I am posting this here because there is a bit of spoilers from leg 2 in it.
B.C. couple among those battling the elements in Amazing Race Canada
I think for most people who work in the downtown area of Vancouver it is an automatic impulse to eagerly dole out directions to anorak-wearing, backpack-toting cruise ship passengers who look slightly dazed and confused.
But on a sunny day back at the beginning of May I had to stifle my desire to direct when it came to a young couple frantically trying to figure out which way to head through Gastown.
The confused couple was not from the nearby Something or Other Princess; they were a pair of Amazing Race Canada contestants trying frantically to find their way to the next stop on the Vancouver leg of the new Canadian version of the show that began airing on CTV on July 15.
"I planned that," said Jim Quan, the CTV PR guy as he and I were walking through Gastown just as a frantic Kristen Idiens and Darren Trapp appeared out of the blue.
As it turned out, the pair who hail from Fairmont in the East Kootenay, were scrambling to make up time after a cab driver left them in the wrong place.
"He brought us to Water Street, not Waterfront Street, second bad cab ride of the day," said Idiens at the end of the Vancouver day.
"We were looking for DP World, and he didn't know what that was."
Um, for the record, I didn't know what that was until I spent a day on location with Amazing Race.
It turns out DP World is the Burrard Inlet port area that houses those giant orange cranes that are used to put containers on ships.
The team from Fairmont is one of nine two-member teams that made the grade for the first Canadian version of the wildly popular reality race show. The nine-time Emmy-winning show first hit U.S. TV screens back in 2001, and since then there have been 12 international versions and it is seen in 80 countries.
The Canadian host is Canadian Winter Olympic champion skeleton racer Jon Montgomery and the 13-episode show has the teams covering around 9,000 kilometres of Canada in a bid to win $500,000.
"Let me tell you, there is nothing boring about Canada," said the show's executive producer and Insight Productions CEO John Brunton, responding to the comparison between the international scope of the U.S. show and the Canadian show.
"We have plenty of exciting options, challenging options. It's a killer situation because there is an expectation that you are going to be iconic and on the other hand this country has changed so much in the last 15 years. It is very much a multicultural experience."
The day I spent on set was not unlike most TV production sets in that things play out like this: There's a flurry of hurry-up-something-isabout-to-happen to hours of standing around eyeing the craft services table (in this case the fridge was sporting a handwritten sign that said "don't put back half eaten bananas") and making small talk to a 20-something tattoo-covered, headset-wearing PA.
In this case the waiting took place just off to the side of the entrance to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown. The square was abuzz with production people moving gear as well as moving locals out of the way as they explained to them that their morning Tai Chi was going to be replaced by a TV show.
Once in Chinatown the teams were given a choice between a memory/ calligraphy challenge or a traditional costumed lion dance, which involved a scavenger hunt of sorts through Chinatown.
"We are always racing to stay in front of the racers," said Brunton as we waited at the Chinatown location. "There are so many complications when it comes to running people through a city like Vancouver. From permits to getting people to agree to let us use their locations to the unpredictable nature of what the racers are going to do. You know, really anything can happen. So you need to be like elastic, stretching and shrinking, stretching and shrinking, non-stop."
From Chinatown, racers headed off to the DP World cranes before finishing the Vancouver leg at the Convention Centre.
"Sore, tired, but good," said Trapp after passing through the Pitt Stop. "It's so much fun. It's really challenging and really frustrating, there's lots of emotions, but that's life, right? It's cool to get past those frustrations and feel like we've worked hard."
"We have worked hard all the way through the frustrations and wanting to beat each other up a little bit," Idiens said. "We worked through it. We're still good, right?" she said, looking squarely at her partner in the show and life.
Trapp and Idiens are the only B.C entrants in the competition and on paper they look like the perfect pair to crack the Amazing Race code. They are young, super fit, resourceful adventure guides who are busy building a life off the grid.
"We kind of thrive on challenges," said Idiens. "I think the thing about sustainability is being resourceful and being able to work with whatever you've got or is thrown at you, and making that work for you."
That pioneer attitude is nothing but a good thing when it comes to the Amazing Race format.
"We didn't have a clue — they don't tell you anything," said Trapp about the race schedule.
"And it's awesome that way. You have no idea where you are going."
But while the racers are left in the dark, Brunton and his staff want no surprises. They even have backup plans for the backup plans.
"I don't think we have ever done a show that requires so many contingency plans," said Brunton, who added that the prep work is insane for this show.
"You make a mistake on our end and somebody just lost half a million bucks. We often say it's only television - we say that, but on this show it's not only television, it could change somebody's life."