Melina Gunnett

September 21, 2012

I am not a number. I am a person.

Filed under: Odd Thoughts — Tags: , , , , — Melina Gunnett @ 3:50 AM

Or I would like to think so, but government agencies have a way of making me wonder.  I as I indicated yesterday, the last couple of days my life have been spent trying to get my driver’s license and car plates transferred to Oregon. I have traveled a lot and lived in several states and I just want to say – Congratulations Oregon! Your motor vehicle processes is the worst I have ever had to deal with.

The first thing I did, before I even left the house, was look at the DMV website.  It didn’t help much. Oh, all the information I needed was there if I had only known which menu to drill down in order to find it. I’m usually fairly good at hunting down the link I need, but this time I failed spectacularly.

Unless you need to register a car or get an Oregon driver’s license, the rest of this post probably won’t be of any use to you.

Getting a driver’s license:

 The first thing you need to know is that a valid driver’s license form another state is NOT a valid form of identification at the Oregon DMV. You need a certified birth certificate, a passport, or a ID issued by homeland security. Oh – tribal ID is also accepted IF you are from one of about a dozen tribes they count.

 Once you have proven who you are, the next step is to prove that you live in Oregon. This isn’t too difficult, they will accept a bill or other piece of mail sent to your Oregon address – as long as it was originally sent there. (Forwarded mail doesn’t count). So, while you are expected to transfer your ID as soon as you move to Oregon, they basically won’t let you until your mail catches up with you.

 Those were the only two things I really needed in order to be eligible to take the written test. Of course being allowed to take the test is another matter.  While the DMV is open until 5pm, they stop offering the test at 4pm, which means you need to be in line to get your number around 2pm.  If your number isn’t called in time, you are out of luck. The first day it took nearly two hours for them to get to my number, the second day only about a hour. I suspect it is just luck of the draw.

Oh – If you don’t already have a license from another state, you will need to take the driving test in addition to the written knowledge test. This means making a reservation, probably a couple of weeks in advance.

Registering my car:

Where to start… The answer would be NOT AT THE DMV. Unless you enjoy spending time waiting in lines at government agencies, if you live in the Portland or Medford areas, you need to start at the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality). You need to have a certificate from them saying your car meets emission standards.

 Even if you don’t live in one of those two areas, the DMV still isn’t where you will want to start.  First you need to go get insurance on the car. In Oregon you are required to have insurance on a vehicle in order to register it. Likewise, you supposed to have a valid registration in order to insure a vehicle. How do you get around this lovely legal conundrum? The answer is, the insurance companies kind of cheat. At least the one I ended up going with did. Even though I had valid plates from another state, they couldn’t use those to insure me in Oregon. They know the government isn’t going to cave in, so they have to. I was able to get insurance on my car using the VIN number as ID.

 (Just to be on the safe side I’m going to go in next week and make sure they have the new plates on file.  I don’t want to risk the insurance company refusing to pay out if I get in an accident just because the information is missing.)

 Once you get past those two things, the rest is actually fairly straight forward. Just bring your title with the DEQ certificate and proof of insurance to the DMV. Oh, you will need proof of your address for this too. So this is one more thing that will have to wait until your mail reaches you.


Now that I’ve written it out, the process doesn’t seem that hard. It just took me most of two days because, every I got to the DMV, they sent me off for something else I needed. Hopefully this will prevent someone else from having to go through the same problems I did.

Oh, one more thing — bring lots of cash.  They don’t take credit or debit cards.

September 19, 2012

Mount Rainier

Filed under: Photographs, Travel — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Melina Gunnett @ 11:36 PM

I have spent a good part of the last two days hanging around the Oregon DMV trying to get my car registration and driver’s license straighten out. As with most things centred around the words ‘government’ and ‘paperwork’, it was frustrating. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow after I have recovered from the trauma. Today I want to think about more pleasant things, such as my trip up to Mount Rainier last weekend.

I spent the last year living under the shadow of Mount Rainier. Even from a distance the mountain is beautiful. I planned to drive up there numerous times, but something always came up that seemed more important. After all, I could always go up to the mountain another time – it was right there! It finally took moving away to get me to actually take a drive up there.

The drive itself was worth the trip. Had I started earlier in the day, I would have liked to have made a few more stops along the way. There were a couple of little railroad towns along the way that looked like they might be fun to explore. Next time I think I will make reservations for the scenic railroad tour up to Mineral Lake.

Alder Lake

I did stop for a bit at Alder Lake. It caught my eye as I was driving past and I couldn’t resist. The entire Northwest has been experiencing a long dry summer and the Nisqually river is currently no more than a trickle. This meant that Alder lake, which is a reservoir on the Nisqually, is currently low enough to display every long lost stump usually concealed within its depths. I am sure that the lake is normally picturesque, but with so much of the water gone, it was fascinating.

The lake was created in 1945 with the building of Alder dam. There hasn’t been time to grow trees that would provide stumps that large, so those stumps are probably from when the lake was originally created, that meas that they have spent most of the last 77 years underwater. It makes me wonder, if I took a boat out onto the lake, what else I would find.

Instead of renting a boat, I continued on toward Mount Rainier. A few miles before the park entrance I took a little detour by the Ashford Mansion. Okay, it was actually a wrong turn, but it was so pretty I kept going and ended up seeing some interesting things I would have missed out on otherwise. Like a tiny pond with a tee-pee and a wooden boat. This wasn’t a tourist attraction, it was someone’s yard.

teepee lake

I also found the Ashford mansion and a really cool house that I fell in love with. I could easily see myself living there.

Ashford MansionCute House

The road ended up winding back into town (the name of the town was, surprise, surprise, Ashford.). Once again on the correct road, I continued on and finally made it to Rainier Park. I’m not sure what I expected, but what I found was better. From a distance, Mount Rainier always seemed like a stand alone mountain. Up close, while it is the tallest mountain around, it is surrounded by many other mountains and valleys. There were several places through out the park where I could pull over and just enjoy the view as Rainier grew closer.

Mt. Rainier

Interesting peaksThese look outs also provided amazing views of the other weather worn peaks in the area. One of my favourite spots was Narada Falls, just before we reached the summit (Well as close as I could get to the summit by car.). What I could see of the falls was great and next time I plan to Rock wallgive myself enough time to get out and hike the short trail that wanders around the to the front of the falls for a better look. The trail will also put me directly underneath this amazing rock wall, which was on the most interesting outcroppings I saw that day.

Top of the FallsUnfortunately, by the time I reached the falls, it was already getting close to sunset. I didn’t bring a real camera with me, just my phone, and it was getting too dark to take very good pictures even if I had time to take the trail. So back into the car I went and finished the drive up to Paradise – That is what the area nearest the top is called, the Paradise Henry M Jackson Memorial Visitor Center.

I reached the top just as the sun was getting ready to set. The visitor center was already closed for the day, but the there were plenty of placards and trail maps. I hadn’t really thought about hiking, but once I reached the top, I wish I had. The trail up to the Nisqually glacier was only about a mile and would have been spectacular. One more thing to add to my “next time” list.

I got out and walked around for a bit and wished, not for the first of the last time that day, that I had left earlier. There will definitely be a next time, because it was already starting to get dark. It was time to turn around and head home.

Rainier from Paradise

The trip down the mountain seemed a lot quicker than the trip up. I am sure it was, since I wasn’t stopping to take photos and look at the scenery. I need to go back to keeping my camping equipment in the car. It would have been a good night to drop a tent somewhere and continue my adventure the next day. Yup, another thing for my “next time” list.

I did make one last stop on the way back. At the base of the mountain there is a little restaurant called the Wildberry Cafe. They specialize in Yak burgers – also on my “next time” list, I had a burger for lunch – and Himalayan dishes. The Himalayan stew was good, their salads are HUGE and next time, after all that hiking, I am going to be hungry enough for their wild berry pie.

September 7, 2012

One Thing Leads to Another

Filed under: Odd Thoughts — Tags: , , , , — Melina Gunnett @ 8:01 AM

So, 2,000 dollars later, my car is now fit and ready to roll. I hadn’t planned on spending that much money, but it is a New England car. As anyone from that part of the country knows, that means years of road salt assaulting its undercarriage. I had to replace most of the exhaust system and the entire rust-coated brake system.

I briefly thought about just replacing the car, but after doing a quick search for cars in a comparable price range I gave up on the idea. At least, after spending the money, I know that my car is now in good order and should last me several more years. For $2,000 dollars all I would be able to buy is someone else’s problem, which I would probably have to put in more money to fix anyway. Besides, I like my car.

Unfortunately, the cost put quite a dent in my savings. I decided, now that my book is done, it is time for me to look for a job. Well, a part time job anyway. I still want to have time to write, but I am more productive when I have a structured activity to play my week around. It might as well be something that pays.

My first call was to Mad Science of Portland. I worked for them in Boston and loved it. I’ve had some pretty fun jobs over the years; I worked briefly as a clown, ran lights for a theater company and worked as a disk jockey back in the old days, you know, when DJs actually had some control over what they played. Mad Scientist beats them all.

Not only is in amazingly cool to be able to put “Mad Scientist” down as my job title on forms, the job was fun. I didn’t just get to go talk to kids about science, we got to play with things. Scientists really do have the coolest toys. How many other jobs let you drive around with a Vandergraph generator in the trunk of your car?

That call made, I poked around Cragislist to see if there were any jobs I could do that actually involved writing. Surprisingly, there were several listings. I’ll look into a few more of them tomorrow, but I already sent in an application for one. It doesn’t pay a whole lot, about a penny a word, but it would involve writing various types of articles for… well I’m not sure exactly where they are for. It seems to be a clearing house for places that need articles on “X subject”.

As part of the application process they ask for a sample article to be written on, of all things, wine, wine-tasting, or wine-making. Me being me, my mind immediately went for mead. I could have easily pounded out 400 words on how to make mead, but they wanted the article to be based on a current news article found on the web. Lucky for me Chicago is have a Honey Festival this weekend, which they are conveniently launching with a Mead tasting dinner.

Of course I don’t live anywhere near Chicago, but now my mind is stuck on mead. I was happy to find that we do have a semi-local brewery that makes mead, but, with a little more research, I also found that Portland sports a wide assortment of home-brewing supply stores. I’m sure most, if not all of them specialize in beer brewing – Portlandians lover their beer – but I bet I can can purchase the supplies I need to brew some mead too.

Actually, I already have some of the supplies. While I severely pared down my personal possessions when I moved out west last year, I kept some of the more expensive pieces like my corker. I suspect I can get back up and running for around $50 plus the cost of honey.

Now all I have to do is decide wither I am going to be fiscally responsible and wait until I get some paid work, or run by one of the stores this weekend. Of course, if I start a batch now, maybe it will be done in time to celebrate my first paycheck. So I guess the only real question that remains what type of mead I want to make.

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