The streets have names in tony West Vancouver, but they are hilly, winding and remote - and it's pretty unusual to see a pedestrian, much less a hitchhiker, wandering about. Even rarer? Spotting a hitchhiking rock star. As in, the biggest rock star in the world.
But in a story that has quickly become legendary - even if sounds more like urban legend - Bono, the lead singer of the band U2 had his thumb out on a West Van street Tuesday, hoping for a lift, and he got one - from NHL player Gilbert Brulé. And to add a strange coincidence to the whole thing: Mr. Brulé happens to play for Edmonton, the city where U2 was set to perform the next night.
"It was so surreal," said Mr. Brulé, 24. "It's the first hitchhiker I've ever picked up in my life, and you never in a million years expect it to be one of the richest men on earth."
Here's how it went down: Mr. Brulé and his girlfriend Kelsey Nichols were in their GMC on Tuesday, heading to the park to take their dog for a walk, when they spotted a couple of hitchhikers at the side of the road. Mr. Brulé thought one of them was Bono and asked Ms. Nichols, who was driving, to pull over.
"I had no idea what he'd be doing in Vancouver or why he'd be hitchhiking for that matter," said Mr. Brulé, but he felt certain it was him.
Ms. Nichols, understandably, didn't believe the hitchhiker could possibly be Bono, and kept going. But he convinced her to turn around and see. The hitchhikers were still there, so they yelled "Bono!" out the window and sure enough it was the Irish rock star - dressed in sweatpants and a hat, but minus his trademark sunglasses, according to Mr. Brulé.
At that point, the rain really started to come down, so Bono got in the car, along with his assistant.
"The first thing we asked is, 'What are you doing hitchhiking out here?'" said Mr. Brulé. "And he said, 'We got lost, it's a long story, and can you take us to Horseshoe Bay?'"
During the five- to 10-minute drive to the pretty little inlet that serves as a terminal for BC Ferries, Mr. Brulé told Bono that he played for the Edmonton Oilers ("I don't know if he thought I was pulling his chain") and managed to secure an invitation to U2's concert in Edmonton Wednesday night.
When they arrived in Horseshoe Bay, U2's The Edge was there waiting. "The Edge came up, shook my hand and said, 'Thanks for dropping him off.'"
"The bandmates then walked by the landmark fish and chips spot Troll's, where Canadian musician Daniel Wesley has his own brush with Bono to report."
Mr. Wesley - waiting for a ferry to Vancouver Island to continue his tour - was sitting with his band when Bono and The Edge walked by and someone called out to Bono, who stopped. "He said, 'You guys look like a band,'" Mr. Wesley reported. The rock star was in a great mood, and very gracious. "He said, 'I love coming to Vancouver. There's something about these islands that makes me want to jump in the water and swim out to one of them by myself.'"
"He's not that big of a guy," Mr. Wesley said, "but when you shake his hand, you realize there's obviously a reason why he's Bono. He's mysteriously special."
Meanwhile, Mr. Brulé made arrangements to sell his tickets for game one of the Stanley Cup playoffs and fly to Edmonton with his mother and girlfriend for the U2 show instead.
Onstage Wednesday night, Bono expressed his thanks to Mr. Brulé.
"People who play ice hockey are the kind of people who pick up hitchhikers, they're that kind of people. I know this from personal experience, because I was hitchhiking in Vancouver just yesterday - actually I was - and this guy and his girlfriend picked me up and they're in a truck and he was very cool, and it turns out he was an ice hockey player: Gilbert Brulé, as it happens."
The crowd went wild as he recounted the story. "They picked up this Irish hitchhiker and I'm ever so grateful. I've decided that now I want to be Gilbert Brulé."
Backstage, Bono had hugs for the entire Brulé clan - thrilling the Oiler's mother, who is a huge fan. Mr. Brulé gave the rock star a couple of his own hockey cards, so he would remember him.
"This was the most unreal thing I think I'll ever experience," said Mr. Brulé, who spent most of Thursday doing media interviews. "This is probably one of the biggest things that has ever happened to me in my life."
E ditor's Note: Bono and The Edge walked by Troll's restaurant, where they met Daniel Wesley. This online version has been changed from a previous version to clarify.