As CommuteOrlando readers know, my beloved Long Haul Trucker was stolen on September 27. I’ve owned a lot of bikes. And many more expensive than the LHT, but none have fit me so perfectly or felt so right.
I reported it stolen. Wrote a post. Posted it on Facebook. Created a flier and set about distributing it to bike shops.
By the time I got to the shops, most of the employees had already seen the post. Within a few days it had been shared by over 200 people on Facebook — by friends and friends of friends and their friends. People I don’t even know! Hal Downing added it to his newsletter. Yvette and David Sanborn helped me distribute the flier to David’s World stores. Lyndy Moore, (Orlando Police Department and Bike Works), distributed it to all the OPD stations, the evidence room, the downtown bike patrol squads and all the Bike Works stores. In fact, Lyndy took the photos from the CO post and made a flier even before I had finished mine!
Lisa and I spent a few days visiting pawn shops, but that was fruitless and exhausting. After the initial flurry of activity, there wasn’t much to do except keep watching craigslist, Ebay and scanning every bicycle rack and cyclist I saw. A number of you have told me you were doing the same and I am so grateful for that!
On October 6, Kyle Markel of Kyle’s Bike Shop called me to tell me his mechanic, Shawn, had seen it in Thornton Park, with the trailer attached. He had tried to follow the guy, but he disappeared between some houses. Lyndy gave that info and more fliers to the OPD bike patrol in that area.
In the Meantime
The first thing I needed to do was replace the lights and tools that had been on the LHT and trailer. Howard Larlee at Orange Cycle gave me a generous discount on those items.
Having lost both my utility bike and my trailer, I was in need of a basic transportation bike. Several kind readers offered to lend me a bike. I had a mountain bike that was fine for small loads. Diana insisted on lending me one of her bikes and a trailer. I enjoyed riding her Novara Buzz around for a week.
I had been wanting a Big Dummy for a long time, so I decided to order one since it could replace the hauling capability of the LHT and trailer. Really, I couldn’t bear to replace the LHT, so I had to get something different.
I ordered one from Retro City Cycles and Nick assembled it on October 5 — just in time for the October First Friday ride!
Though somewhat bittersweet, it was fun to show it off at the gathering for the First Friday ride. It’s a good-looking, well-built bike. I enjoyed letting friends take it for a spin around the park while I engaged in pre-ride conversations. Then everyone started gathering around me — Jason had my camera and Lisa had some large folder thing in her hand. WTH is going on?
Lisa started saying… something… about me… the community… I was trying to figure out what she was up to. Then she pulled a large, mounted check out of the folder (the photo on the right is blurry, but you can kinda get my expression). Unbeknownst to me, CyclingSavvy instructors (around the country) and former students had taken up a collection to pay for my new bike. Dano, Jessica, Nick and Dave were in on it and had given me a very generous discount on the bike — which I had noticed when I paid for it (I’d wondered why Dave was grinning like a Cheshire cat).
There really aren’t any words to express what this means to me. The love of this community is priceless and I feel it every time I ride my bike.
On a Warm December Day
I’ve ridden a lot of miles on the Big Dummy, it is a sweet ride! I’ve put it to good use, I find it much less cumbersome than a trailer and love that I don’t have to plan ahead about which, or how many, panniers I should take. I can make an impromptu stop and pick up just about anything. Nonetheless, barely a day has gone by that I didn’t feel the loss of the LHT.
Last Saturday, December 17, Lisa and I set out on a Christmas shopping trip. We rode up to Winter Park, and after shopping at the Farmer’s Market, decided to stop for lunch in Hannibal Square. We had just ordered our food when my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but something told me to answer it.
“This is Josh at East Colonial Bike Works. You haven’t recovered your stolen bike yet, have you?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“I didn’t think so, because, I think I have it here. It just came in for service.”
It had the Brooks saddle, bar tape and mud flap. I told him how he could tell for sure it was mine (the brakes). He was certain it was my bike!
Two kids had ridden there and the one that had been riding it had asked for an estimate to tune the front derailleur. Recognizing the bike from the flier Lyndy had posted there, Josh had acted quickly and said he would look at it and could probably just fix it for free right then. He took it back, put it on the rack and called me.
My challenge was, I didn’t have the serial number. I know, I know, lesson learned! So I would have to go there and identify it. Josh said he would stall the “customer” while I called the Sheriff’s office. The first call I made was to Lyndy to ask, “what do I do now!?” I got Lyndy’s voice mail.
I called Josh back and told him my situation — I was in Winter Park, had to ride home and get my car to get out to East Colonial. “Can you stall him?” Josh assured me he was on it, he had already taken the chain, crank and derailleur off the bike and was pretending it was all gunked up inside.
In the meantime, Lisa had asked the waitress to box our food and was paying the bill.
I called the Orange County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number, since 911 seemed inappropriate. My head was spinning and my pulse racing as I tried to navigate the labyrinth of “if this, press that.” My call-waiting beeped. It was Lyndy!
“I’m on my way, the deputies are on their way, just get there.” She said.
Lyndy was almost home from work, got my call, turned and headed to Bike Works and called OCSO on the law enforcement line.
Lisa and I sprinted the 4 miles back to my place. Lyndy called when she got to the shop to tell me it was definitely my bike, but the guy who brought it in was saying he got it from someone who bought it from someone else. The decals had been taken off — according to the kids, just a day or so before. She told me to bring the fliers and whatever else I had to identify it as my bike. I grabbed my laptop and loaded an album of LHT photos on it. I’ve taken a lot of pictures of that bike!
Lisa drove while I held my breath. We got every single red light between Maguire and the 417. No wonder motorists are so cranky outside the urban core.
Lyndy met us in the parking lot wearing an inside-out t-shirt. She didn’t want to tip off the kids who brought the bike in before the deputies got there, so she had taken off her uniform in the car on the way. The only shirt she had was from the police academy, so she put it on inside out. The deputies were there. She wanted me to describe the bike and any distinguishing marks or accessories to the deputy before I went in to see it. The lack of a serial number complicated matters, but she knew it was my bike and was willing to sign an affidavit to that effect.
I described the bike, the Brooks accessories, the brakes, the JANDD rack, planet bike fenders. I explained that I had a lot of photos. We went in.
There it was! A little naked without the decals, but undeniably my bike!
It still had the same rack, fenders, pump, Brooks saddle, bar tape and mud flap (the tool bag was missing). But of all the things that made it easy to identify, it still had the Arkel handlebar bag clamp with the velcro across the top — where I mount the controller for my video camera. There was a close-up picture of it on my poster.
“That’s good enough for me,” said Deputy Vignali.
I didn’t have any contact with the kids. They were outside and I was inside. At least one is a minor. The other is older, but I don’t know his age. According to the older kid, he got the bike from his mother’s boyfriend, who allegedly got it at an “estate sale.” The younger kid had noticed my stolen bike poster in the shop while they were waiting for service. He told his friend that it looked like the bike they brought in. The fact that this seemed like nothing more than a coincidence, and they didn’t run, is a good indication that they didn’t know it was stolen. Once they recognized it was my bike, they released it to me.
Lyndy helped get the report from OCSO into the hands of detectives at OPD. On Wednesday morning, I received a call from an OPD detective telling me they had recovered the trailer and my Brooks tool bag. I met them at the site, about a mile from here (with a bag of homemade cookies).
The recovery of the trailer and tool bag were the result of outstanding police work on the part of OCSO Deputies and OPD Detectives!
Aside from a few insignificant items (a bell, a relatively inexpensive headlight and the trailer hitch), I have my rig back. The ride is every bit as wonderful as I remembered! The bike is such a joy to ride. Josh did an exceptional job of tuning and cleaning it for me.
My saddle still has a perfect break-in. The kid who was riding it had put a gel seat cover on it. Ugh, yeah, I know! But the upside is, his butt wasn’t messing up my saddle. The bar tape is pretty ragged, so I’m replacing that. I thought about replacing the decals, but the naked look is starting to grow on me. And the bike has no scratches.
I can’t believe how lucky I am to get it back at all, let alone in such good condition after 3 months!
More importantly, I am so blessed, and humbled, to be a part of such an amazing (extended) community of loyal readers, friends, instructors, students, cycling clubs, bike shops and police agencies. Every step of this little journey has given me exponentially more than the thief took.
That is the Gift.
Things are not completely wrapped up yet, so I’ve left out some potentially juicy details (there are more I’m hoping to learn). Charges are pending, but I don’t think an arrest has been made. I’ll publish “the rest of the story” in time. This segment seemed fitting for today. Merry Christmas!