Tuesday, 4 October 2005
The Amazing Race 8 (Family Edition), Episode 2
Lancaster, PA (USA) - York, PA (USA) - Washington, DC (USA) - Middleburg, VA (USA)
"Washington, City of Spies"
The Family Edition of The Amazing Race has barely begun, and already it's broken with the impression it was starting to create of squeaky-clean American patriotism, portraying Washington, DC, as a city of spies.
The racers join in their cloak-and-dagger games, taking a briefcase from an unseen stranger lurking in a limousine opposite the Capitol, and exchanging it for yet another mystery briefcase with whichever "operative" at the Tidal Basin gives the right response ("The sea is green") to the challenge phrase ("The sky is blue"). The best line of the night came from one of the extras playing non-agents: "The sky is blue?" "Yes, it is, isn't it" (spoken with a big smile). So much for security, or for call and response.
Thus far this season the racers haven't gotten on an airplane. That's a first, of course, for the previously "around-the-world" reality travel television show. But I wonder what would happen if they did try to travel by air with the closed briefcases handed them by the mystery men and women. "Has anyone unknown to you given you anything to carry on this flight?" Effective today, you won't be able to get on an international flight to or from the USA without telling both the airline and the USA Department of Homeland Security a long list of personal details including your date of birth, address in the USA, airline itinerary, and a "unique passenger identifier, or reservation number or Passenger Name Record (PNR) locator number". I'm feeling safer from the spies already. (Not.)
Map reading was the key in this leg of the race, and urban orienteering clearly should be part of any aspiring "Amazing Race" team's preparations. As one of the Linz brothers says, "Having this map's huge -- we can take all these back roads" when the Interstate highway is blocked with stop-and-go traffic. Which is true, but then the Rogers family goes awry by relying on a map that shows two highways crossing near York, which they do, where there turns out to be (or so the Rogers say) a partial interchange that doesn't include an entrance from U.S. 30 in their direction (there was some ambiguityy as to whether they were actually headed east or west) to I-83 South towards Baltimore and Washington.
The bottom line is that maps are valuable sources of information, but still only secondary sources.
Finding maps locally is hit or miss, with little rhyme or reason to how useful or easy to find they will be. I recommend bringing with you whatever maps you think are essential, particularly large-scale maps of countries and regions and any specialized maps you'll need for trekking or the like. I bring the best maps I can find, and I've never regretted it.
I've even been suspected of being a spy myself, or at least of possessing state secrets, because the map I had brought to China, although actually published in China, was so much more detailed than anything anyone i met had ever seen. (The Chinese post office wouldn't let me mail it home.) But what I say in the same book about guidebooks is equally true about maps:
If a guidebook says, "A bus leaves A for B every Tuesday and Thursday", that's a fair indication that it will be possible for you to get from A to B by bus, probably at least once a week. But you certainly shouldn't turn up in A on Monday, counting on there being a bus the next day. Nor should you blame the guidebook writer if there isn't. One of the most useless things to say to anyone is, "But it says here in this guidebook that..." The outsider who argues with reality, on the basis of a book, will be interpreted only as stupid, closed-minded, unwilling to learn, and/or contemptuous of local people.
Read the map, but don't forget to watch the road or you too, like the Rogers, could be eliminated.Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 23:59 (11:59 PM)