7 Billion “Thank You” Notes

Josh and Brent at the finish line of The Amazing Race.

Originally published December 10, 2012. 

Our Moms taught us to always write “thank you” notes after receiving a gift. We met a lot of people traveling over 25,000 miles through 9 countries before winning The Amazing Race. And every single person who cheered us along, helped with directions, hugged us, gave us water, shared their food, sold us a plane ticket, drove us to the middle-of-nowhere, yelled at their TV set on Sunday nights, traded their plane seat so we could deplane quicker, pointed in the right direction, or just plain got out of our way to let us pass has earned our deepest gratitude.

As longtime fans of the show, we know there are as many different strategies for winning as there are people who watch the show. Before we embarked we reviewed many past seasons to try to find the “secret formula” for winning. We didn’t uncover one. So we fell back on the same three strategies we use in our everyday lives:

  1. Do the best you can at every task in front of you.
  2. Help your neighbor whenever you can.
  3. Don’t give up no matter how bad things look.

We have no idea if this is why we won. But we do know that this was how we raced.

What are we going to do with the winnings? Well, first, we’re going to pay off the mortgage on our farm so that we can live together full-time again after 5 years apart. Next, we’re going to invest in a building on Sharon Springs Main Street that will become the new home of Beekman 1802. And finally, we’ll be launching a new line of food products named after a 1929 Heirloom Tomato – “The Mortgage Lifter.” 25% of its profits will help other small American farmers pay off their debts.

Looking back after this exhausting and exhilarating journey, it seems appropriate that it culminated in that very difficult final Amazing Race challenge. “Hello” and “Goodbye” are perhaps the most important words we need to learn as human beings, and we should all try to learn them in as many languages as possible. But along the Race, we also learned nine equally valuable ones:

Xie Xie, Terima Kasih, Dhanyabad, Sagolun, Spasibo, Dank je, Gracias, Merci & Thank you.

And here’s who we would like to say them to most:

CBS & The Amazing Race Production Team. Thank you for giving us this opportunity. As longtime fans, we knew how beloved this show is in America. But we had no idea how beloved it is around the globe until we raced with you. You’ve had a larger impact on this world over the past 21 seasons than most diplomats. You’ve taught Americans about hidden corners of the world, and you’ve taught hidden corners of the world about Americans.

We’ll always remember something one of the producers said right before the race began. She explained that we’d be racing through some very remote places in this world, and for some of the people we meet along the way, simply having a big TV production include them in their show might be one of the most memorable moments of their lives. She reminded us that while we might be focused simply on making it to Phil as fast as we could, that we were representing America every (hurried) step of the way. We hope that we represented you, and America well. Thank you for giving us that chance.

And because here in Sharon Springs we’ve learned that the best way to thank your neighbor is with baked goods, this past weekend we baked gingerbread men for each of our closest neighbors on the race – our fellow Racers:

Two gingerbread men.

1. Rob (CEO Lumberjack & groom) & Shelia (CMO & bride): Perhaps our first “fun” experience on the race was joking with Rob and Shelia about catching the “slow plane to China.” Their shared sense of fun and perspective is exactly why they are so successful in their lives and also why they’re such a perfect couple together. Congratulations on your wedding this past summer, you are a beautiful team.

Two gingerbread men.

2. Amy (self-described “Fembot”) and Daniel (Executive Director of Adaptive Action Sports Organization)  There hasn’t been a more inspirational team in the history of The Amazing Race than this couple. After all the life challenges and successes these two have shared, it’s easy to wonder why they would have chosen to take time out of their busy schedules to take on this particular challenge. And the answer is: because every challenge they overcome inspires millions more to attempt their own. And the world becomes a better place. Please check out their organization and donate.

Two gingerbread men.

3. Caitlin & Brittany (The Blondes)  It’s always unfair that strong and smart female teams always seem to have their description reduced to “the blondes.” It’s especially unfair in the case of these two. Watching them sprint past the best male athletes on our race struck fear in our hearts on Day One.  Don’t let the snorting fool you…beauty can be deceiving, and these two proved it many times over.

Two gingerbread men. 

4. Will & Gary (Jack & the Beanstalk) – These two great guys will have a greater impact on the world than all of the other Racers combined. For years, they’ve used the Amazing Race as teachers to help students learn more about the world they live in. And this year, they were able to use their first-hand experience to inspire kids to become better and more knowledgeable global citizens. That makes us all winners. Please donate on their behalf to Make-A-Wish Michigan, Wish A Mile to help them continue their good works.

Two gingerbread men.

5. Rob & Kelley – (Monster Mohawk, Mega Smile) Rob & Kelley are two of the most accomplished Racing couples on this season. You’d never know it to look at her, but Kelley is a champion rodeo rider, and Rob is a world-famous Monster Truck competitor. These two are tough…but, as Rob said: “all heart.” One of the most rewarding things about the race was that we got to spend a lot of time with folks with whom our paths would’ve likely never crossed…and we’re so very fortunate that ours did. We both learned a lot from each other. An incredibly kind couple.

Two gingerbread men.

6. Abba & James – (The Rockers) These guys had perhaps the best perspective on the race. And maybe life. Whether way out in front, or stymied by bad luck, James and Abba kept going with great humor and humility.  We learned a lot from how these two accomplished men approach the world, and will always remember their attitude, fortitude, and style.

Two gingerbread men.

9. Trey & Lexi – (Team Longhorns) Seriously…step back in time to the moment before you’d taken your first trip overseas. Now imagine that version of you going on “The Amazing Race.” We don’t care how intelligent, athletic, or competitive you are…going on the Race without any travel experience is the ultimate underdog position. And they didn’t just do well…they made the final three! It’s incredible. And bodes well for how insanely successful these two will be at everything they try in their lives. We’re so proud to know them and proud of all the pair have accomplished in life already, including the business Lexi helps run with her mom.

Two gingerbread men.

10 Jaymes & James – (Chips) We know what it’s like to be underestimated. Even with their incredible physicality, J & J knew that many folks would write them off immediately as mere eye candy. But this candy didn’t only look good…it was good for you. For everyone watching, in fact. We don’t know how they did it, but they were in good humor every single moment of the Race. Jaymes and James are models of positivity in the face of competitive and personal adversities. 

And finally…thank you. And you. And you and you and you.

You know why.

We heard you cheering all the way around the world.

And we really needed it.

And it worked.