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Oregonians come to aid of stranded bike tourist – UPDATED

Posted by on May 30th, 2012 at 9:33 am

Ian, a bike traveler from Darwin, Australia, as seen by
Salem resident Chad Butler on Sunday.

[Publisher's note: We have confirmed that the man in this story might be running a scam. A commenter below (whom I have also contacted directly via email) met "Ian" back in 2010 and heard a similar story from him. The commenter loaned the man money and then later saw him in a bar drinking and playing video poker. The generosity of strangers is a great thing to see; but be advised about this man's history. — JM]

An Australian man on a bike tour through Oregon has learned first hand how supportive and compassionate our community is.

On Sunday, Salem resident Chad Butler was on his way home from participating in the Sisters Stampede mountain bike race when he came across a man from Darwin, Australia named Ian (no last name given) whose rear wheel had been badly damaged after being hit by a van. Butler spoke with Ian, and then shared what he learned on the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association email list:

“This was actually his second bad adventure of the day, as earlier he stopped at a rest area to use the restroom and someone stole one of his panniers with his cash, I.D., passport, etc. He’s now hoping to get to Seattle to the nearest Aussie Consulate.”

After offering to help Ian himself, Butler then made an appeal for others on the OBRA list to step up:

“I’m hoping I can help him find a heavy duty 700c touring wheel. Being that he’s currently without the ability to access his bank, I’m willing to be his benefactor, but I’m hoping to find a killer deal amongst our loving OBRA community. Bring it on guys. This fella started his bike journey here in Toronto and has pedaled his way all the way to Oregon, a mecca of U.S. cycling, only to find bad luck. I think we can change it around.”

And then, as I’ve seen happen numerous times over the years, our community responded.

Today Butler posted a follow up to the OBRA list:

“We got him a new wheel and put some bucks in his pocket. He’s now back out on the road with all his gear repaired and replaced. He’s now making his way towards Seattle to go visit the Australian consulate there to get new issues of passport, bank cards, phone, etc… so he can put his life back together…

… The support and concern you shared has definitely made a huge impression about the quality of individuals that make up the OBRA community.”

Ahh, the solidarity of the wheel strikes again. The support bike lovers show each other never ceases to amaze me.

Butler tells us Ian is headed to a hostel in Portland. I hope his streak of bad luck is over.

UPDATE: “Ian” is a con man who has scammed dozens of people over the years. Please read the full update to this story.

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Comments
  • john May 30, 2012 at 9:52 am

    It’s great we can help, but shouldn’t the Title be : Australian Cyclist a victim of Thieves and Hit and run by Oregonians. Thank god we can help the guy, it probably the least we can do, but good grief, what a poor experience/advertising for cycling tourism for oregon. kind of like, they’ll burn your house down, but no worries, such great people, someone will give you a tent…

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  • SilkySlim May 30, 2012 at 10:07 am

    This probably sounds crazy. I am 99% sure that the “Australian named Ian” from today’s front page story isn’t who he says he is. I am glad he was helped with his wheel and is again pedaling away, but he certainly doesn’t deserve cash from anyone.

    Flashback to summer of 2010, in Ashland, OR. I was just starting a bike tour (Ashland > Crater Lake > Breitenbush Hot Springs) and was camping at Jackson Wellsprings just north of Ashland. This guy, who claimed to be from Canada, was there as well. As friendly bike tourists do, we struck up a conversation. And wow, did I not like this guy. I am tolerant of a lot of things, and didn’t even flinch at his story of shooting a deer with a crossbow from his couch once. But his misogyny was stifling – he was carrying a lot of hatred towards various people.

    I ended up helping him fix a flat tire (he said his hands were pretty useless since his Golden Glove boxing days), and he laid on a sob story about someone stealing his wallet from his bike trailer, and having to wait for cash to be forwarded before continuing his journey (sound familiar?). I lent him $20 as he left camp, and he took my address to mail me payback. I left camp shortly after, and passing through Ashland saw his bike parked outside a bar. I walk in and he is drinking and playing video poker!! I don’t really mind lending someone beer money, but poker money? C’mon. Whatever, I pedaled on and of course never was paid back.

    I am happy that this guy likes riding his bike through Oregon. I am proud that people like Chad and I are so willing to help strangers. But I’d prefer to help people that are honest.

    Pedal on, crazy Ian, pedal on.

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    • A.K. May 30, 2012 at 10:35 am

      I’m a little confused… are you saying the guy pictured above is the same guy you ran into in 2010?

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    • oskarbannks May 30, 2012 at 10:39 am

      I am at a loss to understand your position here. Are you insinuating that the man in this article is your “man In Ashland” ? It is understandable to be a skeptic at times, I agree, and folks are known for tellin’ tall tales, but what is your basis for doubting “Ian from Australia” ? I am sure I have been off putting to many a stranger around a campfire with my tall tales of misogynistic barbarianism. It’s a wild world.

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      • SilkySlim May 30, 2012 at 10:45 am

        I am – sorry for any confusion. Same guy (same mustache, beer belly, height, bike, etc.). He wasn’t Australian when I met him though.

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        • oskarbannks May 30, 2012 at 11:14 am

          Well that changes it all fo’ sho’ ! I hope we all were not duped.

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        • A.K. May 30, 2012 at 11:23 am

          Huh, crazy!

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    • Gary May 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      This sounds all too familiar to me as well. I helped out a similar fella probably 9 or 10 years ago (same small stature same penchant for tale telling) claimed he had toured all over the country and had actually stopped at Specialized bike’s headquarters where he became fast friends with Ned Overend whom he fondly referred to as “Nedley”. I actually drove him to a shop in Salem from the side of I-5 where he had his wheel repaired and since he had no money I ponied up the ten or so bucks with the promise that he’d pay me back. Never saw him again until (I think) now…

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  • Two Wheel May 30, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Thumbs Up to Chad Butler for doing a good thing. Good Luck to Ian on his journey. Good Vibes keep on a rollin’.

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  • JL May 30, 2012 at 10:37 am

    How do you confirm somebody might be doing something?

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  • HAL9000 May 30, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Its funny, I think I have those same boots! Not good for riding, IMO. But good for mountain climbing.

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  • Esther May 30, 2012 at 11:05 am

    The other red flag is that the nearest Australian consulate is in San Francisco.

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    • chad butler May 30, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      actually, there is one in Seattle at 401 Andover Park East.

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      • Dan May 30, 2012 at 12:58 pm

        The plot thickens. Looks to me like they have only an honorary consul in Seattle, i.e., probably couldn’t help with getting a passport/bank cards re-issued.

        http://www.dfat.gov.au/missions/#u

        Not sure whether I should be pissed off or amused about this guy.

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        • Sunny May 30, 2012 at 1:12 pm

          No, that’s old. The “honorary consulate” is no longer there, and the building is now occupied by a tech company.

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  • Rol May 30, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Guys, c’mon. A stranger volunteers a complicated and detailed story of multiple concurrent unlikely misfortunes that just happen to result in their needing money. Nothing fishy there?

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    • oskarbannks May 30, 2012 at 11:13 am

      Well I fell for it. I responded asap on OBRA chat to offer what I could. I have also been known to donate money late at night to Sally Struther’s latest cause while drunk and guilt ridden. I am a sucker.

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      • SilkySlim May 30, 2012 at 11:26 am

        Don’t beat yourself up. With sympathy, it is better to err on the side of overdoing it.

        Ian surely needed the money for something. I hope he makes it to “Australia”!

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      • Rol May 30, 2012 at 11:30 am

        I salute your generosity sir.

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      • Jimmy Cavalieri May 30, 2012 at 9:36 pm

        You did the right thing. The guilt is on him.

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  • Justin May 30, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Look at that guy’s gut. He did not ride here from Toronto. Sucker born every minute.

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    • A.K. May 30, 2012 at 11:23 am

      Then you apparently haven’t been on the same club rides I’ve been on around Portland. Plenty of fat, middle aged dudes that can take long pulls on the front of a pace line.

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    • Tomas Quinones May 30, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      Watch it there, bucko. I know plenty of people with a gut that have put on 4,000+ miles a year.

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      • was carless May 30, 2012 at 7:28 pm

        I’m getting there too!

        All those “rest stops” at pubs and bars really can do a number on you.

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    • April May 31, 2012 at 5:32 pm

      My boyfriend is not a skinny dude, and yet we did a 3,800 mile tour last year.

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  • Joe May 30, 2012 at 11:49 am

    karma time

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  • chad butler May 30, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    well, Silky Slim did say that Ian spoke of boxing which he told me about too, and I changed his tire for him because of his hands, so that story seems to fit. His accent was unmistakenly Aussie and his knowledge of Australias northern territory was impeccable, so maybe he lied previously to say he was Canadian if you’re remembering your story correctly. There is an Aussie Consulate in Seattle at 401 Andover Park East according to internet listings of consulates in the U.S. so Esthers assumption of that being a lie would have been better presented if she did a 10 second search on her facts. I can confirm that his bike was damaged even though I didn’t witness the accident, and of all the offers of support that came in only two list members actually gave something up to this guy other than myself, one donation of a wheel and one donation of cash. All others were responded to by me saying that I think we’ve got it all under control. I was a bit surprised that when he said he was going to look up a hostel in Portland that he wasn’t eager to accept the offers of housing that had come up. He said the hostel might be better because he might find someone travelling to Seattle there that could take him direct rather than spend the extra days draining his resources riding. In the end, I think I’d rather get slightly burned for whatever generosity I’m willing to lend than to never open up to strangers seemingly in need. Whatever the truths and lies are surrounding this guy I’m still inspired by this OBRA communities support and I’m still just as likely to help someone out anytime my opportunity to do so seems correct.

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    • JAT in Seattle May 30, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      There is not an Australian consulate in Seattle. The nearest is, in fact, in San Francisco. The “Honorary” consulate at 401 Andover Park E is more of a chamber of commerce kind of thing. When I moved to Australia I needed to mail my passport and chest x-ray to San Francisco.

      I’m self editing snarkiness about google research, because clearly your heart is in the right place.

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    • jram May 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      “In the end, I think I’d rather get slightly burned for whatever generosity I’m willing to lend than to never open up to strangers seemingly in need. Whatever the truths and lies are surrounding this guy I’m still inspired by this OBRA communities support and I’m still just as likely to help someone out anytime my opportunity to do so seems correct.”

      Beautifully put. It is pretty annoying that someone is running a short con here, but it is difficult, nay impossible, to know the difference between real distress and a scam. And it sounds like we have confirmed that he did, in fact, need a rear wheel. So you definitely filled a need in someone’s life. Bravo.

      At the end of the day, we have no idea what his full story may be. It’s possible that if we all knew his backstory, we’d be lining up to give him poker money out of guilt. Just a possibility.

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      • Mike V May 30, 2012 at 3:39 pm

        jram and chad – thank you for having heart in the right places. I hope this guy isn’t a scammer, but he will otherwise get his due.

        I’ve been bicycle touring in spots where an ID was lost, in Canada before a passport was needed. We accidentally threw a wallet away on a food tray at restaurant. Discovered it 10 miles later when we had a flat and returned to claw through garbage w/o success. Though we did file and keep a police report in part to help our re-entry into US.

        I’ve also been bicycle touring overseas and lost a wheel. That case generosity of others in truck giving a ride into next town with decent bicycle shop to sort everything out.

        I didn’t accept or seek $ in either case (though in the first we did have family send $$ to Western Union), but as a touring cyclist I appreciate people who are cautious but also helpful. Trust but verify and verify again.

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    • Esther May 30, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      I hope my comment didn’t come across as judging anyone who has helped (or “helped,” or whatever) this man. I too salute your generosity and those of others who genuinely want to help people in need. Fortunately I think there are many more of those in the world than people who want to take advantage of others’ generosity. :)

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    • was carless May 30, 2012 at 7:32 pm

      I wouldn’t worry what the peanut gallery has to offer. No harm, no foul, right? I’ve been known to tell tall tales on occasion when traveling. I doubt anyone at those pubs took my picture and posted it on the front page of a highly read blog and debated whether I was really a traveling salesman.

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  • Dave D May 30, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I read this on the ORBA board yesterday and as I read it I recalled back to when I was worked in a bike shop in Arcata Ca, in the mid 90′s. There was a guy who was touring down the coast he was from either Australia or Canada, I think he was going by Duncan and had run into some hard luck and need his bike fixed, he had no money and was looking for help. As I recall someone else at the shop remembered him from the last time he came through town needing help a few years prior with that we showed him the door. I saw him around town for several weeks after that then he dispaired. Always wondered what had happened to him, that is until today when I saw him stairing at me for the picture on the website….

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    • Tom May 30, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      Funny Dave, I worked at a shop in Hood River in the late 90s and that guy came in a couple of times, always wanting free supplies and help. I remember he used to ride an old steel Specialized that he loaded down so much it had to weigh close to 100 pounds. And he was always bragging about being in MTB video “ReTread”, which he actually was! not that he was doing anything just bragging about how many miles he’s ridden.

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  • esther c May 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    He probably didn’t even have to lie to get help. If he’d just said I’m broke and need a new wheel people would have probably come through and helped him. What a jack ass.

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    • Rol May 30, 2012 at 9:11 pm

      Yeah that’s why I hate the sob story tactic. I’m glad to help people out, but it’s like, hello I’m busy trying to get somewhere, can you skip this long boring part where you’re lying to me and just get to the asking for money part so I can give you the money and get the hell out of here?

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      • Rol May 30, 2012 at 9:14 pm

        On the other hand, “NEED MONEY FOR BOOZE” has sort of lost its novelty too. I think at this point I would love it if someone came up to me and just said, “Can I have some money?”

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  • Ethan May 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    The internet may catch up with this vagabond

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  • grannygear May 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    classic bike portland article

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  • Pat May 30, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    How many Aussie bikers named Ian with a thick Aussie accent can there be who are having bad luck on their bike tour? About 9-10 years ago, I came across Ian (same build, but he now has a mustache and looks heavier) on my ride home from work along Interstate Ave. He was looking for a place to camp, and was freaked out by the homeless camp scene in downtown, so I offered my back yard in NoPo, let him take a shower, and fed him a good meal. When he mentioned he had some aches, I offered Tylenol, and he poured a handful of tablets into his palm and swallowed them, risking liver damage. That was one tipoff, as he seemed to be seeking a buzz by any means. Another was when he tried to talk his way into sleeping inside, but I firmly said no. The next morning, I was late for work, because he was very reluctant to leave my property, and I wasn’t going to leave him there with an empty house. I gave him a helmet (he had none), and sent him on his way.

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  • John I. May 30, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    So this guy has been riding all over Oregon and even California for years and is still outta shape? Guess I’ll just start having ice cream for dinner.

    Hope this doesn’t discourage anyone from helping anyone in need.

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  • Paul in the 'couve May 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Not the same guy, but I picked up a guy hitch hiking with a broken touring bike outside of Ritzberg WA about 1995. Claiming to be Canadian,money and ID stolen needed a new axle. Give him a ride to Cour d’lane, $20 and lunch. Big story about he’d send me postcards and pay me back etc.. Never heard from him again. Also lots of big stories.

    Actually, maybe it could be the same guy. It has been a long time. My guy was younger, and had darker hair but it was 17 years ago. He did have a very nice touring bike.

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  • Dude May 30, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    More people run out of gas in the Fred Meyer parking lot than in all of eastern Oregon.

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  • maxadders May 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Wow! I ran into this guy at Standish-Hickey in August 2010 in the middle of a tour to SF. The guy showed up with a can of Budweiser, a copy of USA Today (“rubbish” he called it) and said he’d been robbed in Eugene (bags stolen while he used a gas station restroom) and was going to high-tail it straight down 101 to the Australian embassy. He was wearing dirty old bike shorts (in fact, he was generally covered in dirt) and had a cheap 4-man tent without a fly.

    He said he had been a Quantas airline mechanic and had dumped his wife of many years to ride his bike around the world. He had an old Specialized mtb frame pulling a BOB trailer; it almost seemed plausible that he could have had his gear stolen but looking back, it’s obvious that he probably never really had much of anything.

    My friend and I thought his story about getting robbed was a bit fishy, so we turned in early before he could ask us for money. I made sure to lock my bike and leave all my bags near my tent, taking valuables /essentials inside for safety. Didn’t sleep well, but nothing was missing in the morning. We made sure to get out of there before he started spinning yarns again. Seriously, of the one person on the trip who sketched me out, it was Ian. Made for a good story to tell, though. Knowing I was right about his story feels pretty satisfying.

    I guess I can’t hate too much on a small-time con-man / drifter if he’s truly benign, but it never hurts to keep your guard up if you feel something isn’t right.

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    • maxadders May 30, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      meant to say “of all the people on the trip, only Ian sketched me out.”

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  • dwainedibbly May 30, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    You can’t run from the internet!

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  • Mike A. May 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    In addition to confirming maxadders’ comment, I’d like to point out that in 2010 when I saw him he carried a long piece of rebar which was to be used, he said, for defense against dog attacks. I’d steer clear of this bozo.

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  • Ted Buehler May 30, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Fascinating comments.

    Sounds like he’s been “One More Bike” on the roads of the world for 10 – 15 years.

    Scammers generally get a thumbs down from me, but bikes on the road make it safer for everyone.

    From the stories it doesn’t sound like he’s a thief, and he’s unpleasant enough to keep most folks from getting too suckered.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Jake Rosenfeld May 30, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    As I read the article I was surprised that I didn’t feel more dismay about the loss of the $100 dollars that I donated. I supose I should of but in the end It was help that was asked for and help that I gave.
    In the grand scheme of things I’ve been done far worse by better people.

    This won’t affect one bit the help I choose to give in the future.
    It was money I could ill afford to give but i’m sure in some way or another it will come back to me.

    Jake Rosenfeld

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  • Paul Cone May 30, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Wow. Pretty sure that’s the guy I let sleep on our couch in like 1995. I think I gave him five bucks. Amazing that he’s still carrying on.

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  • Matt May 30, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    I was riding east on the Springwater Trail maybe a year or so ago, and just after I crossed 82nd, Ian stopped me for a few minutes and gave me a similar tail to some of those mentioned above, and asked me fore some money (which I didn’t have). It was a cold and misty morning and I did not want to stand around a get cold so I did not stop for too long. He was riding a Specialized Mtn Bike, and had told me that he was beat up in the middle of the night while camping on his cross-country journey, near Mt Hood. He said they stole his trailer, money and ID. He also said he had worked for Quantas as a mechanic. Anyway, when I rode back into town via the trail, he was hanging out with the homeless guys who frequently sit along the side of the trail in the no-man’s land between 82nd and Bell Ave and I kind of assumed that he was just another homeless guy.

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  • Daniel R. Miller May 30, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Well, just to add to the rather amazing list of people who’ve encountered this guy, I’m pretty sure I did too on my coastal bike tour in 2003 (being Australian and telling tallish tales), somewhere in the vicinity of Fort Bragg. It’s kinda weird. Yes, he’s an alcoholic scammer, but he also does seem to continuously bike all over the entire northwest quadrant of the U.S.

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  • Tourbiker May 31, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Ask the rangers at the bike & hike camps along the coast. They probably know him. Think I met him in 2005 (maybe 2006) om one of 2 west coast rides. Told me he had his handlebar bag stolen, with his wallet & Passport in it.

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    • c May 31, 2012 at 6:43 am

      This guy’s got a story that could fund his rock-bottom expenses, budget version of “Catch me if you can.” That might sell so he doesn’t need to panhandle anymore.

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  • Gregg May 31, 2012 at 7:33 am

    I’ve crossed paths with this guy three times..first in Corvallis around 1995 when he came in the bike shop I worked at. Then a few years later n Tahoe I was doing an mtb race and he was there telling stories to anyone at would listen. Then once outside Seattle in 2000. He had just lost his wallet and passport and was waiting for a new one from the consolate. He gets around, that’s for sure…

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  • Zippybike May 31, 2012 at 7:35 am

    I’ve seen this guy twice before also. Same story. First time I was doing a bike tour from Newport to Mendocino. He was just south of Eureka in September of 2003. Claimed his handle bar bag was stolen and was heading to SF to get his passport replaced. We ended up at the same campground that night.

    I saw him again on a bike coast bike tour in 2005. Same story: lost handle bar bag and needing to get to the Aussie consulate some where. I met another rider on that trip who also had the same experience.

    This guys is a scammer. It’s sad because he ends up giving cycle tourists a bad name.

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    • 9watts May 31, 2012 at 10:49 am

      It’s sad because he ends up giving cycle tourists a bad name.

      and potentially from both ends –
      > he himself is a bike tourist and a crook, and
      > he gives folks the impression that bike touring exposes you to theft where they may be none (except him).

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • deborah May 31, 2012 at 9:45 am

    SilkySlim
    I am – sorry for any confusion. Same guy (same mustache, beer belly, height, bike, etc.). He wasn’t Australian when I met him though.
    Recommended 8

    I remember my husband and I happening upon this guy a couple years ago along the coast as well. At that time he was needing a spare tire. We both listened to his story and smelled the bs, so we just wished him good luck and moved on.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 31, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Hi everyone. Thanks for sharing your stories about Ian. I’ve posted a separate follow-up post about him that collects all the scams he’s pulled over the years. Read it here.

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