When NASCAR driver Kyle Petty and his friends organized a motorcycle ride in 1995, they had one goal: ride from California to North Carolina.
“Everybody we mentioned it to said that it was the dumbest idea in the world,” Petty says. “We just kept talking about it, and eventually it was like ‘Hey, man. Let’s do it for charity.’ So, we told everybody again. They said it was the greatest idea that they’d ever heard.”
The idea evolved into the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America.
“That first year, every city we stopped in, we gave someone in need a check for $4,000 to $5,000,” Petty says.
“It blossomed through the years. We started going to children’s hospitals. In 2000, when my oldest son was killed in a racing accident, we decided to build Victory Junction.”
In Randleman, North Carolina, Victory Junction helps raise the morale of children ages 6 to 16 who are seriously ill or suffer from chronic medical conditions. Petty says it’s been an honor to remember his son, Adam, this way.
“It’s very humbling and puts life in perspective,” Petty says.
“There were selfish reasons behind starting the ride. With all that the ride has been through and that our family has been through with the loss of Adam, to see a camp come up out of the ground, to see the money from the ride to help build and maintain that camp, and to have touched almost 98,000 kids since 2004, it’s an incredibly humbling thought.”
All riders will be required to take part in a “safety first” program on the day before the ride begins. A valid motorcycle endorsement on each participant’s driver’s license is also required. All motorcycles will be allowed, but a five-gallon tank is required. Riders who are unregistered will not be permitted to temporarily join the route. Riders may register to join the ride temporarily as “leg riders,” but these spots will only be utilized if all of the full ride spots are not filled. However, all motorists are encouraged to follow the riders, as long as they are behind the last support vehicle.
The 2022 ride marks its return after a COVID-19-dictated break. In 2019, participants chose Arizona and Utah as the route for the 2020 ride. The following year, Petty still didn’t feel comfortable with the potential risks.
“We watched how COVID had affected the Native American population,” Petty says.
“So many of the places that we were riding through were Navajo land. We didn’t want to be the cause of anything. So, we sat out another year. This year, things began to open. We said, ‘Let’s look at it again.’ We called all the hotels. We called all the gas stations. We went out and did a site inspection, and everybody said, ‘We’re ready for you guys to do it.’ With the blessings of the Native American people and the local municipalities that we’re going through, we decided that this was the year we’d come back.”
Petty says he can finally write a new chapter, adding to his inspirational story.
“It means so much to me, because it means the continuation of something that we started almost 27 years ago,” he says.
“It means the continuation of sending kids to camp. It means the continuation of what I refer to as the ride family. We have people that have been on this ride every year. We have a group who’s been on this ride for 20 years. We have a group who’s been on this ride over 15 years. There are a lot of people who, year after year, come back to be a part of this ride and send kids to camp.”
He adds he hates to see the momentum stop.
“So, for me, to see the support of those people to come back after years off and say, ‘Hey, we’re still in. We’re here with you.’ has meant a lot. I know it means a lot to the kids and the families to know that when camp opens this summer, the gates will be open wide.”
Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America
WHEN: Saturday, April 30, to Friday, May 6
Sunday, May 1: Lake Havasu City to Flagstaff
Monday, May 2: Flagstaff to Bryce Canyon City, Utah
Tuesday, May 3: Bryce Canyon City, Utah (off day)
Wednesday, May 4: Bryce Canyon City, Utah, to Monument Valley, Utah
Thursday, May 5: Monument Valley, Utah, to Sedona
Friday, May 6: Sedona to Phoenix
COST: At the stops, fans can also purchase T-shirts for $10 and hats for $15 or simply donate to support the “Small Change. Big Impact.”