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Riding a bike to the Winter Classic -- from Philly

<em>photo by <a href="" target="new">Wheeling To The Winter Classic</a></em>
photo by Wheeling To The Winter Classic

Our Winter Classic coverage begins today, leading up to the game on Friday at Boston's Fenway Park. Broad Street Hockey will be on the ground at the NHL's showcase event, bringing those of you unable to attend closer to the event than any other media outlet.

Patrick Montgomery and Andrew Moriarity are really good people. They're also absolutely insane. The two friends are students at Drexel University and members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, and yesterday, they embarked on a journey that will cover over 300 miles from the Specrtum in Philadelphia to Fenway Park in Boston. No big deal, right? Well, they're riding a bike, and not just any bike -- a tandem. That's right, one of these things.

Of course, there's no reason for two Flyers fans to bike to the Winter Classic from Philadelphia without charity being involved. All proceeds, collected in the form of donations, will benefit the Blessed Sarnelli Community, an organization dedicated to helping homeless and poor Philadelphians. It's supposed to take until Thursday for the guys to finish their trek. As mentioned, they left on Sunday and thanks to some cool GPS software on their website, we can see that as of this writing they're somewhere in Queens, New York.

Before they took off, though, I had a chance to speak with Andrew about the trip. After the jump, you can catch the entirety of our conversation, as well as more information on how you can donate to their cause.

Broad Street Hockey: What gave you the idea to do this, and how many people have told you guys that you're crazy? 300 miles is a long drive, let alone a long bike ride.

Andrew Moriarity: Well it started as a joke using the walking directions that Google provides and then Pat suggested we do it on a bike, add in a charity aspect and voila, Wheeling to the Winter Classic was born.

BSH: Why did you decide on a tandem bike and not two regular bikes? Doesn't that just make it a million times harder?

AM: It does make it more difficult, but we felt the tandem was necessary to drum up more interest and get more exposure for the Blessed Sarnelli Community.

BSH: What's the route like? Obviously, it has to be a lot different than driving, considering it's tough to ride a bike on the highway, and it might not even be legal. How did you plan the route and how much planning will you do on the fly?

AM: We used a combination of the walking directions on Google Maps and the shortest route directions on Mapquest. We figure the walking directions will give us a legal way, since you can't walk on closed roads. We will have to load up and cross a bridge or two in a car, since geting into New York seems to only have one bike-able bridge but that would add over 20 miles onto our trip. I am sure there will be some deviation and a few missed turns, but we will have some GPS options at out disposal. The route isn't necessarily the most direct to Boston, but we needed to ensure we had places to stay at each of them. It works out that a few of our fraternity brothers live in Connecticut and are allowing us to crash on a couch for the night.

BSH: Talk about the charity side of the trek. How did you decide on the Blessed Sarnelli Community as the organization to support?

AM: We decided on the Blessed Sarnelli Community because we are already quite involved. We are both members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Drexel and do quite a bit of service work with the BSC. The Blessed Sarnelli Community is an outreach program run by Father Kevin Murray, based in the Kensington Area of Philadelphia. The organizational mission is to meet the needs of the poor, abandoned, and homeless people of Philadelphia. They are currently in the process of renovating a new house from which they will base their operation. They do weekly outreach trips around the city of Philadelphia distributing food, drink, and clothes to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Upon completion of the house, they will again begin to offer (as they did for ten years at a previous location) hospitality with and for people in need through weekly lunches, showers and personal hygienic needs, full supper one night a week, as well as guidance, support and referrals. The community is comprised of young adult volunteers who view all who come through the door as guests. At the core of the Sarnelli mission is respect for the human dignity of all who are served.

BSH: Where are you staying along the way? The website says you'll make four stops along the way. Are they the homes of friends, strangers, hotels, supporters, or what?

AM: We are staying at a few friends places in Staten Island, and Connecticut, and our last stop will be in Rhode Island at a hotel donated to our trip by Pat's dad. As stated above, we are lucky enough to have friends from school that happen to live at key points along the way to Boston.

BSH: Talk about your contingency planning. What happens if there's a winter storm or some kind of freak weather event? What if you get pushed off track? What if it takes longer than expected?

AM: We will have a trail vehicle, and it appears that we should have a pretty good weather window through out the trip, but if the weather becomes severe enough where our safety is really put at risk, we will either wait it out or possibly pack it up for a small portion of the trip. We are already prepared to bike in rain or snow, but if there is too much accumulation or ice we might have an issue.

BSH: What kind of physical preparation have you two put in?

AM: We have both been training by incrementally increasing our bike rides to the 2+ hour range over the last few weeks. We are both pretty confident that with a consistent easy pace we can manage the whole trip. Our longest ride will probably take approximate 8 hours on the bike with a few long breaks. What worries us most isn't our legs being able to handle the trip, but our arms and rears. A bike seat isn't exactly like sitting on a couch for 8 hours.

BSH: The GPS tracking tool on the website is a really cool idea. How's that work?

AM: Pat has an iPhone and we spent a week or so looking for the right app that would allow us to do real time tracking, geo-tagged photos and blog posts, and the ability to share and embed the map. We ended up going with because it was free and met these needs. It is a bit bulky in the embedded website window, but it was the most comprehensive GPS app we could find.

BSH: How much support have you received from the Flyers organization or the NHL, if any?

AM: Unfortunately, since we were raising money for a third party organization, we couldn't take full advantage of the publicity power of the Flyers, but they were nice enough to send us a "Winter Classic Survival Pack" that included two Winter Classic shirts, two pairs of Winter Classic gloves and two knit hats.

BSH: What are your seats like at the game? Hopefully a heated suite?

AM: Haha, while that would have been great, we were able to get tickets through a family friend who is a season ticket holder. So we will be in section 26 with the rest of the Flyers STH's it seems.

BSH: Are you riding back to Philly after the game?

AM: Goodness no, I don't think either of us will be able to look at a bike for weeks after this. I will actually be flying out to Ohio immediately after the game and Pat will be driving back with the trail vehicle.

Much thanks to Andrew for taking the time to answer our questions, of course. We hope him and Patrick have a safe trip up to Boston, and we're hoping to catch up with them in town for some kind of follow up. If you'd like to learn more about the duo, check out their website. From there, you can track their trip, donate to their cause, and read up about the adventure on their blog.