Molly Nelson parked her motorcycle outside the Blockbuster Video on Ropewalk Lane in St. John’s around 8 p.m. Monday, thinking she’d just be gone for a little bit and could see the bike through the window.
“I don’t even take the keys out of the ignition back home in Maine, so why would I do it in Newfoundland?” she said.
But within 15 minutes to a half hour, someone had taken off on the 2009 Yamaha TW 200, with the 47-year-old American visitor’s belongings locked in the boxes at the back.
Nelson reported the incident to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC), and on Tuesday appealed to the public on local radio and TV for help recovering her bike.
Then, early Tuesday evening, she received a call from the RNC. Two police officers brought her to a house on Froude Avenue, less than a kilometre from where the incident happened. She identified the bike, which had been stripped of its licence plate, storage boxes and hand guards and was chained to a fence outside the home.
A conversation ensued with a man who was in the house, she said.
“He was very belligerent and I think he denied having anything to do with that bike.”
The police did not have probable cause to search the home for the other stolen goods, Nelson explained, because the bike was outside the house.
“The guy obviously has my gear, but the police aren’t allowed to go in there,” she said.
Police also could not recover the bike at the time, according to Nelson, because they had to return with the proper equipment to transport it for forensics.
“He knows what he’s doing. Once the police come and get the bike ... and once they leave the scene, the guy could surely just give (the stolen goods) to a friend or just get out of his house,” she said.
A farmer from Cornish, Me., Nelson first visited the province with her best friend when they were 18.
“We hitchhiked to Newfoundland because we heard it was a great place, and we wanted to see it in the wintertime and meet the people,” she recalled.
Ten years ago she returned with her husband and two young daughters and toured the island for six weeks in the fall.
“We met a lot of people and had a great time,” she said.
For the past two years she worked a second job to save money and, with the encouragement of her family and friends, prepared for her “big adventure” — a six-week trip around the Maritimes, back to Newfoundland, across to Labrador and down to Quebec.
She was only two weeks into the trip when the bike was stolen, an incident that might leave some people bitter and discouraged.
But Nelson returned to Newfoundland, she said, because of “how open and kind the people are … and how trusting and wholesome to talk to. And (they) have a great sense of humour. It just kind of gives you hope that there’s still cultures out there within reach of motorcycle distance that have their act together and haven’t lost their values and whatnot.”
The incident “doesn’t represent Newfoundland at all,” she said. “There’s no animosity toward the people who took it. I just feel almost compassionate, like, come on, why would you do something like that?”
After media attention Tuesday, Nelson received calls of support from locals, including one “from a chiropractor saying he would do chiropractic work on me for nothing,” she chuckled.
“And another nice guy that said I could stay with him and his wife and his two kids.”
Once she gets the bike back Nelson still has to resolve the key, licence plate and saddle issues.
“Labrador’s not an option anymore,” she said. “I’ll probably still go across Newfoundland, but I don’t have the equipment anymore that I need.”
The RNC was unable to comment on the case as the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about the theft can contact the RNC at 729-8333.