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Alberta community raises $5K to buy bike for Japanese tourist after his was stolen
EDMONTON -- Masaaki Yoshino was biking from Alaska to California, but when passing through Alberta, his 5,000-kilometre trip took a wrong turn.
With temperatures hovering between -30 and -40 during extreme cold weather earlier this month, the Japanese man had to hole himself up at the Timberland Hotel in Hinton, Alta.
On Jan. 17, his bike was stolen outside. Yoshino reported the theft to RCMP and wrote about it on his blog. That post reached a Hinton community Facebook page, and when Courtney Lovestrom heard about it, she decided to help.
Lovestrom's boyfriend is also a cycle tourist, and in past trips to South America and New Zealand, families have welcomed him into their homes for a hot shower or a bed to sleep in.
"We know how much people taking in a cyclist can make or break a trip," she said.
Lovestrom knocked on Yoshino's hotel room door and invited him over for dinner, along with her Japanese friend who would help with the language barrier.
At dinner, Lovestrom suggested creating a GoFundMe to buy a new bike after the community began reaching out wanting to help.
Initially Lovestrom set the GoFundMe to $2,500 because she didn’t want to "overdo" it, but the community met that goal in a day, so she raised it. "It was really a push from the community to keep increasing it."
"It's been overwhelming. It's making the best out of a bad situation," Lovestrom said. "To see such incredible support for Masa, it makes me so proud."
On Monday, the Bench Bike Shop in Jasper ordered the bike — a Salsa Blackborow GX Eagle. Lovestrom said the shop contacted Salsa directly in an effort to receive the bike as soon as possible so Yoshino could get back on the road.
And despite the theft in Hinton, Yoshino said, "I want to come back to Alberta."