Kyle Petty said that he has come up with some bad ideas in his time. But this was an innocent idea -- an urge more than an idea. He simply wanted to get out on the road and drive with some friends. It turned out to be a stroke of genius. Over the last 17 years, Petty has led a group of motorcycle drivers on rides that have criss-crossed the United States. Along the way, he has helped raise millions of dollars for chronically ill kids.
"I've had plenty of ideas shot down," said Petty. "If you had drawn this up as a business plan people would have laughed at you. But we raise a little over a million a year now."
The 17th annual Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America takes place May 7-14. Petty will lead a field of more than 175 riders from Lake Placid, New York, to Amelia Island, Florida, as they raise awareness and funds for several causes, including Victory Junction, a camp for chronically ill children founded by Kyle and Pattie Petty in honor of their late son Adam.
Since the Charity Ride's inception in 1995, 6,850 participants have logged more than 9.8 million cumulative motorcycle miles and donated more than $14 million to Victory Junction and other charities that support chronically ill children.
The ride is usually conducted from West to East, but on occasion, including this year, it will run North to South. We asked Petty what some of his favorites views were along the way and he said a lot of that depends on the people and the route.
"I'll be honest, it depends on where you are from," he said. "If you are from the East Coast and when we get to Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, nothing is more beautiful than the desert and Red Rocks. But if you are from the West Coast, once we hit the East Coast with all the trees, those guys have never seen so many trees before."
The drive started with four friends driving from track to track during the NASCAR season.
"It was an idea that people just latched onto," he said. "The second year we had 35 bikes and we were going to stop because we never thought it could get any bigger. This is the 17th year and it's hard to believe that we even did it for two years."
Of all the places he's visted and the sights he's seen, it's the people that he remembers the most.
"I'm proud of everyone who has volunteered and who has been a part of it," he said. "It's the people that stand out more than anything else. One year we had Terry Labonte riding with us. We were riding for an hour and half and we didn't see a car or another person. We were in the middle of nowhere and all of sudden we see this family holding up signs, "Terry will you please sign your autograph." So we stopped. Those people had driven three hours to get to that crossroad because they knew we would be there."
Fans and spectators along the Charity Ride route may contribute through the Charity Ride's "Small Change. Big Impact." program, which accepts donations at pit stop locations.
Followed the journey on twitter: twitter.com/kpcharityride, and twitter.com/kylepetty.
Here is the schedule:
Day 1 Saturday, May 7: Lake Placid, N.Y. to Corning, N.Y.; Day 2 Sunday, May 8: Corning, N.Y. to Farmington, Pa.; Day 3 Monday, May 9 Farmington, Pa. to Irvington, Va.; Day 4, Tuesday, May 10 **Remain in Irvington, Va.** Day 5 Wednesday, May 11 Irvington, Va. to Wilmington, N.C.; Day 6 Thursday, May 12, Wilmington, N.C. to Mt. Pleasant, S.C.; Day 7 Friday, May 13, Mt. Pleasant, S.C. to Amelia Island, Fla.; Day 8 Saturday, May 14 Ride officially ends in Amelia Island.