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Submitted photo by Diarmuid McGuire

Wheels in motion to replace stolen bike

After a week of ghastly news that included everything from child-abusing coaches to the usual murderous mayhem, I longed for a bit of good cheer going into the holiday season.

Still, the initial news was unsettling, causing me to wonder how low we humanoids can go.

It all began with an email I received Tuesday from Diarmuid McGuire who, along with wife, Pam, and son, Padraic, own the Green Springs Inn. Diarmuid reported with justifiable disgust that someone had stolen Dave Willis' bicycle.

It was actually a fairly old mountain bike, vintage 1984. But it has unique modifications for Dave, an amputee who lost all of his fingers and thumbs and half of both feet to frostbite while climbing Alaska's Denali mountain in 1976.

Dave is a longtime, well-loved resident of Lincoln, a picturesque hamlet on Highway 66 just a few miles east of the inn. He uses the bike to pedal around the area.

In an email to Diarmuid, Dave reported the theft occurred late on the afternoon or night of Nov. 8, from the library porch at Lincoln.

It was the same spot he frequently left his bike while working in his office in the building for more than 25 years.

"This particular bike is/was a crucially unique form of local transportation for me — essentially a 'prosthetic bicycle,' " he wrote. "I can't just go buy another mountain bike like it."

Dave is a friend of mine, but he didn't send me the email. For good reason: he wasn't interested in seeing a sob story splashed across the paper or cyberspace.

He reluctantly acquiesced to becoming column fodder. But the caveat was that my focus be on rural residents coming together to help one of their own.

Dave is a well-known environmental activist who chairs the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council. He also leads expeditions into the Sierra Mountains each summer.

In other words, he is not the kind of fellow who lets a few missing digits stop him from his life's work. You'll find his name under "persevere" in Websters. He has a keen sense of humor but does not suffer fools gladly.

Incidentally, my friends hail from all over the character map, from staunch atheists to the devoutly religious, from diehard environmentalists to mad-dog timber-industry folks. My only caveat is they be good folks who aren't hypocrites.

By the way, if the University of Oregon Ducks don't win the national football championship, I will be buying lunch for the owner of an Eagle Point timber firm. He happens to be an Oregon State University forestry school alumnus. But we'll save that story for another time.

Let's hop back on the bike story.

Upon hearing about what Diarmuid describes as the "purloined velocipede," local residents launched a collection to replace it. More than $200 has already been collected since "Dave's Bike Fund" jar was placed on the counter in the inn late this past week.

Local bike builder Jeff Gilmore, who built the original, stepped forward to volunteer his expertise and labor to create a new replacement. He figures it will cost up to $1,000 for the parts.

Finally, it turns out the likely culprit was not a local "bat rastard" with an ax to grind with Dave. You'll need to switch the first letters to fully appreciate the condemnation.

A local resident whose husband performs as a musician at the inn told Diarmuid that she had picked up a hitchhiker late on Nov. 8 while driving east on Highway 66. When she told the hitchhiker there was not enough room for both him and his bike in the vehicle, he discarded the bike in the ditch, Diarmuid says.

"So it appears to have been a random act of unkindness," he says. "It was apparently some fool hitchhiking down the road. I imagine he grabbed the bike, got about four miles down the road and finally realized the bike was specifically modified for someone. He threw it away."

While they move forward to replace the 1984 bike, Dave's friends hope the old one pops up.

"There is probably somebody out there who has the bike and doesn't know the significance it," Diarmuid figures.

The bike has a black frame with "Trek" written in faded red lettering, a "Flipfire" Shimano Nexus 7-speed internally geared rear wheel hub, 26-inch wheels with no fenders and a black rack on the back with a multi-colored bungee cord and a shock absorber on the front fork. The grips for the hand brakes are vertical with rubber padding.

"When I first heard about the stolen bike, I was heartsick," Diarmuid concludes. "But watching the community come together like this has been wonderful. It gives you hope."

That it does, adds Dave, who thanks folks in the land of Lincoln for stepping in to help.

"But the best thing would be for whoever likely found my stolen bike abandoned on Highway 66 somewhere east of Copco Road recently to see this column and give me a call," he says. "I'll give them a gift certificate to the Green Springs Inn or Pinehurst Inn — or take them to dinner myself."

Happy Thanksgiving.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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