Sheriff, major leave for 6,700-mile motorcycle ride

LAWRENCEVILLE - Many wouldn't agree to a trip involving a motorcycle ride over miles of gravel roads and fitting three weeks of clothing into one bag, but Sheriff Butch Conway and Maj. Mike Powell are gearing up for such a trip and they're doing it for some special kids.

Gwinnett County Sheriff Conway and Powell will take on 6,700 miles as part of the 2007 Iron Torch Ride to benefit the Special Olympics of Georgia.

The pair leaves Sunday for Alaska and will ride from Prudhoe Bay to Key West, Fla., making stops through Canada and the United States until ending at the Florida location July 7.

The duo shipped their personal Harley motorcycles from Stone Mountain Harley-Davidson to Alaska two weeks ago in preparation for the ride.

Conway said he and Powell planned to go on the ride months ago but said there is little they can do to prepare.

"I rode my horse more, really," Conway said of what he did to prepare for the first 500 miles or so on gravel Alaskan roads. "I figure an hour on horse will be somewhat like what it will be on a motorcycle on gravel."

Powell said he's been checking the weather reports for Alaska to try to prepare for the trek, but the forecast through the region varies from temperatures in the mid-70s to the 20s and 30s in Prudhoe Bay.

"From what I've read the ride is fine unless it rains, turning the roads into ice making them extremely slick," Powell said. "And so far when I've checked the forecast it's been raining."

This is the first year the pair will have participated in the torch ride, joining about 40 other motorcycle enthusiasts on the trek. Powell said in addition to raising money for the Olympics, this year's ride's goal is to set a world record for the longest torch ride.

Powell said only six groups have finished previous rides, but he and Conway are confident about their upcoming trip.

Conway said his goal of the ride is to raise $50,000 for the Special Olympics. He and Powell are almost there, having raised approximately $48,000. Conway said the Sheriff's Department has been the top fundraising department statewide for the Special Olympics for five years.

"It's about Special Olympics and really because Gwinnett has the largest amount of Special Olympics kids," Conway said. "If you ever watch those kids compete, it really motivates you."

The sheriff said those looking to support the cause can still donate online at www.gwinnettcountysheriff.com by clicking on Iron Torch.