VICTORIA, BC — A veteran bicyclist on a fundraising trek across Canada is back on the road following a serious mishap that nearly claimed the life of his riding companion.
Peter Hilger is an architect and U of M professor peddling 5,700 miles across his native Canada, raising funds for three nonprofits that are close to his heart. His friend Rich Freyholtz is a volunteer for one of those organizations, Can Do Canines, and Peter and Rich have embarked on a number of bike trips together.
The two men agreed that Rich would accompany Peter on the first leg of his journey, starting in Seattle May 22 and riding their way into British Columbia. The first five days had gone smoothly, and on Friday the men were greeted by what Peter called in his blog a "gloriously bright morning sunrise." They pedaled out of the small town of Nanaimo and onto a main highway.
"I merged onto the Highway 19A generous shoulder, crossing an on-ramp to do so, and started a coast down a gradual hill heading north," Hilger wrote on his travel blog. "Suddenly, a car comes by me closely and parks in front of me on the shoulder. I slowed down so as to pass carefully when a man speaking French asked me if I was riding with someone. I said yes. “He has been in an accident! A truck has hit him!”
Hilger said he jumped off his bike and ran about 200 yards up the hill, where he saw Rich surrounded by people who had stopped to help, bleeding profusely and struggling to breathe. His bike and the trailer he towed behind it were crushed beneath a pickup truck.
It turns out Freyholz had been hit by the elderly driver of the pickup, tossing him into the air and the opposite lane of oncoming traffic. Rich was treated on scene by emergency responders and eventually airlifted and to a hospital in Victoria where he was treated for a number of broken bones and gashes.
Freyholz spent four days recovering in the hospital before doctors deemed him fit to return to Minnesota. At his urging, Hilger will continue his Canadian adventure, missing his friend but glad he's alive.
"So yes, there was joy today," Hilger reflected after leaving Freyholtz at the airport. "Rich is going home. And it is not in a box. He is a lucky, resilient man. Perhaps best of all, he remembers almost nothing of the entire event."
"Time to restart this journey, minus one."
If you'd like to keep tabs on Peter Hilger and his fundraising journey, or donate to his favorite causes, you can follow him on this website.
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