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"No Colors" Memo

“No Colors” Memo

One of the largest motorcycle events on the west coast will occur in about 3 weeks.

I’m talking about the Laughlin River Run, April 24-27th.  And 2014 will mark 32 years of riding on the Colorado river for this motorcycle rally.

Back in 2011 the posse rode to the event and several of us are planning to do the same this year.  We’re hoping the west coast drought will swing a bit north for our departure and the northwest rain will stop for a few days.

Recently one of the riders in the group received a memo from Sean Hammond, General Manager of the Aquarius Casino Resort (see photo).  He outlines the “No Colors” rule being strictly enforced in all the area hotels/casinos.  While it has not been without it’s issues the heavy handed LEO presence always seems unnecessary, but then again the days of HAMC clubbers performing motorcycle wheelies as guests tried to check-in at the Flamingo (as it was previously known) was a bit of a nuisance.

Sure the room rates are artificially raised as is the cost to get there, but for those of us who don’t have 300+ days of riding, the opportunity to ride the Sierra Nevada mountains and take in historic U.S. Route 66, along with the hills of Oatman is always a memorable experience.  And it’s a bonus this time of year as the byways are less-traveled and there are few tourist in motorhomes clogging the open road views.

See you in Laughlin.

Photo taken by author.

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Jakscht Taking Witness Stand

It took over 2 years, but I’m thrilled by the verdict!

Michael Jakscht, age 49 was found guilty on four counts of manslaughter.  You may remember Mr. Jakscht from a previous blog post HERE.

It was March 2010 and he was the truck driver who drove his 12 ton trash truck through a pack of eight motorcycles carrying nine people at a stop light at the intersection of 27th Avenue and Carefree Highway near I-17 in Phoenix, AZ.  Yes, I said the motorcyclists were all stopped waiting on the traffic light when Jakscht ran over the group.

It was a horrific and gruesome crash scene.  Four people were killed, and five others were injured in the accident.  Methamphetamine was found in Jakscht’s system at the time of the crash. His lawyer, however, had argued that Jakscht wasn’t under the influence at the time of the accident, and that the incident was caused by a mechanical failure in the truck.

Accident Scene – March 2010

Jakscht’s first trial took place in 2011 and it ended with a hung jury deadlocked at 9 to 3 for acquittal.  Fortunately the Maricopa County attorney’s office (Attorney Bill Montgomery) chose to retry the case, and Jakscht was recently found guilty on four counts of manslaughter and on five counts of aggravated assault, one count of endangerment imminent death, and three counts of endangerment physical injury.

Nothing can bring back the four motorcyclist who were killed, but I hope the family’s of the deceased get some satisfaction in knowing that Mr. Jakscht is being held accountable for his actions.  Sentencing is set for November 16 at 8:30am.

UPDATE: December 5,1012 – Mr. Jakscht was sentenced November 16th to 26 years in prison by Judge Joseph Welty. Under Arizona’s Truth In Sentencing Law Jakscht will do about 230 months. His release date will be late in the year 2031 or early in 2032.

Photos courtesy of ABC Channel 15 and AZFamily.com

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Michael Jakscht

Two weeks ago a news flash zipped across my iMac screen about eight Phoenix-based motorcycle riders involved in an accident with a sanitation truck. Knowing that in about a month I planned to be riding in the same area of Arizona, the accident caught my attention.

If you’re unaware of the incident; on Thursday, March 25th a group of motorcyclists who were taking advantage of the nice weather, were literally run down by a Blue Sky Sanitation truck driven by Michael Jakscht, 46.  The truck ran into the group of motorcyclists on Carefree Highway who were stopped at a stoplight, killing four of them and injuring five others.  Photos from the scene are disturbing due to some motorcycles bursting into flames under the truck while others scattered flaming wreckage across the intersection.

Sure it’s true that motorcycles can’t be made as objectively safe (crush zones, front and side air bags, etc.) as cars—however, no motorist (in a car or on a motorcycle) expects to be run down while sitting idle at a stop light!  Blue Sky Sanitation is a very small, limited liability company headquartered in Fountain Hills, AZ which employs about four people.  At the time of the accident witnesses reported that there were no outwardly signs the truck driver being impaired.  In fact, one witnessed stated that the driver commented how he was distracted doing paperwork.  Within hours it was reported that Mr. Jakscht had a string of prior speeding and over-weight traffic violations.

Blue Sky Sanitation Truck

But, there is even more to the story.  On April 6th police arrested Mr. Jakscht on suspicion of being under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the crash, and booked him on four counts of manslaughter, five counts of aggravated assault and seven counts of endangerment. According to police, the initial toxicology tests on blood drawn from Mr. Jakscht on the day of the crash show he had the illegal drug methamphetamine in his system.  He is currently being held in the 4th Avenue jail on a $1M bond and his initial hearing is set for April 13th.

Motorcyclists who died as a result of the crash were Daniel Butler, 35; Clyde Nachand, 67; Stephen Punch, 52; and Dale Downs-Totonchi, 47.  Phoenix Fire Capt. Ernie Lizarraga, 52, who was part of the riding group remains hospitalized suffering from injuries sustained in the crash.  In addition, Jason Anania, 48, is recovering at home from a shattered leg and bruised back.

When people get behind the wheel of a vehicle, they take on a responsibility to ensure their action does not put other people in danger.  So we have a “tweeked” truck driver who ignored his responsibility and innocent motorcyclists were in my view murdered.  The families of those victims can and will likely file a wrongful death lawsuit, but I’m sure Blue Sky Sanitation and Mr. Jakscht will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid accepting responsibility.  While it’s how our litigious society works I do hope these people are brought to justice.

The death of a family member in an accident like this has to be a horrible experience.  I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the families and hope for a full recovery of those injured.

Additional news reports HERE, and video coverage by ABC HERE.  I’ve previously written about “trucker bombs” HERE.

Photo’s courtesy of Associated Press/NPR and ABC.

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Arial View of H-D Arizona Proving Grounds (Yucca)

The motor company delivers on its promise.

Not a new innovative motorcycle model, but to consolidate testing operations into one single location in Arizona – called the Arizona Proving Ground (AZPG).

Reports out of Kingman, AZ indicate that a local contractor (T.R. Orr, Inc.), received two building permits from the county Development Services Department, one for commercial renovation at the proving grounds and another for the construction of a brand new industrial plant.

You may recall that H-D moved into the Chrysler Proving Grounds at Yucca less than a year ago after it was booted from the General Motors proving grounds in Mesa, which had been closed and sold off the previous year.  The motorcycle company is shuttering testing operations in Talladega, Ala., as well as Naples, Fla., as they are in the process of moving those operations to AZPG through 2011.  I’ve previously reported as far back as 2008 on H-D plans of AZPG HERE and HERE.

According to H-D spokeswoman Pat Sweeney, the changes being made to the existing facilities and the new industrial plant will not only provide H-D the space and equipment it needs to make the most use of the proving grounds it will also – and are you ready for the “E” word – improve its efficiency.  Details on the cost of the new industrial plant or the need for any new employees from the local workforce were – incomplete – as Ms. Sweeney cited an obvious benefit to the community just because we’re consolidating there, but “we’re just still not really sure at his point in time” when referring to hiring plans.  I anticipate they offered folks in the shuttered operations an opportunity to move to AZ and are waiting on the final acceptance ratio before opening job req’s.

And speaking of jobs… the nearby and sprawling Arizona State Prison, Cerbat Facility (20 buildings on 45 acres) was a 2,000-bed minimum custody facility that just completed a major renovation and expansion into 3,400 beds.  I see an inmate labor force expansion in the near future and it couldn’t come at a better time according to local reports.

Photo courtesy of Chrysler

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If that’s not some irony…

I logged on to the blog dashboard this morning to approve comments and noticed several hundred views of an article I posted back in 2008 on the California-based Vagos Motorcycle Club.  As I made my way to the Google reader I learned that some 30+ members of the Vagos, also known as the “Green Nation” were arrested Saint Patrick’s Day in a multistate police raid.

The Vagos, formed in the late 1960s and have been the subject of numerous investigations. Back in 2006, at least 25 Vagos members were arrested for various weapons and drug violations after a three-year investigation that the Orange County Register called one of the “largest coordinated law enforcement probes ever conducted in the region.”

The “raids” on Wednesday were collectively called “Operation Everywhere” and comprised “sixty local and federal police agencies” serving warrants in four states: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California and involved some 400 police officers. As many as 70 locations were hit in Southern California, where police seized weapons and drugs and discovered a methamphetamine lab. The California Attorney General, Jerry Brown held a press conference releasing very few additional details on the scope of the investigation or what law enforcement plans are to eliminate the “threat” posed by the Vagos.  It’s been previously reported that the Vagos chapter in Bullhead City, Arizona has been closely scrutinized by officers of the Arizona Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission since June 2009.

Some of the news reports suggest that the arrests have a connection to the discovery of at least four booby-traps targeting Southern California gang task force officers. The cash-strapped state and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people who set the traps, which included an attempt to blow up the gang officers’ headquarters.

Like so many of these motorcycle club arrests they have a tendency to fall apart for the district attorney who is committed to pursuing justice.  I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the Riverside County DA (Rod Pacheco) stepped on an ongoing ATF investigation or would I be shocked to learn that Mr. Pacheco (who has gubernatorial aspirations) made a splashy arrest for the TV cameras.  Don’t get me wrong, the Vagos aren’t immune from having criminal issues, but it does make a person wonder what’s going on.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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It was a Dark Sky Film made in 1970.

The film also appeared under the title Nam’s Angels.  The plot included a biker gang, the Devil’s Advocates who were recruited by the CIA to execute a daring rescue behind enemy lines in Cambodia. After customizing their Yamahas into combat-ready death machines, the gang roars into action on this unlikely suicide mission. Heavy casualties ensue. I kid you not.

I’m not sure if the movie did much if anything to propel Yamaha sales, but this week there are reports the Japanese motorcycle maker (Yamaha Motor) has plans to close seven factories globally with a loss of 1,000 jobs.  This is all in an effort to bounce back from a  Y216.1 billion ($2.7 billion) annual loss in 2009.  Yamaha is the world’s second biggest motorcycle manufacturer after Honda and this streamlining is in addition to a previously announced 10% reduction in the company’s global workforce of 17,000 which is underway.  This is Yamaha’s first loss in 26 years.

Specific plant closure include 5 of its 12 domestic factories by 2012, all in Shizuoka prefecture (central Japan) who now produce parts for motorcycles, marine products and buggies.  In addition, Yamaha will close a motorcycle factory in Italy and a marine products plant in Florida.

It looks like the only motorcycle manufacture beating down the 2009 slowing motorcycle trend was BMW Motorrad.  New products like the K1300GT, S1000 RR Superbike along with the opening of 8 new dealers in the past 5 months has them bullish on the future.

An interesting side bar on The Losers — it’s playing on a television in the background of a motel-room scene between Bruce Willis and Maria de Medeiros in Pulp Fiction. Clearly Quentin Tarantino is one of its fans.

Photo courtesy of Dark Sky.

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Talladega“Shake ‘n Bake”…  as the Harley-Davidson financial wizards turn off the Speedway lights and come on cost savings ideas like a spider monkey. 

I blogged in October 2008 that H-D reached an agreement with Chrysler to use part of the Arizona Proving Grounds facility. The facility is located about 25 miles south of Kingman, AZ on the old Yucca Army Airfield.

Given the dismal Q3’09 financial results and closure of Buell, they have now decided to further reduce operational expenses by closing the test facility in Talladega, Alabama, eliminating about 100 jobs. The testing facility was opened in January 1981 and had performed several kinds of vehicle tests including high-speed performance tests on Talladega SuperSpeedway.

The companies operational plans had previously committed to cease testing in Mesa, AZ (the GM Proving Grounds) by July 2009 because the testing ground had been sold for a variety of planned developments.  Consolidating test operations from Talladega; and Naples FL., to the Arizona Proving Grounds in Yucca, AZ., is new information.

Clearly the company is aggressively cutting costs where it can and must be necessary to align cost with the new economic reality of reduced sales. I’m truly starting to wonder if H-D has lost its way and offer up the movie opening title card as a reminder to H-D management: “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, bad-ass speed. – Eleanor Roosevelt, 1936.”

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

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