Thursday, March 01, 2007

Stolen Bikes

PAC Tour arrived in Tucson, Arizona to begin seven weeks of tours and camps. Our two Ford vans and with their new 18 foot mechanic’s and cooking trailers were ready to go. It was good to be back in Arizona for our 12th year of early season training.

The first week of Camp was our Low Desert Tour. This tour wou;d head northwest from Tucson for six days and 500 miles through the towns of Casa Grande, Gila Bend to Wickenburg and back. There would be 28 riders and crew members riding and working together during this week.

Our base hotel in Tucson is the Country Inn and Suites located about a half mile north of the airport. This is the perfect place to begin our tours because of the easy access to the airport and good parking for our larger vehicles. The staff at the Country Inn is always accommodating to the quirky requests that 25-70 cyclists require when preparing for a tour.

All the riders arrived on Saturday to prepare for our tour which began early Sunday morning. The Country Inn Hotel provided our preride breakfast at 6:00 AM with waffles, oatmeal, cereal, muffins and other early morning snacks. Everything was going on schedule and the riders were anxious to begin the tour. The riders were supposed to bring their bicycles and gearbags to the trailer for loading at 7:00 AM.

At 6:10 AM I left my room and carried my laptop computer case and breifcase out to my van and trailer parked in the back of the hotel. One van and trailer was parked near the hotel and the other van and trailer was parked on the far side of the driveway. As I walked behind the trailers and across the driveway I noticed a small new white pick-up truck parked 20 feet ahead of the vans. The pick-up truck had an 24 inch amber warning light bar on the roof. It looked like a security vehicle that the police at the shopping mall might use. I notice a man walking from the back of the truck, then getting in the open door on the driver’s side.

Gee was nice that the security guards are patrolling our hotel parking lot I thought. As the pick-up truck drove away I could see the front wheel of a thin 20 inch bicycle wheel poking into the air. Why did the truck have a bicycle in the back? Something didn’t seem right. I better get a better look. I set down my computer and breifcase on the driveway and ran around to the front of the hotel. The pick-up had already headed out the driveway and away from the airport and hotel. The roads were quite on this Sunday morning as the truck sped away.

I walked into the breakfast area at the hotel. “Did anyone take their bike outside yet” I asked. No one had been outside yet. “That’s good” I said. “I just saw a pick-up truck drive away with a bike in the back”. “Glad it wasn’t ours”.

I few minutes later my wife Susan came in from outside. The lock on the back of her lunch trailer had been cut with a bolt cutters. Her red RRB bicycle and her friend’s Bike Friday were missing from the trailer. Our hearts sunk as the reality of what just happened sank in. The 20 inch front wheel I saw in the back of the white pick-up was the Bike Friday laying on top of Susan’s bike. I had missed seeing the man stealing the bikes from the back of our trailer by less that 30 seconds.

Susan’s bike was really my old 1982 RAAM bike. It has a nice custom steal frame that had been modernized with Shimano Ultegra 9 speed parts. It was a nice bike but probably more valuable as the first bike to win the first Great American Bike Race (pre RAAM name) and the first bicycle to ever be ridden across the United States in under 10 days. The Bike Friday was Debby Henning’s new custom bike that she had bought a few month ago and was especially proud of the way it fit her.

I tried to remember everything I had just seen. The small white, new, pick-up truck. The amber lights on top. The security guard appearance of the man. I didn’t get a license number for the truck or a good look at the man’s face. I did notice the man was abou 5 foot 9 inches tall and weighed about 150 pounds. Somehow the truck looked familiar from the day before. Then I remembered a similar truck circling though the parking lot on Saturday as the riders were assembling their bikes. I remember the white truck and the amber lights. I remembered a logo on the door. I couldn’t remember what it said for sure.

Dave is the manager at the Country Inn and Suites. He was upset about the robbery and called the Tucson Police. About 30 minutes later a woman officer arrived to investigate the break-in. She dusted for finger prints on the back door of the trailer. I told her everything I remembered about the truck and timing of the break-in. Dave had a hunch that the truck could be parked at a different hotel in the area. It was now after 7:00 AM. Most of the cyclists had already started riding. I needed to leave with our vans and get to the first reststop and start the tour. Dave got in his car and started driving through the parking lots of the seven hotels near the airport.

The next day I called Dave and asked him if he knew anything else about the bikes. Near the other hotels he hadn’t seen any small white pick-up trucks that matched my description of the truck. As Dave circled past the airport he did noticed a parked white pick-up truck with a 24 inch amber light on top. Dave took some photos of the truck from various angles. There were no bikes in the back of the truck.

That jogged my memory of the truck I saw driving through the parking lot on Saturday. The back of the pick-up was about 4 feet by 6 feet and big enough for a full size bike to lay flat. A Bike Friday stacked on top had to be sticking above the sides of the truck. I told Dave I was certain that was the same type of truck I saw driving away Sunday morning at 6:10 AM with the little 20 inch wheel in the air.

Dave called the Tucson Police to report what he had seen and the confirmation that I though this was the same truck I saw. A detective had been assigned to the case.

To be continued.......


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