A Chicago man has expressed his disbelief and gratitude after a Hazelton woman helped return his bike that was stolen near Terrace during a charity ride last year.
Mark Jirik and Nate Prescott were cycling from Alaska to Argentina last August to raise money for the Erie Neighbourhood House in Chicago.
One month into their 14-month trip, Jirik’s $3,000 custom-made, long-haul touring bike was stolen while he slept at a campsite about 30 kilometres from Terrace.
In the days after the bike was stolen, Jirik wrote of his dismay in a post on his blog.
“One month into this trip of a year-plus in the planning, with 14 more months to go and thousands more miles to ride, and I’m left stranded, bike-less at a rest area in Canada,” wrote Jirik.
“I panicked, I screamed, and then, overwrought with emotion, I couldn’t stand up any longer and I sat down on the verge of tears.”
Jirik and Prescott’s spirits were lifted when Paul Bertrand and Bruce Martindale from the McBike sport shop in Terrace, which is now called Wild Bike and Backcountry, offered to help the cyclists build a new bike.
Using spare parts from the basement, the cyclists and the shop staff spent two nights building “Fannie the Frankenbike”, which carried Jirik as far as Seattle.
Jirik was able to claim insurance to cover most of the cost of the original bike, a Surly Long Haul Trucker outfitted with racks on the front and back and custom-built 48 spoke-hubs.
The rest of Jirik’s trip, down the pacific coast and into South America, was completed on a near-replica replacement bike.
The cyclists parted ways in Mexico City and Jirik travelled as far south as Quito, Ecuador.
With his budget running low, he decided to end the trip early and return to Chicago.
He and Prescott raised a total of about $3,000.
Last month, more than a year after the bike was stolen, Jirik received an email from Hazelton woman Fabienne Calvert Filteau.
She had purchased the long-haul touring bicycle, her “dream bike” from a classified advertisement in the Hazeltons for $150.
When Calvert Filteau showed it to her friend Shawn Clarke, a bike enthusiast who used to work at the McBike and Sport shop Smithers, he was quiet at first.
“I told him the story and he kind of looked at me and said ‘hmm’ and did some research,” said Calvert Filteau.
“He sent me the [newspaper] articles from the previous summer when the bike had been stolen … for me at that point it was a no-brainer.
“I’ve had bikes stolen … and it’s so heartbreaking. It feels like such a violation.”
Calvert Filteau tried to make contact with Jirik through bike shops in Chicago and Terrace.
She said when she reached him by email he was shocked.
“He just kind of said that this was yet another step in a long line of amazing things that had happened in the fallout of losing the bicycle,” she said.
Jirik recalls being in disbelief, and then overjoyed, when he received her message.
He said it was acts of kindness by total strangers like Calvert Filteau that made his trip truly memorable.
“To be back home and all of a sudden experience yet another good deed totally out of the blue … I couldn’t believe I had the good fortune,” said Jirik.
“I remember reading Fabienne’s email and then this stupid big smile overtook my face for the rest of the day.”
Jirik paid Calvert Filteau back the $150 she spent on the bike and she arranged for it to be sent back to Chicago via Bruce Martindale from the Terrace bike shop.
He said he could not thank Calvert Filteau, (her partner) Greg Horne and Martindale enough.
“For Fabienne and Greg to purchase the bike, to have the sense it was stolen, to actually look into it, to find me, contact me and offer to return it, it’s amazing,” he said.
“And Bruce not only helped facilitate our contact but also disassembled, boxed and coordinated the shipping of the bike too.
“I consider myself very lucky to have inadvertently crossed paths with these folks.”