13 April 2006

Port Security finds stolen Yamaha after 34 years


Let's hope they're as good at keeping out the bombs as they are at keeping in the beauties.

For the second time in recent months, the Department of Homeland Security has prevented a stolen collector's-item vehicle from being shipped out of the Port of Los Angeles.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers Wednesday returned a classic Yamaha motorcycle swiped 34 1/2 years ago off a Long Beach street to its surprised and delighted owner.

The motorcycle, still in good shape and running condition, was discovered in a shipping container destined for Lahti, Finland. A man there purchased it last fall on EBay from an unsuspecting Visalia, Calif., resident for $1,725.

As authorities returned McMeen's motorcycle to him, they had former Long Beach Police Officer John Finn hand over the keys. Finn, who retired from the department 16 years ago, took the stolen vehicle report Oct. 4, 1971, when a chain was cut and the Yamaha RT 360 was taken from outside McMeen's apartment on Nieto Avenue in Belmont Shore.

"I told Mr. McMeen we'd probably get it back," but not to expect it right away, Finn said.

I think that may qualify as the understatement of both centuries!

McMeen received a helmet from Long Beach Police Sgt. Dave Cannan, who reminded him that a helmet safety law had been enacted since the pilot's last California cycle ride. McMeen climbed aboard the Yamaha and gave it a couple of kick starts.

With a loud, lawnmower-like putt-putt-putt and a cloud of blue smoke, it started right up. He made several circuits around the impound lot.

A Long Beach police officer volunteered to help him crate the cycle for shipping today. It will be sent to New Hampshire by Amtrak rail. "They have a great shipping service," McMeen said.

Why not just fly it east in the baggage compartment of an American Airlines passenger plane?

"They'd lose it," McMeen said with a laugh.

He should know. Mr. McMeen works for American Airlines.

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