“Live and learn,” said Frederick Douglass. I say, “Live, learn, forget, and have to learn again.” As you may recall, Sophie the Fairdale, who was 10 feet away from me but not locked, was stolen out from under my nose back on January 8th. That’s what happened again late last month with Sonnie the GT bicycle when I entered a convenience store for a drink, came out, and re-entered to fill my water bottle. When I was done, I came out to find Sonnie was gone. But, wait for it… I got her back! A story with a mostly happy ending is better than the alternative. Read on for the details of this strange adventure.
If you’ve ever had anything stolen, you know the feeling you get is a horrible one. It’s like a punch to the guts, or a kick in the nuts or other bits. Especially if it’s an object one has become attached to (which the Buddha warns us not to do but we do it all the time). In this case, when I realized what happened, I was pretty equanimous about it. Because I’d been through it before, and my attachment to Sophie was much deeper, and I knew I’d taken a risk by leaving Sonnie unlocked, it was hard to be too upset. Plus, it was my responsibility to not make it easy for thieves. However, I’d left my lock at home next to the stairs the night before. I scanned some unhoused people on the sidewalk but they seemed harmless, so I figured I’d be fine for two minutes; I wasn’t. Someone was lurking in the bushes and it took all of 30 seconds to grab it.
I rushed around to look for the bike, talked to the guys on the street, asked the store manager to look at the video, and called the police (who like the previous time proved to be of absolutely no help). Eventually, I gave up and phoned a friend who took me home. I was embarrassed, but oh well, live and learn, etc. right? But now I owned zero bicycles, which was going to be a problem for someone with a streak of almost three years of daily cycling. I arranged to borrow the same friend’s unused bike, which wasn’t great, but worked. And I asked around if anyone had an extra bike they didn’t want anymore. It turns out, someone did. We met at a park and I tried it out, so he loaned it to me with an option to keep it, because he needed room in his garage. More on that in a minute.
I was still riding and now had two bikes to choose from, but I had a feeling that I would be able to get Sonnie back. So I returned to the scene of the crime a couple of times by car, and talked to the guys living outside the convenience store. One in particular was friendly, but hard to understand. Life on the street is hard. Also, there are rules in the unhoused society, like “snitches get stitches.” He said he had grabbed the bike later that same night but eventually fell asleep, and it was stolen again. So close! He said he couldn’t tell me anything with other people around, but I should come back. So I did.
A few days later I was back and offered to buy him a soft drink. He already had one but felt comfortable enough with me to let me know who to look for and where he camped out. And he’s a helpful guy just very down on his luck. The next day, I was driving around and saw the perpetrator not a block from the scene of the crime — walking my bike! So, I staked him out. He went into some woods, so I parked and watched. I called the police and reported I had located my stolen property, and would they knew that campsite and would send someone (they didn’t). Not long after, the thief came out, and headed back to the store. I followed and parked around back and snuck around to the front.
I grabbed my new “friend” and together we went up to the stealer man next door at a fast food place. I said, “Nice bike, where’d you get it?” He mumbled “Store.” I said, “No you didn’t, that’s mine, give it back.” Which he miraculously did. The friend helped me take his milk crate off while the guy went next door to the c-store. I walked over and said, “Hey, where’s my seat, seat post, two bags, brake pads, and keys?” He claimed he didn’t know, because he got it from someone else, and they had taken those things of the bike. Yeah, whatever, dude.
Then he said a weird and scary thing: “Hey, do you wanna buy a shotgun?” I was literally speechless, and could only imagine being taken into his camp, murdered by said shotgun, and my bike stolen all over again. “No thanks,” was my reply. I reported this to the police and so far have no news they’ve done anything about it. I guess bike thefts and unlicensed firearm sales are okay with them. This is (allegedly, from my friend) a guy who was known to throw rocks at other unhoused people’s faces, steal their shit, and make pop guns out of bicycle parts. No one like him. The most ridiculous part of all of this? He said he had a bike but it needed a tube. Too bad I didn’t have the chance to buy him a tube before he or the first thief stole my bike.
Anyway, I cut my losses, put Sonnie in the trunk, and got the hell out of there. Over several trips to Yellow Bike Project, I got a new seat, post, and brake pads. Fortunately as a non-profit, they only ask for a small amount for their used, donated parts. So Sonnie rides again. People were amazed I got her back. I am too. And I guess I’m attached to Sonnie, too, given our history.
Then, as mentioned, someone gave me a bike to try. This is a road bike, and let me tell you, it’s like driving a Maserati compared to a minivan (no offense, Sonnie). I took her up and back on the Southern Walnut Creek Trail and averaged 15.5 miles per hour. My normal average is 10 mph. So, yeah, she’s fast. Trouble is, she’s not the right size some say, and I haven’t ridden a drop bar road bike since college probably. It’s very responsive handlebars feel like it would be easy to crash. After a few trips to Yellow Bike and receiving advice from some bike shop mechanics, she’s as ready as she’ll be. I doubt I am ready, thoughm, so we’ll see what happens. More will be revealed next month, including if I keep her or not.
Today marked my third year of biking every single day. Not much to say about that except I thought it was tomorrow because I counted the days wrong. Also, it’s hard to keep that sort of streak going although some days it was just a few miles, but that still counts. Oh, and I’m pretty tired. I had planned to go out tomorrow on a regularly scheduled pretty long bike ride, but life has intervened, so I’ll have to postpone that for about a week. That’s ok.
Because I’m striving to be less attached to outcomes, expectations, and controlling things that are out of my wheelhouse. “Not my circus, not my monkey,” as my brother likes to say. Someday, my biking, yoga, walking, reading, writing, and other habits will all come to an end, as all things will for each and every one of us. But not today. I’m grateful to the folks who support my bike riding and blog writing (and book revising); you know who you are.
Thanks for visiting ADudeAbikes.com. Lock your bikes with U-lock AND cable (and best put a GPS tracker on them!)
“Trust in others, but tie your camel.”— Arabic saying
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