Smith: Detective work returns lost GPS device to its owner

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While walking near her home in pastoral Valley Ford, Jill Davidson spotted something on the side of the road. It was a cycling GPS, an electronic navigation gadget. It looked to be expensive.

Davidson found no hint as to the identity of its owner. She turned for help to the Santa Rosa Cycling Club, leaving a message on the club’s Facebook page.

Member Bill Finkelstein took up the challenge to help her. He dispatched a query to all club members; none had lost a $300 Garmin Edge bike computer.

Finkelstein contacted other cycle clubs, and he placed a post on a lost-or-stolen cycle bulletin board. Still, nothing.

Prodded by his inner detective, Finkelstein picked up the device from finder Davidson. Then he went online and electronically linked the Garmin to RideWithGPS, which allows cyclists to analyze their rides.

Ah-ha! Finkelstein learned that since 2014 the owner of the device had logged 4,703 miles on 183 rides - and most had started and ended at a point on rural Fallon Road, southeast of Valley Ford.

Finkelstein switched to the street view on Google Maps and searched the photographic map for an address on Fallon Road in the area of that start/finish point. There was one, on a mailbox.

He Googled the address and came up with the name and phone number of resident Dan Aronson. He phoned.

Aronson was shocked and delighted to receive the call. He’d been searching and searching for the Garmin device that had fallen off his bike.

Having returned it, Finkelstein glows with satisfaction from having deployed technology to solve the case of the GPS that was itself lost.

He says, “It gave me kind of a Poirot moment.”


HOME IS WHERE? As many of us hear about how tragically difficult it’s become to find and afford a rental, there are many others terrified to watch themselves slipping toward the abyss.

The rental house in Petaluma that’s been home to Barbara Lager the past 15 years is being sold. So Lager, who is disabled, and her 82-year-old mother, Patricia DeMartini, and her daughter, who’s 13, had to move out the other day.

Lager, whose email address is, said she’s searched for months for a rental that goes for about $2,000 a month and found nothing. She and her mom and her daughter were offered a place to stay with a friend for a month.

Through tears, Lager said she has no idea where they will go the first of May.

“I’m really afraid we’re going to end up homeless,” she said. “I just feel like we’re slipping through the cracks.”


CASH FOR CANNES: Also flush with gratitude about now are Sonoma State University filmmakers Mary-Madison Baldo and Alex Bretow.

Thanks to more than 120 donors, they have achieved their goal to raise at least $11,000 to help pay their way to the Cannes International Film Festival on the French Riviera.

Baldo and Bretow opened a GoFundMe appeal upon their invitation to show two of their films - “Snake Eyes” and “Rampage” - in the Short Film Corner at Cannes, which opens May 13. The last I checked, the pair’s funding drive had attracted $11,460.

Adieu, you two.

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and On Twitter @CJSPD.

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