Toronto

'I love Canada': Syracuse teen's car found after Toronto parking nightmare

A heavy metal music fan from New York state finally has his car back after a head-banging search for it in downtown Toronto.

Metallica fan Gavin Strickland knew his car was in an underground parking garage, he just forgot which one

Four days after forgetting where he parked his car for a Metallica concert, Gavin Strickland was reunited with the car thanks to the help of some Toronto sleuths. (CBC)

The moment Gavin Strickland stepped off a greyhound bus in Toronto on Thursday evening, he was swarmed by TV cameras.

"I feel I'm like a Hollywood actor or something." He said.

The 19-year-old said he'd been fielding calls from reporters all day as he rode the bus from his home in Syracuse, N.Y.,  to Toronto. All of this, because he forgot where he parked his car.  

On Sunday, Strickland drove his 2015 Nissan Versa the roughly 400 kilometres to Toronto to see a Metallica concert at the Rogers Centre, but when the show was over, he couldn't remember where he parked.

What was supposed to be a brief visit to Canada turned into a multi-day ordeal as Strickland went from parking garage to parking garage looking for his car. He even found a couple of police officers who were willing to help out by driving him around as he searched.

By Monday, Strickland confronted what he had hoped to avoid: he called his father and told him he lost the car.

The Craigslist post announcing that Gavin Strickland's car has been found. (Craigslist)

Strickland's father told him to keep looking and when that failed he took the bus back to Syracuse. But the search wasn't over.

A Craigslist post from Strickland's father asked the people of Toronto for help finding the car. He offered a $100 reward, posted a photo of the vehicle, and provided what limited information his son had about the location: it was in downtown Toronto, an $8 taxi ride from the Rogers Centre, near a Starbucks and a construction site.

"I'm not really familiar with Toronto so I didn't know there was construction all over the city," Strickland said.

It didn't take long for people to start contacting him online.

'A scavenger hunt'

"Some of them were supportive, but some of them were calling me an idiot," he said. "Apparently like a search party went out. Basically like a scavenger hunt, which I thought was pretty cool."

Madison Riddolls helped locate Strickland's car at the Toronto Dominion Centre. For her detective work she received $100 and she gave him a map of Toronto showing where the car was. (CBC)

Toronto resident Madison Riddolls was one of the people who saw the Craigslist post.

Around 11 p.m. on Wednesday night, Riddolls and her boyfriend contacted Strickland and decided to go look for the car.

"We were a little bored and deciding to go to bed or go on a little adventure in our city. I felt like I owed it to the family. They were sort of relying on us," Riddolls said in an interview.

The pair checked several downtown parking garages and attempted to get in the head of an out-of-town Metallica fan looking for a parking spot in downtown Toronto.

"I've been watching a lot of Criminal Minds lately," Riddolls said.

Riddolls said they were about to give up the search when she noticed a car fitting the description in the parking garage of Toronto's TD Tower at Bay and Wellington streets.

Gavin Strickland used 'a Starbucks and a construction site' to help him remember where he'd parked, not knowing how common that is in downtown Toronto. (CBC)

After verifying the car's distinguishing features — Florida plates, a Canadian flag in the rear window and a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker — Riddolls notified Strickland that the car was found and sent him the address.

Strickland's father dropped him off at the bus station Thursday morning to make the trek back to retrieve the car.

"I just hope he makes his connections, he has two." Eric Strickland said.

Gavin did make the connections, and arrived at the Toronto bus station just after 6 p.m.

In an Uber ride over to the parking garage where his car was waiting, Gavin was asked if any of the streets looked familiar.

'I spent a lot of time walking around Toronto'

"I got to say, a lot of it does because I spent a lot of time walking around Toronto." He said

For her detective skills, Riddolls did get her $100 reward. She greeted Strickland at the bus station with a map of Toronto — with a sticky note locating his car.

Gavin Strickland had to take the bus home to Syracuse New York after he parked his car in downtown Toronto and couldn't remember where. (CBC)

The lost car was parked in the garage under the Toronto Dominion Centre. He was greeted by another swarm of media when he finally made it back to his car bringing the ordeal to a close.

Impark, which runs the parking garage, didn't charge Strickland for four-days of parking and even gave him a bluetooth device for his car to ensure he can find it next time.

He was grinning from ear to ear when he told reporters it felt good to finally have his car back.

"I was worried it got stolen," he said. "I love Canada, and I think I just love how the city got together to help me out."

With that he jumped in his car, gave one last wave to the cameras, and began his long journey home.

About the Author

Trevor Dunn is an award-winning journalist with CBC Toronto. Since 2008 he's covered a variety of topics, ranging from local and national politics to technology on the South American countryside. Trevor is interested in uncovering news: real estate, crime, corruption, art, sports. Reach out to him. Se habla español. trevor.dunn@cbc.ca

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