Wednesday 28th Jan
We left the hotel just before noon as we had been sorting a few things out in the morning, including trying to get the new phone to work. It was supposed to be easy but it took Tony several attempts before he finally got it going and a number was issued. As soon as we crossed into Texas it felt very familiar and we were pleased to have arrived. There is something about the place that made us feel relaxed and glad to be there. We checked into the La Quinta Hotel in Alverado, on the junction of the I-35 and 67. The hotel is very nice and we managed to negotiate a good rate for a 7 night stay with breakfast in a suite with separate bedroom, sitting room and small kitchen area. The view out the back is over open country and has a large field for Sandy to run in, just perfect. In the evening we crossed the I-67 and went to a local restaurant called Benny's. It was run as a private club, I think so that they can sell alcohol and we were required to sign a joining form. They had a small outside veranda where we sat for a drink before our meal which was good ole TexMex.
Thursday 29th January
The breakfast here was better than the previous La Quinta Hotel's. There was scrambled egg, bacon, sausage, cereal, yogurt, toast, boiled egg, waffle and as much coffee and fruit juice as you want. After a hearty breakfast we set off for "Motor Home Specialists" which was just a few minutes away. The RV dealership was huge, we had never seen so many RV's in one place. We quickly found the FR3 and ACE models that we were interested in. There was no restrictions - not like the UK - all the vans were open for you to access and powered so that you could try all the moving parts. We quickly decided that it was still the FR3 that had the most going for it. The only advantage the ACE had was the lighter wood and upholstery which we preferred.
We went to the office and spoke to Robert Easley, the salesman Tony had arranged to meet. He showed us around the site in a golf buggy because of the size of the place. We then went off on our own in a buggy to have a look at some of the other makes of RV and a couple of second hand vehicles. After a thorough look around our minds were made up but we went away to ponder on it overnight.
Friday 30th January
Back to the dealership this morning ready to buy the FR3. We had a final look at the van with Robert on hand to answer any questions. We signed the sales agreement and paid the deposit, hurray, we had very nearly bought an RV! Left the dealership and went into Alverado town centre for a look around. The town was started some time in the 1840's and still has some victorian shop fronts around the old square.
We decided that we needed to go out and celebrate, as we had nearly bought ourselves an RV, and found a bar out on its own down a farmers road near the railway track called Turkey Creek. It was a long low barn type building with an up and over door at one end. Inside there were pool tables and a shuffleboard game, in the middle of the room was a long bar and at the far end a small dance floor and stage. It was full of locals and had a nice lively atmosphere with plenty of country music playing in the background. The staff were really friendly but again we had to show ID because it was a 'private club'. We ordered drinks and studied the menu, I ordered a sandwich which when it came had so many layers of food it was stacked! We sat soaking up the atmosphere when I guy came over to us to ask what we'd had to eat as he hadn't been there before. We quickly struck up a conversation and he invited us to sit with him and his wife and son. Joe Smith was a local firefighter and liked a lot of things English, particularly some of the tv programmes. We had a really good chat and swapped phone numbers. Joe said that we must contact him if we needed any help with anything, he would be only too pleased. I think this demonstrates why it is easy to feel relaxed here there is something genuine, open and honest about people. After Joe and family left we stayed on for a while to watch the Kareoke, it was a bit mixed on the talent front but all good humoured and fun.
Saturday 31st January
We decided to explore the nearest town called Burleson. There is a good open air shopping complex where we found everything we needed. First stop was JC Penny department store for towels. I recalled the last time we were here it was a good store for linen and I think Chris and Dave sent us towels from there for our wedding present in 1979. Well the quality is just as good and we ordered two sets of towels for the RV. Next, to the pet store for a look around. Whilst we were there several dogs were bought in from the animal rescue centre. It was so sad to see them in their cages but they looked well cared for and hopefully would find a home by the end of the day. We spent some time in Camping World which has everything you could want for an RV, Including bed linen which is sized to fit the slightly smaller King size bed in the RV. Loaded with bags, we made our way back to Alverado. On the way we stopped off at a couple of RV parks to check them out for after we have picked up the RV. We want to stay around the area for a while to check that everything is working okay. The first place was more like a residential site and we didn't think it suitable for us. The second was more of a holiday park and we liked the set up much better.
We now need to transfer the money to pay for the RV but the exchange rate is really poor at the moment, therefore we're now looking to see where we can get the best rate. Tom tried to get us on FaceTime but we couldn't hold the connection. He is 19 on the 1st Feb, which for him is today as he is fifteen hours ahead . We managed to get Tom on WhatsApp. Went back to Turkey Creek for dinner. There was a band on later in the evening but we were too tired to wait!
Sunday 1st Feb
Roads very quite this morning, it was unusual to see no trucks. Carried on with our shopping expeditions in Burleson.
Monday 2nd Feb
Spent most of today sorting out the money transfer to buy the RV. Our bank came up with a reasonable rate this morning, much improved from the 1.44 they were offering on Friday. With that sorted and the money in our dollar account we went into Motor Home Specialists. Our problem now was that MHS advised that their local bank did not have a SWIFT/BIC code. Lloyds (our bank) require this international code before they will transfer money. This is normal with international transfers so that the bank can trace where the money is going. We thought this strange particularly as they have dealt with international customers before. The outcome was that we paid their bank a visit in Alerardo. The bank was quite plush with wood panelling and flowers arrangements. There were two tellers sitting behind unguarded desks - no glass screens. The money was moved around by shuttle in air pressure suction tubes, similar to those used in the Birmingham Co-op in the 50's. We explained our difficulty and the lady we spoke to only vaguely understood what we needed but eventually she came back with a recognisable BIC code. As usual it was all very hospitable, coffee was offered and the use of a conference room so that we could contact our bank. I think the problem was that they didn't deal with much international business, it was all very local and it seems some local banks are not on the SWIFT system and need a clearing bank (that can charge a fee) to do the transfer - Wells Fargo bank was mentioned.
Tuesday 3rd Feb
This morning Tony concentrated on getting the car registered. The Virginia plates belong to Peter and need to go back to the DMV in Virginia, and our temporary trip permit only lasts 15 days. On Roberts recommendation Tony went to the Civic Hall in Alverado where they handle local DMV payments. The process includes getting a certificate of Title and Registration which includes various tax fees, including a sales tax totalling 169.63 dollars. The vehicle requires a safety and emissions inspection which was carried out by a local garage and cost 40.75 dollars. Once all is done the office issues you (there and then) with your licence plates to fix on the car. There is also a sticker for the windshield to show one years registration, so we now have our Texan plates.
Wednesday 4th Feb
We received confirmation this morning that MHS has received our payment and we're all set to go! Checked out of the hotel and went to MHS for our vehicle orientation at 1pm. Arturo was the technician that showed us around and gave us the low down on all the systems. We were certainly glad that we made a quick decision on our purchase, there are no longer any FR3's left in stock. The RV was in a covered bay, hooked up to power, with propane for the heating and gas hob and a full fresh water tank. There was a starter pack with lots of useful bits and pieces, plus a tool kit. The fridge was stocked with water and a bottle of Chardonnay! We were all set to stay the night at the dealership which allowed us to get familiar with the van and check out the systems. It was a cold night with a chill wind blowing across the Texan plains, however, we were very snug in the RV and the propane heating worked well.
Thursday 5th Feb
We had found a few snags on the RV that needed fixing, like a leaky water pipe which was done promptly. Next we were shown how to fix the trailer to the RV so that we can tow the car. We then said our goodbyes to the MHS staff who have been very good and made the process easy (the only snag we had was the BIC code). It is a really professional outfit with a 100 staff and they sold 2000 units last year.
We couldn't believe it, after all the planning and organising, at last we were on the road in our FR3. Tony said it was very easy to drive and it felt great being so high up with a big view through the giant windshield. Our first trip was just down the road to Rustic Creek RV Park. We decided to stay around the area for a week to ensure everything was working alright with the RV before we ventured further afield. For seven nights we paid 240 dollars, one night free inclusive of electric and city water connection.