The Amazing Race
After scoring the first tickets on the first flight to London on The Amazing Race 17, Ron Kellum, 45, and Tony Stovall, 42, quickly saw their fortunes take a turn for the worst once they landed. The best friends — and self-described navigational experts — never recovered from driving in the wrong direction looking for Stonehenge and became the first team ousted from the new season. "We just kept marveling, like, how did this happen?" Ron tells TVGuide.com. "In Boston, getting to the airport, we were the only team that didn't make a wrong turn. We get to England and it's like, I don't know my right from my left!" Find out how long they were lost for, if they completed all the tasks and if they think they jinxed themselves.
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TVGuide.com: So where did you guys drive to? It seems like you drove to France in that time.
Ron: [Laughs] We could have! We just decided to take a tour of the English countryside. We got on — I don't even know if they're called interstates — but it was similar to an autobahn, where there were no exits for 25 miles. So literally, we went 25 miles the wrong direction and we were in rush-hour traffic. By the time we got on the right loop, which took us about an hour after we got off, we had to travel back another 25 miles. It was devastating.
TVGuide.com: How did you get on the wrong entrance?
Tony: There's a part of the motorway where it splits, and we needed to go left. We were in the right lane, but we couldn't get over fast enough. We knew immediately that we were going the wrong way, but there was nothing we could do. As Ron said, it's not like here where when you get off, you can just turn right back around. It was awful, just knowing we were going the wrong way. It wasn't like we were "La-la-la-la-la, we're going the right way."
TVGuide.com: How far behind were you? Did you get to finish all the tasks?
Ron: We actually did get to finish all the tasks. It was unfortunate they didn't show it. Once we arrived at Eastnor Castle, we knew we were the last team. We landed around 6:50 a.m. and we literally drove eight hours that day. ... We didn't know how far behind [the last team] we were.
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TVGuide.com: How long did it take for you cross in the moat in that turtle-shell boat since we just saw you sinking repeatedly?
Tony: I'll just say this: We probably sank and fell in about 40 times. [Laughs] By that point, you know you're last. What was frustrating was what I commented on — our weight differential. I weigh twice what he does. It was a delicate balancing act. You're falling in and just getting frustrated. "I want to go home! I'm done!"
TVGuide.com: Do you think you jinxed yourselves when you said Tony has an MBA and is great with directions?
Ron: That's called smart editing! [Laughs] I don't think we jinxed ourselves. We both have traveled around the world and I never get lost. Tony can read an atlas. It just wasn't meant to be. When you take a wrong turn with that kind of a lead, you just go, "You know what? There's something at this moment that's not working to our favor and life happens." We pushed until the very end, but in no way did we think we jinxed ourselves.
Tony: We started so incredibly strong and it felt like a nightmare that wouldn't end. It wasn't like we were being complacent or not playing full-out. We were giving it our best and it turned. I felt like a little kid losing your first football game. Wait, you're not supposed to lose! It was wrapping your mind around that — how did that happen when you gave more than 100 percent? I was not mad, but I don't think I've ever felt that level of disappointment in my life.
TVGuide.com: It was good to not see you guys fighting even though you were so far behind.
Ron: Oh yeah, we fought!
Tony: No, we didn't! [Laughs] Before we left, we said, "If we're going to do this, our friendship is more important than any of this. We cannot yell at each other. We have to be respectful of each other at all time." For $1 million? Please, we've been friends for 22 years. That's priceless.
Ron: I don't remember that conversation. [Laughs]
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TVGuide.com: Who were you rooting for after you got eliminated?
Ron: Because we were eliminated first and were so [removed] from everyone the first leg, we didn't have the luxury of meeting the teams. That was a fascinating juxtaposition. I think what's interesting is that we're living two different realities. As we watch the show, I think we'll get a sense of who we're going to root for. But I didn't carve out a favorite yet.
Tony: I didn't either. It was very much that way. "Who do you like?" "We don't know anyone!" We just met Chad and Stephanie, and Jill and Thomas. We'll just watch the season unfold.
TVGuide.com: Well, you've got to root for Claire after she took a watermelon to the face, right?
Ron: [Laughs] You know what? I actually did that challenge and had that happened to me — oh my God! — I would've laid there just pretending like I was dead so I wouldn't have to finish it. But I was so proud of her.
Tony: That had to have hurt so bad. I'm like Ron: "Uh-uh, that's it. We're done." I could take anything but a watermelon to the face!
TVGudie.com: What are you up to now?
Ron: I just finished directing a musical called Smokey Joe's Café that just opened this past weekend. I'm keeping that show running. Tony's getting his doctorate at the University of Arizona.
TVGuide.com: More school? Are you a professional student?
Tony: [Laughs] Yeah, couldn't get enough! I'm a glutton for punishment, as you can tell.