Serendipitous Journeys

Family of 6, downsized our lives & became Fulltime RVers traveling the country.

Establishing Legal Domicile – Our Adventures Continued, Part 3

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During the arduous process of purging our belongings, life went on, as it tends to do — with one day leading into the next, and so on.  We took time to celebrate our baby girl’s 1st birthday, although sad that we couldn’t share it with family and friends back in Kentucky like we had hoped to do, it was a happy occasion all the same!  She enjoyed her cake and made a great mess!

In our down time when we needed breaks from going through boxes, and when rain kept us inside, we worked on learning all the ins and outs of fulltime rving.  It was becoming evident that we needed a way to receive our mail without having to bother family or friends with collecting it for us, which inevitably leads to the question all RVer’s face: “What will our address be while we are fulltime rving across the country?”  You have to be beholden to a state for your driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance, taxes, voting, homeschooling, and in hubster’s case — the VA, and any number of other things.  So, thanks to so many helpful RVer’s out there, like Technomadia, blogging about their experiences and advice, we came to the decision that we would need to set up our legal ‘domicile’ in one of the three fulltime RVer friendly states: Florida, Texas, or South Dakota.  We chose to become members of the Escapees RV Club which you can setup your legal address with in either of those three states.

Florida would be the easiest to accomplish when we were done in Savannah, with the state being nearby.  But, after much deliberation, we decided Texas was the best choice because they are one of the few states that recognizes that they have no right to oversee, meddle, or demand testing, grades, portfolios, or attendance records from homeschoolers.  Texas doesn’t even require you to notify them of intent to homeschool!  In our books that makes Texas the most homeschool friendly and awesome state to belong to; allowing us the freedom to oversee our homeschool as we see fit, as well as allowing us to legally domicile there while traveling fulltime — win, win!

When we had first returned to Savannah our thoughts had been that we would return to Kentucky when we were finished eliminating all of our stuff, to get back to visiting people we hadn’t gotten to visit yet…..but our homeschool was becoming top priority as we were coming upon September.  Once we finally finished the purge — we recognized the need to get to Texas and get our legal domicile set up ASAP, for homeschool legalities but also for hubster’s VA needs…..so there was only one thing to do, go to the beach!  To say goodbye, of course, the beach is one of our favorite places in Savannah!  We also took a trip to Ft. Pulaski (even though we had been there before) so the kids could experience the Jr. Ranger Program, and to get our National Parks Pass.  We also had to stop and eat at our favorite restaurant, North Beach Bar & Grill.  They have the best steaks ever to be had, in fact all their food is awesome!   After that we could finally load up and head to the Escapees headquarters in Livingston, Texas.

During our trek to Texas we utilized our tiny home more by stopping at rest areas to make lunches and eat inside.  Our trip went from Savannah down to Jacksonville, Florida and then headed west on I-10 across the panhandle.  We stopped for the night in Florida and then continued our trek the next day eventually driving through Mobile, Alabama where we drove underwater through the George Wallace Tunnel that goes under the Mobile River.

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Photo by Wikipedia user Lowesvisa, used under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

That was pretty neat!  We continued onward through Biloxi, Mississippi and into Louisiana where we stopped for the night again.  The next day we continued on through Louisiana and finally arrived in Texas that night.  We had made the choice to try wallydocking, as some like to call it, which is overnight parking in Wal-Mart parking lots.  We had read a few blogs here and there with pointers on this undertaking, but we found Ditching Suburbia’s post most helpful.  And we actually enjoyed the experience very much!  The weather along the Gulf Coast this time of year was perfect for sleeping with the windows open and not having to worry about being too hot without the ability to run the a/c while drycamping.  The Allstays app was indispensable in finding Wal-Marts that allowed overnight stays.  We chose Wal-Marts that felt safe, always checked to make sure we were allowed to stay overnight, and it was not as noisy as we anticipated.  The entire process fed our desire to truly boondock one day (when we are better equipped for more than one night at a time).  We wallydocked in Live Oak, FL and again in Slidell, LA outside of New Orleans.  We started to stay over at a Wal-Mart in Beaumont, TX but felt unsafe and went further up the highway to one of the Texas Safety Rest Stops where you are allowed to stay overnight.

The next morning we headed to Livingston and arrived at the Escapees park in the morning around the time they open and got settled.  We were hoping we could accomplish all we needed to accomplish fairly quickly so we could head back to Kentucky for those visits we never got to have.  So, we got started working on becoming official Texans!  We got our legal address through the Escapees and began having all our mail forwarded to it.  We went and got our vehicle inspections on both the RV and the truck.  Then we went and jumped through all the hoops to register both vehicles with the state of Texas (big chunk of money there compared to Kentucky’s which we had just done in July when we bought them).  Next we went to get our Texas driver’s licenses, which took a while because their system was down most of the day.  They don’t create your license in the office there like most states, they give you a temporary paper printout and have to mail your actual driver’s license to you.

Our cell service was basically nonexistent in the park we were staying in, so we had to go into town to find a good signal to contact our insurance to change states.  We also needed wifi to get online to change our address on all of our accounts, because our spot in the park didn’t receive wifi.  Thankfully there was a McDonald’s in town with the typical free wifi, so we sat for some time as the kids played in the indoor playground while the internet slowly assisted our needs.

Once we finally accomplished all of that, hubster had to get his VA setup at the nearest VA clinic to our new address.  Relocating also meant he had to go through all the doctor visits he had already gone through when he first setup his VA in Savannah after leaving the Army.  This meant we were going to be staying in the area for the foreseeable future as they began scheduling appointments for him all the way up until January…..which also meant that we would not be able to go back to Kentucky anytime soon.  So, we settled in to stay at Escapees for a while and began simply living, all the hard work was finally behind us.  We took advantage of recuperating from the rough last few months we had just been through, and the rush to get to Texas.  We took walks around the campground, the kids played outside, and we spent time learning about Texas.  Livingston is a small town in Polk County.  The grocery store we shopped at was H.E.B. because Brookshire Brothers was more expensive for some reason.  The Wal-Mart there was closed down for quite some time for plumbing repairs.  Interestingly this was cited in a conspiracy theory with other Wal-Marts that were all closed on the same day for these same repairs.

We also tried moving to the side of the park that had wifi, but it was a waste of time, hubster said he couldn’t even load facebook….so we moved back to our spot we originally had and dealt with the frustrations of having no cell signal or wifi.  We had gotten spoiled at the park in Savannah having very good wifi, and our previous stay at Duck Creek in Kentucky as well as our overnight stays at EZ-Daze and Hoover.  Personally I would love to not have cellular and wifi signal radiation bouncing all over the place inside of our tiny home, but that’s just me and most people think I’m crazy for that 😛  However, without a phone signal or wifi, it is very difficult to accomplish some things.

Previously, somewhere around the time between August and September, while in Savannah, I had forgotten to finish renewing my prepaid phone service when the webpage wouldn’t work right, and I ended up going a whole month without service (we had done away with our huge phone plan before we ever started RVing).  I had sent a text or two to people and never heard back from them and wondered why.  The prepaid provider service info still showed in the top left corner of the screen, the signal bars still changed as if I was getting service, and after sending a text it didn’t give me any notification that I did not have service!  I didn’t think a whole lot of it since I don’t actually get calls or texts from anyone very often (I’m not a big phone talker) other than from the hubster, and he was with me 24/7 now.  If he was out getting boxes from storage or delivering sold items to someone and we did text each other it was always on the iMessage system that iPhones use since we always had wifi, so nothing ever seemed amiss.  When hubster started receiving reminder texts to renew his service the next month, and I wasn’t getting anything I began to wonder and discovered what had happened…..which led me to wonder if I really needed phone service at all…..if I wasn’t calling or texting anyone it seemed like such a waste of money!

Now, once we were at this park we were dealing with our prepaid service barely getting a signal, and only if we were sitting in just the right spot.  So, we questioned whether we should switch providers again, or just invest in an unlimited data Verizon hotspot like most RVer’s recommend for wifi needs and then completely dropping actual cell phone service (not an RVer recommendation but a personal idea) and instead use a voip app service for calls to save money.  Deciding that we really needed wifi in order to look up things we needed to know for this new RV life, we ended up driving about an hour away to Wal-Mart and picking up a prepaid Verizon hotspot in order to try it out and see how the signal faired in our location.  It was only 10gb data, but was ok for our research needs and got an ok signal where we were located.  We just had to make sure we didn’t use up that 10gb too quickly, which is really easy to do!

Throughout October we got our homeschool back on track for the new year, met other fulltime RVer’s, some of whom lent us sage advice for newbies, and we made new friends.  Another fulltime family with older kids showed up and was going through the same Texas resident process we had just completed, so we got to hang out with them on a number of occasions and even played board games together at the Activity Center a few times.  We discovered we really like games like Munchkin and Settlers of Catan.

The Escapees Club held a weeklong Octoberfest that we got to enjoy as part of the community and we got to meet the Xscapers creators, Travis and Melanie Carr.  If you haven’t heard of the Xscapers yet, it’s an offshoot of the Escapees Club, for the non-retired RVers still working while on the road, some of whom also have kids, like us.  They had just had their first convergence at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM around the time we had been arriving to the Escapees Rainbow’s End park to set up our Texas domicile.  They were planning another convergence in February at Quartzite, AZ that we were considering trying to go to if we were done with the VA’s requirements by then, so we could meet other RVing people our age or possibly even families.  But, then the Fulltime Families group which we had joined were having a rally in Florida around the same time and going to Legoland!  They were also having a rally in California as well!  Where to go?!  What to do?!  So much to decide!!

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Kaid made his Minecraft character into a costume.  Perrin was Star Lord. Abbie was a Minion, and Willow was a fuzzy pink monster.

In the meantime we tried to take life as easy and relaxed as possible after months of stressful situations.  When Halloween rolled around, we took the kids trick-or-treating in the recommended neighborhood in our new hometown.  The streets were packed full of people, and tons of houses were handing out candy, so much in fact that there was plenty of candy to go around even late into the evening!  We were shocked and impressed!  It was one of the best halloweens yet!

As October came to an end and November was rolling in, we started looking for other places to stay that would have playgrounds and activities for the kids, maybe some wifi, and hopefully better phone signals.  Escapees is a great community, but their campground at Rainbow’s End isn’t really geared towards kids.  We began considering where we wanted to stay for Thanksgiving and Christmas, since we needed to stay in the area for hubster’s VA appointments.  We also wanted to eventually make it to Houston and tour the Johnson Space Center….so with that in mind we began making plans to head south….onward towards Houston!

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