2017-01-15 / Insight

‘We just love to ride'

County home to nearly a dozen motorcycle clubs
BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 •


Local Nam Knights members Brian “Doc” Thomas, Joe “The Godfather” DeLuca, Ray “Stump” Nagy, Tony “Yard Dog” Caron, Bob “Tex” Dawn and Jeff “Bubba” Brooks get together for a recent fund raiser at Ray C’s on Lapeer’s south side. The group brings together active and retired police and military with an interest in community service. 
Photo by Phil Foley Local Nam Knights members Brian “Doc” Thomas, Joe “The Godfather” DeLuca, Ray “Stump” Nagy, Tony “Yard Dog” Caron, Bob “Tex” Dawn and Jeff “Bubba” Brooks get together for a recent fund raiser at Ray C’s on Lapeer’s south side. The group brings together active and retired police and military with an interest in community service. Photo by Phil Foley LAPEER COUNTY — If you’re of a certain age, your image of motorcycle riders is probably drawn from one of three places, Marlon Brandon in “The Wild Bunch,” Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider” or the Hell’s Angels.

They are, said Ray Clemens, owner of Ray C’s Harley- Davidson, part of “the one percenters.” The four oldest motorcycle clubs in the country, one in New York and three in California, were all formed before 1907, but after World War II, some returning GI’s formed what came to be known as outlaw clubs.


Kem Sotherby, president of the Eagle Riders, adjusts his sunglasses as other members pull up to a stop on one of the club’s runs last summer. Vice President Basil King said club members enjoy riding and working to make Lapeer County a better place to live. 
Submitted photo Kem Sotherby, president of the Eagle Riders, adjusts his sunglasses as other members pull up to a stop on one of the club’s runs last summer. Vice President Basil King said club members enjoy riding and working to make Lapeer County a better place to live. Submitted photo Clemens said the image of bikers as outlaws began to shift in the 1980s when Malcom Forbes helped make motorcycle riding socially acceptable and lower cost motorcycles broadened the sports appeal. But, he said, while the lure of motorcycles has expanded greatly, motorcycle riders still only account for 2.8 percent of the population and the outlaws represent 1 percent of that.

Lapeer County has nearly a dozen motorcycle clubs and nearly all of them have a law enforcement connection.

The newest club, Exiled Saints, marked its first birthday Monday. Cevin Brown, who retired from the Michigan State Police Lapeer Post in February, helped form the group which is open to active and retired law enforcement, emergency services personnel, military personnel and select citizens.

Brown said the club is a group of people united by their love of motorcycle riding and community service. Brown, who got his first minibike at 12, has been riding for 46 years and currently has a Harley-Davidson Street Glide.

“I’m very happy to say,” Brown said, “that we raised enough money to sponsor two families for this past Christmas even though we had only been in operation for 11 months at the time.”

Once the weather warms, the club will hold bike nights and other activities including a motorcycle poker run this summer with proceeds to go to a charitable organization.

Anyone interested in club membership can call 810-358- 8593 or email esmclapeer@yahoo.com.

Carol Brown (no relation) doesn’t like to think of her group as a motorcycle club. “We’re a motorcycle ministry,” she said.

Carol is president of the Thundering Hope chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association (CMA). “Motorcycles are a tool we use to have lot of fun and to lead’ em to the Lord,” she said.

“We don’t push or Bible thump,” Carol said, but her group attends motorcycle events to minister to anyone willing to listen.

Thundering Hope is one of more than 1,000 CMA chapters worldwide. The groups range in size from five to 60 riders. Thunder Hope currently has a dozen members and they meet at 11 a.m. the fourth Saturday of the month at Ray C’s.

While the group participates in Lapeer’s annual Christmas parade, Carol said their first event of the riding season is the Ride for the Son held the first Saturday of May. The 100-mile ride is Thundering Hope’s only fundraiser.

During the warm weather months they try to do something weekly, whether it’s an ice cream run or a ride to dinner.

CMA holds a state rally Labor Day weekend at Bayshore, a Christian camp outside Sebewaing. Carol added the group also participates in a lot of bike blessings, the most recent with the Messengers of the Sword in Ortonville.

By far the largest motorcycle club in Lapeer County is the Lapeer HOG (Harley Owners Group) chapter, with more than 268 members. Clemens sponsors the group, but local builder Justin Stevens is the club’s director.

Clemens said the Lapeer HOG chapter holds weekly dinner runs and a couple of poker runs every season. Last summer, he said, the group raised more than $2,900 for local charities.

The group helps support the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. and other local police agencies and works a lot with kids. To get involved with the club, call Stevens at 810-656- 5440.

Nearly two years ago, Mayfield Township’s Tony “Yard Dog” Caron and Joe “The Godfather” DeLuca, an Imlay City police officer formed the Bluewater Chapter of Nam Knights.

Nam Knights, DeLuca said, began 28 years ago with group of motorcycle-riding cops unhappy with the treatment they’d received as Vietnam veterans and has grown to a charitable organization with more than 50 chapters in 12 states and two Canadian provinces.

Caron said he first found out about the Nam Knights at a Rolling Thunder event in Washington. Membership is open to active and retired police officers and military veterans.

The club holds at least two fund raising rides each summer, one for veterans and one for police. One of its first major efforts in 2015 raised $2,000 for the family of a Lake Orion Marine Corps sergeant who lost his life in a helicopter crash off the coast of Florida.

The Eagle Riders is a small part of a big club. Basil “Buzz” King said to belong to his club, you first have to be an Eagle. He said while there are nearly 1,200 members in the Lapeer Aerie, only 32 of them are Eagle Riders.

“We’re just a bunch of guys who love motorcycles and charity work,” King said. The club does two big fundraising runs, one in June and the other in August. The latter they use to fund Christmas events and the former “we like to spread around.”

“People helping people is our motto,” he said. “We just love to ride,” he added. The club’s two big fundraising rides are open to anyone, even people in cars.

Club members, he said, like to do something at least once a month as a group.

To find out more about the Eagles and Eagle Riders, call King at 810-793-2690.

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