Nick with his bike.
Paul Wellman

When miracles happen, no matter how small, a little rejoicing is in order. An IOU of gratitude needs to be paid.

About a year and half ago, someone stole my bicycle. About a month ago, someone else found it. Now I have it back. To the universe writ large, I say thank you. To Joey Juhasz-Lukomski in particular, I say thank you many times over. Joey’s the one who found it. How he found it — and what he did to secure it afterward — goes far beyond the pale of Good Samaritan-ship.

When my bike disappeared, it was a big deal. I’d had it more than 30 years. In fact, it had been custom made — by local frame builder Mike Celmins — to fit the idiosyncratic geometry of my torso-to-leg-to-arm-length ratios. I’d just turned 30 and both my parents had recently died. I also happened to have just crashed my previous bike; the frame was pretzeled.

The Celmins was a splurge. It also happened to be one of the last frames he would make.

You wouldn’t know by looking, but it was a great bike. It was creamy to ride, the way steel-frame road bikes are, but also sturdy enough to be utilitarian. I rode it every day — to work, on errands, over hills, and through valleys. I’d modified it over time, swapping out the traditional racing drop bars with upright mountain bike handlebars. I also let time and the elements take their toll, not to mention all the street poles to which it had been locked. The light-blue paint job, one of the touches for which Celmins was famous, had been scratched and scraped as if attacked by some fiend armed with a Brillo Pad.

There had been a few accidents along the way, too, one bad enough to send the front fork to the dump and me to the hospital overnight. In that case, I’d benefited from the incredible generosity and magical skills of Bikesmiths owner and mechanic Jim Hopperstad, who all but performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in bringing that bike back when every other mechanic in town had given it up for dead.

Whoever stole it got a lot more bike than they knew. And I lost a whole lot more bike than they took.

I can’t say I had it coming, but I had been a fool. Instead of locking it up with one of those heavy-duty — emphasis on “heavy” — Kryptonite U-bolt locks, I’d tried a much lighter Kryptonite cable lock. Moron! Not all kryptonite, it turns, is the same, something Superman might be interested to learn. Cable locks are inherently inferior.

Upon seeing that my bike was gone, I went into that state of suspended disbelief to which everyone succumbs when they get something stolen. I kept staring at the space my bike used to be, as if I could magically make it re-materialize. I walked around the block; it would be there when I came back. It wasn’t. I tried it again; the outcome did not change. I duly reported it stolen to the Santa Barbara Police Department, which gets about 350 such reports a year. Of those, about seven or eight get recovered. The odds were not in my favor. I moved on.

For the last 18 months, I’ve been zipping about on a Trek LeMond, named after racer Greg LeMond, the first American to win the men’s Tour de France. LeMond bikes fell out of favor when their namesake attacked Lance Armstrong as a doper. This fact had not yet been officially ascertained. LeMond was dismissed as worse than a crank, someone who could not bear to see anyone else succeed. When he later announced he’d been molested as a young boy, he would be shunned as damaged goods. I’m not sure in what continuum of favor Greg LeMond finds himself with the cycling universe now that the whole wide world knows Armstrong to be a cheat, a bully, and a liar. But his bikes are quick enough and imbue slow-poke riders such as myself with the temporary illusion of genuine acceleration. I had moved on.

Then one day my phone rang. It was a guy named Joey in Ventura. I didn’t know any Joey in Ventura. But he knew me. More to the point, he knew my bike. He had stumbled onto it while cruising pawn shops in downtown Ventura. There it was, a blue Celmins with the replacement black carbon front fork.

Joey, it turns out, had been active with the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition. He’d risen to second in command. But nonprofits have a way of exploding, and Joey soon found himself in Ventura, starting his own version of the bike coalition. Lucky for Ventura. Lucky for me.

Not only did Joey recognize my bike and call me, he put down $200 to get it out of hock. Who the hell does that? Joey Juhasz-Lukomski, that’s who. A Good Samaritan — and then some.

Now I got my old bike back. It fits the way it’s supposed to. It still rides creamy, with lots of glide. Maybe not as jumpy off the start, but there’s a lot less shimmy and wobble on the downhill runs. And I can take it for a stroll if I want.

Miracles happen. Thank you, Joey.


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