The skies were overcast and a light drizzle fell in Cedar City, Utah, on May 3, but it wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of the crowd gathered at the southern end of town – or the long line of smiling and waving riders who were part of the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America that had arrived to greet the crowd.
Typically associated more with four wheels than two, Kyle Petty started the charity motorcycle ride in 1995 to benefit causes for children with chronic illnesses and conditions. The primary beneficiary has been Victory Junction, a camp spread across 84 acres in Randleman, North Carolina, that opened in 2004.
Victory Junction was the dream of Petty’s son, Adam, who was also a race car driver. When Adam Petty died in 2000, family and friends came together to make the camp a reality. Since the charity ride’s inception in 1995, more than 8,875 riders have logged nearly 12.6 million cumulative motorcycle miles and raised more than $20 million for Victory Junction and other children’s charities.
While Kyle Petty may be mostly known for his racing accolades and commentating, in Episode 56 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast, Petty told Rider EIC Greg Drevenstedt that he has been riding motorcycles “forever.”
“And when I say ‘forever,’ it’s pretty dang close to forever,” he said. “I consider myself a motorcyclist. … Motorcyclists get on a bike, and they go see the country. They go see things. They explore. They want to be a part of the world.”
Petty said there are so many motorcyclists who want to give back to charitable causes.
“They’re doing something they enjoy, and they see they can do something they enjoy and still help other people at the same time.”
Along these lines, the 27th iteration of the Kyle Petty Charity Ride started and ended in Salt Lake City in my home state of Utah and included a trip along U.S. Route 50, “The Loneliest Road in America,” to Ely, Nevada, then southwest to Tonopah and on to Las Vegas for a lap around the track at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Following the stop in Las Vegas, the riders – about 175 of them, if you counted those riding two-up – arrived in Cedar City around 5:30 p.m. Along for the ride were some other familiar faces, including NASCAR Hall of Famer and seven-time champion (and Kyle’s father) Richard Petty, NASCAR legends Ken Schrader and Kenny Wallace, former NFL great and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, and NBC Sports NASCAR personality Rick Allen.
There was a line of people waiting for photos and signatures on everything from posters to T-shirts to motorcycle helmets. Among them was Terie Simcox, who was there with her sister and three of her sister’s coworkers. Simcox is a fan of both Kyle and Richard Petty but said she was mostly there to see the latter.
“He’s 85 years old, and he still is just as young as can be and doing these charity runs,” she said. “He’s still there for his fans and for his community. But, of course, Kyle too. They do a lot for communities and fundraisers and charities, and I think it’s pretty awesome.”
Simcox also mentioned Kenny Wallace and how both he and Rick Allen were cracking jokes as they went down the line.
“Together, they were just hilarious,” she said. “It was pretty cool to just see them being themselves out with the public.”
She also said she was impressed that Herschel Walker was along for the ride and was “friendly and cool with the public, especially after such a rigorous political campaign.”
As to motorcycles, Simcox said her family doesn’t ride street bikes, but her husband has a Honda 450 and they “play in the dirt.”
“My husband used to race pro, but that was three kids and 50 pounds ago,” she joked.
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After Petty made his way through the line, he stopped for a moment to talk with me.
There’s a joke in southern Utah that when the pioneers arrived, they said once the wind stopped blowing they would move on. Fortunately, it was just a light spring rain we were getting May 3, but I told Petty they were lucky because it was usually windy this time of year.
“You’re kidding,” he said and laughed, obviously familiar with the area. “It’s been kind of windy, but it’s multidirectional wind. It just blows you everywhere, so that’s alright.”
Other than that, he said, the ride had been great, with temps in the mid-40s in the morning and mid-60s to low 70s during the day, although he did admit that “Vegas was warm.”
When I asked about his favorite part of the trip so far, he told me it was the stretch of Route 50 to Ely, then the route to Tonopah and out of Tonopah, but he also called the trip into Cedar City on State Route 56 “beautiful.”
“When you’re coming back through the valley and the mountains over there,” he said, pointing the direction they had come, “with the snow on top that you can see, it’s gorgeous.”
After leaving Cedar City, the route would take the riders to Moab, Utah, which is near both Arches and Canyonlands national parks.
Petty said the group thinks they’ve seen some great scenery so far, “but I keep telling them, ‘Y’all ain’t seen nothin’ yet.’”
For more information on the cause and to donate, visit the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America website.