Commentary

Ray's Rai$ing Race Report

Rai$ing Race 2005 was a big success in terms of the money that was raised and the commitment of the entire community of Anderson, South Carolina. I'm sure that Kelly would be able to provide you with the details, but the Anderson newspaper stated it was over $65,000!
As far as all of us racers were concerned, the weekend was an opportunity to help out one of our "family" (Kelly) in her efforts to benefit such a great cause.
As far as all of us racers were concerned, the weekend was an opportunity to help out one of our "family" (Kelly) in her efforts to benefit such a great cause. In the process, we were able to reinforce old friendships and forge new ones. After a long 11-hour ride from Ohio, Deana and I went to a local restaurant where Kelly had arranged a Thursday evening welcome dinner for all the racers. We arrived to find Rob and Amber already there along with Bianca and, of course, Kelly. Soon Patrick arrived, followed by Gretchen and Meredith, and Jonathan and Victoria. Chuck and Ryan soon pulled up on their motorcycles. Uchenna had called me earlier to have me let everyone know that he and Joyce were held up at the airport and probably wouldn't make the dinner. We were told that Ron wouldn't be in until Saturday, so he also was missing.

It was so good to see and talk to our castmates and to meet others of our new fraternity. We hadn't seen Gretchen and Meredith or Patrick since the finale in New York and we really could spend much time with each other due to the media demands of that trip. This was literally our first time to sit down and talk since the wrap party in Miami. We also had another reason to celebrate on Thursday as it was Amber's birthday! All in all, a nice way to kick off our weekend.

We all had to get up early the next morning in order to do a local media tour and then to be ready to kick off the Rai$ing Race at the Anderson Civic Center. Kelly arranged for each team to have hosts that were available to shuttle us around as needed. Our first stop was at a country radio station (WSSL) in Greenville, SC. We had an opportunity to talk a little more in the waiting room as we took turns doing interviews. It was here that we had an opportunity to welcome Uchenna and Joyce, as it was the first time most of us saw them since the finale. From that station we all went our separate ways to do a little more media and to help promote the event.

Later that morning we ended up at the Civic Center to prepare to help send the Rai$ing Racers off. This was the first real taste that we all got of the excitement that had been building in Anderson concerning the fundraiser and the appearance of us racers. Let me say this, I experienced TARCon and was blown away by the attention thrown our way. This exceeded that experience simply because we received that attention EVERYWHERE we went, and for four days straight.

We signed autographs and took pictures with nearly everyone we encountered. We had the opportunity to sit down and talk to many of the people who paid to participate in the Rai$ing Race. This to me was very interesting as it gave us a chance to hear the impressions of so many fans of the show.

I remember one instance where Gretchen and I sat down on the floor with a group of racers who were waiting for their group to start. We answered questions about our common experiences and it was the first time we both gave our perspectives on the "rivalry" that we .... well, I..... supposedly had with them. I was able to hear Gretchen tell them what they were thinking as they encountered Deana and me in the boats after we found the island. I then gave my take on the situation, and they were able to understand that race strategy, and not a personal vendetta, was the reason we misled them. They agreed that they would have done the same thing.
Uchenna and Chuck, among others also gave lots of tips to the racers (read your clues!!) as they were waiting to start. Rob and Jonathan also got into the act of pumping up the teams.
Uchenna and Chuck, among others also gave lots of tips to the racers (read your clues!!) as they were waiting to start. Rob and Jonathan also got into the act of pumping up the teams. At one point Uchenna and I decided to pretend to sign up as a team after hearing the wonderful prizes that Kelly had lined up. This really excited the teams as they thought they were going to get a chance to show their wares to us "experienced" racers. It was just an opportunity for all of us to finally get a chance to have fun with each other as well as with the people that were going to run this race.

All of us racers got the opportunity to welcome the teams to the mat on each of the five legs. As it turned out, Deana and I were paired with Gretchen and Meredith in welcoming teams on leg 3. This is not as easy of a job as it sounds. While it was awesome to pretend to be Phil (I got the raised eyebrow thing down pat), when the first teams came in, it was kind of traumatic to eliminate teams. Deana couldn't stand to say "those words" and Gretchen actually broke down and cried as she felt so bad for the five teams we had to eliminate, therefore the dirty work was left to me and Meredith. I have to admit that I was surprised that the reactions of the teams were very similar to our reactions. They obviously took this race as seriously as we did.

The weekend ended with a fantastic party at the civic center. There was a very big turnout and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. My band, The Classics, performed to a very warm audience and we invited Deana up to do a few songs with us. We met Miss South Carolina, Erika Powell, and exchanged autographs as she was a race fan. The party was the highlight of the weekend.
I have never signed so many autographs nor had my picture taken with so many people. They proved to us over and over again that southern hospitality is alive and well.
All in all, we had an excellent time and were treated very well by everyone we met. I have never signed so many autographs nor had my picture taken with so many people. They proved to us over and over again that southern hospitality is alive and well.

It was great to see so many of our cast and to strengthen bonds with each other:
Uchenna and Joyce have not let their fame or notoriety change them in any way. For example, they outbid everyone else on a basket of candy at the auction and just sat on the dance floor and handed out candy to all the children. They are good people and great friends.

Rob and Amber were very gracious with their many fans and I am continued to be amazed at how they can keep up the kind of schedule they currently have. They almost never get a chance to enjoy their new home and just relax. It was so good to catch up with them.

Chuck and Ryan are among the nicest people I have ever met. They were very eager to have us experience their part of the country and went out of their way to help make our weekend even better. They gave hilarious interviews making fun of their quick exit from our race.

We spent a lot of time with Meredith and Gretchen and it was not close to being enough. Meredith has a great but subtle sense of humor and he doesn't let me forget the "checkers" remark. Deana and I both feel a strong connection to them.

Bianca is a sweetheart. Let me say that I did not like her on the race, mostly because I felt her to be a big threat. I would do anything for her now. She has a very good heart.

Patrick was his same funny self. Although I don't think any bridges were mended, I did notice him and Amber talking to each other more than a few times. We sure missed Susan and I know it was killing her to not be there.

Ron showed up Saturday during the finale party and I got a chance to talk to him when we all went out afterwards. He seemed to have lost some weight and really seems to be enjoying life. Again he is a good guy and IMO an American hero.

Jonathan and Victoria. I'm sure many of you are curious of my opinion of them and I'll be happy to give it to you. Let me say that my nature is predisposed to like somebody until I'm proven wrong - personally. Also let me say that I missed most of TAR 6 so I don't have the same frame of reference that you all do. I am basing my judgments only on my experiences and interactions with them, of which there were many during those four days. Jonathan is an energetic person with a great love and understanding of reality TV. In knowing him as I do now it is difficult for me to picture him as a violent person, to his wife or anybody else for that matter. I had a good time verbally jousting with him about a variety of subjects and found him to be quite intelligent. He does not easily change his opinion and will debate a subject to death - just like me. Victoria is a sweetheart. I don't think she would be the type of person who would accept being mistreated. She seems to be way too self-assured and intelligent to allow that. My experiences with them were all positive and Deana and I like them both. I also respect that they came down, on their own dime, to help out.

That leaves Kelly. Kelly being depicted as a villain is kind of like Bambi being accused of attacking children. It's laughable. If that is the fact, it makes me proud that I was also a villain on TAR 7. Kelly has a heart of GOLD and is a beautiful person. She did a great job with the Rai$ing Race and I am proud to know her.

So there you have it, Rai$ing Race was a huge success and I will be back if it becomes an annual affair.