Initially, the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America just began as a way for a bunch of friends to travel the country. Since then, it’s grown exponentially, raising millions of dollars for the Victory Junction Gang Camp along the way. The 25th edition is set to begin in Seattle, Washington on May 3, taking riders nearly 3,700 miles across the United States, finishing off in Key Largo, Florida on May 9.
Recently, POPULAR SPEED caught up with Kyle Petty to talk about the charity ride.
POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts as you look towards this year’s ride?
KYLE PETTY: I think we’re really excited. Last year we did a little bit different variation of the ride, and I think our longest day last year was about 180 to 200 miles. This year, our longest day is about 470 miles. So it’s a totally different type of ride than what we did last year, but it’s really more of a throwback to our first year. It’s more closer to what we did the first year, and it’s going to be a long way from Seattle to Oregon.
PS: This year is the 25th anniversary for the ride. Did you ever think it’d grow to what’s become?
KYLE: No, never. Honestly, that first year we never thought we’d get to the second year to be honest, just because we didn’t know if we wanted to do it anymore. So we did it the first couple of years and then decided let’s make it to year five, then we’ll quit. Then it’s like let’s go to year 10, and we’ll quit – and here we are 25 years later and still doing it, still raising money for the Victory Junction Camp by still riding motorcycles across the country. I don’t think any of us ever envisioned we’d be this far.
PS: What’s been the most surprising thing that you’ve seen with it through the years?
KYLE: Honestly, I think the most surprising thing to me is the amount of people that continue to go with us every year. We’ve got a group of 10 people that have gone every year, but there’s about 30 or 40 that have gone 15, 20 years or more. I think that surprises me, because a lot of us started in our 20’s and 30’s, and here we are in our 50’s and 60’s still riding. That kind of surprises me a little bit.
But you know what – I honestly think what surprises me, and continues to, is along the way, when we stop, the amount of people that come out to just say hello and say we think this is a cool thing that we do. So I think it’s still the fans that kind of surprise me.
PS: The route for this year has been announced. What stop are you most excited for on the ride?
KYLE: Well, there’s so many. I think starting in Seattle – I’m excited about that because we’ve never left up that far north. Coming back down to Glenwood Springs, I’m excited about that because we’ve only stopped there one time and we had such a great time in that little town when we stopped there. Childress, Texas is the same. We stopped in that small town one time, and that town rolled out the red carpet for us, so I’m excited about those two places.
I’m also excited about Pennscola and being there, and I’m excited about Shreveport-Bossier City, because we’ve been there one time before. It’s hard to pick one place because a lot of these places we’ve been to one time before and the memories are like incredible.
You know when you have a good birthday party and you think you can do that again? I think we can duplicate what we did before, and we’re going to try.
PS: When it comes to the route, how do you go about choosing the direction that you and the group will go?
KYLE: Well, I just think we’re blessed. When the ride is over with, we talk to all the riders and say, ‘Where would you guys like to leave from next year?’ and they kind of say the pacific northeast, or northwest, or maybe the southwest. So we take that and then kind of decide where we want to stop.
This year, being the 25th, we’ve never gone from corner to corner like this. We’ve never gone from the pacific northwest to just about as far southeast as you can go to Key Largo. So we’ve never really done anything like this, so this year was an easy one as we decided to try something we’d never done.
PS: It’s been mentioned that you’ll have several new riders this year. With having done the ride for 24 years now, what would your advice be to them?
KYLE: Hang on. Just hang on because it’s going to take off and you’re going to have to keep up. I think the advice is – and it’s not as advice as this. When I sit with the new riders and talk to them, I say, ‘Listen, this is safety first. That’s the first thing. it’s all about being safe as we go across. Never ride above your ability. If you’re having an issue, tell us; we’ll stop and take care of it. Don’t worry about it. Don’t be ashamed to ride in the van for a while if you need to rest.’
But the main thing we tell them is you’re going to make friends on this ride that will be your lifelong friends, and I think that’s the big thing. We look forward to when new riders come because we know we’re adding people and friendships to our lives, and the lives of some of these riders.
PS: On top of being a great ride for everybody to partake in, what does it mean for you in seeing how much it has raised for the camp?
KYLE: I think, for me, I don’t put in dollars and sense but rather how many kids are able to go to camp. We’ve seen almost 30,000 kids at camp, and the charity ride itself is the directly responsible for a third of those because that’s how much we’re able to raise each year. So I think that’s the big thing for me, is it means everything for me to see these kids come to camp.
Fans can learn more about the Kyle Petty Charity Ride at http://www.kylepettycharityride.com/.
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