Listen. I had every intention of keeping my California license plates for as long as possible, especially during the winter months when I was driving around like a terrified granny afraid of sliding off the highway in a fireball of doom. “Oh, she’s from California,” I imagined people saying. “Of course she doesn’t know how to drive on ice.”
This was a fine plan that didn’t work so well in execution. First, my renewal notice was sent to my house in Berkeley where it got buried in a giant pile of mail collected by my long-suffering co-owner Nick. By the time I received it, it was due within days and instead of renewing online I sent a check, for reasons that are unclear to me even now. When a couple of weeks later Nick sent an email to say he’d gotten something from the DMV, I assumed it was my new tags – good news, as they were expired by then. Nick kindly dropped the envelop in the mail. Except it was just another notice that I needed to renew. This cycle repeated, and the next time I received a bill from the California Department of Motor Vehicles for $0. Still no tags. By this time, my registration had been expired for more than a month, and the Minnesota winter grime was no longer covering up my plates.
The fourth time Nick received something for me from the DMV, I told him to open it before putting it in the mail. It was California telling me it could not find proof of insurance for my vehicle and could not renew my registration. I most assuredly have insurance, but I switched my account to the Minnesota address, where I saved more than 50%. (Not surprisingly, as the Berkeley house is sort of in the ‘hood and the Minneapolis house is in a nice suburb.) I went online to rectify the situation, but California couldn’t figure out what to do with a vehicle registered to a Berkeley address with insurance in Minnesota.
So I gave up, and registered my car in Minnesota.
Let me just say that it was the easiest DMV experience I have ever had – including the times I went to the tiny, mostly-unknown El Cerrito, CA, DMV to do my business. The little suburb we live in has a brand new municipal services office which was almost deserted when I went first thing Monday morning. There was one person at the counter and no one waiting, but I dutifully took a number and sat down. Two minutes later I was being helped, and five minutes after that I was writing a very small check to cover all the registration fees and being handed my new plates. (People. The cost of living in Minnesota is so good it’s worth the weather, and I say that after having just come through the Worst Winter Ever.)
My one regret is that I didn’t get one of the fancy Critical Habitat plates. I like both the chickadee and the Showy Ladyslipper - the state flower of Minnesota, which has the best name ever: Showy Ladyslipper! – and given how cheap the registration was I feel I should have treated myself to a plate upgrade. Next time!
Miss Claire was overjoyed with this new development. She saw the new plates and let out a whoop and then danced around the yard/kitchen saying “YAY! You got Minnesota license plates! No more California! Yay! That is SO COOL!” This went on for about 10 minutes, and I’m sort of wondering if she thought I was going to get fed up with this whole winter thing and just take the animals and drive back to California by myself.
I can’t wait to see how she reacts when I get my new driver’s license. Which I am predicting will happen sometime around mid-August, when it expires right before my birthday.