By People Staff
January 23, 2008 12:00 AM
Robert Voets/CBS

The Amazing Race 12 winners, TK, 22, and Rachel, 23, the dating substitute teacher and florist from Huntington Beach, Calif., deserve to be called comeback kids. Throughout the race, they lost a clue in Italy, took the wrong flight from India to Osaka, Japan, and even faced a speed bump penalty. Still, this couple, referred to by other races as “the luckiest team,” managed to keep it together where it counted and take home the $1 million prize.

Father-daughter team Ron and Christina (runners up) had dominated the last two legs of the race, but it was a tricky Road Block at Goose Lake Park in Anchorage, Alaska that would inevitably determine the the winner. While a puzzle would seem an easy win for Christina, a 26-year-old policy analyst from Washington D.C., it would be Rachel, and her detailed race journal, that would inevitably give her team the winning edge.

PEOPLE congratulated the beach-lovers from Southern California to find out how close the race was in the final moments, how Rachel solved that riddle of a Road Bock — and what exactly does TK mean when he told us how he doesn’t see a future without Rachel in it? –Jed DrebenCongratulations! How does it feel to win The Amazing Race?TK: It’s a little surreal but it’s been a blast — unbelievable!

Rachel, how long did it take you to do the puzzle at the end and how much of a lead did you have at that point?Rachel: Well, it took me about an hour but I’m not sure how much of a lead we had because I don’t know how long Ron and Chris left after us. But once we got to the Pit Stop, the finish line, they came in about 20 minutes after us.

And that puzzle just came together for you? Rachel: I had tried a bunch of times and I had already called them over and been wrong. And, finally, what ended up clicking and made it all work, was that the person was an animal. That’s what worked! TK: We, actually, were really fortunate. They didn’t show it but Rachel kept a detailed journal of the whole race. We knew that on the last leg there was usually a task that had something to do with the whole race together. So our entire flight from Taiwan to Alaska, we were just reading her journal over and over and basically going over what we had done — what country, the order of countries, what we did in each country — and so it definitely paid off.

What has this done for your relationship? Rachel: It’s wonderful! We’re still worrying about each other and working together and growing and we’re really good. TK: Before the race, I had all these intense, over-the-top feelings about Rachel and our relationship. We’d only been together for a short time, so I always felt a little uneasy or silly expressing those things. But going on the race and having such ups and downs — the sleep deprivation and food deprivation and the fact that we were able to keep it together — in my mind, in a weird way, justifies the way I’d already felt for her.

How will you divide your winnings?TK: Well, half of it is hers and half of it is mine, so that’s the way that’s going to go. But I don’t see a future without her in it, so, who knows what will happen down the line.

So you may not have to divide the winnings! Any news you want to share with us?TK: No, no, we’ve been getting the marriage question and we both see it as something that I suppose could happen in our future, somewhere down the line, but we’re definitely not rushing into everything.

You guys have the money now, what’s changed in you and what’s next for you?Rachel: My parents own a flower shop and I’ve been working there everyday for the last three years and I go to school and so I’ve never really had that opportunity to take a break and maybe go traveling. TK: She hit it right on the head. Rachel’s always been a bit of a work-a-holic, so I’m excited that we have a good reason to justify taking some time off work and hopefully getting some good traveling in. The part of the race that had the largest impact on me was witnessing poverty in India and Africa firsthand, and it really put things in perspective in my own life. We came home and realized how much stuff we had. And it just really makes you grateful for what you have and makes you question things.

Did you pick up any souvenirs along the way? TK: That’s a good question. We fell pretty far behind and that’s how we ended up with the Speed Bump and everything. So we had a 5-hour layover in India, which was the reason, and for 100 Rupees, which is basically like one dollar, we bought like a little Indian good luck charm. Rachel: A tiny brass figurine. TK: And we were both talking, “If we make it through this thing, we definitely owe something to this little good luck charm.”

Robert Voets/CBS

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