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Article used with permission from The Denton Orator. Photos by Kelly Bledsoe of The Denton Orator.

By Toni Covington Ayers
The Denton Orator
David Willett & Ole' Charlie II: Coming to a town near you
The saying goes that life's a journey, not a destination…

Yet, it seems that it's in a man's nature to race from point A to point B, constantly trying to beat his own time in the process.

Have you ever wondered what you might be missing along the way?

A lot of new friends, according to David Willett and his "riding buddy" – a Harley-Davidson named Ole' Charlie.

"Most people get on the interstate to see how fast they can get there," Willett said of traveling. "But I like to ride the two lanes…the pace is slower and you get to meet people."

Willett and his now-famous bike have made hundreds of friends all over this great nation, as the two have ridden through all 48 states in the continental US as well as parts of Canada and Mexico. Though he and his wife, Betty Jo reside in High Point, Willett is no homebody and can't wait to start the day with pavement below, blue sky above, and the wind in his face.

"I've been pretty much everywhere I want to go," he noted about his travels, "but I love to go back to places where I've made friends and visit with them."

Camping is his choice method of lodging while on the road and although he used to pull a small camper along, he prefers tent camping above all else. Commercial inns are typically out of the question. "In a motel, you just lock the door and cut on the TV," he explained, whereas with camping – especially at campgrounds – folks are a lot more apt to socialize. As pleasant as Willett is to talk with, it's no wonder then that he would so easily make friends!

Thus far, Willett's favorite destinations have been the Rocky Mountains, the Beartooth Pass entrance to Yellowstone, and the Florida Keys. "That's just beautiful," he recalled.

Oftentimes, he uses Our State Magazine to get ideas on where to ride next.

Willett has been riding motorcycles for decades – his first was a homemade motorcycle in 1948. "It was a bike with a motor on it," he laughed.

But he put the most miles in after his retirement at age 55 in 1989. "I loved working as a cabinet maker," he said, "but it was always my goal to retire at 55 so that's what I did."

David Willett with NC Senator Stan Bingham

Following his retirement, he began putting on an average of 165 miles a day on his 1987 Harley-Davidson Tour Glide Classic named "Ole' Charlie." Remarkably, the bike boasted 240,619 miles in just four years! In fact, Willett's constant riding earned him the nickname of "Iron Butt Willett" and Ole' Charlie the label of "The Bullet Proof Harley."

While his 87 Tour Glide was definitely a gem of a bike, Willett's meticulous service records can be credited as the primary source for Ole' Charlie's long life. With a total mileage of 416,479, the H-D execs in Wisconsin heard about Willett's miracle motorcycle and asked him to bring it in for a closer look. To his surprise, they offered him a brand new 1999 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic in exchange for Ole' Charlie. They just had to know what made him tick. Reluctantly, Willett "donated" his old buddy to science so to speak and rode off into the sunset on Ole' Charlie II.

It was hard for Willett to say goodbye to his old friend – that 87 H-D had helped him make a lot of friends along the way. As a matter of fact, in just two weeks Willett will return to Wisconsin for H-D exec Ken Sutton's retirement party. The man really does have friends everywhere.

But with 238,000 miles already logged on his 99 ride, Ole' Charlie II is well on its way to bringing Willett into your town. He's ridden to Denton quite a few times thus far and is quickly making acquaintances. Could you be the next comrade for Willett and Ole' Charlie II? Quite possibly, he predicted. "We've all got friends we haven't met yet!"

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