No Length's Too Far For a Good Cause
Anna Chaney's 330-Mile Ride
As in the journey of a thousand miles, the first miles were the hardest. By mile 150 or so, Chaney knew she'd met and mastered another challenge.

Fifteen miles from the last rest stop, Anna Chaney is facing exhaustion. The trip up and down rolling hills has taken its toll on her fit body. Her legs are burning and her pace begins to slow. She gazes ahead searching for the rest stop, mind focusing on nothing but her sore legs. Three miles away, the feelings of pain mingle with knowledge that the end is so close. She has come too far to quit now.

Anna Chaney, of Friendship, set out on a new adventure last month. Beginning June 24, Chaney cycled from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Washington, D.C., covering 330 miles in four days.

Never one to back away from a challenge, Chaney determined to push herself to the limit for the American AIDS Ride Initiative.

After cycling 330 miles in four days - from Raleigh, N.C., to Washington, D.C. - Anna Chaney, above, along with1,700 other riders celebrated their accomplishment. In addition to their physical feat, the group's philanthropic efforts raised $4.8 million for AIDS research.


The Ride

Day One: The anticipation strangling Anna Chaney's breath made the two-hour-long wait to exit Raleigh, the beginning point for the 330-mile AIDS ride to D.C., unbearable. With 105 miles to complete by day's end, Chaney ached to move forward. But finding herself in the back of the pack, she had plenty of time to think of what lay behind and before her.

Chaney remembered the message of a safety video watched by each rider before setting out: "If you do not pay attention to what we say, you will die out there."

The message remained with Chaney as she pushed off from the starting line, 330 miles looming before her. At first, Chaney rode in disbelief, disorientation and a certain amount of discomfort.

A couple of hours in, Chaney settled in for the ride and looked at what she had been missing.

"After adjusting to the feel of the bike and realizing it's your traveling home for four days, you begin to look around," Chaney says.

Chaney admired the routes, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of country lands, cow and horse farms and tobacco fields.

Her thoughts returned home to her business, Herrington on the Bay, the catering service of Herrington Harbour Marina Resort, as riders passed an uninhabited wooden building, fronted with the ghostlike image of a restaurant sign.

"Along the way you start meeting people and remembering the foundation's mottoes, 'To live for every moment, To be kind, To make impossible, I'm possible.' It was like they took you out of the real world and stuck you in this little utopia for four days. It was amazing," Chaney says.

Oblivious to the world outside of the AIDS ride, 1,700 cyclists traveled for four days as one. There were few disagreements or problems. If any had arisen, it would have marked the end of the road for those riders. From day one, it was made clear that this ride would be a united effort of 1,700 individuals.

Chaney traveled in utopia until late afternoon. At her campsite, she showered and pitched a tent. Exhausted, she fell into a deep sleep and rose primed for her second day.

From Lawrenceville, Virginia, 225 winding, sometimes hilly miles still separated Chaney from Washington. But a shorter day and an easier ride of 85 miles to the day's destination, Richmond, eased the pain. Exhaustion was behind her. Only one thing was on Chaney's mind.

"By the time I got to the 50th mile, I was thinking I've got to get there fast because I do not want to wait in those shower lines. That was one lesson from the first day. Those lines are long," Chaney laughs.

Chaney and spinning partner Helene Dettweiler celebrate after DC AIDS Ride.


Millions from Thousands

"The second day I knew wasn't going to be that difficult because the third day was the hilly day. I met more people. I pushed myself more, to move forward and get to the end. Then, for some reason, I realized how blue the skies were above me. I took off my glasses because of their own blue tint. But the skies were still so beautiful."

Beautiful and amazing in Anna Chaney's mind, in more ways than one. Almost deliriously amazing.

At one point, Chaney might have believed she was in New Orleans. Many of the 600 volunteer crew members created pit stops along the route every 15 to 20 miles. One booth emulated the party feel of Mardi Gras, with volunteers tossing confetti at cyclists and hosing them down with cold water, then forcing riders to retrieve their bead necklace before traveling on. For those with crimson color on their faces, a Pleasantville-themed booth recalled the black and white of a slightly earlier age.

Unlike the rest stops, the tour has a profound purpose.

Five AIDS rides are scheduled for 1999 to raise funds to ease the burden of the men, women and children living with this deadly disease.

Twenty-five hundred riders completed a 560-mile course in California in early June. The 330-mile ride from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. - Chaney's ride - in late June drew 1,700 riders. Sixteen hundred made a 500-mile trek from Minneapolis to Chicago last week. In September, an AIDS ride takes 3,500 cyclists to New York from Boston for a journey of 275 miles. In October, 1,500 riders venture across Texas from Houston to Dallas for 350 miles.Anna Chaney with family

Raising $4.8 million with the help of the 1,700 riders, the D.C. AIDS ride and the four others will benefit Food & Friends and the Whitman-Walker Clinic, both of the metropolitan area.

Food & Friends volunteers deliver freshly prepared meals and groceries to homebound individuals and families living with AIDS, also offering friendship and nutrition education for the sick. Whitman-Walker handles medical and legal services for two out of every three AIDS-infected people in D.C. The clinic also oversees "case management and psycho-social recovery."

These American AIDS rides began in 1994, sponsored by Tanqueray. Over the past five years, they have generated over one million dollars in donations, becoming the most successful AIDS fund-raiser in history. Successful in more ways than one.

"The ride is very rewarding. Anyone who cycles or would even climb on a bike should make the ride. It's worth it," says Chaney, describing how riders get as much as they give.

Worth it even for those who have been out of the athletic gear for a long time.

Anna Chaney's sister Amber, mother Dottie and father Steuart came to D.C. to greet her at the finish.


One Dream Realized, Another Deferred

As the last year of the millennium broke, Chaney found herself falling into that boat - and yearning to make a change. Consumed with her catering business at Herrington Harbour Marina Resort, Chaney found it difficult to find time to cycle, her first love. One dream had consumed another.

Chaney's career did not begin at Herrington. Her dreams developed outside of her now-beloved Southern Anne Arundel County. Like many other high school graduates, Anna yearned to escape the small confines of the area. She left home, heading for the University of Maryland and then D.C. After working at Price Waterhouse and then a smaller firm as an accountant, she decided something was not quite right.

To remedy the situation, Chaney read the book, What Color is Your Parachute? Deep down inside, she knew that the hospitality industry held a special place in her heart. Chaney had been hooked by the happiness that her father Steuart, owner of Herrington Harbour Marinas, had brought to his customers.

Chaney thinks that her father attempted to deter this dream by taking her behind the scenes. At this point, the restaurant at Herrington was changing hands and something of a shambles.

"I think his thought was that I would walk in this building and see how dilapidated, how disgusting it was, how hard this business was and I'd probably change my mind. I didn't see any of that. I just saw this great place," Chaney laughs.

But Steuart tells a different story. He believes that no one could stop Anna from making her dreams come true. His only fear was that Anna did not understand the hardships that come with the business. Now, looking back, Anna's father is the first person to fully recognize what his daughter has done.

"Some people think that she just came along and daddy gave her a big prize. In our family, there is no free ride. She has literally worked 100-hour weeks to try to develop a business that before her presence at Herrington did not exist," Steuart Chaney says.

That business is catering, banquets and special-event planning. From small box lunches to formal weddings with gloved service, upscale chairs and draped linens, Anna has put Herrington on a new map. Letters from brides and other customers reach Anna, and at those moments she knows why she is here.

Steuart stood by as his daughter struggled.

"You have to accept failures, small things that go wrong along the way, but you can never lose sight of the future when things will be better. Anna has done that," Steuart says.

Never losing sight of that future, Anna dreams of creating a small conference center and a world-class resort with spa and hiking trails.

"I'm looking forward to the future and trying to develop something that works for Anne Arundel County and works for our community and that works for the place. You can't say I'd really like to build a Disney World on Herrington Harbour, but you can say I'd like to build a world-class, recognized resort," Chaney says.

But that dream had left scant time for another. So as the new year dawned, she needed some exercise. She needed to get back on a bike.


Spinning Dreams

Lights are turned low and the instructor coaches the class on. Simulator bikes travel all-terrain paths, crossing hills and jumps, while bike tensions are tightened and loosened. Closing eyes, the class envisions themselves in the open air, completing these intensive rides. After her first hour class, Chaney knew she had found her latest and toughest challenge: spinning.

"Spinning is indoor cycling on a stationary bike simulating various terrains and choreographed to different tempo songs. It's an alternative to treadmills as a way to maximize your cardiovascular endurance in an intense 40 minutes. We're also there to have fun," says Archie Holden, personal trainer and Chaney's former spinning instructor at Olympus Gym in Dunkirk.

Chaney knows her classmates were having fun.

"I think the whole class was laughing at me. They were like 'see you next time.' I said, that's right, you will see me next time," Chaney says, laughing now.

They thought she was never coming back. But she did, week after week. Then the instructor mentioned the AIDS ride, perking Chaney's attention. Another classmate, Helene Dettweiler, had signed up for the event, and somehow Anna found herself signing up, too. Together they would face the experience of a lifetime.

"I think I did it because I thought I couldn't. I'm always challenging myself. But I knew I was going to do it. It was only a question of how well," Chaney says.

All of Chaney's endeavors have gone well, from cycling through California's wine country with her father to mastering the challenging art of dressage to the intense regimen that earned Chaney the title of Miss Maryland in a body-building competition.

"When I first found out about Anna, she was a little weightlifter. Then I saw her put her skills to work at Herrington Harbour," says Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. "The fruit didn't fall very far from the tree. It's a very hard-working, determined family. What they do does not just benefit the Chaney family but enhances the quality of life in Southern Anne Arundel County."

Now, this 330-mile monster ride makes a difference in an even larger sphere.

Out of nowhere, two cyclists whip by Chaney like a whirlwind. Adrenaline rises to propel her forward. Full speed ahead like a locomotive, Chaney leads her pack to finish this third day's 96-mile bike ride from Richmond to Manassas, Virginia.


A Caribbean Adventure

Barely having caught her breath from her 330-mile cycling trip, Chaney now stands ready to embark on her latest venture.

Herrington Harbour will tempt locals to head for the Caribbean without leaving Anne Arundel County for the second annual Goombay Fest, Saturday, July 24.

Close your eyes and the music will take you there. Mama Jama, a popular Annapolis band, brings the sounds of calypso while Jah Works fills the air with reggae. Orlando Phillips, joining with the Greg Phillips Trio, brings his steel drum for tempo. Radio deejays Mary from WRNR and Niecey of WHFS will even sail in for the party.

With the Annapolis Parrothead Club Jimmy Buffett fans Jon Zukowski, emcee of the event Sean Reilly and Rick Mott, Chaney conspired to create her own Margaritaville in Rose Haven. All agreed that Herrington Harbour, laden with palm trees and surrounded by the Bay, needed a summer fling.

After creating this signature fest, Chaney looked for a charity to benefit. Because of the family's involvement in maintaining the Bay and at the suggestion of brother Hamilton, who volunteers with the group, she chose the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

It must have been the right formula because 1,500 people attended Goombay Fest last year, raising $3,000 for the Trust. Small donations were also made to the Chesapeake Beach Fire Department and the Parrothead Club.

As Chaney thinks back to the fest last year, a glint of enthusiasm fills her eyes. "It's got to be one of the most relaxing, enjoyable, fun festivals that I've ever been a part of and been to in our area on the Chesapeake Bay. It's like going to the Caribbean for a day," Chaney says with a smile. "There's no hassles."


Dreams Come True

No hassles that could compare with the 330-mile bike ride she had endured. But coming into the last leg of that race, leaving the outskirts of Virginia, Chaney felt hassle-free.

With a tightening knot in her stomach, Chaney longed to be done but not finished. Mixed emotions filled her head during the last 35 miles of this 330-mile ride. Mixed emotions until she traveled through the final stretches of the course in Virginia. On a 90-degree, stifling Sunday morning, residents lined the street waving hands and shouting words of encouragement to each passing cyclist.

"They made you feel like you were the most incredible person in the world just for doing this. You feel like you're pulling into the Olympics and you've just won a gold medal. Meanwhile, there's 1,700 people around you who've just done the same thing," Chaney says, still awed.

Chaney found herself not only drenched in sweat but also in tears.

"I was thinking, this is so selfless that these people are spending their Sunday morning out on the road cheering us in when they could be doing other things. That's when it hit me, what I had done. I just started crying. That was one of the most rewarding parts of the ride for me," Chaney remembers.

But Chaney had not reached the end of the road.

After completing a 330-mile cycling tour, instead of collapsing with the thrill of accomplishment, riders hopped back on their bikes for the grand finale: the victory ride.

All 1,700 riders climbed on their cycles one last time to ride from the Mall to the Capitol. Chaney remembers the awesome sight, still wondering how so many moved as one down the Mall. This marked the end of the ride, the end of her once-in-a-lifetime.

When Chaney imagined she had been emptied of all emotion, that was when she was most wrong. Volunteers led one symbolic empty bike through the crowd, representing all the men, women and children who would never again feel the hardness of a banana seat.

"The closing ceremony was very emotional. From the start to the finish, they never let you forget why you were there. There's a constant reminder that you are out there saving lives. You're out there riding on your bike for all those people that couldn't do it, will never be able to do it," Chaney says.

Chaney counts herself among the lucky, among those who do have opportunities and a bright future ahead built on the foundation of a strong childhood.

She claims that she lived as any other child: learning photography, collecting stamps, holding dolls, looking for fossils or riding horses. But something that would define her life took root at an early age, she believes.

"Sometime between the time you're one and three years old, you develop your motivation. Somehow, somewhere in there, something influences you to make you what you are going to be," says Chaney, declaring her philosophy.

Chaney believes she had been formed by age seven. That's a discovery she made just this year in a dark attic, surrounded by her family.

On Mother's Day, Anna and her brother and sisters presented Dottie Chaney with the gift of an attic cleaning. Opening boxes and discovering memory after memory, Anna's hands fell upon a picture story, made when she was only seven, tracing the path of her very early life. Determination and strength shone through this child in those pictures. Not able to contain her excitement, Anna rushed to her mother.

"It was me in the pictures," Chaney says. "I was telling someone that I was going to learn to play the piano even though I didn't know how to. I was about to begin piano lessons. A person stood behind me, saying 'No, you won't.' Then I said I was going to teach other people to play. This person said 'No, you can't.' My mother thought it was sad and was angry that someone was telling me that I couldn't do something. But at the end of the book, I sat at the piano, playing. The person said 'Oh, you can do it.'

"It was something that was in me a long time ago that said if you want to do something you can do it. But you have to work at it. There are going to be a lot of people around you that tell you, you can't. But if that's what you want to do, you have to go for it."

These are qualities Chaney believes she learned from her parents, Steuart and Dottie. Young Anna watched her father leave Westinghouse to pursue his own dreams, to follow the visions he had of building a marina complex. All the while, Dottie spent each day working as a speech pathologist. Anna saw her mother teaching others how to speak, witnessing the compassion that flowed from her.

Compassion and determination now flow from their oldest daughter. "There is a finite time that you're here on this Earth," Anna Chaney says. "Make the most of it."

| Issue 29 |

Volume VII Number 29
July 22-28, 1999
New Bay Times

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