Stolen: A bike and a piece of a woman’s faith in humanity

John Kelly
Columnist August 16, 2011

BreeAnne Chadwick said she felt as if she’d been punched in the gut when she walked out of the U.S. Capitol on Saturday and realized that her new bike was gone.

“I almost threw up,” she said. She stood at the bike racks across from the Library of Congress’s Jefferson Building and fought back tears.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

It was meant to be a day of leisurely sightseeing around the Mall. BreeAnne and her husband, Jeff, had packed up the family’s eight bikes (they have six kids) and bikes for her in-laws, driven from their home in Ellicott City, parked at Union Station and then ridden to the Capitol.

Her bike alone was snatched. It was made by a company called RANS and has a “crank-forward” design: the pedals moved out and slightly up to take weight off wrists that BreeAnne injured in a car accident. New, the bike costs about $1,000. BreeAnne found hers used and sold old strollers and assorted stuff on eBay to afford it. “I bought it at the end of June, and I’ve ridden it almost every day since.”

Then it was gone. The new Kevlar-reinforced cable lock that BreeAnne used did little to stop the thief.

“My husband was collected enough to hop on his bike and find a police officer,” BreeAnne said.

There must be more security cameras trained on that patch of real estate than anywhere else in the world, and, sure enough, the U.S. Capitol Police confirmed that they have some images of the theft, although they declined to share them with me. They said the investigation is ongoing.

“The police have been very helpful,” BreeAnne said. “If there’s one bright spot, that’s it.”

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s Greg Billing sympathizes with BreeAnne, though he can’t empathize: He said he’s never had a bike stolen in the District. He offered a few tips: When you get a new bike, mark down all the information: model, color, serial number. It will be useful if the bike is stolen. (The association has a sample form at waba.org.) Spend $10 to have the bike registered with the National Bike Registry, a resource that law enforcement can check if police recover it. Use a U-lock instead of a cable lock.

BreeAnne raged at the perp on the “Bikes for Sale” section of Craigslist (“How do you sleep at night? . . . Your mother must be proud”), though Greg said most bike thieves stay away from the site, instead offloading bikes cheaply on the street. He encourages people to ask a lot of questions when buying a used set of wheels: Where did the seller get it? How long has he owned it?

BreeAnne wonders how someone gets over a theft like that — of a bike, yes, but also of that little part of you that has faith in humanity. “It’s not a person,” she said of her loss. “And, yeah, material things aren’t important, but it was important to me.”

If you see someone trying to sell a silver RANS Dynamik, please, call the Capitol Police: 202-224-0928.

One ring to rule them all

In late June, Brian Neumann, a 22-year-old from Bethesda, was throwing a football in the surf at Wrightsville Beach, N.C., when he watched in horror as his Virginia Tech class ring slipped from his finger and tumbled into the Atlantic.

“It was like slow motion: falling into the water, sinking to the bottom,” he said. “It was so bad.”

Brian dived into the waist-deep water after the ring — thick, sculptural gold, set with a ruby-colored stone — but that sucker was sleeping with the fishes.

Then a month later, he got an e-mail from Shirley Fleet. Shirley works in Tech’s alumni office. A woman named Judy Mullins had stepped on a class ring in the surf. Her father-in-law, Bill Mullins, brought it along to Blacksburg, Va., on a business trip.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Brian said. “I still hadn’t told my mother, who bought me the ring.”

Shirley is the reuniter of rings with fingers. “We probably get reports of up to half a dozen a year,” she said.

Some rings slip beneath the waves. Others fall into snowdrifts and lie hidden until spring. The oddest case she remembers was the Tech graduate who lost his ring while working in a nursery. Twenty years later, a man was repotting a plant that he’d bought there when a ring emerged from the dirt like the prize in a Cracker Jack box.

Said Shirley: “It’s wonderful to know there are still honest people in the world who will actually call and say, ‘I found a class ring.’ ”

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