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The kindness of strangers helped me through an epic journey during the BC floods

By Alan, Poparide member in British Columbia.

(Cover image: Hope Standard)

In September 2021, I started travelling from my home in Kelowna to Vancouver every week to teach at Capilano University. 

I knew the 5 ½ hour drive was going to be long, but I soon found my rhythm. Every Sunday I left Kelowna around 2:30pm so I could drive in daylight with very little traffic and returned to Kelowna after my class ended at 5:30pm on Wednesdays.

I had recently discovered Poparide where I could post a carpool and others could request to ride with me. It’s cheaper for passengers than taking a bus or plane and it helps pay for my gas, which is a nice win-win. So far I have driven over 25 people and have had some amazing guests and conversations in my car. 

In late November, my plans for my regular commute to Vancouver needed to change due to reports of heavy rains and mudslides along the highways. I consulted DriveBC and the BC Highways app to find a detour to ensure safe passage for me and my four passengers that booked on Poparide. Having found an alternate route I was mentally prepared for a slower drive knowing that it would take longer, so off we went driving through the rain.

A sudden change in the weather

As we drove through the Okanagan towards the town of Princeton and into Manning Provincial Park, the rain started to become more intense. At the time I was having a fantastic conversation with one of my passengers and was enjoying the ride which kept my mind off the bad weather. 

But as we started the descent out of Manning Park, things started to change. 

In the distance I saw water flowing across the highway directly in our path which was steadily increasing in volume. I started to get nervous, and as we came closer our conversation stopped. I quickly had to shift into the oncoming lane to avoid a fallen tree on the highway, and then it happened.. a chachunk…we drove over a huge pothole and within seconds another car stopped right in front of us. I quickly swerved into oncoming traffic for the second time and then back into our lane as we passed twelve cars in various stages of changing flat tires. Luckily my Ford Explorer had nice big tires that weathered the pothole!

A sense of relief came over us, but it was short lived. 

We soon faced a huge puddle which required us to drive at a snail’s pace to pass through it. We were then rerouted off the highway onto an overpass into the town of Hope. I thought this was a good thing, thinking that we would drive through Hope and towards the Bridal Falls detour which would put us back on the right track to Vancouver. 

But as we drove through Hope something seemed odd. All the lights were out in the town and everyone was driving in the other direction. 

Debris on highway in Hope, BC

A detour we never expected

I figured that most cars had turned around because of the huge pond that was developing in one section of the road. Knowing my vehicle could handle it, we decided to continue towards the on ramp leading to Bridal Falls. But as we approached the on ramp, we came to a stop. 

I got out of the car and walked towards the front of the line of vehicles. I was told by the first car waiting in line that the highway to Vancouver had been closed. On my way back I talked to a trucker who heard they were just waiting a while before reopening the highway. 

While back at the car, one of my passengers had finally received cellular service and had seen on Twitter that the highway was completely closed. So we decided to turn around and head back to the Esso station as that was the only place in town with lights on. We decided to take a quick bathroom break and head towards the alternate route, Highway 7, into Vancouver. 

But when we arrived at the Esso station, we found a parking lot packed with cars with hardly any space to park. People were lining up to buy food and a constant stream of cars was waiting to buy gas.

A sense of dread came over us as it started to sink in that we weren’t going anywhere soon. 

Map of highway closures in BC
Image source: The Weather Network

Stranded with no place to go

In the morning we gathered at Ricky’s for breakfast having no idea how we were going to get to our destination.

As night approached, two of my passengers decided to go for a walk. They ended up at Ricky’s Family Restaurant and were hosted by the wonderful owner who allowed them to spend the night there. I stayed in the car with my other two passengers. We did our best to make ourselves comfortable and tried to sleep. 

Eventually I was able to reach my dad who heard on the news that the local high school was being staged as a collection point for stranded travellers, yet none of us in Hope had any idea what was actually going on. 

Ricky's Family Restaurant in Hope, BC
Image source: Canada 247

Our guardian angels appeared

Back at the car we happened to meet two kind locals who listened to our story and invited us and two families to hang out at their house for the afternoon until the highways reopened later that day. 

We were astonished by their kindness and generosity and were warmly welcomed by our hosts like guests in a five star hotel. It was such a relief to arrive at their comfortable house even though there was still no electricity. 

But as the day wore on, our hopes were dashed as the roads remained closed so our kind hosts invited us to stay the night. Little did we know that in the coming three days the roads would still remain closed.

With no other place to go, we stayed put with our kind and gracious hosts in Hope. It truly felt like we were having an early Christmas in November at our aunt and uncle’s house. 

Stranded travellers in Hope, BC

How would we get out?

Eventually the power was restored and we were able to access his cable television while others in the town still couldn’t access the internet or cable service. We anxiously watched the local news with stories of flooding in Chilliwack, traffic problems in Vancouver and even a barge running aground in English Bay, but still no news about Hope. 

Between updates on Twitter and messaging with friends and family, we were starting to get a clearer picture of what was going on and how bad things were getting. How in the world were we going to get out of here?

DriveBC and BC Highways indicated the highways would remain closed for the day with the next update not until the following day at 9am. I then found other information saying we could leave Hope via Highway 7 on Wednesday around 6pm. We confirmed this on Twitter, but then we heard through my host’s contacts that there was a train leaving Hope station at 7pm for Vancouver!

We needed to make a quick decision. I didn’t feel comfortable driving at night on Highway 7, and what if this information weren’t true? We could potentially be stuck again. We quickly made plans to take four of my Poparide passengers to the train station and made it just in time for them to catch the first train to Vancouver. 

I sat back feeling great that we had all worked as a team to find a solution to get some of us out. 

Train evacuation from Hope, BC
Image source: Mission City Record

Our journey comes to an end

Minutes later, I heard knocking at the door. The neighbors told us that all of us remaining in the house needed to leave NOW and that they were going to be closing Highway 7 for the foreseeable future. Where did they get this information?! 

We packed our cars and ran out the door. 

I drove alone in my car and decided to lead the way along Highway 7 with the family driving behind me that was staying with us in the house. If something were to happen along the way, the family would at least have a chance to turn around faster than I could, as we had no idea what to expect and information was confusing. 

We soon arrived at a barricade at the bridge on the way out of Hope. We were the third and fourth cars in line and were told that they had just let the last vehicle through. 

But with a stroke of luck, ten minutes later we got the nod and they let us go through. We were EXTREMELY lucky according to the traffic controller. 

Five hours later I arrived at my parents’ home after an epic journey and was bedding down for a good night’s sleep. My journey was over and I had finally made it.

What I learned from this experience

I wanted to share this story with you because I learned a few important lessons from this experience:

1. Good friends are often near

In fact, good friends could be sitting right next to you and eager to help whenever you need it. You just have to ask. 

2. Strangers are family 

When you spend time with strangers, you’ll discover their kindness and love. I never expected to meet such gracious people on my journey who opened their home and their hearts to people in need.

3. People really care

I hope this post brings joy to your heart knowing that there are great people in the world that really do care and are ready to help. 

Have you had an extraordinary experience with strangers while carpooling? We’d love to hear from you. Share your story here.