Travel Stage: Working our way south along the West Coast. After Portland, before Redwoods
Date Range: November 5 – 6, 2016
Summary: A simple overnight at a beach park near Coos Bay, Oregon proves costly when our two mountain bikes are stolen from the back of our fifthwheel in the night. Here are some lessons we’ve learned from the experience.
When we left Florence, OR it was – surprise! – raining. After a few hours of driving, we headed out to a free overnight parking spot that a couple of friends had used just a few weeks prior that was right by the water!
We thought we’d give it a try, and after taking the windy drive out to the shore from Highway 101 in the rain, we didn’t want to go searching for another place. We pulled up on the shoulder with the other cars who were there to watch the stormy waves crash on the beach. We pushed out our slide and it nearly hung over the water it was so close!
The wind and the rain persisted through the night, and the waves crashing on the beach lulled us to sleep.
In the morning, we awoke to sunshine, blue sky, and a calmer sea. We strolled around letting the dogs do their business and that was when we discovered..
…our bikes were gone.
The feeling of having something stolen is one of the worst feelings in the world. It is so incomprehensible to us to take something – anything – from someone else that we were completely and utterly confused and upset.
The thieves had come in the night, cut our cable bike locks, and removed our two mountain bikes from the back of our fifthwheel while we were inside. They only thing that makes us feel marginally okay about what happened is thinking of it in the context that the bikes were the only thing they took/messed with.
Our parking spot in the morning. Bikes were gone.
We followed the tire tracks of our stolen bikes down the road a good quarter mile to a spot where we figure they were loaded into a truck and driven off. We stopped and talked to some other people who had spent the night by the beach and they hadn’t seen any bikes or the people who did it.
We called and filed a police report, but it didn’t do us much good because we didn’t have serial numbers for the bikes.
IF YOU HAVE BIKES WITH YOU, TAKE A PICTURE OF OR WRITE DOWN AND SAVE THE SERIAL NUMBERS!
The police can’t really do anything without a serial number, but regardless I gave them detailed descriptions of the bikes.
Then, like when we lost Bella in Michigan and used Facebook to find her
, we turned to Facebook and placed an ad on our page targeted to the Coos Bay area. I called pawn shops and bike shops. I joined all the Coos Bay and surrounding area Facebook groups for community discussions and buying/selling (which there are a ton of on Facebook.) We scouted Craigslist (and kept an eye on this for many weeks to come).
And then all we could do was continue on down the road. We were only there for the night, and had somewhere to be that afternoon about 3 hours away in Crescent City, California. It felt so weird to leave without our bikes.
I was upset we had our bikes stolen, but I was REALLY upset that Tom’s bike had been stolen. It was a really nice bike that had been a gift to him from his grandmother 10 years ago. It was a Giant Anthem II (for those of you who are bikers) and it fit him perfectly. Tom had ridden it for years mountain biking and racing. He had gotten out of that and had retrofitted it with an electric motor so we had another “motorized vehicle” for running longer distances easily.
We had a lot of response about our Facebook ad. We reached over 15,000 people in the Coos Bay, Oregon area. It had been reshared over a hundred times, and we had a lot of sympathy poured on us from the community, which helped heal our wound quite a bit!
We even had a woman offer to give us her bike because she felt so bad; we turned her down because we learned she was still using it to go biking with her son, but the offer was still so sweet.
The next morning I received a message that someone might have found one of the bikes. My hopes soared! “Please let it be Tom’s bike!” I thought.
I got the man’s phone number and gave him a call. He told me he had found a bike later in the day that we noticed them missing just down the road from where we had stayed. It was back in the woods away from the road hidden in the trees where he occasionally goes mushroom picking. He thought it was odd, and almost left it there.
Red star: Where we were parked. Yellow area: Where Cait’s bike was found
“What color is it?” I asked, fingers crossed.
“Gray.” Hopes crushed. Oh well, it was one of them. One is better than none!
Retrieval of the Bike
We drove the 3 hours back up to Coos Bay a few days later to pick up the bike. No other lead came from our ad, and no word from the police. We spent several hours searching in the area where the man had found my bike and found a creepy network of trails going from homeless camp to homeless camp in the trees. No sign of Tom’s bike.
3 Months Later…
It has been nearly 4 months now since the bikes were stolen, and still it has not been found. Perhaps it had been scrapped, perhaps sold, perhaps being ridden around by whoever stole it. That night in that town stands out in our travels as the worst part so far. Worse than the truck breaking down in Alabama. Worse than having to rebuild the front end in Montana. Losing Bella was bad, but that all turned out okay – I do tell myself that I’d rather lose a bike than a dog. It is completely replaceable. But it still feels terrible!
Tips on Preventing & Dealing with Theft
We wanted to share a list of recommendations for preventing theft while you’re traveling, aiding the recovery in case of a theft, and engaging the surrounding community when you lose something.
- Lock things up! The RV, the Truck, your bikes, outside stuff. What security systems do you have in place? Are these locks durable or easily broken? We now have a bike lock that sounds an INCREDIBLY loud alarm if it is cut, so any thieves will be startled out of their skin and we will know what’s going on. If you want to check it out, it is call the NuLock. We’ve also heard of a lock that sprays the thief with a noxious vomit-inducing odor if cut called Skunklock.
- Don’t be an easy target. In hindsight, we were such an easy target. All alone, obviously not local, with valuables hanging out in plain sight. The dark night and nasty weather helped the thieves in their work.
- Don’t camp alone – try to have neighbors nearby for a “neighborhood watch.”
- Hide your possessions – the stuff in the back of your truck or hanging on the back of your RV.
- If you have a bad feeling, TRUST IT. $30-50/night for a nice campground is worth it over risking it boondocking in a shady area.
Prepare Before the Theft
It’s not fun to think about things being stolen, but if you do a little work ahead of time the reporting of a theft goes smoother and the chance of retrieval increases.
- Serial Numbers! The police station recommended that we write down or take a picture of all of our valuables serial numbers. These are on cameras, computers, TVs, etc. This is a unique identifier for the item so that it can be traced back to you.
- Make/Model info
- Pictures – Detailed images as well as general pictures of your items. We had to search through all our photos to find decent side pictures of our bikes to provide for the Facebook ad and to the police, which was really frustrating at that time.
After a Theft
- Report to the Local Police. Provide as much information as possible – time of theft, theft location address, contact info, serial numbers, makes/models,
- Facebook Ad – This has to be done from a “Page” so if you don’t have one of these, set up one – they are free. Design and “Ad” and pay to promote it, and in the design you can select an area to target. This is is how we retrieved one of our bikes.
- Facebook Groups – Join as many Buy/Sell and Community groups for the area by searching for the town/county/etc. You can set up alerts for when people post with keywords like “bike” and you will be notified every time.
- Craigslist – monitor for your property. We heard a story about a girl who had a bike stolen once and watched Craigslist for a few weeks to see if anyone would try to sell it. Sure enough, it appeared. She immediately called the guy saying she was interested in buying the bike. They set up a time to meet. She asked him if she could take it for a test ride, and when he agreed she just rode off with it and re-stole her bike! We hoped this would happened to us, but no such luck.
Hope This Helps!
We hope there is a silver lining in all this: We are smarter and better prepared now to prevent a theft and deal with it should it happen again. We also hope others can learn from our misfortune and also prepare themselves and think about where they park and travel to with reasonable caution.
And no matter what, the bigger picture is that this was the only negative incident that’s happened to us in our year+ of travels so far. The compassion and support that we received from the Coos Bay community was also heartwarming. It’s the 5% of people out there who are out to ruin your day, but don’t let that cloud out the 95% of people who are good, kind, and caring.
Share Your Story
Have you ever had something stolen while traveling? Were you able to recover it? What happened? We’d love to hear your stories and any additional lessons you’ve learn on how to prevent and deal with theft on the road in the comments section below.
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