I lifted the garage door, careful not to detach the rickety handle, and was pleased to see my old Jamis Dakota mountain bike right in front, where I'd left it on Saturday. The bike's pushing 20 years old, but it was high-level when new, and the $130 I spent for new sprockets and cables last summer was money well spent. The sight of the bike did raise some questions though. If the bike had not been under the camper shell on the back of my Tacoma Sunday night, then what on earth had the person who had surgically removed the side window of said camper shell been after?

The golf clubs were left, as were the two hang gliding harnesses, my tire chains, a gas can, and some other small stuff. I'm house-sitting 30 miles from home, in Riverside, 50 miles east of Los Angeles, in what I had thought was a nice neighborhood on a little rise above the flatland sprawl. True, just down the road are stores where the English on the signs is an afterthought, but the area is clean and relatively quiet, row after row of casas de clones.

I went to get the paper Monday morning and saw some weather-stripping pieces between the parked BMW and my Tacoma in the driveway. I figured they had been part of the bimmer project and had been blown around by the high winds the day before. Coming back up the driveway I saw a shiny rectangle leaning against the bimmer's tire, and knew that wasn't a wind trick. I was standing right next to the gaping hole in my truck where the window had been. I was pretty sure the bike had been back there, and since nothing was gone, figured that had to have been the lure. I wasn't sure if I had put it back in the garage after riding the other day. Funny that my hang gliding harnesses and flight instruments are worth several thousand dollars, but damn hard for the average person to make sense of, let alone fence. Maybe that's a big benefit of having an obscure sport as the focus of one's recreational time. The glider was still on the roof, of course. Those 18-foot long packages don't just disappear.

The cab wasn't accessed as far as I can tell - all the mess was just as I had tossed it. Funny that last Saturday I was relating to my brother's girlfriend the tale of the junior vatos on mini-bikes who had broken into my and my bosses' trucks years ago at the Crestline LZ while we were test flying. He lost a cell phone, I lost about 40 CDs - mostly Classical and 80s stuff. I'm sure they ended up tossed in a trash can somewhere. That's the only other time my truck's been broken into. They tossed a rock through the passenger window. This current break-in was almost courteous by comparison. Nothing damaged, really. I'm surprised he or they didn't make a mess out of spite after coming up with nothing. Well, almost nothing. I'm pretty sure there had been two 50' lengths of climbing rope back there, the remains of a full-length sport climbing rope that got damaged in the middle a couple of years back.

I didn't have to tell myself to be calm. It was too bizarre. This was just another example of how screwed up this place is getting. I phoned home to get my brother to check the garage, but got no answer, cell or land-line. I quickly ruled out calling the police, even if the bike was gone. Pointless, plus I had to get the glider to Elsinore, where the eager customer was going to meet us before we went up to to spend the morning test flying production gliders. When I got to the LZ we tossed the glider on the trailer and jammed up the hill, where I realized that my harness was still in the back of my truck. I decided that I probably shouldn't fly, since I wasn't focussed, that I should probably just deal with getting the camper shell window reinstalled. But it was blue and sunny and warm and they were soaring gliders in the ridge lift at 10 AM, so by the time the driver and I got back down the hill, I decided that flying was the best use of the day. With a little extra care setting up the gliders and concentrating on feeling for flight characteristics, all three flights went just fine.

Today I stopped at the Camper Shell Depot in Redlands, where I got my shell in 1997, to ask about reinstalling the window. The guy said they'd just replace the whole window unit for $60, which seems okay. I don't want to try to slap the old window and weather stripping in myself and have it look 'almost OK', and paying someone to do it would have to be $40 minimum anyway. Maybe I'll have the other side replaced too, so they match (not to mention that the latch on THAT window has some string tied to it to 'fix' it). So all that was left was to stop by home and check the garage for my bike.


Update: I put the window in place and pushed the 1" wide weatherstripping back into place "for the time-being." There's barely a ripple in the rubber and the pane is in rock-solid, so I never had the window replaced.  It has stayed in for years.