They flew from France to New York City, miraculously making it on to an earlier flight off standby. Competitors Rob and Kim had already begged their way onto the plane.
"They actually talked to the manager, because we were the first team at the airport," Denk, 29, told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. "They talked to the manager and got approval and got seats on that flight and we were told there were 30 people on the waiting list."
"We didn't think anybody was getting on," said Branaman, 27. "We were, like, we will check in the morning to take a second look but we saw them get on and go through customs and that's when we were like, 'We have to get on this flight.' "
Once they touched down in New York, their fate, Branaman said, came down to an EZ Pass, which is an electronic device some drivers have that allows them to pass quickly through tolls. Their cabbie had while it Rob and Kim's did not.
"We were thinking, 'We got this,' " Denk said. "We were telling our cabbie to lose them. He was going to give them the dodge but he had the EZ Pass."
They made it to the final destination, Garrison, N.Y., and were declared the official winners of "The Amazing Race."
"When people ask me how it was, I tell them it was the most stressful thing I have done in my life," Denk said. "You have to deal with getting flights, getting currency, maps, clues, on a time constraint and you are trying to rush without falling behind."
The two best friends have both had lives full of hardships. Both are recovering addicts who had been friends in the modeling scene and reconnected after going through rehab.
"For James and I, we've been through so much together as a friendship and in our lives that, first, to accomplish yet another thing — that's gravy on top of the mashed potatoes," Denk said. "Another gift of life."
"We live our lives with such gratitude already that this was just one of those experiences that we would only get through sobriety," Branaman said.