For UC Davis student Dallas Imbimbo, driving isn’t a problem. No matter where he is, he’ll find his way out.
His mother, Toni, will eat anything. “The Amazing Race“ was, as his friends call it, a no-brainer.
Imbimbo, a senior communication and psychology double major, competed in the latest season of “The Amazing Race“ last spring. The series is set to premiere on Sunday on CBS.
“The Amazing Race“ is a reality television show where contestants compete in races in various countries around the globe. Every team is composed of two members, each with some sort of pre-existing bond or relationship. The first-place team is awarded a prize of $1 million, and smaller prizes are awarded along the way.
Dallas‘ sense of direction has always been one of his prominent strong points, rendering him the full-time driver for the team. According to friend and UCD alumnus Jeff List, Dallas and his friends would often take random off-ramps throughout San Francisco in order to test Dallas‘ sense of direction. Toni, on the other hand, was designated to take charge of any eating competition, something they decided well before the race began.
“We had kind of that understanding going into it that she wasn’t touching the steering wheel,” Imbimbo said. “Any time any eating things came up, she was going to be the one doing it. I was like, ‘There’s no way in hell I’m doing that.‘”
Dallas and his mother Toni, who comprise the Bay Area team of the show, were chosen from a group of well over 100 other teams. The qualification process consisted of a written application and a simple introduction, recorded on the spot in a three-minute video. Thousands of teams tried out for the show nationwide.
Filming coincided with the end of winter quarter 2008. Dallas took spring quarter off for the show, conveniently making it back in time for Summer Session I.
“He didn’t need much preparation,” List said. “He’s kind of a character on his own. He’ll talk, he’ll never miss a beat, so when he’s in front of a camera he’s perfect for a show like that.“
“The Amazing Race“ is no walk in the park – the amount of physical exertion and endurance required to complete the race is substantial and was a significant factor in Imbimbo’s mental preparation before the race. He said that he did not put himself through any special conditioning before the filming, but after watching previous episodes he understood the importance of being able to carry his partner’s weight in addition to his own.
“Based off interviews I’ve seen in prior seasons, they don’t have time to eat too much food – only on planes,” Imbimbo said. “I knew I’d be losing a lot of weight, so if I lose it over time I’ll still have an advantage on other teams.“
However, most important to their team’s chemistry was Dallas and Toni’s long history together as a family. Toni raised Dallas as a single mother and was often the disciplinary force of the family. Moreover, Dallas‘ move to college limited their time together, and Dallas often spent his summers in Davis.
“Really, both of them together make a great mother and son kind of relationship,” said Ben Wang, a UCD alumnus who roomed with Imbimbo in his freshman year. “He’s a cool guy – you can get along with him really easily.“
“What was great about the race was that it was the first time we had to spend a lot of time together,” Imbimbo said. “It was cool to have a friend in this whole thing.“
In addition to the relationship he built with his mother, Dallas views the race as an educational opportunity for him, as the race took him to many third world countries and exposed him to poorer, impoverished cultures.
“You [can] see some pictures on CNN or National Geographic, but you actually don’t really know what it’s like,” Imbimbo said. “[In] going to these places, you see people that have nothing, and they’re the happiest people you’ve seen in your life. These people are so content with life – they can find happiness in anything. It brings you to peace with yourself.“
JUSTIN T. HO can be reached at email@example.com.