Great news!!! We found a replacement truck and my touring bike was found (well parts of it – read on).
The New-To-Us Truck
After looking for a replacement truck for a month, we finally found the one! A 1999 Ford F250 4x4 super cab long bed. The truck met all our requirements along with an added bonus of being a single-owner vehicle, which is hard to find in older trucks. It’s like the truck was meant to be ours – the shade of red even matches our old truck almost exactly!
Over the course of the month we had called numerous dealers and used car lots in the Seattle area. We refreshed our Craigslist searches several times a day, and were even searching on ridiculous things like “deisel” (which routinely turned up at least 2 or 3 listings!). The majority of the listings we found did not meet our basic requirements. We looked at eight trucks but each of them had major mechanical issues. The issues varied from chocolate milkshake colored and thickness coolant, missing seat belts, odometer scams, truck bed cross-members that were rusted enough to stick a finger through, and an airbag that looked like it had been repacked because plastic peeked out from the edge of the cover. We started to lose hope when we ran out of trucks to check out locally and there weren’t any good truck options in Denver as we initially thought there would be. Jerud and I even restarted the conversation about spending the money to fix our old truck.
But there was one more truck to check out, even though it was two hours away. We decided to talk to the owner over the phone and get as much detailed information from him as possible before making the trip down south, again. After Jerud’s conversation with the owner we decided that this truck could be the one if it really was in as good of conditions as the guy said it was. But we had thought this a couple times before so we were cautious to not get excited before seeing this truck. We made the drive on Wednesday, taking the opportunity to stop at Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve and fit in a quick mountain bike ride at Capitol State Forest beforehand.
Turned out the truck really was in that good of condition. Ray, the original owner, had taken extremely good care of it. The truck has no rust on it, not even under the truck. Ray said that he was really confused when Jerud asked him about the rust situation on the truck and thought to himself, “What rust?” Apparently he hoses the belly of the truck often enough to prevent any rust from occurring. Ford trucks are known for their wheel wells quickly developing rust and this truck has none!
Of course the truck isn’t perfect. Being 16 years old there are a handful of things that need to be worked on. But overall it’s in great condition. The body of the truck is nearly flawless, to the point that I was nervous to drive it back to Mill Creek in case I put a ding on it – something I’m going to have to get over soon because it’s going to happen. Jerud and I are giddy about this truck, we both feel like we got a brand new vehicle. Ray even had the original paperwork for the truck, including the window sticker! It felt like we were driving a new truck off the lot.
The truck came with a matching topper – something we are both excited about, especially since I have this romanticized image of driving into the wilderness and living out of the back of my truck for a period of time. I feel that is something every outdoors person should experience at some point in his/her lifetime. Sadly we can’t keep the topper since it can’t stay on the truck while we tow our RV and we don’t have anywhere to store it.
(Funny story about this photo: this photo was taken in front of my aunt and uncle's next door neighbor's house. We set up the tripod and took several shots before we got a good one. Halfway through our photo shoot the next door neighbor walks out the front door and said, "Are you guys one drugs?!" Turns out he was home and saw us jumping up and down, over and over through his windows.
Reunited With The Bike
The same afternoon we went to check out the truck I received a voicemail from the Mill Creek police station saying that they found what they believe is my stolen bike and needed me to come by the station to ID it. I was shocked to get that voicemail. After 3.5 weeks of looking for my bike and dog trailer I had given up hope that it would be found. It’s such a large city, my bike and dog trailer could be anywhere. According to Bicyclelaw.com, while 48% of stolen bikes are recovered by law enforcement,only 5% are returned to owners. This is because the recovered bikes can’t be tied to the original owner due to the owner not having written down the bike’s serial number (which is engraved on the bottom bracket), good bike photos for ID purposes, etc. The numbers tell a sad story, but somehow I got lucky.
I had been dreading the ID part of the process (not knowing if the situation would ever even come to that) since I didn’t write down my bike serial number before it was stolen. I wrote down the serial number of all my other bikes except for the Safari! But the process turned out to be a lot simpler than I had imagined. I don’t think that is always the case, but it was this time perhaps because the Novara Safari is pretty unique looking and not that common of a bike.
Corporal Fleming rolled out my Novara Safari to the lobby of the police department, and at first glance it looked off. I walked up to it and immediately ID’d it with items that I had placed on my bike but that weren’t removed: the bracket for my handheld pump, the Garmin GPS mount I put on my stem, the way my handlebar tape was wrapped and taped, the water bottle cages that were left on my frame, and my clipless pedals. Then I realized why my bike looked strange – everything else was stolen off it: the seat post, saddle, disc brakes, cables, and fenders. The wheels on the bike weren’t even mine!
Corporal Fleming told us what happened: Officer Bridgman, the officer handling my case, was driving back from training on Wednesday when he saw a vagrant with my bike at the off-ramp of the interstate. Despite the bike having so much missing from it and the person’s belongings being strapped to it (it was essentially being used as a wheelbarrow), Officer Bridgman managed to recognize it. Since he was off-duty he called Corporal Fleming to approach the person. The guy who had my bike told Corporal Fleming that he found it in a dumpster. He took the bike, bought wheels for it and has been using it since. Who knows how true the story is, but I believe it. I think that the thief stole my bike for its parts - stripped the bike and sold them since they are untraceable. The frame is the most recognizable part of the bike, in addition to having a serial number, so the thief didn’t take any chances of getting caught and tossed that. After I confirmed that the wheels on the bike were not my wheels, we gave them back to Corporal Fleming. He said that it would be up to Officer Bridgman whether or not the guy who had my bike would get the wheels back, but the guy did want them back. Out of curiosity we asked how they would get in touch with the guy, Corporal Fleming said via email!
Even though all the expensive components on the bike are gone along with the dog trailer, I’m still very happy to have my bike frame and pedals back! Like someone said on Instagram, they’re “the best parts”.
Having found the truck and bike is a huge relief for us. We need to build the bike back up, convert the new truck to WVO and then we’re finally set. It’ll be great to be through with this stage of our trip and return to being nomads again.