May is Motorcycle Awareness month.
On average, 500 motorcyclists are killed on Texas roadways each year, with another 1,800 riders seriously injured, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Sixty percent of those accidents happen in the summer months. Additionally, motorcyclists are 29 times more likely to be killed in a crash than car or truck occupants, the department reported.
The Victoria chapter of the Calaveras Motorcycle Club traveled to city council meetings throughout the Crossroads this month to raise awareness. Bikers may be hard for other motorists to spot, so the club members urged drivers to be extra cautious this summer.
“Don’t get in a rush. That’s the biggest part,” said Jaime “T-Nez” Martinez, president of the Victoria chapter. “Bikes are hard enough to see as it is, especially out here where there’s going to be a lot more of them on the roads with summer coming up.”
Martinez stressed that members of the bike club have families they need to take care of, just like other drivers on the road.
Martinez is an Army veteran with six children. Calaveras National Sergeant at Arms, Simon “Triple H” Hysquierdo, also lives in Victoria and has four children and eight grandchildren.
“You’ve got to be real aware of what’s around you. Stay off of your phone,” Martinez said. “It really determines whether or not motorcyclists go home at the end of the day and see their families.”
Club member John De La Garza, from the Lavaca chapter, was killed in 2019 when a motorist pulling out of a McDonald’s parking lot on Houston Highway in Victoria did not see him on the road.
De La Gaza ran into the side of the motorist’s truck and was killed. De La Garza had two children and eight step-children.
De La Garza was not wearing a helmet. The Calaveras Motorcycle club has since enforced helmet use, according to Hysquierdo.
“It was a sad day when John-john died,” Hysquierdo said. “People didn’t look at it as a helmet does save lives. Now we have a helmet rule.”
The Victoria chapter of the Calaveras Motorcycle Club celebrated its fifth anniversary May 19. The club was founded in 1968 in Corpus Christi by Huey Morin, Hysquierdo said.
“We’re pretty big,” Hysquiedrdo said. “We’ve got members all over Texas, in Mexico, Oklahoma and Washington.”
Club members engage in charitable work in Victoria, sometimes partnering with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Harbor Hospice and Target stores, Martinez said.
“Whenever school starts, we reach out and try to find a little kid who needs help getting school supplies, and we’ll adopt them,” Martinez said. “We take them out and get them clothes and shoes, and let them pick out a backpack. Whatever they want, we’ll get it for them.”
The club has lost two members to COVID-19.
On July 9, the Victoria chapter will welcome all members for a memorial ride in Victoria in remembrance of Rozzy Diesel, an ex-Marine and member of the club, who died of COVID-19 in early 2020.
Hysquierdo expects over 100 riders for the event and said that people are welcome to stand along the route.
“The route begins at the Texan store on Bloomington Highway, proceeds down Laurent Street to the Resurrection Cemetery on the corner of Laurent and Mockingbird,” Hysquierdo said.
Martinez asked that people think of the bikers as fellow members of the community.
“We’re not bad people. A lot of people see us and think that because we’re bikers, we’re mean or something like that,” Martinez said, “But we have families. We have kids we have to take care of. We’re people just like everybody else. We just have a cut (a biker vest) on our back and ride motorcycles with our brothers.”