Charity ride to continue on journey today |

Charity ride to continue on journey today

Ride Across America benefits camp for chronically ill children

Brandon Gee
NASCAR driver Kyle Petty jokes with Steamboat Springs City Council President Loui Antonucci on Monday afternoon in front of the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel. Petty was in town, along with other celebrities such as Herschel Walker, Davis Love III and Rutledge Wood, as part of the 15th annual Chick-fil-A Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America.
John F. Russell

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For more information about the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America or to donate, call 404-287-8024 or visit http://www.kylepettychar...

— Nine years ago today, racecar driver Adam Petty died in a crash at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

This morning, Adam’s father and NASCAR driver Kyle Petty – joined by about 200 other motorcycle riders – will roar out of Steamboat Springs and continue a cross-country trek benefiting a charity founded in his son’s honor.

It was fitting then, that participants say the Chick-fil-A Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America has evolved into a family affair.

“I heard about how everyone, they’re like family,” Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL Pro Bowl running back Herschel Walker said about the ride.

Walker participates in the ride with his brother-in-law.

“I got on the ride, and I realized it’s true. When you leave the ride, you miss the people from the ride. You think about it all year.”

When he first participated in the ride four years ago, Walker said he took some ribbing because all 16 of his motorcycles had a combined mileage of about only 500 miles. This year’s nine-day trip is 3,500 miles from Stevenson, Wash., to Greensboro, N.C.

Walker and many other ride participants were kicking back at the Chaps bar in the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel after Monday’s 300-mile leg of the journey from Park City, Utah.

“Pretty much everybody here is an interesting story,” said Eddie Gossagh, president of the Texas Motor Speedway. “Kyle and I have been buddies for a long time. We’ve been riding motorcycles together for 20 years. When this started 15 years ago, it was a natural fit.”

Gossagh and others at his table named Diane Baldwin the toughest rider on the trip for having the mettle to cross the nation on a motorcycle with a sidecar that Baldwin’s daughter Chelsea is riding in. The bike isn’t as easy to turn because it can’t lean.

“I feel like I’m 200,” Baldwin, owner of a Harley-Davidson dealership in North Carolina, joked. “It don’t turn. You have to steer it. It’s liking driving an old pickup with no power steering.”

PGA golfer Davis Love III also participates in the ride with his daughter.

“It’s one of those deals that just kind of evolved,” Kyle Petty said. “It’s funny how it evolves into a family deal.”

Petty said the ride, in its 15th year, began with a group of friends who just wanted to be able to say they had ridden a motorcycle across the country. Then it became a charity event benefiting mostly children’s hospitals. But for the past five years, its main beneficiary has been Victory Junction – a camp in Randleman, N.C., for children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses – founded by Petty and his wife, Pattie, in honor of their late son.

Today’s leg of the journey will take the charity ride to its next overnight stop in Hays, Kan. On Wednesday, the group will stop in Kansas City, Kan., to break ground on a second Victory Junction camp.

Since 1995, more than 6,100 riders have logged 7.9 million miles and donated more than $12 million to children’s charities. This year’s charity ride concludes May 17 in Randleman.

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