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Romantic moonlight ride or bike heist?

PERHAM - A young couple's moonlight ride near a Perham lakeside park, aboard a bicycle built for two, might have been a romantic outing--if a cop hadn't broken up the rendezvous as a possible bike heist.

An 18-year-old woman and a 21-year-old man were pedaling a yellow bike car at about midnight, north of Perham along Highway 51, near Paul Miller Park and Little Pine Lake.

The two-seat, yellow "pedal surrey," looked remarkably similar to one of the two bicycle cars that are rental units in downtown Perham.

So, Perham Officer Mike Christopherson pulled the pair over under suspicion of theft.

Since there are only two of the pedal cars in Perham--or probably all of Otter Tail County--the couple was indeed in a compromising, incriminating situation.

"You don't exactly blend into a crowd with one of those," said Perham Police Chief Brian Nelson.

A prank joy ride or a premeditated theft?

That will be the question for the county attorney, said Chief Nelson. Since the value of the bike is over $500, charges would constitute felony theft.

The two-seat bike car, and a second, red-colored four-seater, are owned by the Perham Area Chamber of Commerce. The units are rented through the Ma's Little Red Barn flower and retail shop on Perham's Main Street. The bikes were originally donated to the Chamber by the local Rotary Club.

"Ma" Barb Lenius opens the store at 6 a.m., which is when she discovered the bike was missing.

After contacting the police department to report the apparent theft, she learned that the bike was in storage at the police station.

The couple, whose names are being withheld pending formal charges, said they were only taking the bikes for a ride to the park. They said their intention was to return them, according to the police report.

"It's one thing to hop on one and take a ride around the block as a prank. But they were quite a ways out there," said Lenius.

The bike was recovered at least a mile from downtown Perham. And anybody who has pedaled one of the cars will tell you--a "getaway" bike they are not. The rigs can be a real physical workout if pedaled for any distance beyond the several blocks in and around the Perham business district.