Riders also make a stop at the Double H Ranch in Lake Luzerne on their trek. The ride benefits the camp, which provides a summer camp experience for children with life-threatening illnesses.
While a portion of registration fees goes to the ranch, most of the funds raised come from voluntary donations from the riders. They donated $6,800 last year, enough to sponsor a weeklong camp experience for three children.
The idea to start the FANY ride struck Empie after she had completed another 500-mile trek through Iowa that " after days of cornfields and flat roads " left her thirsting for some more diverse scenery.
"I had a great, great time, but I said, I think we got a lot more in New York that's interesting," she said.
She organized the first FANY a decade ago, and it has since grown to include more and more riders. This year, she expects 125 to 130 riders from as far as California to participate. There's even one woman who is flying in from Scotland for the occasion this year.
Registration is open to anyone through July 1, but it's advised that a 500-mile journey is not for novices " especially through New York's often hilly terrain. Last year's riders climbed a total 29,000 feet of elevation over the course of the week, the rough equivalent of Mount Everest.
But for those with the grit, the ride is well known among long ride lovers.
"I think it's a fantastic ride," said Bird, who first did the ride with his friend, Steve White. "There's definitely a lot of camaraderie. ... Along the way, we ended up meeting five or six other people who we've remained in contact with since then."
Empie confirmed that it's not unusual to see repeat customers on the ride, certainly one reason it keeps getting bigger as more people find out via word of mouth.
"Predominantly, that's how people find out about us," Empie said. "I think once people do it and realize they can achieve a ride like this, we have a lot of people come back because there's a lot of camaraderie."
To learn more or register, visit www.fanyride.com.""