Saturday, April 6, 2019

A visit to the Puerto Rican DMV. Oh yeah....

(Disclaimer: A bit different than the posts of the past, I'm using this blog to not only document training and racing, but also as a kind of diary of my time in Puerto Rico. So if you don't want to read a long story about the Puerto Rican DMV, you might want to skip this one.)

Elle: After much searching and some anguish, I bought a car in January. Halleluja! No more biking everywhere I need to go. Not that I didn't mind it too much. And it was a nice boost to my fitness. But being able to go further than 5 miles from my apartment and being able to purchase more items than I can fit into my backpack is a 'nice to have'. I think I mentioned my new (used) car in an earlier post, but just a reminder:

Sooooo, in Puerto Rico, you need to have something called a 'marbete'. And it needs to be renewed once a year. And apparently if you get stopped with an expired marbete, you can rack up a fine/fee of $700 (here's a story of a sad soul here who got caught with an expired marbete). Now, my marbete expires in May. But being the newly motivated gal I've become, I wanted to get on it early. So I looked up the process of renewing this thing. Holy carrots, what a pain in the arse.

Step 1
You need to get your new vehicle license/renewal notice. The Puerto Rico Department of Motor Vehicles should send renewal notices every year by mail; they seldom do. But there's a site you can go to and you can get the notice there. You print that out and then...

Step 2
You take your vehicle along with all copies of the renewal notice to an inspection center at an authorized gas station. They will provide you with an inspection certificate for $11.00. 

Step 3
You may purchase your marbete sticker at the Inspection Center or any bank that has them in stock. I looked this up, but it's a little confusing as to which banks you can go to. Again, you must provide Insurance Vouchers to avoid the compulsory liability insurance charge of $99.00. You will pay $40.00 for annual rights, $35.00 for driver’s insurance (ACCA), $10.00 renewal fee. If you do not provide Insurance Vouchers, you will be forced to pay the $99.00 fee and choose from government insurance providers.

Oy! I thought, "Well, I'll start the process and get this 'vehicle renewal notice', that way I'll be ahead of the game." So I went online and filled out the info. The last page opened up and I was able to roughly translate the Spanish enough to know that it said that there was no car available for renewal under my name/license, etc.


After asking around, I was told by several people I had to go the Puerto Rican equivalent of the DMV. And when they said it, a look always come over their face. Not a good look. But a sad, condolences look. I was told to get there EARLY. One thing I've learned about Puerto Rico is that when you need to go to any government office, you've got to be prepared to wait A LONG TIME. Cool, I can get there early.

I was on the road by 7am. Yeah, things are going well. But since my phone decided to not do the whole navigation thing (don't know why that stopped working), I had to write down the directions and do my best to memorize where I needed to go. (If you're itching to read more about days gone sideways, I put pen to paper - or fingers to key, the details of this day).

Issue 1: Somehow I forgot about traffic heading into San Juan weekday mornings. Oy! At one point I tried to count how many lanes of traffic were merging, and I stopped at 10. But I stayed strong and drove with confidence. Then a small miracle occurred, I actually got off at the right exit (a BIG feat if you've ever driven in Puerto Rico where a lot of exits don't even have a sign).

One more exit, then my destination would be on my left. Coolio. I was able to find it and get off, woohoo, things are happening for me now!. I figured it would be an obvious building, and my directions said it was a bout 3km on the left, so I drove. And drove. And drove too far. Frick. I missed it! I checked out Google maps and saw I had overshot it, so I found some landmarks on the map, and turned around. Well, this isn't the first time I used landmarks on Google maps to find my way, and got lost. Here's a tip:

If you're driving in Puerto Rico, and you use Google Maps and rely on stores/businesses/etc. aka things on the map for landmarks, DON'T. Most of them just aren't there.
And today was no different. The landmarks weren't there. And I missed it AGAIN! Arghgh! So I turned around again, and, with an eagle eye, drove slowly until I finally found it. Yass.

I walked in, and there were hundreds of people there. I didn't know where to go or what to do (all the signs were in Spanish). So I got into the long, main line. And I came prepared. I had my Kindle with me, loaded with 'Do your OM thing', a wonderful book by Rebecca Pacheco, a master yogi and an incredible person. So as I was standing in the line of hell, I was reading about the way of the yogis, peace and acceptance. I felt confident that I was the most zen person in that line. Finally, 45 minutes later, I got to the front - yay, it was my turn! I went up to the window, and despite a rough time with the language barrier, the man behind the counter explained to me that I was in the wrong line, and pointed to another line that I was supposed to be in. Breathe. Breathe. Yoga. Zen.

Well, the line I got into next was much shorter than the original line that I accidentally queued up in. And in 20 short minutes, I was at the front. My turn! So after some some more time trying to bridge the language barrier, I basically found out that they couldn't help me, and that I'd have to come back in May. Oy. Breathe. Breathe. Yoga. Zen.

Back in the car to head home. Oy, what a day. OH, and then the 'Check engine' light came on. Frick! And to make a long story short, on my adventure getting home, I took my first wrong turn. Oy. Then wrong turn #2. Ack. Then finally got safely on Route 22 and sailed on home. And by the time I got home, I saw that it was only 10:30am! How is that possible? Anyway, I'll take that as a win.

And that was my day at the Puerto Rican DMV. See you again in May!

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