Iowa’s bitter cold winter almost broke Bobby Bones.
While filming an episode of “Breaking Bobby Bones,” the “American Idol” mentor and radio host climbed to the top of a wind turbine near Estherville and experienced two of his least favorite things – heights and cold weather.
“I’m not a fan of freezing to death,” Bones says during a phone interview. But the turbine visit fit nicely in his new show’s wheelhouse – showcasing people and the adversity they’ve been through.
“These are unsung heroes,” he says. “They’ve got real middle American jobs that aren’t getting the respect they deserve.” In the course of the series, Bones hangs over the Grand Canyon, learns the nuances of stunt work, goes kayaking with an expert who lost his vision and climbs that turbine.
“I’m not an adventure guy,” Bones admits. “If I started to enjoy it, the show wouldn’t have the impact it does. You’ve got to have a bit of uncomfortableness to grow.”
That turbine climb, though, involved minus-22-degree weather and heights hundreds of feet in the air. “When you get to the top, you crawl out of a hatch and find a clip so the wind doesn’t blow you off.”
Because the climb occurred in winter, Bones didn’t see much from the vantage point. “It was all snow. It’s not like you’re doing a lot of sightseeing, but you could see for miles. Cars looked like ants.”
When the radio host got back on the ground and into a warm building, “it was one of the best days of my life. (The climb) was extremely exciting, but I don’t like the cold.”
Those who work on wind turbines are heroes because “they make sure we get power in our homes in a clean way.”
Executive Producer Travis Shakespeare says the National Geographic series celebrates ”the resilience of being able to bounce back” from any number of things.
Bones figures his flirtation with fear can be traced to childhood, when he was searching for love. “That’s why I got on stage to do comedy. That’s why I was able to get behind a microphone and do radio or even TV. I didn’t have a lot of love growing up. And I started to find love in those places, but I also knew that…I wasn’t alone.
“That’s why I’ve pushed through this. I’ve hated doing a lot of these actual missions, but there was never a second that I was gonna not do them. I’ve grown about 10 feet tall after this season.”
Fans got a chance to see just how daring Bones could be when he appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2018. “That’s possibly the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” he says. “I don’t know how to dance, but I attacked it.”
With professional partner Sharna Burgess, he showed progress and landed in the finals. When he won the mirror-ball trophy, Bones knew it wasn’t because he was the best dancer. The votes came because viewers “felt like someone was representing them. I don’t think I won that by myself. It’s about relationships.”
Similarly, Bones says, “American Idol” is relationship-driven. “The greatest singer doesn’t always win,” he says, just hours after Chayce Beckham was named winner. “I don’t think he would argue he was a better singer. He was different. He’s also very good.” Put into play with “pure, big-voiced singers,” Beckham needed something else. That was the connection Bones embraces: “America has to root along with you.”
Now edging toward marriage (he and Caitlin Parker will be wed this summer), Bones says he has found the one person who can keep him in line. “I’ll come home complaining I hurt my leg from ‘Breaking Bobby Bones’ and she’ll say, ‘You created this show. No one did this to you.’ She knows what she’s marrying into.”
At that summer wedding, the two will do a first dance, the 41-year-old says. “But there won’t be choreography. My dancing days are over.”
“Breaking Bobby Bones” airs May 31 on the National Geographic channel.