"I remember pulling in the driveway and I felt so good, like, 'Look what I did!' You get a little certificate and a license plate. It's bragging rights more than anything else. I have 22 certificates.
"This isn't a sport for everybody. It's as much mental as physical. You've got to make sure your motorcycle is as comfortable as sitting on this couch, handlebars in the right place, seat right and feet in the right place. If you feel relaxed, you can go as far as you want.
"I got addicted. They have a number of certificate rides. One is the Saddle Sore 1,000. You ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours. They have the Bun Burner 1,500, riding 1,500 miles in 36 hours. In September of '99, I did that. I went by myself because didn't know anyone else crazy enough to do it.
"I rode from here to Tulsa, slept for seven or eight hours and rode on to Albuquerque. It took about 34 hours. And I felt pretty good.
"When you stop for gas, you eat a candy bar and drink a pop, but you don't want to hang around because you are on a mission.
"I've been to every state, all the Canadian provinces that border the U.S., Mexico and Hawaii. There was an Iron Butt ride in Hawaii I did with a group -- five times around the big island, about 22 miles around.
"The most interesting trip I took was the Iron Butt Rally, an 11-day event, a scavenger hunt on steroids they call it. You ride about 1,000 miles a day. There are checkpoints and places where you go, and have to take a picture to document your ride. On the first five days, I ended up in Nova Scotia and rode back to St. Louis. The next six days, I went out to California and back.
"Riding by yourself is relaxing. It enlarges the soul. I don't care to ride in a big group. Three or four is fine. A group of 20 is dangerous.
"I just finished the Four Corners Tour last year going from Maine to Key West to California to Washington State in a 21-day period. I did the Iron Butt National Parks Tour. I've won the Harley Davidson mileage contest a couple of years. I rode 37,000 miles in 2009. Last year I won it with 34,000 miles. I rode to Alaska last year.
"There was an ABCs of Touring thing that Harley has, and I came in third in the nation in 2009. You do counties from A to Z and you can pick any county you want. You have to take a picture with the county sign and your bike.
"I'm going to Montana in August for a bike rally. I'd really like to ride in New Zealand and in Europe in the Alps. That's on my bucket list.
"I'm going to ride as long as I feel safe, until it gets to the point where I've lost my balance or can't see or too weak to hold up the bike. If you had asked me 20 years ago if I would be riding a motorcycle approaching 70, I would have said you were nuts.
"Along with the motorcycle thing, I've got five banjos. At the University of Cincinnati, there were all these neighborhood bars with bands. Cincinnati was a bluegrass haven. I got to liking the music. A friend played the guitar and had a banjo he wanted to sell. This was 1965. I taught myself how to play.
"I knew Sam Houston at work. His father was Richmond Houston, a violinist with the Symphony. Sam and I would get together and try to play music. Steve Whisnand came to work for us and played guitar, and he was a decent singer. The three of us started playing and we ended up with six people and called ourselves the Back Porch String Band.
"During the Regatta in 1973, we just stood on the street and played. When it started raining, and played in an alcove near the old No. 8 Club. Ross Tuckwiller walked by. He ran No. 8. He asked if we'd like to play at No. 8. He said he couldn't pay us, but we could drink beer. We started playing there on Fridays. Capitol City Jamboree hired us. We played a lot at the Jamboree and at festivals and bars for about three years.
"Then we all were getting older and job responsibilities and children were tugging at our time, and the band broke up. Two or three times a year, we get together and pick and grin and talk over old times.
"I had a good career in architecture, but I enjoy retirement. I highly recommend it. Nancy and I have five children and six grandchildren. It's fun to hang out with them when we can."
Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.