Jon Buehler and Kris Perkins say 'Amazing Race' brought them closer than they ever imagined By Luanne J. Hunt
Pack light and bring plenty of power bars. Jon Buehler and his girlfriend Kris Perkins, a former Long Beach resident, say that's the best advice they can give the next group of contestants for the CBS television reality show "The Amazing Race."
Buehler and Perkins should know. They finished second last season on the show, which sends couples on a grueling race around the world, vying for a $1 million prize. The show's seventh season kicks off at 9 tonight on CBS, where the contestants will begin their journey in Long Beach.
"You're in all different climates, and you have to carry everything with you," said Buehler, 29. "You have to pack light but be very strategic with what you bring. We took our backpacks, terrain shoes, all-weather jackets, power bars and very lightweight sleeping bags. The sleeping bags came in so handy."
Along with enduring extreme temperatures, Buehler and Perkins also had to adjust to very little sleep and a lack of nutritious food. The couple, who live in Scottsdale, Ariz., say they were hungry most of the time and survived primarily on bread, water and power bars.
"We dreamed about fruit," said Buehler, who auditioned for the show with Perkins last spring. "They" d have a full meal prepared for us at the pit stops, but after eating only bread and water for several days, our stomachs couldn't adjust to the food. All we craved was an apple or an orange, and we were so happy when we'd be somewhere they were available."
Last season, "The Amazing Race" began in Chicago in August and continued on to China, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, France, Hungary, Germany, Senegal, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. During each leg of the race, each couple had to complete various tasks that would either point them to clues or pit them against each other for a chance to take the lead. Some of the tasks included spray painting a car, rummaging through 165,000 articles of clothing to find the match to the outfit on a mannequin and using a unique key given to them to find the specific lock it opened out of 3,000 fastened at the top of a mountain.
Various modes of transportation were used to get each couple to the next leg, including buses, cabs, trains and planes.
Along the way, there were detours to slow down the teams. At the final destination of each race, called a pit stop, each team had to clock in. The last team to arrive at the pit stop was eliminated. There were also what are referred to as roadblocks. A roadblock is a task that only one member of the team may participate in.
For Buehler and Perkins, it was spicy soup.
"I chose to eat the soup in Budapest, Hungary," said Buehler, co-owner of the Scottsdale nightclub 6. "Out of everything I had to do, that was the hardest challenge for me. It tasted like a big bowl of Tabasco sauce. It was so hot. Later, when we watched the show, we saw that they dumped in a full bottle of Tabasco sauce in each bowl."
Although Buehler and Perkins lost the race to a couple from Miami, Buehler said there were times it looked like they might win. They were in second when they reached Africa, but Perkins pulled them from behind when she aced the salt harvesting contest.
The contestants had to harvest salt from the bottom of a lake, place it in buckets and carry it to the shore. The person who brought the most buckets to the shore in the allotted time won.
"We are very competitive people and we wanted to win," said Buehler, a native of Walnut Creek. "Our goal was to finish the race and not be eliminated. But we knew in order to do that we had to stay tight and work together. People all around us were losing it, but we tried to deflect all the negativity and do what we needed to do."
Buehler and Perkins say "The Amazing Race" experience brought them closer than they would have imagined. The couple, who moved in together after the show, met in early 2004 at Buehler's nightclub. Perkins was living in Long Beach and frequently visited Scottsdale with her girlfriends. She says 6 was one of their favorite spots to hang out.
"We saw each other and that was it," said Perkins, 30, a former corporate trainer for the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery in Long Beach.
Along with their huge appetites for adventure, Buehler and Perkins also share a great interest in sports. Buehler, who graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor of arts in marketing, was on the school's swimming team. In high school in Des Moines, Iowa, Perkins ran track, swam and played softball. The couple agree that their athletic abilities gave them an edge on "The Amazing Race."
"You're in all these crazy situations, so you have to be in shape," said Buehler. "One time, Kris had to wash a window on a 45-story skyscraper just to find a clue. And she jumped out of a plane in Hawaii. We trained really hard before we started the race."
Being on "The Amazing Race" not only tested Buehler and Perkins' physical stamina, but also their intellectual prowess. They were forced to interact with other cultures, so they had to have at least some knowledge of foreign languages.
For instance, there was one task in China where the teams had to find a textile factory and search through 10 bolts of fabric using a light table to find two Chinese characters stamped within two of the bolts. Once the characters were found, they had to cut them out to trade for their next clue. This task required the teams to interact with factory workers, as well as cab drivers.
"You have to be extremely open-minded when you (interact with) these other cultures," said Buehler. "We had a lot of respect for them, and I think you gain a lot when they see that. They are definitely more open and receptive to you."
Now that the race is over, Buehler and Perkins say they've had a little difficulty adjusting to daily life. According to Perkins, living in the real world seems boring compared to the adventure they were on.
But they are making plans for the future and hope to start a new career writing for travel magazines. And they are looking forward to enjoying the trips they were awarded for finishing in second place — an Alaskan cruise, a Caribbean cruise, a European vacation and a Caribbean vacation.
'The Amazing Race" was the experience of a lifetime," said Perkins. "I'm so excited for these next people. There are no words to describe what it's like."
"Yes," Buehler agrees, "it was an unbelievable experience. And now we're ready to take on the world."
— Luanne J. Hunt is a Hesperia freelance writer