The Anchor House Ride for Runaways is like a village on wheels, or as one cyclist put is on Wednesday, “It’s like a traveling circus.”
Before the sun rises, a team of support crew members wakes up, gets in a van, and heads to the first of three rest stops of the day. The group sets up a tent, tables, camping chairs, and snacks to feed more than 150 cyclists. Then the team spends the morning cutting up apples and melons, dipping pretzels in Nutella, stirring sports drink mixes, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to feed the riders who are burning about 500 to 600 calories and hour. After they clean up their rest stop, the team members then head to the grocery store to stock up supplies for the next day.
The support crew members are critical to the ride’s success. Without them, the cyclists wouldn’t make it from point A to point B each day. More than 35 support crew members volunteer their week for the cause. Three teams manage the rest stops, about half a dozen teams rove the route each day, one team manages all of the cyclists’ luggage and gear, and a bike mechanic keeps the cyclists’ wheels rolling. The support crew operates with the precision of a small military operation, with planning beginning months in advance of the ride. Head support crew member Tom Imbrigiotta of Pennington manages the team each day and keeps track of all the cyclists, watching for riders who might be lost, injured, or suffering from heat exhaustion.
Many of the support crew members are recruited by friends and family. Guy Pierson of West Windsor was encouraged to come on the ride by his daughter, cyclist Rebecca Pierson. “He’s really enjoying the week helping out,” Pierson said at a rest stop on Wednesday. “He’s already asking what the dates are for next year’s ride.”
Jill Voorhees of Ewing is volunteering for the sixth year, and is in charge of one of the rest stop teams. She first heard about the ride from her neighbor, Kathy Drulis, who coordinates the ride for the Anchor House Foundation.
As Vorhees was setting up for the cyclists on Wednesday, the mission of the ride was on her mind. She thought about the parallels between the ride and the mission of Anchor House to serve runaway, abused and neglected teens. The ride is about bringing strangers together, team work, making sure people are safe and supported, and achieving a goal.
“When kids come to Anchor House, they don’t know anyone. They might be scared and uncertain,” she said. “But then they receive the support they need to feel safe and supported so they can succeed in life.”
The cyclists passed the half way mark on the seven-day, 500-mile journey on Wednesday, pedaling in a 68-mile loop around Gettysburg and climbing more than 3,500 feet. The cyclists will face their longest day of the week on Thursday, biking 81 miles to Lancaster and climbing more than 3,700 feet of hills.
For more information about Anchor House or to make a donation to the Ride for Runaways or sponsor an individual support crew member or cyclist, visit anchorhouseride.org. Planet Princeton is the media sponsor for the 40th annual ride.