British Columbia·Point of View

The kindness of strangers: two injured, desperate hitchhikers need a ride to hospital

This week's story takes place 30 years ago, when Andy Clark and his friend Margot were driving across Canada. They decided to stop for a bit of skiing in the Rockies — with some unexpected consequences.

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Andy Clark, pictured around the same time as his car trip. He was travelling across the country with a friend, Margot, when things went wrong. (Submitted by Andy Clark)

CBC Radio One's The Early Edition is asking listeners to share their stories of kindness from strangers for a series that runs on Thursday mornings.

This week's story takes place 30 years ago, when Andy Clark and his friend Margot were driving across Canada. They decided to stop for a bit of skiing in the Rockies — with some unexpected consequences.

Dear stranger,

My friend Margot and I must have been quite the sight when you picked us up hitchhiking off the side of the road — one of us injured and the other struggling to breathe, on our way to the hospital.

Our story starts long before that moment, though.

Margot and I were in the middle of moving out to British Columbia and had packed up all of our lives in a classic, mid-'70s Honda Wagovan to drive across the country.

As we passed through Banff National Park in the Rockies, we decided to stop for a quick ski session — we had all our gear with us and thought it would be criminal to skip the mountains.

Margot was ill but didn't want to take away from my fun, so told me to go ski while she waited in the lodge. We later found out she had bronchitis and was in full fever mode.

I went off for a half-day of skiing and met up with another lone skier.

We were both in our mid-twenties and skiing like crazy, invincible young men who couldn't get hurt — until we went off a blind cornice which dropped down about nine metres.

I landed into a pile of rocks and trees below. My skis exploded off, my face went into the ground, and my heels came over the back of my head.

The other man landed in a pile of snow and was fine.

He came over and said, in the classic Californian twang, "Radical wipe-out dude."

And skied away.

I couldn't believe he took off on me and left me in such an isolated area, out of sight.

I was hurt — badly hurt.  I actually thought I was paralyzed at first until the pain set in.  

Despite the stabbing pain in my neck and wrist, I managed to get down the mountain and found Margot.

We decided to head to the hospital in Golden, a nearby mountain town, instead of calling an ambulance.

Stranded on the side of the highway

That's when our trusty Wagovan went on strike and died on the side of the road.

I was in great pain, with a sling on my arm and in a neck brace. Margot was very ill and could barely breathe. And yet there we were: thumbs out, hitchhiking in the middle of winter.

If we weren't so injured, we probably would have laughed at how comical the situation had become.

A couple cars passed and then you — a young couple from Revelstoke — stopped.

You gave us a ride all the way to the hospital in Golden, then went back to jump-start our abandoned car and brought it to a service station.  

Not done yet, you then waited for us to be released from hospital and settled us into a motel for the night.

I often think about how you wiped out an entire evening to help two strangers on the highway and wish I'd gotten your names to thank you properly.

Your kindness constantly reminds me of what it means to come from small-town Canada and that people are so generous in this country.

Thank you.

Yours,

Andy Clark

With files from The Early Edition

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