Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 25th, 2010 at 3:06 pm
A tearful reunion about an hour ago in a Sellwood parking lot culminated a 10-day search for a stolen bike unlike any other I've witnessed in years. Tamara and Len Rubin were distraught when the prototype folding bike Len had invested thousands of dollars and years of research into was stolen from their backyard on May 15.
"I've spent most my life working on this dream... And I had given up hope."
-- Len Rubin
The Rubins, spearheaded by the never-give-up attitude of Tamara, got a tip via voicemail near midnight last night from a man who said he had their bike and wanted to give it back. The tip turned out to be legitimate.
Today they met Southeast Portland resident Russ Jones who says he bought the bike from a stranger outside a pawn shop on SE 82nd Ave. Jones paid $150 for the bike and it was only later that Jones' friend said he recognized the bike as stolen from an article he had read in The Oregonian.
Today, Jones told a group that included the Rubins, a cameraman from KGW-TV, and the editor from the local Sellwood newspaper The Bee, that he went home and tracked down the article his friend told him about and realized right away he had to give the bike back.
"It was just the right thing to do," Jones said, "It was obvious how much time and money these people had put into it."
The cash reward for the return of the bike had reached $400 thanks to pledges (that they intend to pay back) from friends and supporters of the Rubins, but Jones declined the money (he only accepted the $150 he paid to buy the bike). "This isn't about the money," Jones said. Even so, Tamara says she insisted on giving him the full amount and she threw in a case of honey farmed by her mom for good measure.
As the Rubins stood over the trunk of Jones's car today and realized it was indeed their bike, the look on their faces were equal parts disbelief and sheer joy.
Tamara Rubin sees the bike for the first time.
Tamara hugs her new hero, Russ Jones.
Len Rubin was skeptical this day would come. Even as he waited to meet this mystery man today, he uttered with exasperation, "I hope this turns out." All the leads that hadn't turned out in the past week or so had started to wear on Len. Today he said he owed his wife an apology "I owe my wife a big apology... All these false leads were breaking my heart every day, but she refused to give up hope."
The first thing Len did upon seeing the bike in the trunk was unfold it and start assessing the damage it had received. "It's seen better days," he said, but for the most part -- besides the WTB Devo Carbon saddle and original quick-release pedals -- it was all intact.
Len cried several times during the emotional reunion. "I've spent most my life working on this dream... And I had given up hope."
In the past 10 days, Tamara Rubin has worked tirelessly to find this bike (which she says the recovery of "saved my husband's life"). Hoping to find it, she organized bike hunts the past two Saturdays and she chased down leads and followed up on sightings all over the city. The bike was reported seen as far away as Alberta Street in Northeast Portland and it had been spotted several times on the Springwater Corridor Trail.
The Rubins even followed a TriMet bus back to the station after receiving a tip that it was riding on the bus' front rack. The Portland Police Bureau was also on the case, reminding officers at the start of every shift that the bike was missing and to be on the look out.
No strangers to long odds, the Rubins know all about facing a challenge and getting through it. Upon moving to Portland eight years ago, their house burned down and they spent two years getting the run-around from insurance companies who didn't want to pay. During reconstruction, their sons got lead poisoning when painting contractors they'd hired burned off lead-filled paint in their home. Following that, Tamara went on a crusade to tell others about her story and raise awareness of lead poisoning. She has been on USA Today and the Today Show and she has fought for changes in Oregon law.
Following this string of bad luck, they were left in debt and with only one bright spot in their lives -- the dream of Len and the business potential of this bike, Ultimate Folding Bicycle. Today that dream was restored.
-- View more photos of the stolen bike handover here.