How to Become a Real Texan:

The first question is why? Texas is flat, humid, has droughts, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes. But, it also a great domicile state for full-time RV travelers.

In 2011 we moved from California to South Dakota, which was the best state for full-timers. We saved thousands per year on DMV tags and vehicle insurance. They have no state income tax, only 4 percent sales tax and it is has Sturgis and Mount Rushmore. But, sadly this year because of Obamacare, they canceled all full-timers insurance unless they had property or rented in the state.

So, off we went researching other states. We knew South Dakota, Texas and Florida were the best states to investigate. SD was now out and Florida was too far away. So we chose Texas. South Dakota made changing our domicile state a breeze. We simply drove in, signed up for a mailing service, rented an RV site for one night and got a receipt with both our names on the bill. The next day we visited the DMV and walked out in 20 minutes with our licenses in hand. We paid the mailing service $25 and they obtained our license plates and mailed them to us. Our total time processing paperwork was about an hour.

Texas is not so easy. They are on the border with Mexico and are making a real attempt to keep out terrorists and illegal aliens. So they have thorough regulations to follow to become Real Texans.

We have been members of many RV associations since 2006. One of them is the Escapees RV Club. It was started in 1978 by Joe and Kay Peterson to cater to full-time RVers. Today, there are over 32,000 member families. One of the services they offer is their mailing service. Using the mailbox address you obtain, you can legitimately claim Livingston, Texas as your home and Texas as your domicile state. We read their website and obtained their publication entitled "How to Become and Real Texan". After reading this booklet, we called for some clarification. That was good as the information is a little out of date. And this changed again on March 1, 2015. From our discussion with Escapee's staff member Kelly, we listed the steps needed.

1. Obtain an Escapee's mailing address. This is in Livingston, Texas, Polk County.
2. Contact the Polk County Tax Collector. Receive documents and submit with DMV fees. Each county in Texas collects the plate fees, not the State.
3. Get the plates mailed to us outside of Texas. If you enter Texas without Texas plates, you must drive to your new county to get them. Livingston is on the east side, 800 miles from El Paso.
4. Install your plates, drive into Texas and have your vehicles inspected. Annual inspection is required.
5. Drive to an office of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and apply for your drivers licenses. Pete needs an auto, motorcycle and motorhome license. Ellen needs an auto license.
6. Take your written tests.
7. Take your driving tests.
8. Pass and get your temporary paper license. Your permanent card will be mailed to your Livingston address.
9. Within 60 days change your vehicle insurance from South Dakota to Texas.

Okay, we are in Green Valley, Arizona at Pete's sister Donnalee's house and ready to begin. While in this area we had a chance to review the above steps with our Pickleball friends Lynn and Linda. They have been Texas Escapee residents for over a dozen years. Linda said our plan was good and just drive to El Paso, Texas to get inspected and get our licenses. Lynn said El Paso DPS will hassle you because they are doing all the work and Polk County got all the money. Lynn said drive the 800 miles (and 800 back) to Livingston and it will be easy.

Now we were a little anxious but prepared to drive the extra 1,600 miles if needed. Here we go.

1. We got the Escapees mailing address. Right away we signed up for BlueCross/BlueShield of Texas health insurance for Ellen.
9. We called and changed our vehicle insurance just to get this done. BTW Geico was low cost in South Dakota, but twice as much in Texas. We switched to Progressive and it was only 50% more.
2. We waited in Green Valley to get our Polk County packet, filled it out and over-nighted it back with our fees. We directed our plates to be mailed to Hacienda RV resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico, just 30 miles from El Paso.
3. We moved to Las Cruces and waited for the plates. We were curious as to what tests both written and driving that we needed to take. We called the Texas DPS a dozen times but the phone tree always ended in "call back again".
4a) New Plan: Drive to El Paso with South Dakota plates. Visit the DPS and ask the test questions.
4b) We drove there to ask our questions. They said we can put the plates on and get inspected later and started processing our license applications. They asked for two proofs of residency. We showed our vehicle registration and our vehicle insurance. They ok'd them and we continued. Note, without the vehicle insurance change of address to Texas, we could not have gotten our licenses.
5. With applications filled out, we waited a short while and got to our window. Luis noted a minor difference in the document addresses. The vehicle insurance did not have the PO Box number. We had to call Progressive and they faxed a correction to the DPS office right away. Obviously, they had seen this situation many times before. Luis then told Pete he needed to take the motorhome (class B non-commercial) written and driving test (we knew about the driving test for an vehicle over 26,000 lbs.). Ellen could not get a license as the damage to her left eye kept her from reading the eye chart.
5a) Ellen needed to get her eye doctor to fill out an affidavit that states that her left eye vision could not be corrected by lenses. Really? Fill out this document and then you can have your license? Yes, really. This is a common situation that, for example, a single-eyed driver can be tested with their one eye only and if they pass the eye test, they can have a license. Atascadero's Dr. Chaffe had just tested Ellen's eye pressure and faxed us the document. So Ellen qualifies for her license. No written or driving test needed as we have valid South Dakota licenses.
5b) Pete needs no testing for auto or motorcycle. He must take a written motorhome test which Monica, a DPS staff person, says "it's really easy". Nonetheless, Pete got the booklet and studied for an hour.
6. Pete takes the written test. There are 20 questions and you need 14 correct to pass. Here is a sample question: How many trailers can your tractor (semi-truck) pull in Texas? Two, Three, xxx, xxx. Who knows? Pete did not see that in the book. He guesses 2 and moves on. Pete guessed on 19 of the 20 questions and unbelievable got 15 right and passed.
6a) Return the test to Gilbert, a DPS staff member. Gilbert says "very impressive, passing the test on the first try". What did Monica say, "it's really easy". Whew!
7a) Now for the driving test. Not so fast, you need to come back in a week, that is the first open appointment with Monica.
7b) Get an RV site in El Paso and spend the week. We found the nicest park in this 700,000 person city. And frankly, it was not nice enough to stay more than one night. Stay one night.
4. Install the plates. Get the motorcycle inspected at a motorcycle shop. Get the motorhome inspected at another (took 5 phone calls to find a shop for the MH).
7c) Drive back 60 miles to Las Cruces. We had driven 30 miles east to find this "nice" RV park so it was 60 miles back. Wait a week in Las Cruces.
7. Drive back to El Paso. Take the motorhome driving test. It was about 30 minutes of driving with Gilbert (what happen to the fun Monica or Luis?). Unbelievably, the first test was to parallel park! The cones were 80 feet apart and Pete had to back into the parking spot. No, Ellen was not there to help, you must take this test alone, Ellen had to wait in the office. And Mandy was no help either. No problem, Pete did it with ease using the mirrors and backup camera. Note that we once and only once parallel parked. It was in Avila Beach, California and it was the only spot near our son's Nick and Hayley's wedding. Ellen helped and we squeezed between two cars with about 5 feet to spare on either end. Who parallel parks a motorhome? No one!
8. Ellen and Pete get their temporary licenses.

So, we had a plan. Escapee's had a plan. Lynn and Lynda had plans. Nothing went according to a plan. The one thing we learned for sure is to have your plates, registration and vehicle insurance for Texas and make sure the addresses match exactly.

Yeehaw, we are Texans. Lucky for us, in the MotherShip we can dodge the droughts, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes. Humidity, not so much.

Love, Pete, Ellen and Mandy.

The Full Time Motorhome Living Guide

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