The year Barb Keener began taking part in the Anchor House Ride for Runaways, Germany was reunified, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and George H. W. Bush was president of the United States
A lot has changed over the last quarter century, but once thing that has remained constant is Keener’s dedication to Anchor House and the annual 500-mile ride that raises money to keep the doors open at the Trenton-based shelter for abused, neglected, and runaway children and teens.
Keener decided to join the ride in 1990, the year after her boyfriend (now husband), Ken Sharples, completed his first Anchor House trip.
“After he did it, I said `hey, if he can do it, I can do it,” Keener said. “After we both did it, we said it would be five years and out. Then we changed it to ten and out, then 15, then 20, and now here we are.”
Asked if they will try for 30 years, the pair said it seems likely. Keener and Sharples have never skipped a year on the ride.
“We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve never been sick during ride week, or faced another issues to deal with that would keep us from doing the ride,” Sharples said.
The pair, who live in New Hope, Pa. and both previously worked at Educational Testing Service, have also inspired several ETS employees to take part in the ride, as well as cyclists from area biking clubs.
Keener and Sharples do not ride together though on the ride, and never have. Sharples often rides alone, and rides at a different pace than Keener, who rides with a group called Bernie’s Babes.
“I thought we might have to ride together when she said she wanted to do the ride,” Sharples joked. “But she was never my responsibility on the ride. When it comes to the ride, she’s been Bernie’s problem.”
Sharples, who previously served not he Anchor House ride committee, designed the Anchor House route for many years, and still helps out with route logistics. Keener has served on the ride committee for many years, helping to coordinate the planning for the ride each year.
Keener is one of two cyclists celebrating 25 years riding for Anchor House this week. The other cyclist is Trenton firefighter Frank Fanning. Sharples is completing his 26th ride.
“That’s 76 years of riding for Anchor House between the three of us,” Keener said. “That’s more than 35,000 miles for the kids.”
It’s also thousands of dollars in donations. The cyclists collect donations from friends, family members, co-workers and local businesses each year, raising a minimum of $750 a year. Many of the cyclists raise a lot more.
Keener, Sharples, and the other 181 cyclists on the 36th annual ride completed the first leg of their journey Sunday, pedaling 78.7 miles from Lexington, Va. to Harrisonburg and climbing 4,084 feet.
Some of the cyclists struggled to finish the last several miles of the ride as temperatures soared into the high 90s and they had to pedal up several small but steep climbs to reach their destination.
Five miles from the finish, a small group of cyclists gathered under a tree for shade. Support crew members Sandy Merritt and Joe Feeney, who are rovers on the ride, stopped when they saw the group and gave everyone cold water to drink. Feeney dumped some of the water on cyclists’ heads to cool them off. Revived, they hopped back on their bikes and made it to the finish line.
Day two of the Ride for Runaways Monday is a 78.3 mile journey from Harrisonburg, Va. to Winchester, Va. The cyclists will climb 4,346 feet, the most of any day all week,
Reporter Krystal Knapp is a cyclist in the 36th annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways. For more information about Anchor House or to make a donation, visit www.anchorhouseride.org , where you can also make online donations in a cyclist’s name. Donations can also be sent to the Anchor House Foundation, P.O. Box 2357, Trenton, NJ 08607-2357.