BROTHERS UNITED: Erwin Cho (left) and his brother Godwin go for a run at Lake Merrittin Oakland. The brothers competed in CBS’ "The Amazing
BROTHERS UNITED: Erwin Cho (left) and his brother Godwin go for a run at Lake Merritt in Oakland. The brothers competed in CBS' "The Amazing Race," helping two underdog teams advance. They also founded a Web site called alittlekarma.com to help others. (Ray Chavez - Staff)
FEELING A LITTLE BIT like an "Amazing Race" competitor, I scanned the area around Lake Merritt at Lake Shore and Grand avenues, searching for the clue box.

Um, make that searching for Erwin and Godwin Cho — or as fans of the Sunday night reality show have come to know them — the Cho Brothers. Those wacky men made an instant impression when they arrived the first day armed with squirt guns, plastic roaches and a faux cell phone.

The funsters quickly gained a solid reputation as genuine nice guys who helped out two weaker teams: David and Mary from Kentucky and single moms Lyn and Karlyn from Alabama. Soon the teams were known as the Six Pack.

When David and Mary had to come in first to avoid elimination, the Cho brothers made it happen. Although the affable Kentucky couple were eventually eliminated, the Chos say no one was happier when the women of "The View" showered Team Kentucky with gifts ranging from a new home to lush vacations.

Alas, Erwin Cho of Kensington and Godwin Cho of San Francisco were eliminated on the show that aired Nov. 19. Fans bemoaned the fact that had the two not been so self-sacrificing, they might have actually won the million dollars.

Across the lake I could see the unmistakable trademark ponytail of Erwin, who was standing next to his brother talking to a group of women

joggers. Could they still be asking directions?

Nope. The brothers were talking about their latest venture: A Web site called alittlekarma.com. The site offers a place where budding artists can sell their work, and the Chos can turn around and use a portion of the profits to fund acts of kindness.

Makes you go all warm and squishy, especially with the holidays right around the corner.

The brothers say they had always wanted to create and run a business together, but it was their experiences filming "The Amazing Race" that made them want to do something more with their lives.

Both Erwin, 32, who has degrees from UC Berkeley, Princeton and Harvard, and Godwin, 29, who holds degrees from the University of San Diego, New York University and a fellowship from Princeton, worked for Blue Shield when they decided to go on the show.

After taping "The Amazing Race," the two decided to quit their jobs and move on to their new business venture.

"That fueled the rumors that we had won the race," Erwin says. "Everyone kept asking us, 'Is there something you want to tell us?' But the truth is that the million would be split in half, and then after taxes you wouldn't even be able to afford to buy a garage in the Bay Area."

No, they didn't win "The Amazing Race." But the

brothers, who grew up near Lake Merritt, where their mother ran a dry cleaning store, discovered during the race that life was more than sitting in a cubicle all day.

"When we were in these countries, we realized that there is an amazing world out there," Godwin says. "And we decided to evaluate our lives and do something that enriched the lives of others."

The two had always wanted to work together, doing something that inspired others to perform their own acts of kindness.

But the Chos weren't sure if they could actually get along well enough to do that.

"We realized that if we could get along with each other and work together after getting very little sleep and very little to eat during the race, we could probably work in a company together," Erwin says. "We tell people that while we did argue during the race, we were so boring the producers wouldn't air it. It was like, 'I disagree with you, but you make a good point.'"

And they were deeply impacted by the kindness of strangers during their journey.

"We would get help everywhere," Erwin says. "There was a Mongolian man who helped us get our car running and then followed us to make sure we got to our destination. Then there were these young teenagers on a soccer team who stopped to help us push our car out of the mud."

One of the more famous lines in this season's "The Amazing Race" was spouted when the Chos were waiting patiently in line for a cab when their "partners," the Alabama moms, jumped in front of everyone and stole a cab. 

"Sometimes," Erwin Cho said in that episode. "Being polite sucks."

Yet, they soldiered on.

They said they had no regrets about the way they played the game, even now when they can hear the often unkind remarks made about them by their former "Six Packers" Lyn and Karlyn.

"You have to understand that we never heard what they were saying about us until we watched the shows, so I guess hindsight is 20/20," Godwin says. "But we still wouldn't have done things differently."

And how about the blonde Barbies? Are Dustin and Kandice the beauty queens as bad as the show makes them out to be?

"I say they are not bad people, they are just a bad act," says Erwin.

"Don't hate the sinner, hate the sin," chimes in Godwin with a laugh.

Godwin reveals that there were several times when the girls physically pushed him aside to get in front.

"But I wasn't about to push back a woman, especially on TV," Godwin says.

"Yeah," says Godwin. "It's always the second person who gets caught."

And they say that racer Peter — teamed with acquaintance Sarah, who has a prosthetic leg — got a "rough edit" on the show.

"He's a generous guy who has opened his home to us and others," Godwin says. "He and Sara were not a couple, and she wanted to show what she could do. He's an Ironman. He could do anything we were asked to do and more."

Erwin, who admits that he had an extreme fear of heights entering the contest, says it wasn't the heights that got to him. It was the challenge of putting a large rubber band around a crocodile's jaw.

"I saw this croc move four or five people several feet," Erwin says. "I couldn't figure out how an old rubber band was going to keep his jaws closed."

It was indeed, the adventure of a lifetime. And one that the Cho brothers hope will be a springboard to their next venture: serving up a little bit of kindness in this world.

"The Amazing Race" airs the penultimate episode at 8 tonight on CBS-Channel 5, with the

finale airing next Sunday.

Go to http://www.alittlekarma.com to learn more about the Cho brothers latest adventure.

You can reach TV critic Susan Young at (925) 416-4820, send a letter to 4770 Willow Road, Pleasanton CA 94588 or e-mail syoung@angnewspapers.com. For more tidbits about the Chos and their adventures on "The Amazing Race" — including their prank on the Barbies, go to http://www.ibabuzz.com/

unscripted.