Julie and Lowell Taylor are determined to see as much of the world as they can before Lowell’s eye condition (Retinitis Pigments) takes away his sight forever. That was the prime reason the couple signed up for The Amazing Race Canada, even though they knew there was a possibility the could be eliminated first.
At it turns out, they made it through seven legs before a tough bubble soccer challenge in Kingston, Ont. tripped up the legally blind Lowell and the couple fell behind. They never caught up to the rest of the teams, but they still reached the elimination mat smiling and grateful for their experience.
We caught up with the couple to check in on Lowell’s condition now, to find out how his Paralympic dreams are coming along, and to learn what this couple’s secret is to staying so damned positive.
In your own words, what went wrong?
Julie: It was a number of things. To start off, the “keep on racing” from Hamilton, that was hard for us. I was nervous doing the race and busy so I never really ate while racing, so the Pit Stops were a chance to recharge and we never had that. Also we had just received a clue from our kids and that made me long for them even more. So we didn’t get that kind of emotional break either.
Then during the actual leg it was a very visual day so that proved to be a little difficult for us.
How did you guys prepare for those visual challenges heading into the race?
Lowell: We knew at any point in the race we could be out because of a visual task. We tried to pick our Detours and our Road Blocks as well as we could. We brought along a lot of light and screen readers and multiple pairs of glasses so we thought we’d get through anything but also realized we could be out at any time.
Lowell how is your eyesight now?
Lowell: So I have Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and my eyesight is slowly declining every day through my life. At this stage I’m completely night blind and I have very little peripheral vision so I only see through a tiny hole in the center of my vision. Looking at somebody’s face I’d only see their eye and I wouldn’t see their mouth. It’s pretty slim and then it’s hard to read small maps and other things, so Julie had to do all the navigating and map reading.
Have you heard from other people with RP since you’ve done the race?
Lowell: Yeah there is a big RP community; it’s one of the leading causes of blindness for people under the age of 50. And so a lot of people have reached out with family and friends that have RP or their children have it. This is giving them hope and inspiration, so The Foundation for Fighting Blindness, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the Sport and Recreation for the Blind, they’ve all been cheering along. It’s been really unique to connect to that community.
Are you planning any more trips on your own?
Julie: Well we have no more vacation time now. It’s used up for now! But for the future, Lowell is aiming for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics in track and road cycling, so that’s one goal. We would love to also travel more with our kids before Lowell loses more vision and our kids are still young enough to think we’re cool.
Lowell: We never made it to the East Coast on The Amazing Race Canada, which was part of our goal, so we have to visit the East Coast of Canada. We’ll visit Jillian and Emmett.
Is there anyone else you’re keeping in touch with?
Julie: All of them, actually. Even from previous seasons. We feel like Amazing Race is kind of a family and we’re part of this family now. If we travel the country we basically have somewhere to stay pretty much anywhere we went.
Other than the physical stuff what was the hardest part of doing this?
Julie: For me being away from the kids was the hardest part. I missed them every single day. Every break we had. The downtime, the travelling time… usually I was a puddle of tears. Lowell was my emotional and mental strength there.
As far as the actual physical challenges go we would have actually preferred more physical things like running and endurance and climbing and swimming and biking and that kind of stuff. We wanted more and longer. We thought we could have done a little bit more in those situations.
Lowell: The tasks were hard, we would have liked them to be really, really challenging to set us apart. They were doable but you had to be fast. They were hard for me because it takes us a little while to orient ourselves to what we’re doing, but with time and patience and perseverance we can get through anything. But we just didn’t have a bit of time in this kind of a race.
You guys came to the elimination smiling. You never fought like some other couples. What’s the key to keeping that positive attitude?
Lowell: We had the right perspective. Or, we’re out, so maybe not. But we came into it to enjoy the experience, to go from clue-to-clue and enjoy it and enjoy our company together, enjoy the experience. Every moment was about how cool it was. We tried to make jokes along the way and just really enjoy it.
Julie: It was never on our radar that we would even be in the final three. We never expected to win. We just wanted to be there as long as possible and we thought there was a distinct possibility that we could have been eliminated first. The fact that we survived seven legs and got to see and do all that we did was pretty incredible. Plus we knew that we’d be able to communicate with the boys after being eliminated and that was definitely the silver lining.
Lowell: We have a strong marriage and really honed communication after being together so long. We trust, love, and respect each other a great deal and we like to have fun together. So it comes out to make it a really enjoyable experience. We didn’t put our stress towards each other.
Julie: The most stressful part of the race was getting from Point A to Point B. That was difficult for us. We started slow, wanting to do the challenges right the first time. But once we got into them we knew what we had to do, we got the job done and that’s when we really got into the race and enjoyed ourselves.
What’s Jon Montgomery like when the cameras are off?
Julie: He’s super sweet.
Lowell: He is funny. He’s got unbelievable wit to him. There’s a lot of stuff we don’t see where we talk to him on the mat about the race and what was going on. It’s a really great way to debrief. He has a great way of asking the right questions. We had some tears together. He’s a really great guy.
Julie: He’s genuinely interested and interacting with the contestants and he shows his emotion. He teared up a few times on the mat with us so we appreciated him a lot.
Any advice for the other teams going forward?
Lowell: Be kind to one another! Have fun.
Anything to add?
Lowell: How appreciative we are for the experience to be cast. We know production and the whole team took a risk on taking the first legally blind person in any Amazing Race franchise, so for them to take the risk on us we’re so grateful. And we had an unbelievable time. We were treated amazingly well. This was an experience that we’re going to take away from the rest of our lives and be very appreciative of. We had an amazing time.
The Amazing Race Canada airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on CTV.