Based on the numerous sightings of Race observers around America, it appears that at least one of the fears that The Amazing Race fans voiced when CBS first announced its plans for a "family edition" that included children has come true -- the eighth edition of worldwide reality adventure competition has been dumbed down (at least geographically.)

Last week, Internet message boards began buzzing with claims that The Amazing Race 8 had begun filming. While there had been some vague earlier sighting reports that The Amazing Race 8 had already begun filming (sightings that clearly conflicted with the show's application information that had stated that filming wouldn't begin until after schools closed for the summer), according to the most credible reports, The Amazing Race 8 began its competition in New York City on Thursday, July 7. Although it is unknown exactly where in the city the competition began, at least three families of four were said to have been spotted in a sporting goods store on Broadway.

Later that same day, a Pennsylvania eyewitness reported seeing at least six teams re-enact George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River at Washington Crossing State Park. Adding further support to the credibility of the sighting report was New Jersey radio station 101.5FM, which broadcast a traffic advisory informing drivers that Hopewell Township's Washington Crossing Bridge had been closed to traffic due to The Amazing Race filming.

While it's not clear exactly where the teams went after that -- various unverified online eyewitness reports include racers being spotted near Washington D.C.'s Vietnam Memorial on Friday, Race host Phil Keoghan and three staffers boarding an United Airlines flight at Washington's Dulles Airport on Saturday, and more filming in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina on Monday -- the Huntsville Times newspaper picked up the show's trail on Monday, July 11.

According to a report in Wednesday's Times, two buses -- said to have departed from someplace in South Carolina -- pulled into the parking lot of the Huntsville-Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau in Huntsville, Alabama sometime after midnight on Monday night. Once the buses arrived, somewhere between "eight to ten" teams tumbled out of the buses and into a fleet of GMC Yukon SUV's that they then drove to the area's U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

While the Times reported that the Space Center's officials declined the show's request that they sign $10 million confidentiality agreements, most of the center's staff did apparently agree to keep quiet and not publicly comment on the filming. However, luckily for the newspaper, several sources did agree to detail what happened as long as their anonymity was assured.

According to the sources, once the teams drove to the Space Center, they participated in two activities -- one that involved riding the center's Aviation Challenge centrifuge astronaut trainer that generates 3-4 G's and another involving racing to the attraction's Rocket Park to collect clues about a computer station exhibit inside the museum. The pit stop location for the Huntsville leg of The Amazing Race 8 also apparently took place in or around the Space Center, after which the remaining teams spent their twelve-hour pit stop break at the Huntsville Marriott hotel. Once the twelve-hour rest periods ended on Tuesday afternoon, the teams reportedly took off for Talladega, Alabama -- a 2-3 hour drive.

Although The Amazing Race 8's competition is obviously still in its early stages, the competition's unprecedented decision to spend its first week journeying around the eastern United States (or, if another unverifiable sighting in Toronto is to be believed, the eastern part of North America) would seem to indicate that The Amazing Race's producers have decided to jettison the program's traditional transcontinental around-the-world (or at least mostly around-the-world) race course format. The locations that the teams have visited so far would also appear to add credibility to another The Amazing Race 8 rumor -- that the upcoming "family edition" will be a big summer "field trip" and "family vacation" of sorts, with many of the course's locations being historical or educational in nature.