If you ever happen to find yourself in upper New England and can’t decide if you want to head back to Bucks County either by plane, train, bus or car, do what Joe Boyce does.
Ride your bike.
Now 500 miles of pedaling in just over a week might sound like a rather daunting proposition to some, but that isn’t exactly the case for the Levittown resident.
He’s been cranking out similar amazing journeys every July for the past 14 years and they’re all for a good cause, Anchor House, a Trenton-based charity project which puts a roof over the heads of abused, unwanted and homeless children.
This year the ride will originate in Massachusetts and, as always, finish at Quakerbridge Mall just outside New Jersey’s capital.
This will be the 45th annual “Ride for Runaways” and Boyce has been training faithfully since the dead of winter to get ready for the big event. Some of his preparation rides can take him the better part of 80 miles or more.
Last year was an important one for the event because it was the first one since the pandemic ended. Before that, for two years, the R for R was limited to a series of one-day rides mostly on the roads of eastern Pennsylvania and central Jersey.
Boyce, who has single-handedly raised more than $100,000 for the project over the years, can’t wait to get started.
“It’s very exciting,” he said on Monday. “I never thought I would make it this long. After five years I was sure I was going to wrap it up and the same thing after 10.
“The fact that I’m keeping it going, it never gets old. I feel so compelled because I’m riding so well and being involved with so many great running (Bucks County Roadrunners Club) and cycling people, they motivate me.”
Having so many training partners, friends and family members contribute to the cause adds to the gratification level.
“It helps that they contribute year to year so generously,” he said. “That motivates me as well. It makes me want to come back and reach my fund-raising goal because I want those disadvantaged kids to get the money.
“I feel like if I miss a year then they’re missing out on the services and life chances they could have.”
The Ride for Runaways offers cyclists the chance to enjoy the sights of large swaths of the Northeast from a unique perspective, namely a bicycle seat.
Last year’s trek took more than 100 two-wheelers through places such as Gettysburg and Lancaster, plus Charlottesville, Va.
About a half-dozen Bucks County riders participate in the ride each year and, of course, it’s a challenge to get ready, given this section of the nation’s fickle weather tendencies.
Boyce has already ridden 3,000 miles and some of the hills in Bucks provide excellent training terrain for what lies ahead next month.
“The riding community goes far and wide,” Boyce said. “Bucks supports great causes no matter where they are. If it’s something you love to do like endurance biking it just makes it that much sweeter.”
It isn’t always smooth sailing. There’s the occasional rainy, windy day when the conditions can get pretty challenging.
There was also the time years ago when Boyce got tangled up with another rider’s wheel and he crashed to the pavement. That sent him to the hospital and required months of rehab.
“I was in a wheelchair for about two months,” Boyce recalled with grimacing smile. “Crutches for about a month. A cane for another month. It was hard coming back. I had post-traumatic stress disorder for quite awhile. I came back a year later and it was really hard, I still had PTSD.
“But I pushed through it. You have to do what you love to do. And when you do it for a cause as good as Anchor House, you get it done. Keep your eyes on the prize.”
This year’s course will take riders through Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
A typical day sees pedalers negotiate three-to-five thousand feet of climbing along with about a total of 75 miles. It’s like a mini-Tour de France.
“When you put Anchor House in the mix, it provides more meaning to the sweat and tears you’re putting in,” Boyce said. “Especially for children who are unwanted. It gives you a good feeling, a sense of purpose. It’s a feeling you’re not doing something just for yourself. It’s helping someone who really needs it.”
Anchor House was established in 1978 and receives about $500,000 in donations per year. That’s about $7 million during Boyce’s watch.
The story of how young people with what could have been a hopeless future survive and flourish continues to be inspiring.
“It provides educational opportunities for them,” Boyce explained. “There have been many, many success stories of people going on in their careers as lawyers and other types of professions at a high rate.”
Donations can be made at anchorhouseride.rallybound.org/classic/Joe or by mailing a check made out to Anchor House to Joe Boyce, 74 Juniper Drive, Levittown, PA 19056.
In this day and age, the cause is particularly important because of the rise in poverty in U.S. urban areas.
“This is a step up for kids who really need a helping hand,” Boyce said. “They haven’t had the opportunity that many of us have had.”
Tuesday, July 4
Revolutionary Run 10K/5K/1-Miler, 8 a.m., Washington Crossing. Contact www.runsignup.com
Four on the Fourth 4-miler, 8:30 a.m., Churchville. Contact www.runsignup.com