Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage is in the midst of a 3,300-mile motorcycle trek from the Pacific Northwest to the East Coast over the course of nine days as part of Kyle Petty’s “Charity Ride Across America.” The ride, in its 16th year, is an annual effort to raise awareness and funds for the Victory Junction Gang Camp and other children’s charities.
Since the charity ride’s inception in 1995, 6,400 participants have logged more than 9.1 million cumulative motorcycle miles, traveled through 48 states, and donated more than $13 million to the Victory Junction Gang Camp and other charities that support chronically ill children.
This year’s “Charity Ride Across America” begins Saturday in Indian Wells, Calif., and will conclude Sunday, May 9, at the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, N.C. The riders will make overnight stops in North Las Vegas, Nev., Richfield, Utah; Durango, Colo., Amarillo, Texas; Texarkana, Texas, Choctaw, Miss.; Chattanooga,Tenn., and Asheville, N.C. Gossage, who has participated in all but one of the charity rides since the inaugural one in 1995, will be sharing his daily experiences beginning Monday from the charity ride.
Day 7 (Choctaw, Miss. to Chattanooga, Tenn.)
As we made our way through Alabama we stopped at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham. It's the newest road course on the IndyCar Series schedule and it was the first time I'd seen it. I must say it was a beautiful road course with up and down turns and wonderful landscaping. It was a whole lot of fun to ride on.
For lunch we had Alabama ribs. I must say I will put Texas ribs up against them any day of the week. Texas ribs are so tender and good. If you want leathery, hard ribs than you eat Alabama ribs.
This ride has been one of the best ever. I told Pattie Petty that today. Even though it was cold for a couple of days it has been fun. The best part is still yet to come as we get to visit the Victory Junction Gang Camp. It's always the highlight of the trip. To see the kids lined up along the street clapping and sing songs is a neat moment. These kids are facing a lot so to put a smile on their face is priceless. I'm just glad to be part of it.
The trip to Victory Junction is bittersweet because it means the ride is over. It's tough leaving a group of friends but we all know we'll pick up the conversations right where we left off last year. I enjoy getting the opportunity to take part in this event. The trip is physically demanding but all I know is lets go. I'm ready to do it again next year.
Day 6 (Texarkana, Texas to Choctaw, Miss.)
We’ve been fortunate to stay away from the rain and today there hasn’t been a cloud in the sky. We had a great lunch today in Lakefront, Miss. We drove through the town and this little gas station had the best catfish and hush puppies. It was fantastic.
Today we’ve been riding on the Natchez Trace Parkway and we’re reminded of the damage that has come through the Southeast recently. As we drove on this road that runs through scenic forest area, you can see where last weekend’s tornadoes just ripped through trees as there were big empty patches. It reminds me of the flooding back home in Nashville. I’ve talked to friends to see how they are doing. Fortunately all of them are fine. They’ve told that the flooding is so bad that the water has made it up to the stage in the Grand Ole Opry. I was born and raised there and don’t remember anything this bad.
You can certainly tell we are in SEC country as people have been excited to see Herschel. Normally people are expecting to see Kyle and other NASCAR drivers but they don’t expect to see this former NFL running back and Heisman Trophy winner. There was a lady today that saw him and she was in shock. Her mouth was moving but nothing was coming out. It was funny. We have one more day of riding through SEC country and even Georgia. It’ll be interesting to see what other reactions Herschel gets.
Day 5 (Amarillo, Texas to Texarkana, Texas)
The fifth day of the Charity Ride included a trip through the great state of Texas. I’m sure glad to be back home. Since we entered the state we have noticed more and more fans on the side of the road holding signs and taking pictures. During our stop today in Nocona we had a group of individuals from TMS Nation stop by and show their support. The group wore “TMS Nation” shirts, had signs, and most importantly, raised money and presented it to Kyle. It’s amazing to see that support from our race fans. For fans to make the trip to Nocona and show their support truly indicates why Texas Motor Speedway has the best fans. Like I remind everyone, Texas isn’t just a football state, Texas is a racing state.
We got an early start to the day considering our 502 mile trip across the state. When we left Amarillo, it was cold but as we kept riding it was like somebody flipped a switch. It’s been brutally hot. Today was the longest day, but I’m good to go. I could go another 200 miles.
Day 4 (Durango, Colo. to Amarillo, Texas)
Last night we stayed in Durango, Colo., and it is a really cool place. The railroads played a key role in the city and you can tell that around every corner. We ate at a restaurant that had a big locomotive inside and it was really neat. It has been one of the most scenic days of our trip as we’ve driven through areas with snow capped mountains and incredible boulders and rocks. Whenever we go on a trip we normally just jump on a plane and don’t get to enjoy the scenery, but during this ride we see the things in between our destinations. The mountains and rocks are the substance and it’s a great place to be.
We started in Durango in 35 degree weather with all the riders wearing heated suits but by the time we got to New Mexico we were wearing as little as you can get by. When we made our stop in Santa Fe we were greeted by thousands of fans. There was a big festival in the streets and everybody was having a good time. It was great to see downtown Santa Fe alive.
I’m looking forward to crossing the line and getting back home to Texas. Since I’ve been on the ride we’ve been through the Lone Star State five or six times and it has always been fun. It’s always great to see fans from Texas Motor Speedway during the ride and their excitement about the races. I’m reminded of how large the Texas Motor Speedway fan base is when I go on these trips. I met a gentleman in Richfield, Utah, who came up to me and introduced himself. He was a fan of Texas Motor Speedway and told me he had recently bought tickets for November’s AAA Texas 500. I’m looking forward to seeing more fans as we get closer to North Texas and make our stop in Nocona at 1 p.m. tomorrow.
Day 1 (Indian Wells, Calif. to North Las Vegas, Nev.)
Day 2 (North Las Vegas, Nev. to Richfield, Utah)
Day 3 (Richfield, Utah to Durango, Colo.)
Since leaving Indian Wells, Calif., we have rode through everything from warm temperatures to rain, sleet and even snow and ice as we head to Durango, Colo. The ride has been one of the prettier ones we’ve ever done before and that’s saying a lot. Yesterday we ran into snow and sleet in Utah, which makes it tough to ride. When we woke up this morning in Utah, it was 25 degrees and our bikes were covered in frost. It has been cold and it has been wet, but it has been worth it. It has been such a beautiful ride that we just ignore the snow and cold.
Yesterday we drove to the Zion National Park and it was neat to see people rock climbing and the incredible scenery. While riding through Utah, we have taken two-lane roads and it has been such a blast.
The most adventurous part of the trip started the day before the ride. While I was riding with three of the guys I was with, we got pulled over just two blocks into our trip. The three were not wearing helmets, which is mandatory in the state of California. While I was following the rules and wearing my helmet, the others got busted. I encouraged the La Quinta officer to give my friends a ticket. Fortunately, the officer was nice and let one of them go back and get the helmets. I must say it made for an interesting start to the ride.
This year’s list of celebrity riders are long-time supporters of the charity ride. Former Dallas Cowboys running back Herschel Walker, 2003 Sprint Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth and NASCAR legend Harry Gant are making the 3,300-mile trek.
It’s always great to see riders that have participated in this event from day one. Like Kyle always says, “We’re just like one big family.” We are a family as we carry on conversations where we left off from last year. That’s one of the many great parts about this ride.
Day 8 (Chattanooga, Tenn. to Asheville, N.C.)
Day 9 (Asheville, N.C. to Randleman, N.C.)