An Alameda hitchhiker has nothing but high praise for a California Highway Patrol officer who recently died in the line of duty, even though they only spent an hour together. In an act of kindness, officer Nathan Taylor drove 45-year-old Paxton Brewer from Donner Summit to Colfax during his shift. Brewer admits he’s always been a bit fearful when it comes to police officers, but within minutes of meeting a disarming officer Taylor, he says that fear quickly morphed into a life-changing bond, turning a stranger into a friend. “He made a difference. He made a difference in my life,” he said. Taylor lost his life on Sunday after an SUV hit him in snowy conditions on Interstate 80 on Saturday. Taylor was wrapping up his work on a previous accident when he was struck outside his patrol car. Brewer posted his story alongside a photo of Taylor on Monday after learning of the CHP officer’s death. He described how he was hitchhiking back to his Alameda home after busted equipment forced him to scrap a ski trip. He was at Donner Summit when Taylor pulled up to offer him a ride. “My prejudices kicked in and I expected him to be the stereotypical mean cop, but he was anything but,” he said. The 35-year-old officer agreed to take Brewer as far as he could on his shift to a rest stop near Colfax. He says the slick conditions and long drive gave way to a conversation ripe with laughs and a lot of talk about his love for the mountains. “He told me about his experiences working in San Jose, the CHP in San Jose and how much he really enjoyed working up in the mountains away from the city,” he said. Two weeks after swapping numbers, Brewer learned Taylor died. “It really helped me focus on what’s important in my life,” he said. Now, the picture from their chance encounter is a treasured memento of an unexpected friend who left a lasting impression. “He really changed my mind about what a police officer could be and really inspired me to be a better person,” he said. Taylor leaves behind a wife and three young children.