Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lost in a sea of Phaetons

April 8-14, Red Bay, Alabama

We arrived in Red Bay, Alabama, home of Tiffin Motorhomes around 6:30 Sunday evening.  Thinking this is such a small town, we thought it would be easy to find the Tiffin service area and campground.  Not so and the GPS was of no use. We pulled into a large parking lot to unhitch the Jeep and have a look by car but had the good fortune of a fellow camper stopping to see if we directions to the campground.  A few minutes later, Dave, a friend we made in Cortez, Florida, drove up and also wanted to be sure we knew where to go.  How great to feel welcomed and taken care of by people in the same situation we would be in--waiting for service in a large parking lot (aka campground).
Tiffin "campground"
The main industry in this small town  (population about 3300) in northwest Alabama is the manufacturing and service of Tiffin Motorhomes. We came here to have work done on our motorhome before the one-year warranty is up on April 15. April is one of the busiest times of the year to come here as many snowbirds make this an annual stop on their trek back home. The lucky ones who have booked an appointment six months ahead arrive knowing they have a campground site with full-hook-ups and pre-arranged time slot for their issues to be addressed.  Others, like us, arrive and enter a queue, often beginning our Tiffin experience in a dry camping lot.  After one night in the dry parking lot (no hook-ups), we were told we could move to a lot with elec and water. After submitting a list of repairs, we are to wait for a phone call or a guy in an old beater car to come to our motorhome and tell us when to be at the service bay. The third day we moved to the main lot with full-hook-ups, a promising move towards something happening.  There are about 150 other motorhomes in the lot and conversations with many prepare us for the long haul: some have been here three weeks even with an appointment!  We are fortunate to  know another couple here, Dave and Jean, who are helping lead us through the process (as they have been here a week already.)
A red beater car pulled up to our motorhome on Wednesday morning.  An old guy named Norris got out with a stack of papers, found ours, and had a chat with Vic outside about our repair list. He gave Vic the bad news that the replacement of the floor on our pull-out would not be done for at least a week or more. In the meantime, they would, however, be able to take care of our rather long list of minor repairs in an express bay sometime this week. Okay, we were told to bring patience with us, and we are lucky to have the time (unlike many of the Canadians who have a deadline of returning to Canada within a six month time period). We are here along with so many others because Tiffin backs up its promise for standing by their product, which often means replacing things for no cost regardless of purchase date. I have to remind myself that one of the reasons we bought a Tiffin motorhome was their outstanding reputation for service and the best place to get it is here where they build them.  (I hadn't thought about the need to go to Alabama for this perk.)
There are sixty service bays doing work Monday-Friday
from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
There is not much to do in this small town, but one highly recommended activity is taking a tour of the production line. I wasn't too interested in seeing this, but went ahead anyway, and have to say it was well worth our time. Two guides with mikes speak to you through headphones as they take you right through the workers' areas showing each station where they complete about eleven motorhomes a day. A major feature of this setting in Northwest Alabama is the intense southern accents of almost everyone who works here--that--and spitting. Apparently, this is not a tobacco-free company.
Installing a radiator on one of their custom Power Glide chassis
A view of the motorhome shell before finish work is done
on the interior and before the exterior is painted
All cabinetry is custom-made in their carpentry shop
The company prides itself in preserving relics from the past:
the sign says Gas-9 3/10, Tax 4 1/2, Total 13 8/10 cents.
I was walking back from the office with news that we should be in the express bay on Friday, when I opened the door to our motorhome only to find a sweet French-Canadian couple enjoying their lunch. My face turned all red and I explained that I thought their Phaeton was ours.  They invited me for lunch!  I didn't stay, but sure had a good story to tell Vic--if I could find him. That same night, after coming back from dinner, Vic pulled up to the wrong motorhome, and I had to point out to him that we were in the wrong space.  It's a little unsettling to be lost in a sea of Phaetons.
On Friday morning, we got a phone call to bring our motorhome to express bay #9.  You can stay in the motorhome while they are working, but the dogs need to be elsewhere.  They have a lounge that allows pets so we hung out there awhile and I also took the dogs for a drive in the Jeep just to see the area and kill time.  About three hours later, our list of nagging repair items was almost complete and now we are facing a weekend where nothing else will happen until Monday. Monday morning, we are scheduled to have some broken tiles replaced, then all that will be left is the slide repair (and maybe our cap rails on the roof).  We are certainly hoping to be finished here by next weekend, but we have a sense from talking to others this timeline may be optimistic.
Service bays on the weekend--all closed up. The campground,
at least on our row, is also more deserted as many were
 fortunate enough to have their work completed on Friday.
Dave and Jean, friends we met in Cortez, Fla
 who happen to be here with us in Red Bay
What else is there to do here? Camaraderie with others takes center stage. We had dinner together with Dave and Jean three times, once in our motorhome where they also taught us to play Tripoley. There is a decent Mexican restaurant near here and a pizza joint--but this is a dry county, so that makes eating out in Red Bay a sobering experience.  Fortunately, we came prepared to face this challenge. Of course, you can always leave the county and make a trip to a bar built in a cave, the Rattlesnake Tavern, which we plan to do tonight (Saturday).  We are also going to check out a kayaking place today and will probably take a drive into Tupelo, Mississippi tomorrow where we will visit Elvis's childhood home. In the meantime, we are practicing a zen-like attitude as we move through this phase of our travels.

1 comment:

  1. It will certainly be worth it once it is all done, but I feel your pain as there is not much to do around Red Bay. You will enjoy Rattlesnake Saloon tonight. It is a hoot...bring your camera for sure. Hope to see you down the road!


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