Wednesday, June 20, 2018
News Roundup

Former Hernando drug addict finds purpose rebuilding bikes

After more than two decades of drug addiction, 33 days in jail getting clean and a month back at home trying to figure out how to stay that way, Kevin Davis answered a knock on his door.

It was a boy, 13 or 14 years old, who asked Davis if he could take the three junked bikes rusting away in Davis' back yard to build himself a usable one.

"I don't know what it was, but I could see the need in him. Sometimes you just can," said Davis, 48, a crew leader for the city of Brooksville Public Works Department.

"I said, 'Why don't I build it for you?' And that was the start of this whole thing."

Davis is bowlegged and stoutly built, an avid bowler with several 300 games to his credit and a former top-level amateur hockey player who likes to spit out his fake front teeth to prove it.

So he looks nothing like Santa Claus, and his back yard — crowded with jumbled tools and a half-dozen abandoned bikes he will fix under the shade of a Southern magnolia — is nothing like anyone's image of the North Pole workshop.

But it's hard to imagine anybody or any place as true to the Christmas spirit.

Since rebuilding that first bike in August 2007 — and witnessing the pleased expression on the child's face when he handed it over to him — Davis has fixed nearly 300 more of them, which he gives away not just at Christmas but year-round.

He does it, he said, "because I just have to see that joy."

And because building bikes has built up the self-respect he lost when he was drinking beer, smoking crack and lying about it to his parents and brothers.

And because it keeps him busy.

"That's what I heard talking to so many people about recovery: Idle time — beware of it," he said.

"This is what I do to fill it."

Davis started drinking heavily after graduating from high school in his hometown of Dearborn Heights, Mich., when he got a job at a plant that rolled steel for car bodies and bumpers.

He drank with the members of the softball team he played with five nights a week.

Because local blue laws forbade the sale of alcohol before noon on Sundays, his bowling buddies stocked up on Saturdays. That way they could get good and buzzed before the start of their Sunday afternoon league.

They also smoked marijuana and eventually crack cocaine, he said, "and one guy always had speeders."

Davis got a good job running a printing press, which he kept for 20 years, despite his habit.

"I called myself a functioning drug addict," he said. "I was there every day."

He moved from Michigan to Brevard County in 2004, but the print shop that had hired him soon closed. He then moved to Brooksville, where he was pulled over in June 2007 for running a stop sign, which led to his arrest for possession of crack cocaine.

It was a "tiny piece" of crack, he said, and his father offered to bail him out. But "I told him, 'No, I'm right where I need to be.' "

He committed himself to religion and promised himself, as well as his fathers in Michigan and in heaven, that he was done with getting high and drunk. When he left jail, he went through a Christian-based 12-step program and started attending Hillside Baptist Church east of Brooksville, where he sings in the choir and plays piano.

Some of the bikes that Davis fixes are donated by congregation members, who also help distribute his reconditioned bikes to needy families.

He also scouts out abandoned bikes as he drives around the city on the job. What he looks for are chains so rusty they cannot bend.

"When I see that, I know (the bike) hasn't been ridden in probably a year," he said. "I think nothing of knocking on people's doors, asking them if they mind if I take their bikes."

And when he leaves work and comes to his house just north of the city, he heads directly to the makeshift shop in his back yard.

His work bench is a stack of plastic shelves. Some of the tools are rusting, as are all of the formerly "garbage-bound" bikes scattered in the grass.

Davis works past dark on many evenings, taking apart the bikes, cleaning and lubricating the parts, putting them back together. He sands down rusty frames and suspends them on a clothesline tied to a magnolia limb and sprays them with paint.

"It's disorganized, but they always look good when I'm done," he said, wheeling his latest project, a newly restored chopper-style bike from his back porch.

It's heavy, about 45 pounds. And the materials and construction of the original were never of the highest quality.

"It's what I call a 2-cent bike," he said.

But the chain and every gear are sparkling clean. The frame has been freshly repainted in a stylishly menacing flat black.

And, he said, "To some kid who doesn't have a bike, this is a Cadillac."

Comments
Rays journal: 3 batters, 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

Rays journal: 3 batters, 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

HOUSTON — The Rays were engaged in a third straight tight, go-either-way battle with the defending champ Astros on Wednesday.Until they were not.A brutal seven-pitch sequence by starter Nathan Eovaldi changed everything, as he gave up three con...
Updated: 30 minutes ago
Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

HOUSTON — The Rays saw a lot on the weeklong trip that ended with Wednesday's game against that Astros, beyond the street hustlers prowling in Times Square and the urban cowboys and girls parading through H-town.There was an impressive debuting...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox Sr. was watching the NFL draft 24 years ago when the phone rang. Buffalo coach Marv Levy was on the other line."Marv said they were taking me," said Knox Sr., a standout receiver at FSU.Soon after, Knox Sr. saw his name scroll across ESPN'...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Victor Hedman, a relentless part of the Lightning's push to the Eastern Conference final last season, was honored Wednesday night with the Norris Trophy, given to the NHL's top defenseman."To the Lightning organization, Mr. Jeff Vinik, Steve Yzerman ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

RHP Nathan Eovaldi said before his rough start Wednesday against the Astros that he was pitching better than his numbers showed. Well … In four starts since his six no-hit innings debut, he's 0-3 with a 6.17 ERA, allowing eight homers, four Wed...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston could be suspended for up to three games  next season following the league's investigation into allegations he groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016, a Tallahassee radio station reported.Jeff Cameron, a&#...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Passengers on fatal Southwest flight sue airline and manufacturers of plane and engine

Passengers on fatal Southwest flight sue airline and manufacturers of plane and engine

Eight passengers who were aboard a Southwest Airlines flight that was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia after one of its engines blew apart filed suit Wednesday against the airline, Boeing and the companies that manufactured the eng...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Tesla sued a former employee Wednesday, accusing the man of hacking the automaker’s computer systems and stealing company secrets, shedding light on what chief Elon Musk had suggested was the work of a secretive internal saboteur.But the employee, Ma...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

LARGO — Vanessa Rodriguez thought she found the right house for her three kids, in the right neighborhood, for the right rent. She signed the lease for April 30, sent a $2,300 money order and planned to move in June 1.Then the delays started. She sai...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

CLEARWATER —The city’s proposed $79.7 million overhaul of the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training facilities depends on getting $40 million in bed taxes from Pinellas County.But records show even if county officials wanted to bankroll the Phillies...
Updated: 3 hours ago