A Mudslide Made Stranded Travelers Grim…Until the Music Started

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Music can be found in the oddest places–even in the rain near a road full of stranded travelers.

On Saturday, January 16, Mary Vellutini drove west on Hwy 299. She expected the drive to take her two hours but it took her 10 and yet, she says, she smiled most of the time.

Why?

Because of a small group of musicians.

Vellutini got stuck in traffic behind a large slide that unexpectedly closed Hwy 299 in northwestern California Saturday and Sunday (Take a look at a Caltrans video of the moving mountain here.) At first the drivers kept their engines idling. But, after awhile, some turned their keys off and occasionally stepped out into the cold to mingle with their fellow travelers.

Vellutini struck up a conversation with a group. “At some point they told me they were musicians on their way to play in Eureka,” she explained. Eventually, getting chilly, she climbed back into her car.

Later, she wrote a description of what happened next:

[One and a half] hours into our wait I saw them getting instrument cases and musical stands out of their cars. I opened my window and asked them if they were going to play. The response, a smiling “Why not?!”

I was ridiculously excited and told them that this was the coolest thing ever. Within minutes they had set up and started playing. A small crowd of admirers surrounded [them]. Other people hung back a little, but were also enjoying the moment.

Here’s a snippet of what Vellutini and her fellow travelers saw: (Note the moving mudslide in the background and the rain dripping down…)

“One of the people that was with [the chamber group] started handing out handbills and inviting us to their concert,” she explained.

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The Trinity Alps Chamber Players sweetened the wait for the stranded travelers without requesting anything in return. “They absolutely did not ask for donations,” Vellutini said, “and I got the feeling that they wouldn’t have taken them. I’m pretty sure it was just a spontaneous moment. It felt like a gift. I smile now just thinking of it.”

Eventually, the mudslide won the battle with the road and the travelers were turned back. Vellutini almost didn’t care. She wrote, “[M]y two hour trip home turned into a 10 hour traveling ordeal. Well, it would have been an ordeal, but…this happened….I ended up having to backtrack and drive four more hours. I smiled most of the way.”

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