After the kids left we were more than ready to leave Apopka and head up to St. Augustine to get our driver’s licenses and new license plates taken care of. Lee was taking care of getting the rig travel ready and I was on a series of conference calls for work, but he is so efficient it really didn’t take him long to get us ready to go. At the last-minute I shut the computer down and stepped outside the rig while he completed the final task of hooking the fifth wheel up to the hitch in the truck. For those who don’t know, I find this to be the most intimidating part of owning a truck/fifth wheel combination. So I am going to do my best to explain how it works. We have a Reese hitch mounted in the bed of our truck. The front of the fifth wheel has a kingpin which hangs down. See pictures below:
You have to lower or raise the fifth wheel (using the landing gear in the front at the bottom) so the truck can be backed up right under where the kingpin is. Once it is straight you have to lower the fifth wheel down so the king pin can slide into opening on the rear of the hitch. If everything is the right height and the right angle the kingpin will click between these jaws and then you can lock the jaws closed around the kingpin.
Sound easy?? Well, it’s not. It’s tough for Lee who is very mechanically inclined and I honestly don’t know if I could ever do it alone. Once the kingpin is in the locking jaws it’s really tough to tell if it’s properly seated. There is a locking handle that theoretically will not go into place if the fit isn’t right but it is absolutely less than ideal. Needless to say Lee is extremely careful about how he hitches the truck, because we know of several people who have damaged their truck bed, tailgate, or the hitch when the hookup is not done properly.
Back to Tuesday.
I was standing outside on a call when Lee started to move the truck forward and BANG! the front of the camper slipped out of the hitch and dropped down on the back of the truck. Lee STOPPED!!! Very important because often people don’t stop here and the damage done is so much worse. I yelled stop and then got off the phone call I was on. Michele was very understanding later when I explained why. I have to say from this point, Lee was absolutely amazing. I was breathing pretty hard but he got out and slowly started checking out the damage. As you are going to see from the pictures below we definitely have a guardian angel. Although the weight of the RV landed on the truck bed side walls it was also cushioned by the Blue Boy we just bought which took all of the impact from the kingpin.
What is absolutely amazing is the blue boy has since “re-inflated” on its own and although it has some scratches was not punctured! It appears to still be working. If the Blue Boy would not have been in the back the kingpin would have likely punched a hole in the truck bed and crushed the tailgate. After much discussion we chose between the gate and the hitch as the blue boys permanent home because we can lock it in place and even though we need to remove it when hitching it’s a great way to use some largely unusable space. That decision (along with Lee stopping immediately) probably saved us thousands in truck repairs and a major delay until it could all be fixed. I can’t even tell you how blessed we feel about how this turned out. Lee is an extremely careful person. He double checks and triple checks everything. So let me say if this can happen to him it can absolutely happen to anyone.
Everything worked fine thankfully on the short trip to St. Augustine and I continued to work while Lee set up the camper. St. John’s Campground is attached to a flea market and we knew it wouldn’t be the best place to stay but needed somewhere close to Green Cove Springs so we could work on getting residency. Originally we were only staying a few days and then heading to Savannah, but I have work trips booked the next two weeks so we have cancelled Savannah and are now going to stay here. Lee needs time to get together everything for his business; signage, liability insurance, business cards, etc…and although this is definitely not a place I would pick to vacation it’s working well enough for us to meet professional requirements. Plus it’s Passport America and full hookup sites are $22 a night for two weeks which is a bargain this time of year in Florida. We really need to make back some of the money we spent in Apopka!
Wednesday we went right to Green Cove Springs and started the process of becoming residents. See below for a step-by-step of how the process went.
1. We chose St. Brendan’s Island as our mail service in Green Cove Springs, FL. ( After some initial issues with changing our addresses with Bank of America, we got all of our addresses changed and started receiving mail there…you need two pieces from either a bank or insurance company to establish residency)
2. Went to the Courthouse in Green Cove Springs to establish domicile. It cost $15 each (Visa/Master Card card accepted) and all we needed was our old NH driver’s licenses to get this done. No lines and took about 10 minutes. As a side note, we chose to go to the Court House/DMV in Green Cove Springs because it is a small town and they are familiar with people establishing residency and using the mail service there.
3. Drove next door to the DMV. On Weds at 10am there were two people in line in front of us. Driver’s licenses required a birth certificate or passport and proof of SS# (SS card, W-2, or pay stub. If you have a clean driving record they do not require you to take the written test, just an eye exam. If you do not have a clean record they can require a written and/or driving test at their discretion. They took the pictures immediately and printed the licenses. Cost was $44.25 each and all major credit cards were accepted.
4. Voter Registration can be done right at the DMV after you get your license. It’s free and they give you a card with numbers to call if you want absentee ballots. Update: The voter registration board very quickly sent me a letter that stated this was not a real address and they could not register me. I have voted consistently since my first time in 1984 and found this to be pretty upsetting, but at this point I am not really in a position to completely change my home state again. After asking some folks on the forum and reading the fine print, I emailed my Letter of Domicile to the voting board. Will see if this solves the problem.
5. Vehicle registration requires a VIN # verification of the truck, car, or driveable motor home, trailers and 5th wheel thankfully do not require this. If you drive it to them they will walk outside and do it for you, or you can take the vehicle to a police station or authorized car dealership and have them do it. I recommend driving your vehicle there as it was super easy. You also need titles for the vehicles in hand. If you own them outright, this is no issue. If the bank owns them, you need your loan account number and the address the DMV can write to request a copy of the title. This surprised us as I have read nothing about this requirement anywhere but luckily the DMV person Cheryl was extremely helpful and walked us through it. We ended up filling out all the forms in advance and then calling her with the account #’s and addresses. She called back within an hour to tell us it had been processed. She stated once the titles came in, we could pay over the phone and then she could mail the plates. We will see how this works and hopefully the titles will come before we leave the state. Worst case we could drive back down here from OBX and pick them up. Thankfully the tags don’t expire until August so we do have time, but we really want to get all this done.
Overall I was very pleased with the process. We would have been shocked if everything had gone off without a hitch and the woman at the DMV was so nice it made the experience exceptional. 3 out of 4 items in one day is not bad. I asked if I could have requested titles in advance but she said no it had to be done by the DMV for them to accept it. So we are here for another couple of weeks and hopefully it will all be taken care of before we leave. If we have to leave before everything is taken care of, my impression was they would mail the plates to us. I have to say that was by far the best DMV experience I have ever had in my life. Highly recommend going to Green Cove Springs if you have to get all this done.
Also, I thought I would mention that we managed to kill the pretty large ant colony that we acquired in Clearwater. Lee found it in the basement crawl space between the kitchen sink and the bathroom sink and there were hundreds of ants. We tried numerous things but the Combat Ant Bait Strips is what worked for us. We placed them along the ledges where we saw them crawling and they eventually took the poison back to the colony and we haven’t seen an ant in two weeks. Hooray!! I’m not usually this blood thirsty but those little suckers were everywhere.
I really needed to take a weekend “off” after last weeks marathon of activities so this weekend we just relaxed. We did pop over to the Flea market that is attached to the campground we are staying at and spent an enjoyable couple of hours looking at stuff we neither needed nor had room for. The place was huge and very popular with the locals, they even had some live music playing in the center. Don’t get me wrong, it was a true flea market with lots and lots of old stuff, but sprinkled in were some cool booths we really enjoyed. There was a nice used book stall in the flea market for example and Lee got a hardback copy of Hunt for Red October for $2 in perfect condition. When we got back to the rig and he looked at it, he realized it is signed by Tom Clancy! Overall its been a very busy week and as I will be traveling for the next two weeks for work (Nashua and Princeton) I was glad for some down time. Lee is going to use the next two weeks time to finish getting his business setup so he can start working. Also, next weekend will be exploring St. Augustine and I am really looking forward to that.
On a completely side note for those who are wondering where Lee’s comments are…he reads and edits every single blog post. Sometimes he wants to chime in and other times he isn’t feeling it. Can’t force the funny as he says. This puts me in a situation to leave the blog posts unpublished until he feels it or go ahead and publish them. As much as I would love for him to add to every post, I do think it’s important to keep it somewhat current. So think of it as a special surprise when he chimes in. That’s what I do.
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