July 02, 2007

Looks like I'm gonna have to get all Reader's Digest-y on you.

Let's hit the highlights:

Car: When I left Friday, I was headed home to fax a copy of my title to the insurance company, for what I assumed was proof of ownership. Reba freaked--"YOU'RE GIVING THEM YOUR CAR!?" No, I get to keep it, and they give me a partial settlement, and things are hunky dory. Until I kept hearing her concern in the back of my head, which caused me to do some Googling.


Seems that in the State of Alabama, if you keep your car after it's been totaled, you're issued a salvage title. And you can't drive it, until you get a rebuilt title issued for the car. To do this?

If you decide to keep the car and rebuild it, you must obtain a rebuilder's license and rebuild/restore the vehicle to its prior condition. When you finish rebuilding it, you must have it inspected. This is to determine that no stolen parts were used to rebuild it and to ensure that your vehicle has been safely rebuilt. According to Alabama law, only a licensed rebuilder can apply for the inspection. The vehicle must be restored within Alabama only.To apply for a rebuilder's license, contact:

Alabama Department of Revenue
License Tax Section
P.O. Box 327550
Montgomery, AL 36132-7550

You will be provided with a license application and instructions that will explain the requirements and fees. State law requires that you post a $10,000 surety bond to become licensed. A surety bond is a contract guaranteeing that you will rebuild the vehicle.

Once you have met the rebuilder's license requirements, you must include the following documents with your application for a salvage vehicle inspection:

Application for Inspection of a Salvage Vehicle
Remittance Advice, Form INV 31-1
The original salvage title properly assigned to the owner/licensed rebuilder
Copy of rebuilder's license
$90 fee, payable by certified funds (application fee of $75 plus title fee of $15)

You'll also need the following Bill of Sale forms:

Notarized Bills of Sale for all major component parts. The forms must list the manufacturer's vehicle identification number of the vehicle from which the parts were removed.
Bills of Sale for all minor component parts. Notarization shall not be required unless the component part contains or should contain the manufacturer's vehicle identification number.

Mail the documentation to:

Department of Revenue
Automobile Inspection Unit
P.O. Box 327641
Montgomery, Alabama 36132-7641

When your vehicle has passed inspection, you will be issued a rebuilt license plate that will be permanently attached to the vehicle. You will be given a rebuilt title that allows you to drive legally on the highways.


Okay, that's not a good thing--I need the thing to drive, and I don't want to have to go through all that garbage to drive a car that is already drivable and fixed. Frantic call to my insurance agent (who had been on vacation) at his home to verify my understanding, he said yep, that's right. I felt a sinking feeling in my guts.

Thought I was going to be okay, though, because the agent in Mississippi said she wouldn't mail the check until she got my title copy. Of course, little did I know that it would be in the mail on SATURDAY!

But before that, I made the decision to go ahead and get my car and pay for it myself. I figured if the worst came, at least I wouldn't have to have it towed home or pay any storage fees for leaving it there at the dealer.

And getting it was an ordeal, as well. Tried to pay by check, but their processing service wouldn't clear it. I don't know why, because we both got paid Friday. So we had to go to the credit union ATM. Which would only let me get $500. So we needed more money. Like, our vacation money. And some of the money the kids had gotten as presents. 62,501 pennies is a lot, you know. Drove to ATM, got money, got my card flagged, went back home, got rest of money, drove back to dealership--all the time with two bewildered children in the backseat and a emotionally distraught wife in the front.

Paid $630. "Uh, do you have a penny--I don't want to have to give you back 99 cents in change." I could have smacked that woman right in her pugly face. But I didn't, because I am very nice. Went back out to the car and got a penny out of the floor. Paid, got my five bucks in change and my keys.


Over the past week, I've been leaving frantic voice mails on the agent's phone in Mississippi, telling her we simply had to work something different and that I wasn't going to cash the check right now. She called back today, but I still haven't actually talked to her. My agent called to offer some advice last week, which amounts to hoping they'll be willing to work on some other arrangement that won't require scrapping the car.

I weep.

Vacation: Well, obviously that wasn't a good start to things. Bright and early Monday we packed the van and headed to the bank to transfer some money from our rapidly dwindling nest egg to cover the car repair so when the check for the accomodation came in, it wouldn't bounce. THEN we headed out for our destination...

DeKalb County, Alabama! Nestled high atop Lookout Mountain, and home to DeSoto State Park, and Fort Payne, Sock Capital of the World!

We rented a little cabin at a place called Rooster's Rest, right on the outskirts of Fort Payne about three minutes from the state park. Absolutely wonderful place--the man and woman who own it are a youngish couple with a small farm and a couple of cabins on the property, and we stayed in the newer one that will sleep at least six, and pretty comfortably, too.

I can't say enough good things about the place--the owners, Jim and Donna Crowe--were perfect hosts and the cabin was perfect and the kids had a grand time because of the bed loft. The pasture fence comes almost right up to the front steps, and they have a couple of horses and so the kids (but most especially Catherine) were beside themselves. Also, there was a neighboring pasture that had a few head of cattle on it, and the feed trough was near the end of the driveway, and that attracted cows, which in turn also attracted Catherine. I think she petted and hugged every large farm animal for a half-mile radius. Also got to ride her around in the paddle boat and chase after the duck and the geese. She seemed overjoyed at that, too.

Anyway, although I don't usually make a habit of commercial endorsement, if you ever are in that area of our state, be sure to at least give them a call or e-mail and stay with them.

Activities: On the trip up on Monday, we made the trek to one of the other top tourist attractions in North Alabama, Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro. Yep, the place where your lost airline luggage winds up. I'd heard about this place forever, and wasn't quite sure what to expect. I'll say this, Scottsboro itself is a might on the ragged side, but the Unclaimed Baggage store itself is really pretty nice. It's not big, but it's clean, and relatively neat, and full of stuff. Clothes, especially. Of ever conceivable type and style. But more interesting to the kids, there were electronics.

Boy found a game for his Nintendo DS for $15, which regularly sells for over $30. Catherine found a nearly new Pixter for $15, which retails for $100, or around $60 on Amazon. And Rebecca. Poor thing. She'd just gotten herself a new iPod Nano a month ago, and then found a 30GB Video iPod. For $130. And the problem? She had enough cash to get it. She thought and thought for nearly an hour, trying to figure out what to do. She wanted a video one before, but didn't have $270 or whatever it cost. And if she got it, she'd have two, and only needs one. And what if it didn't work? (They will take it back for store credit, but there would still be the issue of driving to Scottsboro again.) Finally, she couldn't resist and had to get it. A black one, it didn't have a USB cord or earphones, but still it seemed like a good deal. It looked like it functioned right, but we wouldn't know until we got home that it was perfectly fine, and already loaded with the most current software. That's pretty hard to beat. She's still hiding it from Oldest, though, because she knows she'll be even more jealous than she was when she got the Nano. So, anyway, whoever you are who lost a video iPod on your last trip on an airliner, thanks!

Went from there on to the cabin, got unloaded, relaxed a bit, then went to eat at a restaurant since we weren't up on all the local grocery stores, and we also didn't want to have to cook anything.

Up Tuesday, went swimming at DeSoto. 3/4 of the kids got sunburnt, Rebecca didn't get in the pool. Went to the grocery store that afternoon and got food for the week. Began a Phase 10 card game that lasted until Thursday night.

Wednesday went touring--drove to Mentone to see the Wild Animal Park. Which I'm sorry to say was disheartening. All sorts of exotic animals (two tigers, a lion, two mountain lions/cougars, three bears, an ostrich, an emu, multitudes of monkeys, two ring-tailed lemurs, various camelids--including two camels--along with various domestic animals) that had all been rescued from people who couldn't care for them, now being cared for by people who seemed overwhelmed by the task at hand. Most of the animals looked well-fed, but they were in small enclosures that were pretty untidy, and the facilities themself looked like they were either in the middle of being torn down or rebuilt, and not very well in either case. The people who ran the place were nice and seemed kind and knowledgeable and well-intentioned, but it still made me uncomfortable.

Next stop, the Depot Museum in downtown Fort Payne, a nice little old Richardsonian Romaneque train depot from the late 1800s. Lots of content, but a bit lacking in focus. And again, missing that little something that can't be found simply by having enthusiastic volunteers, namely, upkeep. There's a line between just a pile of old junk and something worth seeing. Just because it was beloved by someone's Unc Zeb or Aunt Til doesn't mean that everyone will find it equally enchanting. And just because something is old doesn't mean it can't be kept clean and free of dust and other signs of indifference. I'm sounding mean, but by the time we got there, I was already a bit put off by other things. Anyway, skip the diorama trailer if you can help it. Oh, and for the record, "Stationary Air Hose" is not the same thing as "Stationery" and "Air Hose."

And the final stop, the Alabama Fan Club and Museum, devoted to the most famous of Fort Payne's citizens.

This was more a stop for Reba than me, since she was somewhat of a fan in their early days. It was--interesting--I guess, but once more, there were some tell-tale signs that there's not quite as much of a fan base as there used to be. Grass growing in the cracks in the faded parking lot tends to send that signal, as does the variety of water-spotted ceiling tiles in the small theater that has a looped video presentation of the band's career. They retired from performing in 2003, but the overall condition of the place made it seem like it had been much longer ago.

Back to the cabin, change clothes, head to church. Yes, even on vacation, we have to keep up with these things, lest we be beset with evil. Such as having a potential junk car in the driveway when we returned home. Nice little place right downtown.

Thursday, horseback riding! Not that I wanted to go--I was hoping for one day where we could stay in and not go spending the rest of our money. But alas, it was not to be. I had seen where the Cloudmont Ski Resort in Mentone also had horseback riding, so I called and they said it was raining there. Well, that's nice that someone was getting rain, but I had a child who was pitching a perfect little snotty fit to go ride and we needed to go. So we said we'd try it at 2:00 p.m., since I was sure the rain would stop. Good thing I'd been up on my prayers, because it did.

Got up and we started the short drive back to Mentone, and came in the front drive of Cloudmont. Drove, road narrowed. Drove, road became gravel. Drove, road became winding and narrow and gravel. Passed a girl's camp, and after another set of bumps and ruts, found ourself at the rustic office.

"Uhm, hey--we were supposed to go horseback riding? 'Oglesby'? At two?"

"Oh, well, you're looking for the ranch--just go back up here to the first dirt road on the right and follow that on around the golf course and then over the covered bridge."

Simple enough.

Got off the gravel road onto the dirt road, watched the golfers going at it, hit some ruts, drove. Drove. Road became a logging trail, approximately five feet wide. Found covered bridge, which was missing many floorboards. I didn't mention this. Made turn, crossed bridge and did not fall onto rocks below. Turned at end of bridge onto what was billed as the Old Military Road. It was a series of rocks, crevasses, humps, twists, turns, ruts, and washouts, all on a path that was only 7 inches wide and obviously laid out by a drunken Army engineer riding a unicycle while being attacked from all sides by wolves, bears, Indians, and car insurance agents. After a MILE of this, we finally found ourselves perched atop Lookout Mountain at the Shady Grove Dude Ranch.

Went to the office, and no one was in. And it didn't quite look like anyone had been in since about 1989. There were a couple of people caring for some horses across the pasture, so we walked over there, and found that these were the caretakers/ranchhands--a mother and her teenaged son. They saddled up two horses and a pony, I helped Rebecca and Catherine get up on their saddles, and then they were off on an hour-long adventure with the boy leading the way.

Miss Reba, Jonathan, and I stayed behind at the bunkhouse porch, listening to distant thunder and too-close mosquitos. Saw a couple of wild turkeys scoot across the trail on further up the way. Sure was a lot of nothing to do.

An hour passed, and they came ambling back down the gravel road, past a large dumpster. I'd seen this earlier, and wondered how a garbage truck could ever get into this place. Unless there was some easier back road.

The girls dismounted and we headed on out. The back way. Which, it turns out, was actually the FRONT way--a nice wide unpaved, but unrutted, road--about an eighth of a mile back out to the main drag. Gosh, if only we'd known. Went the wrong way at the gate, then got turned around right and went back to the crossroads where we'd first come by an hour earlier, which featured a huge array of decoratively rustic hand-painted signs pointing to various locations. Including one small one that mentioned something about a dude ranch. ::sigh::

Friday we left for home, but not before stopping to let Reba do some antique shopping in Fort Payne. She'd been very mopey about not getting to go see more trinkets and tchotchkis and bricabrac and junk, and obviously this was my fault because I am a bad person, so we stopped and parked and got out into the sauna that is your typical small Southern town in summer. Walked a bit, found a shop, went in, was eyed by a small proprietor man who exuded the quite miffed air of someone who'd been passed over for the lead in the local production of the Truman Capote Story. Lots of dirty, dusty junk. We stayed there forever, then left. By this time, Reba was less than thrilled with the prospect of further such shopping, so we got back in the van and headed home.

And there you go.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at July 2, 2007 12:34 PM

Thatís a lot of work for a state that still doesnít have an inspection process. Or have they moved into the last century.

Posted by: jim at July 2, 2007 02:48 PM

I'm not sure what the deal is, but you're right, awful lot of arm-waving and stuff of little benefit without annual inspections.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 2, 2007 03:21 PM

Is it possible that there are garages that hold rebuilder licenses that would be willing to certify the work done by the repair shop and jump through all the hoops for you? This just seems WAY too complicated for a vehicle that was totalled not because of life-ending damage, but because it's old, and repairs are expensive.

Vacation sounds like fun, though. I'm jealous of Rebecca's find - my i-pod needs to go see the geniuses at Apple (not sure what's up - hope it's just a battery issue). How did she manage to hide it from oldest?

Posted by: Diane at July 2, 2007 03:42 PM

I'm hoping that the Volvo dealer would be able to do this type of thing, but I'm not sure about that yet. We'll see, I suppose.

AS FOR JEALOUSY, yeah, I'm jealous, too, but I'm hoping she'll let me play with it some. As for hiding it, it wasn't too hard, since Oldest was much more involved in getting things for herself than worrying about what everyone else was doing.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 2, 2007 03:48 PM

Man, oh man. I had no idea a salvage title could be THAT complicated. I honestly don't understand the reason for this particular provision of the law, and I sure hope you can work something else out.

Posted by: Stan at July 2, 2007 04:40 PM

Well, the intent is good--to reduce the number of chop shops and the number of unscrupulous dealers who try to pass off wrecked cars as good ones. Which is fine, but there needs to be some sort of accomodation for a private owner who wants to keep his own car. This seems to be a common enough questions (given that it's from the State Revenue Dept. FAQ) that it must mean there are a lot of folks who get trapped into this situation unaware of the implications.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 2, 2007 04:52 PM

Sounds like a good time was had. I must admit my idea of vacation is a place w/great food where I never have to cook, skeet, trap, clays, IDPA and at least a 1000M range are free for my use. I'd also like the temps to never get above 85 and the bikini clad all woman staff to wait on me hand & foot.

Posted by: Chef Tony at July 2, 2007 07:50 PM

Did you have the proper equipment and ingredients for cooking meals, or how much improvisation was needed? Since you didn't mention it, it sounds like Oldest was not too much of a problem for you. Usually teens that age being stuck with the boring family for a week can be a special source of vacation "fun". You may not have too many more chances to have the whole family spend time like that together.

Any complaints about not spending the week at the Redneck Riviera, or did everyone like the change of pace up in the mountains?

Posted by: Spud at July 2, 2007 09:34 PM

Tony, does a place like that actually exist!? (I simply want to know for informational purposes only, of course.)

Marc, yes, we had most utensils we needed--they had the cabinets stocked with about seven place settings of dishes, along with various cups and glasses and serving bowls and flatware. The only thing that would have been better would have been for the skillet to have a lid, and for there to be a cookie sheet of some sort. Someone had left some little aluminum pie pans from a Marie Callender brand prepared something-or-other, and that's all there was for baking ware. But we managed just fine.

And no, Oldest was relatively tame this trip, although "relatively" allows a range of behavior far beyond what is considered socially acceptable to most people. But she was better than her usual, so that was okay.

No complaints about it not being the beach. The reason we came back to a place like this in the first place was because the kids enjoyed the cabin we had in Pigeon Forge a couple of years back. I much preferred this to the more touristy Gatlinburg area. Not as much to see and do, but a heck of a lot quieter and a lot less traffic.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 3, 2007 07:42 AM

I know a guy who rebuilds totaled cars, so if you get into a jam I'm sure he has one of those licenses and may be able to help you out.

Posted by: skillzy at July 3, 2007 10:01 AM

OOooh, good--I'm glad to hear that, because I really might have to do that. I'll remember to ask you if it turns out I need him.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 3, 2007 10:09 AM