the siblings are the only ones to make it onto the first train. They make it to the correct bridge and find their clue, which is a Detour. Phil comes along and explains that a Detour is where each team has to choose between two activities – usually one is nearby but very difficult, and the other is a distance away, but simpler. Today the Detour options are to either hoist five pieces of furniture with ropes to an upper floor of an apartment building just a few feet away, or to head off to find two specific bicycles in a massive sea of bicycles and then ride them five miles to the next clue. “Hoist It or Hunt It.” The siblings decide to do the bicycles, but the next few teams decide to do the furniture.

Brawn OR


Jem and Rio get a great start hoisting up their furniture, apparently because Jem used to macramé, so she knows how to tie knots, and she’s kind of embarrassed to tell us about it. I love that this is how the Dutch move their furniture. It’s a great alternative to trying to haul huge pieces up six flights of staircases (remember, I moved last week – I could have used a pulley system of my own). Meanwhile the siblings arrive at the bicycle parking lot and discover that it’s a three-tiered parking terrace bursting with bicycles – not quite as simple as they’d hoped. The LA blondes decide to “hoist it” because one of them – I can’t tell the difference – says that her arms are one of the strongest parts of her body. Stronger than her boobs, I guess. Lorena and Jason are hoisting and they just keep calling back and forth how much they love each other. That’s grating. You know Lorena is projecting into the future to when they get married and deciding that this is how they can get all of their wedding gifts into their apartment and Jason is fantasizing about the giant plasma screen he can hoist once he gets both feet out the door. They finish and get the next clue, which sends them to a rural village to look for a certain field that will contain yet another clue.

TK and Rachel, or “the hippies,” are hoisting but TK can’t seem to tie a knot to save his life. The siblings are searching out their bicycles and calling each other pet names when Grandpa Donald and Nicholas join them at the terrace. Nathan and Jennifer, from now on to be called “the babies,” are hoisting and Jennifer is trying to explain to Nathan how to tie knots from six stories up. As you can probably guess, this quickly disintegrates into screaming insults at each other. Jem and Rio finish, and the siblings find their second bicycle and head off on their five mile ride. Jennifer and Nathan have to switch places before they verbally kill each other, so now Jennifer is tying knots. Meanwhile Hendekea has located the siblings’ second bicycle and Azaria yells, “That’s what I’m talking about, baby girl!” Eeew. If my brother called me “baby girl” The Amazing Race, the country of Holland, and all the planets in their revolutions would come to a dead stand still. It’s just wrong. The LA blondes actually finish hoisting and Shana, the one on the ground, lies down in the street and begs for a chiropractor. I seriously expected her to say “cosmopolitan.” The babies finish and join the bunch of teams waiting for a bus to Ransdorp, the rural village where the next clue awaits.

"Someone buff my nails - quick!"

As team after team completes the Detour, TK is still trying to tie his very first knot around a television set. Rachel is getting really annoyed from the upstairs window and TK is getting really annoyed with her annoyance. The three teams who had the late flight to Amsterdam are just landing and beginning to look for the special bridge. The hippies finally have a stroke of genius and decide to switch places – that only took them five hours – so Rachel is going to try with the knots. She figures it out and they finally begin to make some progress.

Over in Ransdorp, the next clue is a Road Block, or a task that only one team member can perform. This clue asks, “Which of you is the acrobat?” I find this task terribly charming. It’s ditch vaulting, which is basically pole vaulting across a muddy ditch, something Dutch farmers used to do when traveling between fields and that has now become a sport. Seriously, how delightful are the Dutch? Can’t you just picture cute little farmers in their wooden shoes pole vaulting across ditches? I love it. Of course, I would make my partner do it while I stood there pouting over the weather. So they ditch vault across then collect their next clue and ditch vault back.

"That's not a regular cigarette, is it?"

Jason runs for his pole as Lorena screams, “Baby, I love you, I love you!” Ugh, can we gag her please? He doesn’t want to get married! He makes it across with ease, but then bites it on the way back. Fortunately, only the first vault matters, so he scampers out of the mud and they run off. The final task is to ride a “cargo bike,” which is a bicycle with a huge container in which one team member sits while the other one pedals. They ride the bike to a drop-off point at the Durgerdam Yacht Club, where they will spend the next Pit Stop. Phil tells us that the last team to check in MAY be eliminated. Apparently the cargo bikes are harder to balance than one might imagine, but whatever, my partner could figure that out while I got cozy in the “basket.”

Jason wonders how long before he can unload his baggage.

Jennifer attempts the ditch vault and lands flat on her back about a foot short of the edge of the ditch. Uh oh, I can already sense Nathan gearing up to rip her a new one. He watches an LA blonde successfully vault and starts pointing out to Jennifer that the other girl can do it. Jennifer almost explodes.

The three lagging teams are just starting on their Detour tasks. Ronald is all down Christina’s neck as she looks over the furniture and practices tying a knot. He keeps telling her to make a decision and I just want to smack him. Why doesn’t he make a decision or try to participate? Christina decides to forget it and go find bicycles, which causes Ronald to demand to know which they are going and why doesn’t Christina know? Oh jeepers, dad, she must be as new to Amsterdam as you are. Shut it! Christina is almost in tears because she couldn’t do the knots right and know she’s stupid for choosing the bicycle challenge. I’m so glad these two are getting their bonding time.

Lorena and Jason rush up to Phil as the winners of this leg of the race! There are two precious little Dutch children in traditional dress welcoming them to Holland. They each win a three-wheel sport bike for coming in first. “Baby I love you, I love you!” Puke.

Aanbiddelijk! (Apparently "adorable" in Dutch)

Meanwhile, the sisters are searching through the bicycle terrace and find their bikes to set off. The lesbian ministers arrive and begin their grand search as well. Ronald and an emotionally battered Christina join them also. The ladies lovingly talk each other through the search while Ronald rails on Christina for being alive.

The babies and the LA blondes are team numbers two and three to make it to the Pit Stop. Ronald and Christina find their bikes and Christina begs her dad to be optimistic, but he says he’s not going to paint her a rosy picture. How about just shutting up then, evil one? Nope. Christina even tells him that she won’t lead him on the bikes until he stops shouting. Notice that Ronald has done nothing toward accomplishing any of their tasks. All he does is scream at Christina that she’s doing everything wrong. What a hero. Christina finally asks permission to speak (!) and bursts into tears, begging her dad not to be so hard on her. She has the patience of Job. I would have left him at the side of the road so long ago.

The second wave of teams arrives at the ditch vaulting and I can’t for the life of me understand why Nicholas agrees to let Grandpa Donald be the one to vault. Come on, Mr. Airline Pilot, please try not to kill your grandfather. Hendekea goes right into the mud, but Rachel gets across on her first try. Rio makes several unsuccessful attempts, but finally makes it. As Jem tries to pedal him along in the cargo bike, she is overcome with exhaustion and makes him switch with her. Grandpa Donald is scaring me to death trying to vault across the ditch. Then he scares me even more by deciding to strip down to his bikini underwear in the misguided theory that this will help him be a better vaulter. Nicholas just stands there laughing. Thanks for all your help, Nick. Grandpa just keeps landing smack in the middle of the ditch. I really hope there is a team of paramedics nearby. He finally makes it just as the last teams arrive on the scene.

Be glad I chose this shot.

The sisters prepare to ditch vault and one of them reveals that she was a pole vaulter in high school, so she makes it right across. Christina unfortunately decides to vault and thus another series of angry badgering begins. The lesbian ministers are way behind, still on a bus on their way to the field. The sisters arrive at the Pit Stop seventh and Grandpa Donald and Nicholas are right behind them. Ronald is still at the ditch giving a lecture about the aerodynamic principles involved in the vault and wondering why Christina can’t wrap her tiny brain around it. Again she begs him to lay off, but he doesn’t. Creep. Christina makes it anyway and as Ronald prepares to pedal the cargo bike he tells Christina she needs to lose weight and then he promptly tips her over. Christina has now been reduced to a tiny little speck of what was formerly a human being.

"It's your fault, you fat cow!"

Sadly we are not done with Ronald because they come in ninth. Grrr. Phil questions them as to the difficulty of this leg for them and Ronald admits that he doesn’t treat his daughter very well. Oh you think? A-hole.

Kate and Pat know they’ve lost, but they keep laughing through the ditch vault and talk about how much fun they’ve had together. They seem really sweet and good-natured, and it’s too bad those aren’t qualities that help you win The Amazing Race. When Phil tells them they’re eliminated, they wish they could have lasted longer, but feel like they’ve proven that they’re good together. Aaawwww.

So what do you think? I can’t decide on a nickname that will adequately describe Ronald but still be appropriate for my parents to read. I’d love your suggestions!

Thanks for reading!
-Honey Gangsta

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