Planet Princeton

Anchor House scouts lead the way

Carol and Bill Ward. Bill is participating in his 25th consecutive Ride for Runaways this week. Photo: Krystal Knapp.

Some cyclists on the Anchor House Ride for Runaways navigate the daily route using GPS systems on their cell phones or small devices made for bikes, while others prefer to use old fashioned cue sheets and keep track of their mileage using tiny bike computers that function like car odometers.

A sampling of the directions on a route cue sheet:

0.8 L TS Cross Puddintown Road onto bike trail
2.0 L Linden Hall Road
5.3 S TL Brush Valley Road
0.2 SAG Center Hall Lions Club on R  🙂

Translation: Bike .8 miles, then make a left at a t-stop. Cross Puddintown Road onto a bike trail. Go two miles and then make a left on Linden Hall Road. Go 5.3 miles and then go straight through a traffic light on Brush Valley Road. Then in .2 miles the rest stop will be at the Center Hall Lions Club on the right. The rest stop has bathrooms.

Planning the route for the 7-day, 500-mile Ride for Runaways takes months. Volunteers drive the route, but it is sometimes necessary to make changes at the last minute due to road construction or other issues.

Bill has a Garmin computer used by cyclists on his steering wheel in addition to his car GPS system. Photo: Krystal Knapp.

Hamilton residents Bill and Carol Ward are the official scouts on the Ride for Runaways. They log about 2,000 miles in their vehicle during the week, driving a day ahead of the cyclists to confirm details like road names, mileage, and turns. They also make changes to the route if necessary because of detours, or warn construction workers that packs of cyclists will be pedaling through work areas the next day.

Bill, a retired police officer, is marking his 25th consecutive Anchor House Ride for Runaways this week as well as his 78th birthday, and Carol is volunteering for her ninth year. The couple has been married for 56 years.

The Wards became involved in the ride after watching their oldest son, William, return from his second Anchor House ride. William, also a police officer like his dad, did the ride with a few other officers. He was a bike patrol officer in Hamilton at the time.

“I watched him come into the mall the second year and I thought it looked like fun. I always liked to bike. I also liked the organization and the whole operation,” Bill said. “As a police officer, I interacted with Anchor House when I was in charge of the juvenile bureau. I knew if I could get a kid to Anchor House, I would never see him again — which was a very good thing.”

Bill, who bikes almost every day, even in winter, cycled in the Ride for Runaways 18 consecutive years, sometimes accompanied by family members and other times riding with a cycling partner. After a motorcycle accident, he started doing support for the ride, and has been the scout for six years now.

Carol is happy to support a cause that helps the kids, and having two people do the scouting together makes the job easier.

Route notes and changes from Bill and Carol Ward. Photo: Krystal Knapp.

In the early morning each day of the ride, the Wards drive about 50 to 70 miles to the start of the next day’s route. Bill looks at the GPS and Carol reads the cue sheets. She makes notes of any changes. Bill jumps out of the car in his orange safety vest and puts arrows on the road if he notices any turns that are easy to miss, or any potholes that need to be marked with orange paint so cyclists avoid them.

Sometimes residents get excited when they see Bill marking potholes on the road in his orange vest.

“Are you from PennDOT?” he has been asked more than once as people mistake him for a department of transportation worker and think the state is finally fixing their road.

When the Wards drive back to meet up with the cyclists in the afternoon, they mark all the changes on a board. Then they repeat the process, which is a crucial job for the safety of the cyclists, the next day.

Bill Ward places an arrow on the road to alert cyclists of an easy-to-miss turn on the Ride for Runaways. Photo: Krystal Knapp.

Asked if he will be returning to volunteer now that he has reached the quarter-century milestone helping Anchor House, Bill says it’s more than likely he will be back. “It will be Carol’s tenth next year,” he said.

The cyclists pedaled 63.7 miles from State College, Pa. to Lewisburg on Wednesday, climbing 2, 167 feet. It rained twice, but then the skies cleared. On Thursday, the cyclists were set to pedal 65.4 miles from Lewisburg to West Hazleton. On Friday night at an awards banquet, they will find out how much money the ride has raised so far.

Krystal Knapp is a participant in the 39th annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways. To find out more about Anchor House, to make a donation, or to visit an individual rider’s donation page, visit the Ride for Runaways website. 

Day four photos by Jeanne Imbrigiotta.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Henry B Murphy Jr

    Bill and Carol Ward do an absolutely amazing job. I am always astounded at their competence. Remarkable, and a big part of the safety of the ride!

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