Has it really been a year already? Almost.
Therefore, it was rime to leave our beautiful wooded COE campsite for the converted runway / parking lot known as the Tiffin Service Center. Nothing like feast or famine with us sometimes. So like a swallow to Capistrano, Tiffin owners like us return to Red Bay on a regular basis.
But each destination we enjoy has their own purpose. Lake parks are there to rest, relax and enjoy Mother Nature. Tiffin Service Center in Red Bay Alabama is where things get done. Our year warranty on everything in our 36LA expires on August 25th, so we needed to get ourselves back to the Mothership. Our last trip here, which we detailed in multiple posts back in November of last year, centered on repairs needed to our coach following our Liquidsprings rear suspension failure. A failure brought on not by a flaw in their product, but in their documentation on how to operate it properly. Lots of things broke as a result, and immediate repairs were needed at that time. Our Tiffin coach was built so well that we probably wouldn't have needed to make that trip to Red Bay back in November, but this trip is needed to get lots of little things corrected that we've found in our year of living on the road.
Lots of things are still the same at Camp Red Bay; still the 55 or so brand new (within one year of purchase) Tiffin coaches lined up on both sides of the old converted runway. Lots of money tied up in motor homes here from $450k 45-foot diesel Buses to $180k 33-foot gas models, and everything in between. Our Open Road gas brethren seem to be better represented now than back in November, and the color schemes have changed. Less Sunlit Sand (black, white, gray and red), and more Waterfall (blue instead of red highlights), and the newer colors like Smoky Teal and Fire Opal (black, dark gray and red) are better represented. It's refreshing to see people go to more striking colors instead of the same ol' same ol' browns and grays that many manufacturers use.
And it's nice to see our bright blue, gray and white 36LA standing out among the rest. (Just sayin')
COVID-19 has had it's effect on Camp Red Bay operations as well. Used to be two technicians in every Regular or Express service bay. Now there is only one technician in each Regular bay, with three “floaters” to help where extra hands are needed. Tiffin is definitely not back to full strength yet.
Interesting note not related to the Service Center, but we took a drive out past Tiffin's Belmont paint facility, and where there used to be a parking lot full of completed coaches waiting to be delivered, there now sits 5 Open Road gassers like ours, and 4 large diesel models. Frankly there were as many Vanleigh 5th wheel models waiting for paint (five) as there were any one type of motor home. Kinda disheartening to see.
The check-in process is still the same, with the addition of masks. Give the office your paperwork and wait for Jason to come around the next weekday morning to discuss your issues and give you his estimate of where you're going to be placed – Express or Regular bay – and a roughly right estimate of time for any specialty bays. We were given a couple of days notice for a regular bay, but paint might take a few weeks. Apparently there are a lot of bad Tiffin drivers out there, because there are a rash of damage repairs going on right now.
So expecting a few days wait, I get out the grill and the chairs and Barbara gets out her induction burner to settle into some serious Tiffin socializing. Then 2:30 that same day, we get the call to be in Bay 34 at 6:45 the next day.
Now don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining one bit about next day service. Maybe they like us, maybe we got lucky, or maybe the gods were just smiling down on us, but either way, things now need to get back into their bins and bays for movement the next morning. Such is life at Camp Red Bay. Our list isn't very long, and Shane (our Tech) figures he'll be about 2-3 days before he hands us over to mechanical, who will then hand us over to paint.
One other change due COVID-19 is that owners can no longer stay in their coach while technicians are working on them. Used to be it was a great way to learn how things are put together, and how to fix them on the road if need be. Owners with large dogs could not do this due to liability issues, but we had hoped that with Grover being so much smaller than Taz we could have taken advantage of this during our second time here. Alas, it was not meant to be. Owners can no longer stay in their coach during service.
Which brings us to another aspect of life in Red Bay; what to do for 8 hours each day in northwest Alabama when you have a dog. Tiffin has expanded their pet friendly lounge to accommodate the larger number of dogs who can no longer be in their coaches, but you (and the dog) still need to be restrained by a leash, so it's not as if you can take a nap in a leather chair or sit and read comfortably.
And it's hot. We're talking mid-summer, humid-as-all-get-out hot.
Tupelo, MS is about an hour away. Been there, done that, last trip. And we still have Grover. You can drive the Natchez Trace; a wonderful parkway running through Tennessee and Mississippi. It's pretty if you're going from Point A to Point B, but not so interesting if you have to reverse direction halfway through your day to get back to Red Bay. And you can't go too far away in case they finish with you early and have to vacate your service bay for the next guy.
We did explore a really interesting park, Tishomingo State Park just over the border in Mississippi last time we were here, and we decided to check it out a little more closely for potential camping sites when we get finished here. Turns out there are a few good sites both level and long enough for our 36LA that might come in handy at between $16 and $24 per day. It also has some great walking trails that Grover really seems to like.
Those activities got us to about 10:30 each morning. 5 more hours in Alabama heat to go before our 3:00 pickup time, so we sit outside Tiffin's Allegro Club under a shade canopy and fans, and socialize with other Tiffin owners. Grover just looks at us as if to say, “When do I get back into air conditioning”?
Such is life in Red Bay, Alabama.
The socialization aspects of Red Bay is something which has to be experienced. It's not like a typical campground. You have about 25-30 coaches parked diagonally across from another 25-30 coaches facing each other on each side of what once was an old airport runway. Depending on the time of day and season, instead of having your chairs under your awning at the side of your motor home, you put your chairs at the front of the RV and just wait for other Tiffin owners to walk by. And again, there are no Winnebagos or Newmars here; only Tiffin owners.
So invariably, in addition to the usual personal information or great camping sites being swapped, talk ends up discussing our particular rigs. Or on Tiffin as a company. Come to find out, our 36LA is a pretty well-built coach compared to many others here. Our 2-page list of items needing to be looked at turned into a 5-page work order for Tiffin. One customer last week had an 80-page – eighty pages! - work order of things needing attention on their much more expensive Allegro Bus. Are we as nit-picky as many Bus or Phaeton owners are about the imperfections we might see in our 36LA? Probably not. We don't sweat the small stuff like many of these owners with too much money on their hands who didn't do their research like we did before buying their units. And truthfully, Tiffin has had more quality issues in coaches coming out of the factory during this COVID-19 crisis. Thank God ours was built last year.
Shane finishes our list by Thursday afternoon, and now it's time to wait for the call to mechanical for jacks and thumping. Another week at Camp Red Bay is in the books, and the weekend awaits!
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're planning the ultimate retirement experience - travel the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, play golf and stop at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.