Calaveras Enterprise

The traffic jam that changed life perspective

Sunday traffic stalled for an hour on Highway 49, looking towards San Andreas. Jan Hovey/Calaveras Enterprise

Sunday traffic stalled for an hour on Highway 49, looking towards San Andreas. Jan Hovey/Calaveras Enterprise

Sometimes when you least expect it, life stops on a dime — and so does traffic.

I was singing along with one of my favorite songs on my way home Sunday from Pine Grove, finally just a few miles north of Angels Camp on Highway 49, when the traffic did just that — for an hour. No crawling inch-by-inch. It was the “turn-your-engine-off” kind of traffic jam.

But drivers and passengers were not angry, knowing intuitively that something bad had happened ahead. Possibly really bad. It was a silent respect.

The only cars coming from the opposite direction were those that had bailed and turned around — some with their emergency lights flashing, some with somber faces.

This type of situation doesn’t happen to me very often. I remembered the only other time in my life that I was stranded in a long traffic stop was when I was living on the North Shore of Kauai. The rainfall was heavy and winds were whipping the waves at 10 p.m. on the only highway — two lanes. Turn off the engine. Check for water and snacks. Thank goodness it was dark as there wasn’t anything on the stretch of the road except a thin strip of land and the great Pacific, and restrooms were not in the picture. We started moving at 4 a.m.

By this time more drivers were turning around. I thought about going back through San Andreas, Mountain Ranch and taking the adventurous Sheep Ranch Road to Avery back to Angels, but I knew it wasn’t going to be much longer. So, I sang softly and embraced the breathtaking views of cowboy country, gnarled oaks and Irish green everywhere.

I listened to the local radio station — nothing. I texted my son and found out that there was a major accident near Angels Veterinary Clinic, and that possibly four people were airlifted out. As cars passed, I learned about a fatality. I sent a little blessing out to those in the accident, their families and for those who had the horror of witnessing this tragedy.

Glory be!! Did I see a shadow of a car move? “Start up the engine, Jan,” my inner voice said, “and let’s get home.” When I got to the site of the accident, most everything had been cleaned up, except a Sam Berri tow truck that had a wrangled black truck on its trailer.

When I drove up to my house outside of Angels Camp, I was smiling because I was alive, and I thought how so many things in life can take me away from the joy of living. So, in the long run, why do those things like invoices and blown HVAC systems really matter? I have the finest gift — I get to live on this fine Earth, in Calaveras County to boot, and I get to start writing a weekly column for The Calaveras Enterprise again, like coming full circle.

Now I’m singing louder and driving slower.

Jan Hovey is a resident of Angels Camp who can be reached at

One response to “The traffic jam that changed life perspective”

  1. Wendy says:

    wonderful perspective thank you

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