Contestant in French 'Amazing Race' journeys through Milton


Iím an avid reality game show fan but I've never taken the time to imagine how I would react as a contestant on shows such as "Survivor," "Fear Factor" or "The Amazing Race."

Although I still can't say Iíve eaten a scorpion or hitchhiked through a foreign country to win thousands of dollars, I did play a small role in a French couple's journey on their version of "The Amazing Race" ó "Pekin Express" ó which is set to air in April.

On Tuesday night the Press Gazette received a tip that the French version of "The Amazing Race" was heading through Milton. Over the police scanner Wednesday afternoon we heard the Milton Police over by Berryhill Road and Dogwood Drive telling people that it is illegal to hitchhike.

When I drove over to the intersection, there were three people each paired with a cameraman asking for rides. Knowing that it was for the show, I decided to help one of the friendly, yet rushed French women. Her name was Julia and her cameramanís name was Virgile.

Julia had been separated from her boyfriend for the challenge and had to find a way to Montgomery ó one of the checkpoints for the day.

Although I couldnít take her the entire way, Julia tossed her backpack in my car and hopped in the back seat, Virgile sat in the front and we were off, hoping to catch up to a contestant that was ahead of her.
Julia, 29, is from Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean Sea. She works in sports communications in France.

So far the show has traveled through Cuba, Mexico and New Orleans. The show will end in Miami with the winners earning 100,000 euros, or about $135,000. Julia said if she and her boyfriend won, they would use the money to purchase land or a house in France.

Julia attended college in France and spoke English and Spanish, but one of the other teams still in the competition only spoke French.

"Is it OK to say 'can you give us lift,?'" Julia asked, hoping to find the appropriate way to ask for a ride. She said it had been difficult to find people to give her rides in the U.S. In France, she said, hitchhiking is very common.

Julia said the contestants are only given one euro per day for food and typically only eat early in the morning and late at night because they are busy during the day.

She talked about a few of the challenges she's had to do for the show so far, such as eat bull testicles, extremely hot peppers and cactus, build a 3-meter-tall tower with cigars, and do an obstacle course on the beach.

"I thought I was going to catch on fire," she said of the hot peppers. "But we ate it all."

After winning a different challenge on Tuesday, Julia was allowed to stay at a ranch in Milton. The other contestants had to find locals that were willing to let them stay in their homes for the night.

Virgile, her cameraman, has been on the camera crew for three years, traveling to places such as Africa and China in previous seasons.

This is the ninth season for the show and the teams started in Cuba on Jan. 8. The show had an average of 3.3 million viewers in the eighth season.

While I would have loved to help Julia make it all the way to Montgomery, I had to drop her off at a gas station slightly north of I-65. Luckily, the first man we spoke with at the gas station was traveling to Montgomery, so Julia and Virgile quickly hopped in his car and they were off on another leg of their adventure.

Before leaving she gave me a hug and said "thank you so much for all your help." While driving back to Milton I tried to imagine how many people she has met on her journeys through the past month. She's had to rely on the generosity of strangers to find places to sleep and get to check points. The plaid shirt she was wearing Wednesday was even given to her by people she stayed with the night prior.

Had I been in her place, I'm not sure I would make it as far as she had - it seems stressful and exhausting. I suppose I would be a more fitting candidate for "Wheel of Fortune" or "Jeopardy."

But as a small role in Julia's journey, I wished her the best of luck and sent her on her way.