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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Question for my readers...

Anyone out there know the law?

As many of you know, we've been preparing for a big cross-country trip. There was a delay, but right now it looks like we'll be on our way on or around New Year's day. To make this journey, we have purchased (for a very reasonable price) a sizable, low-mileage minivan that previously saw use as a well-maintained (we hope) fleet vehicle.

We call it the Hippo, in honor of the song: "We got a hippopotamus for Christmas..."

Problem: It has no plates.

We passed CA's infernally difficult smog test and paid our DMV reg fees. But -- get this -- the DMV guy would not hand over plates until we installed rear seats!

Y'see, under a particularly wacky subsection of California law, a minivan without rear seats is considered a commercial vehicle, which means that the reg fees would be more than three times the amount required for a passenger van. So the DMV guy told us to grab a rear seat from a junk yard and install it, along with seat belts.

Turns out installing those overhead belts is kind of a pain. I COULD do it -- but time is short.

To be honest, it just seems ridiculous to invest any further money and time acquiring "proper" CA registration when we are not even going to be living in CA after January 1. Once we get to our Eastern destination, we have to go through the whole damned process all over again.

We paid the reg fees for a passenger van. Right now, we have a temporary registration sticker in the back window, which allows us to drive here in the state throughout the month of January. (Those things are pretty common sights in California.) My question is this:

Do you think that we can drive across country with a temporary registration sticker?

If the Highway Patrol stops us, we will have paperwork proving ownership of the vehicle, as well as insurance and registration. I'd prefer not to be cited, and I sure as hell can't have the car impounded.

Frankly, we need to save the cash to pay for the registration hassle in Maryland, which will be expensive. Like all other states, MD seems to be hurting right now -- hence the much higher 2011 car reg fees, compared to last year. Also: There will be another emissions test, some sort of "vehicle inspection test," and a new, more expensive insurance policy. Yikes!

No doubt a lot of folks in Maryland have been grumbling about all this extra expense.

We'd be very grateful if anyone out there knows about what sort of treatment we can expect from the Highway Patrols in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- and maybe West Virginia.

(Why West Virginia? Because we're big fans of the Mothman legend, and we want to see where it all started.)

I thank you, my ladyfriend thanks you, my Hell-Hound thanks you, and the Hippo thanks you.
Yes, the temp registration and supporting documents will get you across the country.

We were able to drive a semi truck, without license plates, and a temp sticker after it was purchased in another state. Granted, it wasn't across country but the instructions were to get the registration completed immediately for the commercial vehicle. Where we received new apportioned plates from our state and a tax break for purchasing out of state.

Don't speed and know that all those states in between are hurting as well.
You might get pulled over but as long as you aren't breaking any other laws you should be okay.
I would make a couple of color photo copies of any piece of paper you plan on sticking on the back window, just in case, and of your other paperwork as well.

Don't forget the two second rule. Always leave two seconds worth of space between you and the car in front of you, and hopefully the car behind you as well.

Not to give you a hard time, but, how did you afford that car? Was it a great deal? Where can great deals be had these days on used cars?
Oh yeah, worst case scenario. Somebody smashes out part of your back window to steal the temporary paper plate.

You have a back up copy of the paper plate, but is there recourse for fixing part of the back window in such a way that you could keep moving, in the cold?

Probably not because the rear defroster would probably no longer work and would probably instantly fog up even if you could "patch" the opening.

um, good luck?
Thanks for the comments, folks. Myiq, sorry for coming on strong with you earlier.

Okay, you want to know how I got a good deal on the Hippo? Ebay. We really, really lucked out. Low price, low mileage, strong engine, good tranny. AWFUL cosmetics, but I don't care. I care more about the lack of any kind of radio.
You really should have a radio. Ebay to the rescue? Two things, it can help keep you awake.
It can educate you as to where exactly you are.
Oh yeah, you should consider a long drive test if you can afford the time and the gasoline. How long and how far I don't know, but sometimes the hidden annoyances don't show up until the car has been driven for at least an hour, maybe more.

I assume you are going to start with fresh oil, oil filter, possibly a fuel filter, new fluid for the radiator, and actually see if the entire spare tire thing is in working order. Meaning the jack works, the right lug wrenches come with the car, the spare actually holds air, is the right size, and actually has air in it. Don't forget something to actually lay on in case you have to look under the car.

And, since it will be cold, the right type of glove would be essential.
windershield wiper fluid. Have you checked all the thermostat fan settings to make sure they work, and that the defrost works front and back?
I am bringing all of this stuff up because you are going from reasonably warm weather through very cold weather and some of stuff could be broken but not needed in warmer climates but are then critical in colder climates.
What Allesandro said plus:

Sign up with AAA, if you haven't already done so. It could save you a bundle.
A couple other things:

I don't know if you've ever driven across the US before, but on the western half of interstate highway system there are some lonely stretches of road. Stopping every couple hours to top off the tank and check fluids is a good idea. Spare gas, oil and water can be a life saver.

Back east they have toll roads, so keep cash and coin handy to pay with.

Drive careful and stay with the flow of traffic to avoid speed traps.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.
Get you a hand crank radio flashlight--$10 @Wally World. Have fun in Point Pleasant-- tho I'd avoid the Silver Bridge!
Everyone, I am so grateful for all the commentary.

I've driven all over the west and southwest -- all the way up to Washington state, all the way east to Texas -- but this is my first time doing the full cross-country trip.

Believe it or not, I have crossed the U.S.A. by Greyhound. It was amazing! I would recommend that journey to any young person. You learn more about humanity that you could glean from any single college class.
Bon Voyage and Happy New Year to you and yours!!!

Expect to get stopped somewhere along the way. The west-to-east interstates are big drug smuggling routes, and a ratty-looking minivan with temporary registration fits the profile. It may be for a ticky-tack violation like speeding or changing lanes without signaling or having tinted windows. As long as the paperwork is in order and you don't have any bales of weed in the back of the van, you'll be on your way quickly - the troopers just like to pull people over for a quick look-see.
A couple more obvious suggestions you've probably already thought of but just in case.

Since you are driving to snow country there are decent prices for cables at Les Schwab for example. Get them before you need them.

If you don't want to pay to get them put on. The tip for a front wheel drive vehicle is turn the tire out to attach them. An easy tip my husband and I would often forget, only to see the chain wrangler do it, and solve the mystery again. It is easier to pay but just in case you are left without the chain wrangler option a tarp/rainjacket helps too.

And be sure and take blankets, food, and water just in case you are stuck on a snowy highway for 24 hours. And another reason to keep that tank relatively topped like Myiq suggested, you might have to idle. It probably won't happen, but better to be prepared, hubby has shared his food and blankets a few times over the years.

Good luck on your trip. And best wishes to you and your lady friend on your new adventure.

Happy New Year!
Myiq is serious about the toll roads. We headed east this summer, budgeting about $30 for tolls. It actually cost us well over $100. They seriously suck in the east. It's practically a totalitarian state, which is why I will never do what you're doing. Fuck the east. It's a hotbed of sexism anyway.
On the emissions thing, Cali has way tougher standards than the rest of the U S. So if you got a Caltrans (or what ever) inspection on the beast you should be good to go.
Same for the safety inspection. Caltrans set the pace for vehicle and highway safety. The NHTSA copied Caltrans homework.
You might run into the same problem in MD as CA as far as passenger vs commercial registration plates go.
I'd dig up another spare tire and wheel if you can find one for cheap. Besides filters, belts and fluids find out what other engine, transmission and axle service is required for the age and mileage. Nothing takes the fun out of driving like a snapped timing belt. There are websites for just about every make and model of vehicle made check them out to see what problems owners of similar vans say they had.
Did anybody mention a jerry can for extra gas?
Forgot to add, Ohio HP are supposedly the worst for handing out citations. Watch your speed and distance between you and the vehicle in front. Also take along spare bulbs and check them regularly.
As far as fleet vehicles go they are traded or returned on lease after a certain amount of miles or age. As long as the company didn't go bankrupt it should have been serviced regularly. If it's been a while since you drove on ice or snow beware.
One more obvious suggestion you probably already know.

Wear wool socks against your skin to wick away moisture with cotton socks over. It is the safer and warmer way to bundle up in case of being stuck on the highway.

Wool socks suck but my military dad would never let us outside in snow country without the proper layering.
Mr. Mike is right about Ohio's state troopers. Not only do they hand out citations like clowns hand out candy at a parade, but they will pull out a credit card swiper and ask if you want to pay your fine on the spot. Never speed, follow too close or turn without signalling if you are driving in Ohio (unless you are from Ohio, then all bets are off).
Good point, Mr. Mike. Ohio is the worst for tickets, along with NC & Virginia. They were the last states to change the drinking age to 21, and lost a shit ton of federal road dollars over it. They trained their police to make up for the shortfall.
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