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
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 That was good as the information is a little out of
date.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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Love, Pete, Ellen and Mandy.