- Associated Press - Monday, August 1, 2016

COS COB, Conn. (AP) - Each Wednesday in the minutes before 6:30 p.m., scores of motorcycles gun through the narrow driveway between the Patio.com storefront and Joey B’s Famous Chili Hub just off East Putnam Avenue.

Their riders gather in the front yard, smoking cigarettes and cigars. They greet each other with strong handshakes before being pulled in for hearty slaps on the back. The tattoos covering their tan arms flex, and sometimes the arms jiggle.

“When I started riding, it was a love for bikes and clarity. You know, you have a bad day at work, you get on your bike and forget all your problems at work or your lousy day and focus on riding. That clears your mind,” said Rocco Ceci, president of the Cos Cob Riders. “You concentrate on the road, on the air on your face, and you sort of forget the crappy day you had.”

The Cos Cob Riders Riding Group was formed in the early ‘90s and has been meeting at least once a week at Joey B’s for more than a decade. Usually, they number in the dozens, but members said a record turnout last year was just over a hundred.

Wednesday’s group numbered about 30, many there to remember 30-year-old Jose Chacon-Valverde, of Stamford, who died after his bike hit a pothole that launched him over his handlebars onto the road.

Most gatherings are less somber.

The Cos Cob Riders take part in multiple charity events each year. They recently raised money to buy orphans pajamas and send Girl Scout cookies to troops stationed abroad.

Ceci has spent most Friday nights for the past 30 years teaching kids how to shoot .22 rifles. One of the kids he teaches is competing at the Canadian nationals.

Ceci is a big man, bald, 58 years old, with droopy eyes and a leather vest. He has earrings and stubble on his chin. He has more tattoos on his arms than LeBron James. His first was when he was 20 years old. His newest ones, on the tops of his hands, are less than six weeks old.

“I have all my kids and grandkids on me. You know, I have my son. I just lost my son. June 5. So I had these put on here for him. It’s not like you plan a whole sleeve,” Ceci said. “I just, you know, it’s just pieces.”

The club doesn’t have any woman members, but wives and girlfriends are greeted warmly and often ride along. The motorcyclists hang out until 7:15 p.m., then launch up the hill and down East Putnam Avenue on a ride in one large, noisy group.

They agree they are brought together by bonds of brotherhood, second only to what biker Ryan Scarpelli calls “the passion of two wheels.”

Scarpelli’s own Harley is a 1992 Soft Tail, about as old as the Cos Cob club. Scarpelli owns the sausage shop on Bible Street, he said, and was born and raised in Greenwich.

He recently left the Cos Cob club to join the Stamford-based Charter Oaks Motorcycle Club. When Charter Oaks started in 1947, it was based in Riverside. It is the oldest motorcycle club in Connecticut and one of the 10 oldest clubs in the nation, Scarpelli said.

“We’re all friends. It’s all about getting together, about our passion,” Scarpelli said. “We are different. Motorcycling guys are different. Sometimes that is a little intimidating to other people. But, you know, you got to be tough nowadays to be on the road now, because there are people on their cellphones.

“I’ve been riding on the streets since 1975, and the difference is amazing,” he said. “People are in a rush, they have other things on their mind, it is a lot more dangerous on the road as a motorcycle.”

Other hazards abound. The pothole that caused last week’s death has been fixed, but others are well known: By a Shell station, near the site of a former mattress store.

Wednesday there were bikers from several surrounding groups at Joey B’s remembering their dead comrade, banding together for comfort before they hopped on their bikes and rode together.

“If I need my car detailed, I go to Jimmy. If I need a plumber, he’s a biker. If I have an electrician, he’s a biker,” Scarpelli said. “You have it in you, and it’s like the first time you meet somebody, when they’re the same as you with motorcycling, you’re like brothers from a different mother.”

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Information from: Greenwich Time, https://www.greenwichtime.com

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