When Don Arndt’s motorcycle was stolen from the backyard of his old Spokane Valley home in 1975, he quickly lost hope of ever seeing it, but he never gave up his driver’s license endorsement to ride.
He hasn’t been on a bike since, but he’d recently been thinking about buying a new one and rekindling an old hobby.
Now an unexpected reunion has put Arndt in the driver’s seat sooner than expected. And it’s a familiar one.
The 62-year-old Spokane resident picked up his 1972 Honda XL250 from the Washington State Patrol on Friday – nearly 37 years after it was stolen.
“It’s unbelievable,” Arndt said.
Someone who recently bought the bike took it to WSP seeking a title on Thursday. Inspector Donna LaMarca checked the motorbike’s vehicle identification number and realized it was possibly stolen. She viewed a Nov. 21, 1975, report from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, available only on microfiche, and left a message on Arndt’s answering machine.
His wife sent him a text message that night as he worked the swing shift as an operator at the city of Spokane’s wastewater treatment plant.
“It totally blew my mind,” Arndt said.
Arndt said he found the motorcycle’s title about 10 years ago and threw it away. He said he concluded just a couple months after it was stolen that he’d never see the motorcycle again.
“The police officer the day I filed the report just gave me no hope,” Arndt said. “That was the only contact I’d ever had with them.”
He’d heard of many bikes being stolen at the time that were stripped and rebuilt. He figured his was one of them. He said he first expected to arrive at WSP’s headquarters and leave with a box of parts.
But the motorcycle, it turns out, is in great condition.
It had apparently been in storage for about 15 years before someone purchased it recently and worked to make it road safe again.
“Previous to that, the trail goes cold,” Arndt said.
The person who brought the motorcycle in for inspection is not facing charges, said Trooper Troy Briggs, spokesman for WSP.
“They bought it from somebody who gave them a bill of sale,” Briggs said. “The bill of sale said it had been in storage for 15 years and they didn’t have a title for it.”
Arndt plans to restore the motorcycle and start riding it again. He owns property at Diamond Lake and hopes to take it out up there.
“It’s just a matter of getting the bike all licensed and ready,” he said Friday. “I’ll probably ride it back and forth to work on nice days like these.”