The Amazing Race Essay

This is an essay I wrote online on Facebook about a year ago. It has turned into something that people have to try and dig up from the archives whenever somebody goes on a rant about Flo and how she is the worst winner ever.

To make it easier for everyone, I have decided to paste that entry into its own blog post.

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Flo was a legend on so many levels.

1) Up to that point in reality TV, whether it be The Mole/Survivor/TAR, all reality TV winners showed an overall amount of diversity in terms of skill related to the show they had won. This is 2002. Everybody who had won showed respect towards the competition they were on and kept their personalities in check.

Flo is the first contestant to go against all of that.

a) She cried and threatened to quit throughout most of her season, intentionally dodging almost every Roadblock and nearly frightening task except skydiving.

b) She had extremely high expectations for Zach.

c) She went against her own romantic partner to hook up with another team (okay Tara did that too but the audience didn’t mind because Wil is not quite as noble as Zach), which hasn’t really happened before or since.

d) She was exactly like the AI ally from Goldeneye, Natalya. When you play Goldeneye, you cannot let Natalya drift more than ten feet away from you or else she will do nothing. Flo did this on multiple occasions where she waited for Zach to come back and walk with her away from obstacles.

e) She was willing to throw away the game just 24-36 hours before the finish line. . .and gets rewarded with the win? That’s not how reality shows are expected to work. The audience expects they can make sense of the victory.

2) Yet putting aside all of her insane antics, she still did well at some subtle aspects of the race.

a) She was responsible for having working relationships with many of the teams to help her and Zach get ahead. Zach wouldn’t have been able to do this.

b) She had a big linguistic advantage in Europe and Morocco which hilariously screwed over Andre/Damon.

c) She was never rude to locals or presented personality traits portraying xenophobia. Her disrespect was aimed squarely at Zach.

3) She was the first female winner in franchise history. Flo. Tiny, crazy, and non-enduring Flo is a pioneer for women in TAR. This is why I always found the notion of an all-female team winning TAR to be funny. Could two Flos racing together be the key?

I remember eleven year old me was pissed that Flo & Zach won. This was the season I was so excited about that I started -saving- my VHS tapes that I recorded Survivor and TAR on (it aired simultaneously with Survivor: Thailand where I also kept VHS tapes).

During one class in the sixth grade, we even watched the Heather/Eve boot.

Perhaps my favourite part about Flo’s victory is coming home from school the day after the finale to watch her interview with Caroline Rhea. For those of you who do not know much about her in the early 2000s, she was a massive Survivor and TAR fan.

Anyways, Caroline got Flo to say during the interview that she should have only 10, 000 dollars of the prize and Zach be assigned 990, 000 of it.

This, of course, inspired a parody article on Zach’s website TARFlies that people to this day think is completely serious, and claim Flo did in fact give all of her winnings to Zach. The website’s sense of humour went over their heads.

Flo was 23 years old when she won. Today she would be hovering around 38 years of age. I would love to see what she would be like if she raced again. Turning down TAR 11 was understandable due to circumstances, but Flo is one of those few old schoolers who I would love to see how she would change after such a long period of time.

P.S. Feel free to send me additional points for me to add into this essay. Thank you.

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Article and photos by Troy Gipps

For most of the year, wildlife activity peaks at the edge of days. At first glance one might surmise that wildlife lead a rather relaxed life, but all roads lead to winter and there is little time to spare. The beat of every wing and the step of every paw and hoof are purposeful actions driven by the change of seasons. At no time is the great race more visible than in autumn.

When Grafton’s hills are set ablaze by fall color and ponds and lakes begin to freeze up north the drumbeat quickens. Evidence can be seen all around us. Gray squirrels scurry in the seemingly endless pursuit of acorns. Brightly colored songbirds vanish, one by one, from backyard feeders. The rut propels bucks, which are solitary and elusive by nature, to chase does throughout the day. Beavers step up their pace of cutting and submerging tree limbs that will serve as their sole food source when winter locks them beneath ice. But one of the most the amazing visual spectacles signaling the approach of winter is the migration of waterfowl.

Across North America, tens of millions of ducks and geese are forced to fly south as freezing temperatures restrict their access to important food sources and limit the availability of open water upon which they spend the balance of their days. Flight birds from the north, pushed southward by cold fronts, join resident ducks and geese that are in turn pushed south by increasingly colder temperatures.

Grafton lies in the Atlantic Flyway so most of the waterfowl passing overhead originate from the Canadian Maritime Provinces, as well as northern New England. Lesser-known species of waterfowl from the Central Flyway will sometimes drift eastward through Massachusetts on their southward journey.

Look skyward in autumn as temperatures drop you will begin to notice larger and larger flocks of ducks and geese. Smaller ducks with fast wing beats that appear for only an instant as they pass over your part of town are likely wood ducks, which are arguably the most colorful of all North American waterfowl. Their speed and aerobatics truly impress. Flocks of larger ducks with slower wing beats are usually mallards or the lesser-known American black duck, which breeds in the Canadian Maritimes. The familiar green head of the male mallard and the unique markings and bright red-orange feet of the black duck are tough to see when birds are in flight, so size and wing cadence are the best way to identify these birds.

Although Canada Geese are increasing their year round presence in Massachusetts, they remain the most recognizable of all migrating waterfowl in our region. Typically heard before seen, the honks of these migrating geese can be heard from great distances and it sometimes takes a keen eye to spot their V-shaped flight formations as they pass by at impressive heights.

Sightings of Snow Geese over Grafton are rare, but increasing. They are bright white, as their name suggests, with black-tipped wings.

The Snow Goose breeds in large colonies on the Canadian and Northern Alaskan tundra, from the high arctic to the subarctic. There are three regional populations, one of which lies in the east, and their numbers have grown to such an extent in recent years that the birds are causing considerable damage to their limited breeding habitat.

Snow Geese are possibly the noisiest of all waterfowl. Their main call, made by both males and females, is a nasal, one-syllable honk. Distant calling flocks are reminiscent of a pack of baying hounds. Their flight call is a continuous chorus of shrill cries, hoarse honks, and high-pitched quacks, audible both day and night. For these reasons, you will likely hear Snow Geese before you see them.

Snow Geese typically fly at very high altitudes during their epic migrations so binoculars are often needed to get a good look at them. If you are lucky enough to see a flock land you will witness what looks like a bright white tornado of geese spiraling downward and spreading out in an ever-widening circle of hundreds, if not thousands, of Snow Geese.

The mantra of all wildlife in the face of winter’s approach is “adapt or flee”. So regardless of where your wildlife watching interests lie, autumn provides you with a front row seat to the greatest race of all.

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Troy Gipps is a freelance writer and photographer who resides in Grafton, Massachusetts. He serves as the Vice President of the Grafton Land Trust.

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