Riding clean
Clean and Sober Motorcycle Club offers new road

Members of Durango’s Clean and Sober Motorcycle Club rally in front of the College Drive Cafe. The club offers the only route to recovery for many of its members./Photo by Stephen Eginoire

by Shawna Bethell

Mike Greer is a tall, lean man with charcoal-grey eyes and an easy smile. He’s dressed in black from head to toe, and on his lap lies a black leather vest covered with patches that he’s earned over the past two years.

“People stereotype you pretty quick,” he says, but he adds that people always watched him, even before he joined a club, back when he road the highways without affiliation or bond of brotherhood.

Greer, whose road name is Stretch, is a fairly recent full member of the Clean and Sober Motorcycle Club, a bike club like many others with the exception that all members refrain from using drugs and alcohol. To “civilians” the juxtaposition of Harleys and black leather to a lifestyle without drugs, alcohol or violence seems odd. But to the bikers, it makes perfect sense.

“We can reach out to the entire bike world,” explains Joey Mueller, road name Mojo and president of Durango’s Clean and Sober Motorcycle Club, “and we can take our mission to all our brothers and sisters.” Their mission, according to Mueller, is to let other bikers know they don’t have to lose their lives to drugs and alcohol.

“In my previous club,” said Mueller who has been a club rider since 1978, “we had 35 members. Today only two members are still alive.”

With the clean and sober mission comes a strict protocol. An initiate, or “prospect,” can hang around the club members. As they begin to learn the rules and hierarchy of the club through attending meetings and bike runs, they can begin earning their patches. The first they earn is their “bottom rocker,” the lower curved patch seen on the backs of jackets and vests or “cuts” that bear the name of the club. The prospect continues to learn the ropes and earn his patches finally becoming a full club member when the middle patch is earned. The middle patch is unique to each club.

The back of a biker’s “cut” belongs solely to the club. The front patches are his own. The upper right bears the date he went clean. The upper left is his road name. Many have the names of members who have already passed, and others have patches or pins given to them by friends or family. Mueller has a patch from his daughters; Greer wears a pin from his son. Both wear the pink breast cancer awareness pin, and tucked inside Mueller’s front pocket are a few ashes of an old friend.

“His widow gave us all some of his ashes so he could continue to ride,” he said with a grin, patting the front of his leather vest.

What will not be seen on a Clean and Sober bike member’s cut is a territory or a symbol of place. This, too, is significant.

“When you claim a territory, it’s like marking your territory,” explained Mueller. “With marking a territory comes confrontation.”

The idea of confrontation and violence is one that has long been a part of the motorcycle mystique, but the original biking clubs started shortly after World War II. It is said that soldiers returning from battle sought both the adrenaline rush and the camaraderie that they had felt during the war; they found both in the form of motorcycles and clubs. It wasn’t until approximately the ’60s that the notorious outlaw clubs came into public awareness.

The Clean and Sober clubs – there are several different types of clean clubs across the nation – walk amongst all bikers at rallies and benefits. They are clear that they do not try to recruit members to their own club. They are simply trying to let others know about the option of sobriety. So how do nonviolent bikers walk that fine line among the notorious “1 percent?”

Greer turns the vest on his lap to where the bottom rocker shows and runs one hand along the patch.

“You don’t have to say anything to these guys. The ones who are looking, find you. They ask,” he said. “But you get the same thing on the street or walking into Wal-

Mart. People see the Clean and Sober name, and they ask you about it. We just let them know they don’t have to get off their bikes to be clean.”

The members of the bike club rely heavily on brotherhood and accountability to their mission. They are affiliated with a 12-step program, and they sponsor others who are getting clean. They feel they can rely on one another when no one else might be available to them.

“Sometimes an addict never had anyone,” said Greer. “Many of the members don’t have families. This may be their only source to recovery.”

“And when a brother calls another brother, we just won’t co-sign their bullshit,” added Mueller.

Another aspect of the Clean and Sober Motorcycle Club is giving back to the community. They have sponsored benefit runs and fund-raisers for both the battered women’s shelter and the La Plata County Humane Society, and this weekend at Ignacio Bike Week, the club will be sponsoring another benefit run.

“Local businesses have been very supportive of us,” said Greer, who then added, “We are part of this community.” •