Oh Bother!

Requisite chores when you’re full-time

“Oh, bother!” as Pooh would say. People excitedly comment on the amount of freedom I have living full time in a motorhome and traveling but it’s not all a life of leisure. I find there are still a few items of responsibility I must endure and have recently met the challenge. 

One of those items is annual maintenance. What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, annual maintenance when you live full time in your motorhome, have pets, and have no house to go to or friend to stay with can be a little bit of a burden. The other “chore” I recently accomplished after two years of procrastinating is changing my state domicile.

A Class C motorhome requires two types of maintenance and it can be difficult finding just the right shop to do the work for you. A lot of Class A motorhome companies do repairs on their own models and allow customers to stay in their rigs in the parking lot at night. However, for small Class C motorhomes, these places don’t really exist. Some well-meaning folks during phone inquiries recommended a Ford fleet dealer for maintenance on my chassis, which is a Ford E-450. However, most don’t take motorhomes and even if they do, they only service the engine, tires, and brakes, nothing else. So you are left with finding service for the appliances such as fridge and hot water heater, the AC, and anything else that is motorhome related but not truck related. 

My first two years with the motorhome, I still had a house so I would drive to the closest Camping World, sign up for their maintenance package and leave the motorhome. I’m sure they did an adequate job but I never gave them a list of things to check and I should have. The third year, I was on the road so after lots of internet searching, I found a Camping World in Bakersfield that didn’t have horrible reviews and had an Enterprise-rent-a-car nearby and a Motel 6 not too far away. Staying at the Motel 6 in Bakersfield was a little unnerving and I was really relieved to get my rig back.

I had recently decided to spend more time in Texas and particularly the Escapees RV Park in Livingston. While there, I kept hearing great things about West RV and Automotive so I called them about my annual maintenance for 2020. They asked me for a list so I did some research on what was recommended and showed up with the list to make an appointment. The staff there were great from the very beginning. They found some things I wasn’t aware of (very minor repairs) and even relied on my extended warranty for two large repair items, not expecting me to pay first and then get reimbursed. I have already decided to come back here next year this time and have already made reservations at the RV Park.

Now that I had made the decision to stay in Texas at least half the year at various places that I love visiting, like Galveston and Livingston, I thought it’s about time I quit paying California registration. Why do so many people come to Livingston to change over to Texas domicile? First of all, you can’t beat the Escapee mail service. You get a real residence address but they will hold your mail indefinitely.  They will also forward your mail or email you scanned copies of letters so you can keep up while on the road. Secondly, this is the county seat and the Tax assessor’s office, state inspection stations, and the Department of Public Safety (driver’s licenses) are all within a few miles of each other. Thirdly, Texas doesn’t have state taxes so your retirement check isn’t going to be taxed. The three most popular states for full-timers to change domicile are South Dakota, Florida, and Texas.

This is the order to change over your domicile in Texas. If you don’t do it in this order, they’re just going to send you away so why wait in long lines more times than you have to?

1) Get an Escapee’s mailing address and start using it

2) Call your vehicle insurance and change the address to the new Texas address

3) Go to a state inspection station for all your vehicles. Takes about 5 minutes and can cost anywhere from $5 to $7. These are good for one year so you don’t have to try to do it all in one day.

4) Register to vote in Polk County (if you are in Livingston) or register wherever your mailing address is and save the proof of voter registration with your address on it

5) Dig out your birth certificate (must be original) or your unexpired passport. You can no longer get a driver’s license without either of these (even renewing a driver’s license).

6)  Print out your insurance cards

7) Find the titles (pink slips) for all your vehicles. If you are still making payments, I don’t know the procedure for that.

8) Print out the application from the tax assessor’s office and complete for each vehicle before going to the office.

9) Print out the application for a new driver’s license and complete before going in (saves a lot of time and your number will get called faster if you don’t have an appointment)

10) Go to the Tax Assessor’s office to get your vehicle registrations. You have to do this before going for the driver’s license. Get your new plates and tags. Note: they will keep your pink slips but they assured me that new ones will be mailed to me and they will be blue.

11) Go to the Department of Public Safety to get your driver’s license. The one in Livingston only allows ten people in the lobby at a time so if you think it might be busy, make an appointment online. I went on a rainy Wednesday in January at 9:00 a.m. and had to wait about thirty minutes. They will keep your old license (from the other state) and give you a piece of paper to keep in your wallet.

My total fees for motorhome, car, and driver’s license came to about $450.

Once again, I relied on Escapee referrals and found a very easy state inspection place nearby for both the car and the motorhome. I took each vehicle separately on Tuesday. I drove over to the tax assessors that same day and started the paperwork but I had printed out the wrong insurance card so I went home and took care of that. I returned on Wednesday morning about 8:20 a.m.  I was completely done and on my way home with new tags and plates and paper driver’s license by 9:45.

It seemed like a lot of work, partly because I wasn’t sure if I could find my original social security card. I did end up finding it, thank goodness, because I would have to drive to Lufkin (52 miles away) to get a duplicate. For some reason, I was having issues requesting a duplicate online. Then, there’s the whole issue of unhooking the motorhome and driving it somewhere and back. If I don’t force myself to do these things, they would never get done. I don’t like upsetting the status quo if I don’t have to.

Anyway, all is well now until next December when I return to Livingston and schedule my annual maintenance and catch up with all the wonderful friends I’ve made here. Life goes on.

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