The 21st Annual Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America came through Nevada and Ash Springs on May 4.
Former NASCAR driver Kyle Petty is leading nearly 200 motorcycles and support vehicles along the 2,300 mile route.
The riders started May 2 in Santa Cruz, Calif. and were heading for Bryce Canyon, Utah by nightfall, and eventually on to Branson, Miss. May 8. The group stayed in Tonopah May 3, most at the Mizpah Hotel and stopped at Ash Springs Monday morning for a refueling stop and short break.
Petty said the ride came through this part of rural Nevada, “because we do a different route every year. We look for roads and for areas that are just pretty. We came across Death Valley on Sunday, 105 degrees, but it was just gorgeous. We try to ride back roads more so than interstates.”
He said their route planner, Don Tilly, passed away last year, “and this is the last route he selected, so that’s why we are only going to Branson, Miss. That’s as far as he had got with our route this year. A lot of our riders are from the east coast and urban areas, so when you see the open sky and the way these mountains roll, and as pretty as everything is, it’s pretty amazing.”
The ride is held each year to raise funds and awareness of Victory Junction – a camp in Randleman, N.C., a little south of Greensboro, Petty created to enrich the lives of children ages six to 16 with chronic medical or life-threatening illnesses, in honor of his late son Adam.
A number of riders said they really enjoyed the ride from Tonopah to Alamo, and especially along the famed E.T. Highway.
In Railroad Valley, the bikers came across a large group of free-range cows and calves on the highway.
“It was exciting,” said Phyllis Silverstien of Atlanta, Ga. “It was a little scary when the cows ran across the road on the open range. We don’t see that in Georgia. Grateful that we have had the opportunity the last five years to make the ride and raise money for the kids.”
Also, the group was buzzed by a jet fighter from Nellis Air Force base out in the desert. Some said they could see the plane coming straight on, but then the pilot circled around and came up from behind which most riders did not expect and were rattled a little bit by that, “because it was only about 500 feet up!”
Diane Baldwin of Gastonia, N.C. is one of the original riders that started back in 1984. She said her late husband was on the Charity Ride Board of Directors, “and we rode in it from the get go and I want to continue. It’s all the people. I’ve met some of the best friends of my life here.”
Rich Allen, NBC Sports NASCAR TV announcer said, “The ride is a great thing for the Victory Junction camp. The ride from Tonopah to here has been absolutely gorgeous, with some beautiful sights to see. Our reception in Tonopah was great as well as here.”
Allen said the riders come from all parts of the country. “We come together and for a week we’re a family, all together for one common goal, and I think everybody loves the camaraderie that they can get together. A lot of people use their vacation time to do it, but we have become a small family.”
Al Evans, of Reno, said he was the only Nevada license plate in the entire group. He said his reason for being on the ride was the same as all the others, to support and raise awareness of the Victory Junction camp.
Other celebrities who are participating in the ride this year, although not all at the Ash Springs stop include NASCAR
Hall of Fame driver and seven-time champion Richard Petty, NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth, NASCAR legends Harry Gant and Donnie Allison, former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL great Herschel Walker, Harley-Davidson, Inc., President and CEO Matt Levatich and NASCAR personality Rutledge Wood.