A Full Circle Friendship Fueled by NASCAR and Motorcycles
Charity Rider DeDe Cable recounts her days babysitting a young Kyle Petty before reconnecting through motorcycles
After relocating to sunny Daytona Beach, Florida, from Chicago in 1958, Charity Rider DeDe Cable, who was in the first grade at the time, spent the remainder of her childhood frolicking around the Royal Beach Motel – an establishment her father purchased in Daytona Beach. In those days, most motels were relatively small, including the Royal Beach Motel. However, with its 51 rooms, the Royal Beach Motel was the largest motel in the area. “For some reason, a lot of NASCAR drivers and crews stayed there [when they came down to race at Daytona International Speedway],” said DeDe. “Of course, we didn’t know anything about NASCAR at first, but then we got to know the drivers and crews and became really big race fans.”
It just so happened that the Petty family stayed at the motel along with their pit crews. “We first really got to know Lee and Elizabeth Petty because in 1961, Lee had a bad accident in the qualifying races at Daytona, leaving him seriously injured,” said DeDe. “Elizabeth would be with Lee at the hospital during the day and would come back to the motel at night and would cry and talk with my parents.” After Lee was discharged from the hospital, he still had quite a long road to recovery. So, he and Elizabeth extended their stay at the Royal Beach Motel for three months while he recuperated.
And just like his parents, Lee and Elizabeth, Richard Petty also would stay at the Royal Beach Motel when he came down to race. He often brought his wife Lynda and two young babies, Kyle and Sharon Petty. In fact, Kyle was born on June 2, 1960, and just a few short weeks later he was in Daytona with his parents for the July race. Then, the following June, Kyle’s little sister, Sharon, was born and she began joining the family at the Royal Beach Motel during the races at Daytona.
“Back then, the drivers’ wives would be in a scoring stand at the races and would do the scoring for their husbands. Unlike today, everything was done manually,” said DeDe. “So while Lynda was away scoring for Richard, my sisters and I would babysit Kyle, Sharon and their cousin Lynn Petty. And they were just the cutest little kids you’d ever seen.” DeDe did however go to the track in February 1964 for her very first race and got to witness Richard Petty win his first Daytona 500. “Kyle and Sharon had the measles, so Lynda stayed back at the motel with them for that race,” said DeDe. “In fact, they didn’t even know that Richard had won until he showed up at the motel with his trophy later that night!”
Towards the end of the 1960s, the Petty family began staying at a different hotel, but DeDe’s parents remained in close contact with Lee and Elizabeth Petty and would continue to see them from time-to-time at races over the years. However, DeDe lost touch with the kids.
Fast forward to the early 1990s and Kyle was a full-fledged NASCAR driver, driving for Felix Sabates at the time. It just so happened that Felix was a customer of Cable Marine – a boatyard owned by DeDe’s husband, George. “We were working on Felix’s boats, so George being the race fan that he was, would talk to Felix here and there,” said DeDe. “Felix knew that George rode motorcycles and one day he said, ‘You’ve got to join us on Kyle’s motorcycle trip. We’re going to ride across the country and it’s going to be a really cool thing. You’ve got to do it.’” That’s all it took to convince George to sign up for the first-ever Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America. “So George took off for the trip and I was green with envy because I wanted to go,” said DeDe.
But DeDe didn’t have to wait too long to join in the fun. She was right there with George for year number two in 1996. Since then, they’ve participated in more than 20 trips with the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America!
“My first impression of the Ride was great,” said DeDe. “For me being a race fan, there was nothing cooler than getting to ride motorcycles with so many NASCAR drivers.” The cause was also pretty impressive to DeDe. “From the early years when we visited children’s hospitals during the Ride to seeing Victory Junction campers today, it’s just heart rendering to see the memories and experiences you’re helping to create for so many deserving kids,” said DeDe.
By joining the Ride in 1996, DeDe was quickly reacquainted with Kyle. “He was so young when I used to watch him, so Kyle doesn’t remember much about that time,” said DeDe. “But he does remember the motel.” Kyle remembers that every door was painted a different color. “He would have the hardest time trying to find the room he was staying in because of all the different colors,” said DeDe. “Maybe he was staying in a room with a red door, but there were a lot of red doors, so he got so confused!”
Who knew that motorcycles would be the key to reconnecting DeDe and Kyle all these years later? But DeDe would never have an interest in motorcycles if it wasn’t for her husband, George. “George has been riding motorcycles his whole life,” said DeDe. “I learned quickly when we first began dating that if I wanted to spend any time with him on the weekends, I was going to have to ride with him on his bike.” So she hopped on that motorcycle with George and the adventures began!
Since reuniting through the Ride, Kyle and DeDe’s friendship has blossomed into a treasured relationship – one that includes George and Kyle’s wife, Morgan. The two couples have taken many incredible motorcycles trips together outside the Ride, with DeDe taking pride in showing so many beautiful places to Kyle and Morgan. “I had never realized before that all these places that the Ride goes, Kyle and Morgan never really get to see anything because they’re so busy executing the logistics of the Ride,” said DeDe. “The first day of our first motorcycle trip together, it took us all day to get to our stop because we kept having to stop for Kyle and Morgan to take in all of the sights and take pictures. It was so funny!”
Overall, it’s friendship that has really come full circle for DeDe. From babysitting Kyle as a toddler to now having a front row seat to watch Kyle raise his two little boys.“It’s funny how things work out. I feel so blessed and am so happy that we were able to reconnect after so many years had passed,” said DeDe. “Now, I look forward to spending time with Kyle and Morgan on the Ride every year, our annual trip with together and any other opportunity we have to get together.”
Q+A with DeDe Cable:
1. What does it mean to you to be able to help send kids to Victory Junction by participating in the Ride?
“It’s just such a bonus with all of this. We have so much fun riding and spending time with the people on the Ride, but when you know that what you’re doing is really helping the kids at Victory Junction, it’s just such a cool thing and I’m so glad to be able to help.”
2. What is your favorite thing about Victory Junction?
“I love seeing the excitement created at Victory Junction. From the campers to the counselors and volunteers, there is just so much excitement any time you visit.”
3. Why do you love riding motorcycles?
“It’s an exhilarating experience. When you’re in a car, you don’t get to see everything. You don’t get to see the sky really and you don’t get to smell the air. On a motorcycle, you get all of that. You can even smell when it’s going to rain. It’s just a true feeling of freedom.”
4. What state or region is your favorite to ride motorcycles in?
“Absolutely Utah. To me, Utah has more natural beauty than any other state I’ve ever seen.”
5. What is your favorite thing about the Ride?
“Anytime we ride through the Southwest or national parks is really enjoyable for me.”