“The Amazing Race,” the globetrotting CBS reality series where teams of two race around the world for a $1 million prize, has had a number of excellent competitors but few as memorable as Colorado Springs natives and mother/son team Margie O’Donnell and Luke Adams. Margie and Luke, a 2003 graduate of the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, have been an inspiration to many, including CBS producers who have cast the mother/son pair for a third go around. The duo will again take on the Race, this time in an All-Star season, beginning this Sunday. Margie and Luke recently talked to the Gazette about their experience.
Gazette: What lessons have you learned from the previous times you’ve been on “The Amazing Race?”
Margie: I think what we’ve learned from the previous shows is to try and be a little more patient with each other. Communication is kind of an issue with us. Luke gets a little impatient with me because I don’t sign fast enough and I get impatient with him because he wants the information really quick. So we really tried very hard to be more patient with each other this time.
Luke: Memorize and study everything on the Race. Not being able to remember the final picture puzzle in our final challenge on our first season was my biggest blunder for not winning the million dollars. Also, read the clues carefully. It can be pretty tricky so we want to make sure we take our time and understand the clues.
Gazette: What teams on this season do you see as your biggest competition?
Margie: We went into this race thinking everybody was our biggest competition. Everybody had experience. Maybe you could say the Cowboys and the Globetrotters because they’ve been on twice before. But being a fan of the show myself and watching the teams that we’re competing against this time in previous seasons, Luke and I just felt that anyone can win the race so we really thought of everybody as major competition. You really can’t rule anybody out.
Luke: The Cowboys and Harlem Globetrotters. We competed with them once before. They know our strengths and weakness and it would be so tough to beat them in a foot race. Also, one of our biggest concerns is that we’re a three-peater, which gives other teams more reasons to U-Turn us at some point on the Race. We definitely do not want that to happen.
Gazette: What’s the biggest surprise about competing on “The Amazing Race” that nobody knows about?
Margie: I don’t think people realize how little sleep you get, how long the flights or train rides are or how long it really takes to get from point A to point B. People see you at the airport and then they see you arriving. They don’t understand that you were just on an 18-hour flight. On season 18 we were on a flight that was supposed to be 18-hours but we got diverted to Hawaii because a man on our flight had a heart attack and we were on that plane for like 21 hours. People also ask, “Were you gone for four months?” And I’ll say, “No, 21 days.” I think season 14 was 24 days but we’re on the road for only three weeks from start to finish. People are always surprised by that.
Luke: There are some people on our races that knew some sign language and fingerspell. It was really nice to have some people that I could sign to. I really appreciate them for their effort to communicate with me on the Race. I wish that the moments were shown on TV, it would be cool for people who have no knowledge of sign language. It would open their eyes. I hope there some moments where racers and I got to sign to each other will be shown on this season.
Gazette: When you make a pit stop do you get any time to see anything that’s not aired?
Margie: No. We only have a set amount of time during a pit stop. It might be eight hours it might be twelve hours and during that time you have to have meals, do interviews, get your laundry done, and get whatever sleep you can get during that time. So no, there’s no time for sight seeing.
Luke: We never really get to explore the area during the pit stops. The pit stop is usually a very short break from racing. All we want to do is just to sleep.
Gazette: There haven’t been too many mother/son teams on “The Amazing Race.” What are the challenges a mother/son team face that other teams don’t?
Margie: Even to this day, I’m always surprised by how grown up Luke is. In my head he’s still a teenager. So the challenge, for me, is the realization that he’s an adult, capable of making his own decisions.
Luke: Our relationship is just so unique that we have so many advantages that other teams doesn’t have. We can communicate with each other with our facial expressions, which helps us a lot. There’s only one big disadvantage we have to face together, communicating with each other while one of us is driving and one of us has to sit in the back to navigate the maps. It can be so tough at times. We actually won the leg on our first season the one where we had to drive ourselves so we just need to be careful when we have to communicate to each other in car and not get in the accident.
Gazette: Margie, you live in Colorado Springs. How often do people come up to you and ask you about your experience on the show?
Margie: I get recognized by myself right after a show airs but over time I don’t. People will look at me and go, “Were you my son’s third grade teacher?” They don’t know where they know me from but if I’m with Luke, we get recognized all the time. He’s the unforgettable character; he gets recognized quite often and is a superstar in the deaf community. So when we’re together it happens quite frequently.