A bike with ‘Rebel’ on its side: Motorcycle mystery raises more questions than answers

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motorcycle
An abandoned motorcycle in a campus parking garage at Occidental College. Feb. 27, 2022. Samuel Reed/The Occidental

Seemed like one of those nights. Those LA nights where the days cool off from a glow, and the nights are cold like nothing had ever even been in that dark, black sky before. I just wanted a cigarette — a Marlboro, something hot enough to thaw the joints. But I had something bigger. I was on a case: the case. It came down from up top, from Angela Guglielmino and Mia Anzalone, the Arts & Culture section editors, back in the office. I needed to get to the bottom of it.

I crept like a thief down deep into the smog of the parking lot. I turned the corner to a crevice, down beneath the staircase –– too big for a full stand, but more than enough for a crouch. Cast under dim light and dust, there it was –– the motorcycle.

Dead, dying or abandoned: what difference does it make? Where did it come from? Why was it here?

But I didn’t have time for questions. I had a Chinese Politics paper due at 4:00 p.m. the next day. This would have to wait.

Angela was the one who asked me to see about the motorcycle. It could make a great story, she thought. A motorcycle, left under the staircase of the faculty parking lot for what seemed like forever with no one to claim it, but nobody to remove it either. Sure. I’m on it.

If only I’d known then. If only I’d known what I know now.

I reached out to Rick Tanksley, the director of Campus Safety, for comment: what’s the deal with this motorcycle? What’s it doing here? Whose is it? I needed answers.

And I got them — surprisingly quickly, in fact.

“As for the motorcycle, it belongs to a member of the College, whom I personally contacted more than a year ago to have it moved,” Tanksley said via email. “Thank you for this inquiry, as it reminded me that the motorcycle issue was unresolved. I reached out to the staff member in question yesterday, who apologized as they too had forgotten about the motorcycle and their promise to remove it. It has since been removed.”

My first real story for the paper — my first chance to do something big — and it ended up going nowhere. This was supposed to be my Rosebud: the bike with the Rebel sticker on its side. Instead of landing with a thud, the story flopped with a wet, pathetic whimper.

Angela seemed insistent, though — maybe too insistent. After the tenth notification, I started to think she might actually be crazy enough to go ahead with the story.

“Sorry for all the messages,” Angela said via Slack.

It’s fine.

“I think there is still a story here then,” Angela said via Slack. “Could you ask Rick how long the vehicle has been there? The registration tag said 2008.”

I reached back out: whose is it?

“With respect to who owns the motorcycle, I am not at liberty to disclose that information for privacy reasons,” Tanksley wrote. “Also, as I’ve discussed the department’s policy on abandoned vehicles and provided as much information as I could on this matter, I will have no further comment.”

There’s no more story, I thought. It’s over. I’m done.

“I think this could still potentially be a short article,” Angela said via Slack.

We did, after all, get some insight into the college’s parking policy. Tanksley admitted that while the school officially removes any vehicle left out after ten days, Campus Safety usually requires some additional signs of abandonment.

“Other signs we look for are expired tags, flat tires, no parking permit visible making it difficult for us to contact the owner to inquire about what’s going on with the vehicle, etc.,” Tanksley wrote. “The last thing we want to do is inconvenience a College member by towing a vehicle which is not in fact abandoned. ”

But how do I make this a story?

“Is going to Moto Republic tomorrow morning not realistic for you?” Angela said via Slack.

It’s Saturday. During spring break.

“I can go in tomorrow,” I said.

Fine. I go to Moto Republic, a cycle repair shop and garage on Eagle Rock Boulevard. Jenny Morataya, one of the employees, tells me that the bike was probably a Honda CMX 250, also called a Rebel.

“[Mine is] a ‘96,” Morataya said. “That looked like a CMX 250 as well; it might be around the same years as mine. Definitely not more than a 2005.”

Because of its height and speed, the bike is usually popular for shorter or newer riders, she explained.

“I’m only four [feet] ten [inches]. I sit at a perfect height with it,” Morataya said. “I’m flat-footed, which for beginners, you want something that you can sit comfortably in, rather than just wobbling on one leg. I think the max [speed] is 85 miles an hour.”

So our culprit is either a short or an inexperienced rider. Maybe they can’t reach the ground; maybe they bought a newer bike, and left their old one collecting dust, but we’ll never know.

Whatever the case, I did, in the end, learn a valuable lesson: as long as it isn’t fatal, you can learn from it. Believe in yourself — and never trust your editors.