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Chris Thiessen
Neighbors team up on bike project posted on 11/01/2019

Chris Thiessen’s childhood bike, a yellow Schwinn Stingray she rode everywhere in the early 1970s, sat unused in her mother’s shed for years after she graduated to her 10-speed. After approximately 20 years in that shed, her mother cleaned it out and when Thiessen told her husband, Tim, about it, he got the idea to fix it up for their kids to enjoy.

Tim picked it up, took it apart and put it in a box, dreaming of powder coating it and putting it back together. The bike, in the box, ended up in their garage and when the family later moved, the box relocating to the new garage.

“It sat there,” Chris said. “We didn’t give it a second thought. Kids got bikes and life went on.”

But life dealt the Thiessen family a sudden shock this year, as Tim passed away from an undetected heart ailment at the age of 53. The bike resurfaced this summer, when Chris and her daughter, Sydney, started going through their garage and found the dust-covered box that housed the numerous pieces.

As she considered what to do with it, she shared the story with Tam Everard, a Zig Zag Village resident who works with Chris at Providence Medical Group. Chris, who lives in Clackamas, asked if Everard knew anybody who could put the bike back together, and Everard could oblige. A recent entrant into mountain biking, Everard had her neighbor, and owner of Mt. Hood Bicycle, George Wilson build a bike for her, figuring this would be a project right in his wheelhouse.

Wilson got the boxes with pieces and went to work cleaning, powder coating and restoring the bike over three months. As a special touch, he added a decal on the seat’s down tube reading, “Yours always, Tabasco Tim,” Tim’s nickname due to his love of the spicy sauce.

The Stingray, fully reassembled, became the featured bike in Wilson’s store, with customers coming in and happily recounting their childhood bikes.

“It brought back a lot of stories,” said Wilson, noting he had a similar bike growing up. “It was a fun project; I really enjoyed it.”

Last month, Chris and Sydney came up to the Mountain to pick up the bike.

“I started crying; it was gorgeous,” Chris said. “Everything is as original as could be. It was in much better shape than I remember.

“I know that my husband would have been crying like a baby to see that bike in person fully restored,” she added. “He fell in love and wanted it for the kids.”

Everard noted that Chris posted the story on her Facebook page, eliciting more stories from people remembering their childhood, while also becoming a joyful topic at the hospital where they work.

“It’s just been funny listening to everybody get excited about telling stories about their first bike,” said Everard, who would also like to write a children’s book centered on the story of the bike. “It brings out the little kid in everybody, it just brings out so much joy.”

The bike no longer sits in a shed or in the garage. Chris keeps it inside her house, where people can come over and see it. And while her kids are a little old to take it out for a ride, she’s hopeful that someday her grandkids will.

“It will carry on through the generations,” she said. “I feel blessed. In a year where my life has been turned upside down … it's such a gift to have a bright spot. My husband wanted it for our kids. I feel like we helped complete his dream for that bike to be restored.”

By Garth Guibord/MT

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