Ukiah DMV, October 22, 2020
The Ukiah Department of Motor Vehicles building is about a 53 minute drive north on Highway 101 from Healdsburg. The road is usually four lanes (two in each direction separated by a divider), but in places it goes down to two lanes.
Today was a beautiful 85F blue sky day so my wife and I made the drive north on 101 to the Ukiah DMV to renew her driver’s license.
It was a lovely drive without much traffic. The hills were brown and dry as were the vineyards now bereft of grapes, unless they weren’t harvested. There was a shortage of workers this season. Also some grapes were damaged by smoke from the wildfires and were left to rot on the vines.
Ukiah is the county seat of Mendocino County and has a population of around 16,000. It sits in a valley surrounded by high hills covered in oak and fir trees.
I remember finding the DMV office easily six years ago when I had to renew my driver’s license. But now the sign, see photo, is totally hidden by those redwood tree branches. (That’s an old photo.)
We drove into a shopping mall a bit further up Orchard Avenue and asked a kind Hispanic woman with pink hair the way to the DMV. She gave us excellent directions and we found it.
My wife and I dressed up for this occasion. We hadn’t been out of Healdsburg in months. Our 1990 VW Jetta was looking good too, as I’d washed it the day before.
I found a parking place and we put on our masks and got in line outside of the DMV building (photo). The line was about five people long. Not too bad and the young Hispanic woman who greeted us was very kind. She took Debra’s temperature with some kind of temp gun. I was not allowed to enter the DMV building. Debra had to enter alone.
I paced the parking lot and moved the Jetta into a shady parking space while I waited. After 30 minutes I went up by the front entrance of the DMV.
Three local men were discussing matters. They all wore jeans, big bellies, loud shirts, masks, and caps.
“They put down the wrong VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) on the paperwork. Guess we don’t have to pay the tax!” Much laughter.
“Yeah, that means your trucks are all wrong, too!”
It was a nervous laughter. I felt like these big guys were kinda afraid. The young woman greeter just laughed along with them. She was good at her job.
Other people came and went all wearing masks and ill fitting clothing. One Hispanic woman asked the Greeter if her children could use the restroom.
Greeter, “Yes, but they have to wear masks.”
Then suddenly there was no one else in front of the DMV, but me and the young woman Greeter.
“She is at a counter now. She won’t be long.”
I realized that the Greeter was talking to me. ( I was kind of in a trance. )
“Thank you. You are very kind.”
Greeter, “Is there anything you want to know about the DMV?”
Myself, “Is there any chance we can just renew online from now on? I have a friend in the United Kingdom and once you get your license there you can renew by mail until you die.”
Greeter, “If you live in Arizona your license is good for forty years or more. You can just pass an eye test at sixty and have a license for twenty years.”
Myself, “And in Arizona you don’t have to change your clocks twice a year either.”
Greeter, “Yeah, I thought we voted on that awhile back to keep California on the same time all the time, but next week we have to change our clocks again.”
Myself, “I wish they would just pick a time and stick to it. Are you from Ukiah?”
Greeter, “I grew up in Ukiah, but now live in Lakeport.”
Myself, “Where is Lakeport?”
Greeter, “It’s about 45 minutes north of here.”
Myself, “I have a friend here who’s Dad started the Ukiah Hospital.”
Greeter somewhat impressed, “Oh.”
And then some more small talk before I said, “Thanks again.”
A few minutes later my wife came out of the DMV with temporary driver’s license in hand. She had successfully run the gauntlet of computers (ancient), eye test, photo (retinal scan), thumbprint (twice), and we could now leave the bucolic town of Ukiah.
An uneventful 50 minute drive home through the beautiful countryside and the journey was done.