Tonight, Preston & Steve producer and on-air personality Nick McIlwain will host a “Celebrity Bartending Night” at XFinity Live to raise money for his upcoming trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro. No, the African trek isn’t a vacation. He’s scaling the 19,000-foot peak to bring awareness to Sanfilippo Syndrome, which is pretty much Alzheimer’s for kids. Here, we discuss his preparations for the voyage and test his mastery of geography.
I heard a story that a few years back, you broke your foot while dancing at a wedding. What was the song, and why do you think you can conquer Mt. Kilimanjaro without sustaining serious injury?
That’s a very good question, and a fair one. The song was “Like a Prayer” by Madonna. And it wasn’t a broken foot. It was a ruptured Achilles and a torn calf muscle. I was in the worst shape of my life when I was at that wedding. I was also totally intoxicated. My hope is that my exercise and training will pay off, and that I’ll actually be able to make it to the top. And if I don’t, I know that I will literally never hear the end of it from listeners, from friends, and from my co-workers. So that’s motivation enough.
Have you been brushing up on climbing disaster movies like Touching the Void?
No, I haven’t read Into Thin Air, and I haven’t watched the terrible movie adaptation. And I haven’t watched Alive recently. But I have been doing a fair amount of research, looking at other people who’ve done it. R.A. Dickie from the Mets climbed it recently and blogged about it for the New York Times. It’s a fascinating thing. If you believe in climate change, which I do, the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro are disappearing. I’m going to be able to see one of the natural wonders of the world. I’m going to hike through five different ecosystems.
You’re a bit of a geography buff, right?
Yep, I am.
So I thought we would test your knowledge of geography—specifically, African geography. Can you name just one other mountain in Tanzania?
Oof. Um. No. Another mountain in Tanzania? I don’t know. Am I supposed to know the answer to that? Uh … Uh … Another mountain in Tanzania. Hmm. I can’t even remember the name of the route I am taking up this mountain.
Nick, do you even know what continent you’re going to?
Africa! I studied African geography in college, by the way. Oh, and the route I am taking is known as the Umbwe route.
OK, let’s go for something a little bit easier. Tanzania is bordered by eight countries. How many can you name?
Kenya. Uganda. Congo, formerly Zaire. I do know that Tanzania gets its name from a combination of Tanganyika and Zanzibar … Is Zambia in there?
Kenya, Uganda, Congo, Zambia, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique and Malawi.
I should have known Rwanda and Burundi. I’m not thrilled with my answers.
One more: What ocean borders Tanzania to the east?
Indian. See, I do know this stuff.
Very good. Moving on, you once dumped 10,000 marbles down the steps of the Art Museum to commemorate the 10,000th loss by the Phillies. Do you have any similar Preston & Steve-style antics planned for Mount Kilimanjaro? An African staging of the Cardboard Classic, perhaps? Strippers on a float?
Steve said that if I do die, that I should be sure to do so in a way that will attract a lot of press. He suggested that I try to attack a gorilla at some point. Other than that, I haven’t thought of a lot of dumb applications for this stunt. Maybe I will bring an inflatable sex doll and launch it into the stratosphere—for charity, of course. I like the way you’re thinking. We’ve been focusing too much on the positive and the good and not enough on the stupid.
So what are you doing to get ready?
I’m training with Nick at Retro Fitness. He’s sculpting me out of a lump of clay—”lump” being the operative word. The first step was to get into some kind of decent shape, so that was aerobics. Now I’m doing TRX and hiking as many local mountains as I can. Of course, nothing in Pennsylvania compares to 19,000 feet. I’m in the gym two or three times a week busting my ass to get into shape.
You seem to be taking it all pretty seriously.
I am. I haven’t had a goal like this sitting in front of me since college, and I was not a good college student despite my prowess with African geography. Since then, things happened. Marriage. A child. But I haven’t had a clear, focused goal like this in years. And I don’t want to fail. I mean, a guy with no legs just did it.
If you can’t make it to XFinity Live tonight (all tips will go to Team Sanfilippo), you can donate by texting CLIMB to 72727.