Great new article!! The 'Amazing Race' is on for local residents
Three area residents compete in the CBS reality show airing Sunday.
By Sharla BardinOn your mark, get set, go globe-trotting.
That's exactly what three area residents got the chance to do when they competed in CBS' "The Amazing Race" to win $1 million.
Martinsville couple Steve and Linda Cole and Lynchburg resident Mel White and his son, Mike, are contestants in the new season of the reality TV hit that premieres Sunday.
They were among 11 teams competing in the race, which included stops in nine countries in 22 days.
Production has wrapped on the season, but White and the Coles can't reveal much about the race now because of waivers they signed to avoid spoilers.
Still, they did open up about their love of travel and how "The Amazing Race" was the trek of a lifetime.Shock and awe
Steve and Linda Cole are always up for an adventure.
They've traveled to Belize, Panama, Costa Rica and in the United States. They've also cruised the Caribbean and climbed an active volcano in Guatemala.
"I enjoyed the countries that are a little bit more impoverished," Linda Cole said. "It makes you really grateful for what you have and it makes you want to give and do more for others."
She supervises customer service representatives at a company in Martinsville, and her husband is a carpenter. They also have three grown children from previous marriages.
Both say they love seeing different places and meeting new people. "The Amazing Race" allowed them to do both.
"We were willing to do whatever it took to get on the show," said Steve Cole, 43. "It just meant that much to us."
He has been a fan of the series since it began, and applied in May 2008 for the couple to compete. They also made a three-minute video for the application process and, later, went through interviews in California.
The couple was ecstatic when they got the go-ahead to race.
"I was thrilled and shocked and scared and everything at one time," said Linda Cole, 52.
Her husband added, "There was so much excitement, but it just didn't click what we were doing until we were actually racing."
They also had to keep their journey hush-hush from friends and family, except to inform a few in case of an emergency and for legal purposes.
"That's one of the hardest secrets I've ever kept," Linda Cole said.
The Coles say another cool thing about the competition was meeting Mel White, a fellow Virginian.
White, 68, is a gay activist, clergy member and founder of Soulforce, a gay-rights group. He raced with his son, Mike White, 38, a filmmaker and actor whose work includes writing and starring in the 2003 comedy "The School of Rock." Mike White lives in California.
Mel White had watched the show occasionally, but it was his son who applied to compete.
Mel White, who jokes that he felt like "Father Time" during the race, said he was grateful to share the experience with his son.
"Mike said to me, 'Dad, we want to win. We want to compete and do the best we can.' "
But there was a catch.
His son told him if they weren't enjoying the race, they should stop.
"That was his rule from the beginning, and it was a perfect rule," Mel White said.
The father and son have traveled together before, including on family trips to Hawaii and China.
"Travel, to me, it's like learning a language. It opens up another world," Mel White said. "Going across the world has changed me for the better."Expect adventure, drama
Now, the contestants and their family and friends are eager to see the show.
"We know what they filmed. We don't know what they will show or won't show," Linda Cole said. "A lot of it is going to be a big surprise for us, as well."
The couple can also relive the adventure.
"The experience, in itself, is just incredible," Steve Cole said. "I'm so thankful that we were given the opportunity."
The Coles and Mel White also believe viewers will be fascinated by the racers.
Teams included brothers who are stunt men, flight attendants, Harvard lawyers, former NFL cheerleaders and the show's first-ever deaf contestant and his mother.
"They're all fantastic," Mel White said. "I think the audiences will just love these teams."
They also promise a lot of excitement.
"I think this season is the most dramatic," he said. "The things we did no human on Earth would be asked to do them, and we did them. And they were fun."http://www.roanoke.com/extra/wb/194129