Jul 11, 2011

Expedition Impossible Behind the Scenes #2 and 3

Episode #2

As promised, here is some more of the backstory on Expedition Impossible. Things have been pretty hectic lately—the second episode aired during the opening ceremonies of the No Barriers Summit and I was giving a talk in London as the third episode aired—so I’m combining these reports.

When we picked up our Arabian stallions at the start of the stage, you saw Jeff get thrown from his horse. Ike told me what happened but I didn’t realize that Jeff landed on his back until the footage was aired. That’s pretty good reaction from my bud…a split second after taking a hard spill, he pops right up and shouts “New horse!” and then runs off into the woods in search of a less spirited animal.

I have to say that I was pretty nervous about the seven miles of horseback riding! Since I am blind, if I get thrown off, I can’t see the ground coming up. I could easily land on a rock, or twist my ankle, or crack my kneecap in a fall. Not only could I be out of the race but possibly out of commission forever.

Because he was the most experienced rider, Ike would go out in front of me providing directions and Jeff would ride behind providing micro-adjustments while I was trying to control my horse. We got up to the point that we were galloping in places, which is quite exciting. It’s actually a smoother ride than trotting but it’s also kind of scary as I’m flying past trees and rock walls. Some of the horses were tripping and stumbling on the trail too, so it isn’t like you can totally trust them.

One time, a horse from another team started snapping at my horse, which made it twitchy. Fortunately, I was ready for this because two weeks prior to the race I was training on a horse in Colorado and it threw me when another horse went to bite him; my horse jumped right and I fell off to the left on a gravel road. I’m glad I went through the pain of scraped knees and a sprained ankle back home because I was ready for my uppity Arabian stallion.

Leave it to Hollywood to greatly exaggerate reality. In the second show, they made a big deal about my being “abandoned” by our team. The truth is Jeff and Ike were never more than 50 feet away and I was in no danger whatsoever. Before they dashed off to deal with the water bucket challenge, they said, “Hey Erik, watch the packs.” Which is often what happens when you’re blind. It’s sort of like when I was a kid, my Mom would say something like, “Eddie you sweep the leaves up in the backyard, Mark go pick weeds, Erik, uh, go take a bath!” It was a bit of that kind of moment and my teammates were trying to think quickly and they couldn’t think of a roll for me.

But we did accidentally violate a 20-foot rule, so the field judges made Jeff and Ike dump their bucket of water on the ground and come back with me. Here we got lucky because they also found a watertight bucket that let us solve the challenge in a singe trip while the other teams needed two.

The four-mile section of boating in the rubber duckies was pretty tame, though it sounds like some teams may have struggled. And we didn’t have any real problem solving the lantern challenge. The next two miles to the camp, we were neck and neck with the Football Players and Fab 3. It was rugged terrain, which slowed me down quite a bit, and both teams eventually passed us.

While blindness hampered our team, brains gave us a third place finish. Jeff showed some amazing navigation skills when he spotted a gap in the stone wall. He shouted, “That could be it!” and cut right, with all of us running hard. We beat the Football Players by mere seconds! And Fab 3 trailed in several minutes later.

Episode #3

Groan. More camels! And not just any camels, these were much bigger and nastier than the first ones we encountered. When we got to the camel station, we opted for some slightly smaller camels in the hopes that they would be tamer. Instead we discovered they had small-guy syndrome and compensated for lack of size with wildness.

I took the ride of my life when my camel, whose legs were hobbled, became hell bent on bucking me off. He was tilting back and forth, dipping his head down, reaching back to bite me, spitting, and letting out this guttural roar—I barely hung on and avoided getting thrown onto my head!

I’ll admit to having a small panic attack. Jeff says it was the most freaked out he has ever seen me which, considering we climbed Everest together and have been on countless other adventures, is quite a statement. When I’m biking, kayaking, climbing, or skiing, I have a sense of control. But the animals during this race were unpredictable and downright dangerous. After that, we made a team decision to lead the camels instead of trying to ride them for the 3.8 miles to the olive mill. I would rather run twenty miles through the desert than get back on one of those beasts again!

Assembling the raft out of the barrels wasn’t much of a challenge. And it didn’t take us long to figure out an efficient system for paddling and steering into the nasty headwind. Just hunker down and get ‘er done.

At this point in the competition, we are starting to get to know some of the other teams. Sure we race hard all day but spend time together at night talking and telling stories. Sometimes we cooperate, like when the Gypsies helped us out after Ike’s GPS went on the fritz during this stage. The Country Boys proved themselves to be true country gentleman as well. After the rafting section, we had about a mile of off-trail running in our wetsuits to the camp. When I arrived, I was exhausted and covered with hundreds of stickers from the bushes. One of the Country Boys pulled me aside, got down on his knees and started pulling the stickers out of my wetsuit—it was such a nice gesture of kindness.

It seems the majority of the challenges are stacked against Team No Limits since I can’t help with things like counting snakes, finding hidden objects on a map, or solving the scroll-a-pole. Thankfully, Jeff and Ike have been up to the tasks so we haven’t lost any critical amounts of times…unlike some teams.

The next day’s decision to take the 4.1-mile riverbed instead of the 3.3-mile brutal hike was a no-brainer. The two teams that decided to take the “short cut” paid a heavy price. We were psyched to come in second and it’s now becoming obvious which teams are in the race for the long haul.

Next up…the Atlas Mountains. I think our chances are pretty good! Please leave a comment on how you like Expedition Impossible so far.


Jeff’s blog: http://mountain-vision.blogspot.com/

Gypsies blog: http://www.themoderngypsies.com/blog/


  • Hi guys,

    I felt compelled to tell you what an inspiration you all are to me. I’ve recently needed inspiration in my life and you all have provided that! From what an individual can accomplish to what a group of friends can accomplish where the sum of the group becomes greater than each individual’s contribution. I am so happy I witnessed what you guys did on this show! All three of you are amazing!

  • Your story and your team is amazing. The most incredible part of it all is your lack of complaining. I find myself daily complaining about mundane tasks and here you guys have the odds against you and your just rocking it out. I’ve been following each episode, I hope you guys win it all. Good Luck.

  • Erik–our whole family is following every episode, and we love reading your commentary after we’ve seen each one. Keep up the good work.

  • Erik, I was so sure Team No Limits would pass the Gypsies on Atlas Mountain! Did you guys hear the whole of Colorado cheering you on? Second place is still SWEET!! How do the 400 production crew members get around? They need an aggressive Arabian horse or spitting camel to help them haul camera equipment along the route, right? California Girls seemed pretty COLD in the last episode so I was wondering if they were just not equipped to keep warm. Can’t wait for the next episode and your next blog session.

  • Thanks Eric for the additional tidbits of information on the show. First, I think every team is full of individuals who are nuts! With that said, I am extremely impressed with all the individuals who are competing and I truly am shocked no one has quit. The title Expedition Impossible is fitting. It is a very good show. I enjoy the adventure but was very touched with the personal bonds that were made among the teams, which was apparent in the last episode. Please keep the “behind the scenes” info coming. It is really very interesting for those of us sitting on our couches and cheering the teams on. Go Team No Limits!

  • It’s great to hear your side of this, Erik. I’m glad you’re blogging it. I even had to forgive our buddy, Jeff, when you promised they didn’t really abandon you (so he owes you thanks, too LOL). My faith in your team is well deserved (I’ve read Jeff’s book) so regardless how a TV show ends up, I know that you three ar the real deal and you both inspire me daily to push it out of my comfort zone. I’m glad Jeff tweeted your link, I’ll keep an eye out for your updates…

    …And maybe I’ll try to cut Jeff a little more slack. But don’t bank on that ;)

  • Hello Erik! You guys are my favorite team! I’m really glad I found your blog, I loved reading this and look forward to future posts! I just can’t get enough of you guys or the show!!

  • Erik,
    My family and I are really enjoying seeing you on here.
    We have watched and read a lot of your stuff, and think that you are totally amazing. We are actually in the process of adopting a liitle blind girl, and we look at the situations and solutions you guys have for doing the things that you do so we get more of an idea of what we may run into.
    We were going to watch the show anyway, but when saw that you had a team on there we knew immediately who we were rooting for. Can’t wait to see tonight’s episode! No Limits, BABY!

  • Erik, I look forward to tuning into “Expedition Impossible” each week, mainly because of you!

    The situations that you and the other participants have encountered in Expedition Impossible are pretty intense, but you continue to hold your own with your athleticism and “go for it” attitude! No matter what the producers throw at you, you power through it, and rise to the top (similar to your approach to life itself)! You continue to be an inspiration to all!!!

    I look forward to watching team “No Limits” power through the Atlas Mountains on tonight’s episode. Kepp up the good work!

  • Erik,
    You are such an inspiration!! I am amazed at your attitude, and I love the sarcastic, comical flare you add to the program! The way you didn’t miss a beat when asked, ‘You got this one, Erik?’, on the snake challenge totally took the hearts of us viewers! Go team No Limits!!

  • Erik,
    Your team makes the show, primarily because you guys are very quick witted-there have been some great one liners that had me laughing on numerous occastions. Also, seeing how your team pulled closer together in adversity instead of falling apart like others, is a great example to all of us when we face our own challenges. Your blog is fantastic, I will definitely keep tuning in :)

  • Erik,

    I appreciate all that you do. Keep up the awesome work!

  • Haha. So you weren’t in the middle of nowhere then. Oh, Hollywood, Hollywood, Hollywood.

  • Amazing and inspirational show! No Limits is our favorite team, though all of the teams are great to watch. Everyone has such a great attitude and so much mental strength. Thank you for writing this behind the scenes blog. It seems as if the camera crew is undergoing the same challenges you are since we see so much from the trails you travel. How many cameras crews are there?

    • The entire production crew was about 400 people!

  • Thank you so much for showing me this show. My Thursdays are a wait of anticipation to watch the show. My friends and I have long conversations about it, too. (She’s a fan of the Football Players and Fisherman.) One thing: In the third episode, there is no way that everyone slept in that camp. There were not enough tents for sleeping, much less bathrooms, dining tents, or otherwise. I’m starting to wonder where you all really did sleep, and if you’re even allowed to tell us?
    I can’t wait to see how the mountain terrain turns out. And, although I know you’ve already finished, I can’t help but wish you good luck. I’m sure that it was nothing compared to the 7 summits.

    • The Four Seasons on the other side of the hill was really nice ;-)

  • As I told jeff and Ike via email you guys are so inspiring for myself and my son, who is mentally challenged. We have always been told he “will never do this or that” by many doctors and thanks to people like you he has learned that he can do a lot more than people realize. Thanks so much for being such an amazing roll model.

  • Thanks for the blog. I love to hear the behind the scenes stuff. I knew that your team had not abandoned you. It was good to hear you confirm that it was just “Hollywood.” I don’t like the way they edit scenes sometimes either. However, I’ve really enjoyed watching the show – especially the parts with you in them. I don’t know where you find your endless energy to accomplish all of these amazing feats. I love your positive spirit, Erik. Keep up the good work!

  • Erik!! I LOVE these behind the scenes reports! Not only are you a great story teller–you tell the bits that leave us with more than a smile–a real message. I’m looking forward to reading “The Adversity Advantage.” Thanks for being you, Ike and Jeff–thanks for being amazing men and upping the bar of brotherhood! Hope your wild Arabian and crazy camel days are soon past. Thinking of you having a panic attack under these circumstances, after having achieved so much elsewhere…kinda makes…me…look for a paper bag! Be safe, No Limits!

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