Tsunami Motorcycle: To Return Harley-Davidson To Japanese Owner, Canadians Go To Great Lengths

CP  |  By Posted: 06/05/2012 23:23 Updated: 07/05/2012 11:25

VICTORIA - Call it the brotherhood of the travelling bike.

For many Canadian bikers the storied journey of the Harley-Davidson bike from Japan to B.C.'s rocky shores after last years' tsunami will not be complete until it is reunited with its original owner.

Since it was pulled from a remote beach on Haida Gwaii, volunteers have looked after the bike every step of the way — ferrying it across Hecate Strait and then driving it about 1,600 kilometres from the northwestern, B.C. city of Prince Rupert to Victoria, where it will be shipped back to Japan.

"I thought, you know, if I lost one of my bikes it would be pretty important to get it back," said Ralph Tieleman, a Tofino, B.C., man and motorcycle enthusiast, who trucked the bike to Victoria.

After dropping off the bike at Steve Drane Harley-Davidson Sunday and returning back to his home on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Tieleman figures he'll have travelled at least 3,000 kilometres.

The 2004 Harley-Davidson Night Train bike — caked in salt and damaged by pounding surf — may be one of the most unique and improbable artifacts to hit the west coast of Canada since the disaster.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Coast Guard sank an unmanned fishing boat because it was a hazard to shipping and to the coastline. Last month, a soccer ball lost by a Japanese teenager also washed ashore on an Alaskan island.

The bike was found in April on Graham Island, the largest Haida Gwaii island, by Masset, B.C. resident Peter Mark.

The motorcycle had made it across the Pacific stored in a large container and packed in Styrofoam.

Traced through the bike's licence plates, the motorcycle's owner was identified as Ikuo Yokoyama, a 29-year-old Japanese man who lost three family members in last year's disaster.

Tieleman, who began riding Harleys at the age of 15, said he heard about the bike and decided to get involved.

He said Mark went through exceptional effort to get the Harley, driving about 60 kilometres off road and in a four-by-four to reach the buried bike and winching it out of the sand.

The bike was then taken to the ferry and arrived Friday in Prince Rupert, where it was met by Tieleman and his truck.

Tieleman said he drove east to Prince George, south to Vancouver, and then hopped on yet another ferry that took him to Victoria.

Along the way, people, and even police, stopped to look at the bike, some even taking photos, said Tieleman.

"It's caked in salt and corrosion," said Tieleman, after arriving in Victoria. "There's rocks jammed everywhere. It got beat up on the beach a bit."

The bike's frame is still good and so are its engine and transmission cases, he said, noting that even the bike's front end is in good shape.

According to a statement, Steve Drane Harley-Davidson will prepare the bike for shipment to Japan, where it will be restored by Harley-Davidson Japan and returned to its owner.

Tieleman said the journey provides a powerful lesson to others who find tsunami-related debris on B.C. beaches.

"Remember that it's somebody's property and what people there went through," he said. "It's not just junk. At one point, it was part of someone's life."

--By Keven Drews in Vancouver

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Tsunami Photos:

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    This combination of pictures shows a catamaran sightseeing boat washed by the tsunami onto a two-story tourist home in Otsuchi, Iwate prefecture on April 16, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 16, 2012 (bottom). March 11, 2012 will mark the first anniversary of the massive tsunami that pummelled Japan, claiming more than 19,000 lives. Credit: Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combo shows an image (top) taken by a Miyako City official on March 11, 2011 of the tsunami breeching an embankment and flowing into the city of Miyako in Iwate prefecture and the same area (bottom image) on Jan. 16, 2012 nearly one year after the March 11 tsunami devastated the area. Credit: Jiji Press / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows people evacuating with small boats down a road flooded by the tsunami in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture on March 12, 2011 (top) and the same area on January 13, 2012 (bottom). Jiji Press / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a vehicle sitting on a three-story building in a tsunami hit area of the town of Minamisanriku in Miyagi prefecture on March 13, 2011 (L) and the same area on Jan. 14, 2012 (R). Credit: Jiji Press / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows people walking on a bridge upon which a boat lies washed up by the tsunami in Hishonomaki, Miyagi prefecture on March 15, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 13, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Philippe Lopez / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a private plane, cars and debris outside Sendai Airport in Natori, Miyagi prefecture on March 13, 2011 (top) two days after a tsunami hit the region on March 11, 2011 and the same area on Jan. 12, 2012 (bottom). March 11, 2012 will mark the first anniversary of the massive tsunami that pummeled Japan, claiming more than 19,000 lives. Credit: Mike Clarke / Toro Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows damage caused by the March 11, 2011 tsunami seen from a hill overlooking the city of Kesennuma on March 16, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 14, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Phillippe Lopez / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows local residents looking at a tsunami hit area of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture on March 12, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 11, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Kazuhiro Nogi / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a rescue worker walking through rubble in the tsunami hit area of Minamisanriku, Miyagi prefecture on March 18, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 14, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Mike Clarke / Toru Ymanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a tsunami hit area of Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture on March 22, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 15, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Nicolas Asfouri / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a fishing boat lying amongst the tsunami rubble in Otsuchi, Iwate prefecture on March 31, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 16, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Toshifumi Kitamura / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

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    This combination of pictures shows the view of a tsunami hit area of Ofunato, Iwate prefecture on March 14, 2011 (top) and as the scene appears on Jan. 15, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Toshifumi Kitamura / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows cars piled up in front of the airport control tower in Sendai on March 14, 2011 (L) after a tsunami hit the region on March 11, 2011 and the same area on Jan. 12, 2012 (R). Credit: Phillippe Lopez / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows the view of a tsunami hit area of Ofunato, Iwate prefecture on March 14, 2011 (L) and on Jan. 15, 2012 (R). Credit: Toshifumi Kitamura / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a tsunami hit area of Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture on March 22, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 15, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Nicolas Asfouri / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

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    This combination of pictures shows residents walking on roads covered with mud and debris in a tsunami hit area of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, on March 14, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 13, 2012 (bottom). Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

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    This combination of pictures shows a cherry blossom tree amongst tsunami devastation in the city of Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture on April 20, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 16, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a tsunami hit area of Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture on March 22, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 15, 2012 (bottom). March 11, 2012 will mark the first anniversary of the massive tsunami that pummelled Japan, claiming more than 19,000 lives. Credit: Nicolas Asfouri / Toru Yamanaka, Getty Images



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