We all have those people in life that we don’t necessarily like, but tolerate for the sake of keeping the peace. There’s that person who chews REALLY LOUDLY in quiet places. There’s the people who feel the need to swipe in at the last second and take the parking spot you were clearly gunning for in the grocery store parking lot. Can’t forget Armrest Hogger on your red eye flight to the East coast, either. We all encounter them. They’re like bad farts, some people are just better at pretending they don’t exist than others.
Then there are the type of people we shouldn’t have to tolerate. Like thieves. Last week we encountered one face to face that stole our motorcycle off the street and listed it on Craigslist to make a profit.
And this is the unabridged story of how we got our motorcycle stolen (twice), found it on craigslist and confronted the thief.
Ok, if I’m going to tell this right, I should start with a little backstory. The bike is a vintage 1976 Honda CB500, which to most of the kids working in tech around here who ride motorcycles, means absolutely nothing. It’s not the trendy Triumph bike that you’re going to spend 10k on, ride until it becomes less popular on the mens blogs, and sell it (sorry friends who ride these, but you know they’re trendy). It’s an older bike, vintage. Something only a bike enthusiast would really care to own. Trey grew up around bikes. Fixing them up, riding them until something breaks and doing it all over again. Road bikes, BMX bikes, motor bikes…all of them. Since I’ve know him, there’s nothing he loves more than sitting in the backyard or garage with a cold drink fixing up a bike, preferably with his guy friends who like to do the same. When we were first dating, I’ll never forget him and his roommate fixed up a road bike for me to ride to class. It was the most awesome thing ever. They painted it red with blue rimmed wheels and even put this tiny vinyl anchor sticker on the front. Trey and I used to play this game where we’d move each other’s bikes while the other person was in class so you’d come out and it would be gone (since we knew each other’s bike lock combinations). One time Trey put mine up in a tree (in the branches) so when I came out of class….my bike was in a tree. He stood on the other side of the court yard quietly laughing while I had to climb the tree to get it down in front of everyone. I love him.
We’ve also had this thing with stolen bikes. Once we witnessed one being stolen by a homeless guy at a music show in Chapel Hill, NC, chased the guy down and confronted him until he got off the bike, then I swooped in behind him and rode off with it, Bonnie and Clyde style. Then there was the time when we lived in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco and had stopped off for cake on the way home (as you do) from another music show when we discovered someone had cut the lock, left my P.O.S bike and rode off with Trey’s bmx bike. I told Trey to take my bike and go find it (thinking he would feel better for at least trying), then to my surprise he tracked down the crackhead in the Tenderloin (the stabby part of the city) who stole it, pushed the dude off the bike, and rode home on my bike with his bike over his shoulder. When he met me back at home with the bike we went crazy while equally acknowledging how insane we both are. Me egging him on, him crazy enough to do it and vice-versa given the situation. Bonnie and Clyde, I tell you. I’d like to say we’ve dialed back our antics, but, then this idiot stole our motorcycle.
So. THIS MOTORCYCLE. We’ve had this one, which we’ve lovingly dubbed the “Honda Bike”, for a couple years now. Trey’s been fixing it up and whenever he gets done adding something new on it he excitedly runs in and asks me if I wanted to go on a ride with him to test it out. Warm summer nights on the back of a bike cruising down a highway next to the ocean in Florida make for some great memories! I look back on them fondly. So when we moved back to the Bay area, we shipped it along with the rest of our stuff to the other side of the country. Upon getting to Berkeley, we unloaded our stuff from our rented Uhaul truck into our new place until late into the evening. Around 8 pm, with a few miscellaneous items and the Honda Bike left to unpack, we decided lock all of it up in the Uhaul and park it on the well-lit street next to us to resume unpacking in the morning. Welp. The next morning we woke up and it was gone. As in the ENTIRE UHAUL TRUCK. So we called around to the tow companies in the area thinking it was towed. Nope, stolen. And there wasn’t really anything we could do about it except wait for it to turn up somewhere. Then, in a shocking turn of events, a few months later we got a parking ticket in the mail for the Honda Bike in West Oakland (sketch city), drove down and found it and towed it home. I know what you’re thinking, we must live in a bad area. We don’t. We live in Berkeley, home to million dollar real estate listings, moms in $75 yoga pants, and suburbs filled with progressively-parented kids that don’t come within a mile of any food that isn’t raw and bland.
So, that was the first time it was stolen and we got it back. But that’s not even the good part. Brace yourselves, it gets better.
By now the registration is out of date, and it still has Florida tags on it. We have it back, but we’ve got a million other things going on (slight exaggeration) and forget to get it up to date. In the meantime we go up to WA and spend almost a month up there at the orca lab. When we return, the bike is gone. NOOOO, we thought. It must have gotten towed since the registration was expired. SIGH. We call around to all the tow shops (again) and what do you know…there’s no record of it being towed. It has been stolen, again.
The next morning, Trey gets on the motorcycle section on Craigslist and…you guys….you’re never going to believe this……there’s the Honda Bike. SON OF A FREAKING GUN.
So we talk on the couch about how we should go about this. First things first, he calls and reports the bike stolen with the Berkeley Police Department. A cop comes out and asks a few questions, Trey tells him he’s found the bike being sold on Craigslist, and the cop tells him that Trey has to verify the bike is his via the VIN number on the bike to know it is indeed Trey’s stolen motorcycle. So, next, we contact the guy who stole the bike via the phone number he has listed on the Craigslist ad. A few text messages later and we arrange a meeting at the guy’s house/shop just a few miles down the road for later that evening.
“Should we call for a police escort?”
“Should we be doing this without a cop present?”
“What if this guy knows what we look like already..I mean, he knows where we live, right?”
These are all important questions that we chose to ignore as we drove over there appearing to be interested buyers. Dumb? Probably. Did it work out in the end? Yep.
So we pull up and the guy has the bike out front ready to show us. He’s a young guy, maybe 30. Slightly hipster looking. He has long hair pulled back into a pony tail and he talks about the bike as if it’s an injured baby horse he’s been nurturing back to health. “When I bought her she wasn’t running”….”I replaced this, I did this and that”…”She runs great now, just got to take her easy”. That kind of stuff. I have my phone in the front pocket of my jacket, filming the whole thing. The guy seems nice, but I wasn’t born yesterday. Trey walks around the bike and sees the plates have been changed to CA state tags. We both see that the VIN number matches and that it’s our bike. Trey admires the work that’s been done for a few minutes before calmly saying:
“I’ve been looking for one of these for a long time, where’d you find it?”
“A police auction two months ago”, the guy responds
“Cool, and you have the papers and all?” Trey asks him
“Yep, got it all inside” he tells us, gesturing inside his garage
We agree that it’s a good price and Trey tells him he wants to buy it.
“Don’t you want to ride the bike before you buy it?” the guy asks Trey.
Right…because that’s what you do when you buy a bike you’ve never driven before. I look over at Trey and he looks at me.
“Nah, I don’t have insurance”, he improvises.
“Well once down the street won’t hurt”, the guy insists.
Trey grabs his helmet, starts up the bike, and rides it down the street and back. I stay behind as collateral. The guy makes small talk with me while Trey test drives his own bike. I was so tempted to lean over and tell the guy “I KNOW WHAT YOU DID… YOU STOLE OUR BIKE YOU STEALER!”, but I knew I had to stay tight lipped or else I’d blow our cover.
So, Trey comes back and says the bike runs great and that we’ll be back within the hour to buy it…we just needed to run to the ATM to withdraw cash.
And this is where the story gets ALL kinds of crazy.
We drive to the Berkeley Bowl, which is this natural foods grocery store about a mile down the road, and call the police. 15 minutes later a cop arrives and we explain our situation to him. We show him the title and he goes back to his car to look up the bike on his computer. He comes back with a baffled look on his face.
“It says it was registered to a ***** ****** on July 26th”.
“I don’t know how or why it would say that. I never signed over the title to anyone”, Trey tells him
We tell him about the bike’s history…that it was stolen from our Uhaul and then turned up a few months later. How the registration was out and it still had a Florida license plate.
Then the cop calls for back up and another cop arrives and they both go over to the guy’s place while Trey and I stay behind in the Berkeley Bowl parking lot and talk about how this kind of stuff only happens to us. They come back 30 minutes later and say the guy lied to us about getting it at a police auction….that he says he really bought it for $150 from a guy down the street and then he went directly to the DMV and got it registered.
“How can he get a bike registered that’s already registered in someone else’s name?” I ask the cops.
“Apparently it’s a loophole he found, because the bike had out of date tags. We can’t prove he stole it or knew it was stolen when he bought it, the cop lets us know.
“So, you’re telling me I can go find a vehicle that’s got out of state tags with an expired sticker, STEAL IT, and go claim it’s abandoned at the DMV, get paperwork for it and sell it on Craigslist?”, Trey asks.
“We’re working to see what we can do about this, but I suggest you go talk to the guy and you two figure out what to do”, the cop replies.
So we go back over to the guy’s house with the cop car following us. We walk up to the thief and he says “So, here we are” all confident. He tells Trey he got it from **** ******* (a faulty name) for $150 and had no idea it was stolen. He says he and a buddy were driving home and saw a bike for sale on the street, so they bought it and put it in the back of their truck. Which sounds suspiciously close to he and a buddy were driving home and saw a bike on the side of the street, picked it up and put it in the back of their truck.
At this point I’ve heard enough and I just blatantly ask him “Did you steal our bike?”
“No I did not”, he tells me, calmly. I get a bad vibe immediately and sense he’s not telling the truth.
“Why’d you lie to us about where you got it then?” I said back to him. He just stood there, looking around.
“Because either you stole it, or you know the person(s) who did”, I answer for him.
Trey shoots me a look. As much as I play the quiet card in other settings, I can be a real firecracker in situations like this. Once Trey asked me what movie character I most related to and I answered Icebox from the Little Giants because honestly, I’ve never been opposed to clothes lining a guy if I need to.
So, Trey lets the guy know he wants the bike back. The guy tells him he put a lot of work into it (PS HE STOLE IT) and wants at least $1,000. We tell him no way. He lowers to $800 after a few minutes, but we’re still not budging. Why would we pay for our own bike? So, we end up leaving, saying we’ll think about paying for it. We never planned to, we just decided it was best to leave and think of a strategy to get it back another way.
A few days go by and the guy mails us copies of the paperwork. We don’t know how he got our address, since the bike was still registered to a Florida address….so that was weird, knowing he knows exactly where we live (the bike was parked on the street in front of several houses/buildings when it was stolen). Trey calls the police every day to see if there’s anything they can do….nope. They tell us their hands are tied and it’s best for us to resolve it on our own. THANKS.
So then I’m eating a hard boiled egg one night and decide I’m going to send the guy a text. I have his number after all, since he put it in the Craigslist posting which we saved a screenshot of.
Around 9pm one night I send him this:
“It was his grandfather’s, if you were wondering. It’s why there were Florida tags on it. It’s why the registration was out. It was the only thing left to Trey after he passed and now it’s gone. He won’t tell you this, because he’s a good guy from a small town that gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, even thieves. But I’m not. I’ve seen my share of things. And as his wife, I just want you to know that I know. And what you took is irreplaceable to him. “
The next day, Trey emails him saying we’re pursuing legal action and will be taking him to small claims court. Within the hour, the guy texts back and says to come get the bike.
We go back to the guy’s house, he invites us into his shop/garage and into a back room to sign the title back over to Trey. The guy gives a nod over his shoulder to some guy in the back working on a car and immediately I’m sketched out. But everything goes ok…he signs the title over, complains about “how much work he put into it” and that he’s “really being put out over this” in an attempt for Trey to pay him money….then hands Trey the keys.
Before we drive off, he tells Trey….“Sorry about your grandfather, man. Your wife told me this was his bike. I just want this off my conscience”.
He waves to me sitting in the driver’s seat of the Mazda and I just give him the best stank face I can muster up as I drive past him. I don’t like thieves, especially not nice, manipulative ones.
Then we got home and chained the damn thing to the front gate of the truck so it doesn’t happen again.
And that is the story of how we got our motorcycle stolen (twice), found it on Craigslist, confronted the person who stole it, and got it back (with new parts, and updated tags).
Grandkids, I hope you’re into hearing stories about bikes being stolen because we have A LOT of them to tell you about one day.