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Day 8: Coast-to-coast ride wraps up in Daytona

NASCAR.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America has two goals -- 1. Fund raising. 2. Fun raising.

Both were accomplished in volume over the past eight days as the ride logged more than 2,600 miles from the Pacific Ocean to a landing Saturday afternoon a few feet from the Atlantic in Daytona Beach.

The 20th annual ride was the first that stretched from ocean to ocean, a goal Petty had set to mark the special anniversary. The first ride -- in 1995 -- crossed a route from California to North Carolina, but this month's run was the first that stretched literally from sea to shining sea.

 "Next week I'd like to turn around and go back to California and start over," Petty said Saturday. "But everybody goes back to the real world next week."

Although the ride typically lasts only eight days, planning for the operation takes most of the year. Numerous hurdles have to be crossed to move 200 people across the country on motorcycles, and much of that work is handled by tour director Morgan Castano, whose office is near Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. She is the ride's only full-time employee.

"It takes 12 months to put it together," Petty said. "People who have put on charity golf tournaments will understand this -- it's basically the logistics of putting on three golf tournaments a day for eight days.

"You've got food, hotel rooms, gas, travel for bikes out and back. Police escorts. The logistics just eat you up. It's an operation to move this many people across country."

It's also costly, but much of the expense =is covered by corporate sponsors and individual riders who pay for gas for the entire group at fuel stops or who write a check for group meals. A resident of Broussard, Louisiana paid for fuel for all of the riders when the tour stopped there Thursday.

The ride is the biggest fund-raiser for the Petty family's Victory Junction Gang Camp, a Randleman, North Carolina summer camp for chronically ill children. Petty said proceeds from the ride typically cover about 15 percent of the camp's annual budget.

Ride funds come from sponsoring companies, from ride participants who pay to be in the group and from individuals who drop a few coins or a few dollars into ride collection bins along the way.

"This is all about sending those kids to camp," Petty said. "Every dollar goes a long way. We don't have a specific goal. It's to raise as much money as we can. Every donation moves the needle. If you give us a pig, we'll make barbecue. We're not going to turn any donation down."

After a Saturday night dinner, the riders went their separate ways. Most probably will return for the 2015 ride.

 "It's an emotional day for everybody," Petty said. "People who didn't even know each other at the beginning of the week now eat every meal together or ride together. You make new friends. It's like being a kid and going to summer camp."
At 53, Petty is the eternal kid -- but one who rides cross-country and raises money. And fun.

Day 8 recap

Started: Tallahassee, Florida.
Finished:
Daytona Beach, Florida
Miles traveled: 242.9

Notes: The eight-day ride covered 2,674 miles (give or take a 10th here and there), eight states, several barbecue restaurants and one Old West town (Tombstone, Arizona). ? Several children who have been campers at Victory Junction greeted riders at stops along the way. ?Virginia rider Jo Ann Emmons, who was injured in an accident on the ride's first day, remains hospitalized in Phoenix.
 
Donate: The Kyle Petty Charity Ride raises money for the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a summer camp for chronically ill children. To donate, victoryjunction.org.

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Day 8 recap

Started: Tallahasse, Florida.
Finished: Daytona Beach, Florida
Miles traveled: 242.9

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