Max and Katie Bichler’s Amazing honeymoon
WNY's Max and Katie Bichler
Courtesy of CBS
A couple months after Max and Katie Bichler were married on October 6, 2012, they embarked on their honeymoon—with a television crew from CBS’s Emmy-winning hit, The Amazing Race. First stop: The island of Bora Bora, where Max, a 31-year-old St. Joe’s graduate, went skydiving and Katie, a 25-year-old pharmacist, searched beneath hundreds of sandcastles for their next clue. By the end, the Buffalo newlyweds—he’s from Tonawanda, while she, a Nardin grad and former Buffalo Jill, grew up in Orchard Park—would hit Indonesia, Vietnam, Botswana, Germany, and Scotland, among other locales. In each leg, teams completed a series of physical and mental challenges, and figured out for themselves how to get to the next route marker, with very little money and without any GPS or cell phones. The last team to check in at the end of each leg was eliminated, all culminating in a final sprint for $1 million. The Bichlers crossed the finish line in second place. By the time we spoke, just after the finale aired in May, they had returned to their normal lives and were closing on their first house in North Buffalo. A traditional honeymoon would have to wait.
This was the honeymoon of a lifetime for you guys. Did you apply with that in mind, knowing it would film then?
Katie: No, we actually applied a while ago as a dating couple, and then applied again as an engaged couple, and then applied a third time and got the call prior to being married. The show knew that when we would film that we would literally just be newlyweds.
Max: It was never the intention to go on the Race for our honeymoon. It just happened like that, and the production thought it was cool because they’ve never had anyone whose [relationship] status changed between the time they were cast and the time they were actually on the show.
They’ve also never had anybody from Buffalo. The closest was a team from Albany back in the second season. Did you feel any responsibility to represent the region in a certain way?
Katie: I thought we did a good job of representing Buffalo. We grew up here, we live here, and we’re diehard Buffalo sports fans. Everyone was excited to cheer for somebody on Sunday nights because football was over and the Sabres were winding down, so that was cool and we got a lot of positive responses.
Max: I definitely felt some responsibility because so often the region only gets mentioned for negative things, like being a Rust Belt city or when a terrible snow storm hits or when we lose something in sports or let a free agent walk. So, of course, I felt a sense of responsibility to reflect something positively. With that being said, the name of the game was to [win and] not to care how I’m judged. Katie and I are very self-aware, so we know that 50 percent of people loved us and 50 percent hated us.
Did you have any expectations going in for how you would do or how the show would run?
Katie: Being such an avid fan since season one, I knew what to expect and knew it would be hard physically and mentally, so we were prepared for every possible thing. The only thing you can’t prepare for is the anxiety you feel—you can’t even describe it—because there’s no way to prepare for when you’re all in an airport, and you’re trying to get the right flight, and you’re paranoid that someone is going to get a better one.
Max: No matter what you do in your daily grind, no matter how stressful your grind is, it’s a different type of stress. And it’s social anxiety, too. We knew we wouldn’t be loved by everybody. By appearance, when this thing starts, they’re gonna hate us—like who’s this guy with a tan and a button-down? And is he wearing skinny pants on a race?
Was there a place you went or challenge you did that especially stands out?
Katie: My favorite challenge was in Switzerland climbing the Eiger Mountain because you can’t pay for that experience. There’s no tourist attraction; the show specifically thought that up. For me, it was so cool that no one else could do that ever. Plus, I was on the top of Europe, looking down, and it was incredible.
Max: Skydiving in Bora Bora was incredible, but I also thought that digging for scorpions was a pretty crazy and authentic experience. When are you going to go dig for live scorpions with three Bushmen? And the BASE jump in Berlin was an amazing experience, but that one you can go pay to do.
What behind-the-scenes secrets can you share? What doesn’t come across on television?
Max: It obviously takes a while to get from Africa to Zurich, Switzerland, but on the show it’s just [shown as] a little yellow line. The thing that doesn’t translate is the travel, and the travel is exhausting. Your one opportunity to sleep is on the plane, but it’s plane food, you’re in a seat, you’re not laying down, and your butt is permanently numb.
We have to talk about the final leg. It seems like the final challenge [where you had to find the right “secret agent” around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC] was based on luck. Was that completely frustrating?
Katie: As a fan of the show, it was frustrating that it came down to luck. If it had been a luck challenge in the beginning or middle of the show, that’s fine because it wasn’t for the actual $1 million. But we had done so well, and that was so disheartening.
It’s almost like your own “No Goal” or something.
Max: We’re calling it Spygate. And it’s painful. Believe me, as someone who grew up in Buffalo, all I could think was, second place. People ask how it felt, and I hate answering it, but imagine holding a bag with a million bucks over a cliff and knowing that you’re losing your grip. We had the million bucks.
I noticed throughout the show that you had on a Livestrong-style bracelet that has a personal connection for many people in Western New York.
Katie: It was for Peter Brady, who lived in Orchard Park. He is 20 years old. Last summer, a year ago from Memorial Day, he was swimming and dove head first into the shallow end of the pool and since then has been paralyzed. He still can’t move his legs or walk—he’s wheelchair-bound. He was a very good volleyball player and was planning on going to college for volleyball. We wore it as a reminder that in an instant your life can change forever.
Max: We were just hopeful that he could see it on TV and enjoy it, and see his bracelets in exotic locations.
Katie: It said, “Prayers for Peter,” and had a volleyball and was maroon and white, Orchard Park colors.
Many years from now, what will you take away from this? What will you tell your kids about the whole experience?
Max: Katie and I were a strong couple to begin with in terms of our relationship, so I don’t think we went on with intentions of figuring out if we’re right for each other or any of that crap. That being said, it is an incredible test on a brand new marriage to try to nurture a new marriage and compete on a reality TV show at the same time. You’ve got to be a pretty good match.
Katie: We had the world’s most public honeymoon. Just to say we circumnavigated the globe for our honeymoon—I mean, who can say that?
Regular Spree contributor Matthew Biddle has been an Amazing Race fan since the very first episode.