The Red Bay Experience

Vehicles and homes both require regular maintenance and repairs.   Todays RV’s  combine a home with all the features of a stick built home on top of a large vehicle.  Add in the complexity of entire sections of the RV that move out when parked and pull back in to travel down the road. On top of the complications of a home on top of vehicle, it gets shaken up like an earthquake every time it is moved from one place to another.

Everyone that owns an RV needs to find a place to get their RV worked on. Well for owners of Tiffin RVs a frequent location is Red Bay, Alabama. Red Bay has two primary industries – the Tiffin Motorhome Company and Sunshine Mills (makers of pet food and treats).  Tiffin maintains a large parts and repair facility that can address most issues.

There are two ways of getting service at Tiffin in Red Bay – you can make an appointment or just show up and wait for an opening. Depending on the time of year, for example when the snow birds head to or from the south, showing up without an appointment can mean waiting a few weeks or more to get in. We knew we had a few things to be addressed and would be in area during the middle of the snow bird migration, so we decided to make an appointment.

Our Red Bay Experience started with the making of the appointment. Tiffin makes a limited number of appointments each quarter and they go very quickly. Four times a year Tiffin opens the appointment flood gate right after midnight two months before the quarter.  The process is to call in right after midnight and leave a message. Tiffin then returns the calls in the order they got them and schedules appointments until they are all taken. They know it is a crazy time they start calling people back soon after midnight. Red Bay is in the Central Time zone and we were in the Eastern Time zone, we had to wait until 1:00am to call. Of course the line was busy – Leslie and I each started hitting redial and we got thru to leave our message about five minutes after the hour. Since we knew they would start to return calls – we stayed awake. We were ready to give up and get some sleep about 4:30am when the phone rang.  It was Tiffin – we were number 48 in line.  We wanted an appointment around the 17th or 18th but the whole week was already taken so we got a Friday Oct. 14th appointment.

The repair facility at Tiffin does not deal with issues, such as engine, generator, and transmission oil changes. Since our RV is part vehicle we made an appointment for engine, transmission, chassis, and generator service once we got settled in the repair facility campground. Our vehicle is not like the average car – it weighs about 17 tons, takes about 2.5 gallons of oil but they still put it up on a lift to do the work.

Senerity on a Lift

Senerity on a Lift

There is not a lot to do in or around Red Bay so people talk to each other about the fact there is not much to do around Red Bay, the fact there are very few restaurants in and around Red Bay, how long they have been here (some for five weeks now) and what is wrong with their coach.

When waiting for your RV to get in for service, hearing about rotten wet bay floors, fiberglass on roof rails that crack, plywood floors in slides that delaminate, ceilings that sag, etc.,  causes additional stress. Walking up and down watching front and rear caps being replaced, slides being removed, slide floors being replaced, roof rails being cut out of coaches and entire skins being replaced also add to the stress while waiting for ones RV to go under the knife.

Pulling Slides and Replacing Caps

Pulling Slides and Replacing Caps

You need to show up the day before the appointment to get all the paper work in order so we needed to be here on Oct. 13th. Due to our lack of hot water we got to Red Bay on Wednesday the 5th, hopping they could get it fixed before our appointment time.  We then got to understand more of the Red Bay Experience – waiting.  They got us in after the weekend to repair the broken water hose. At first they had no idea how to get to where they needed at first, but soon figured out they had to cut a new access panel through the vanity in the bathroom and then run a new hose from there thru the slide and reconnect it to the hard line under couch. A great way to start our repairs at Red Bay – with a saw.

Vanity Access Point

Vanity Access Point

Once the water hose was repaired it was back to waiting until our appointment time came around for the rest of the repairs. Our repairs started on Friday the 14th, the first day they fixed our slide that was making a loud noise when we pulled it back in.  It turns out the center of the slide celling dropped down a bit and was getting stuck under the sidewall and would ‘POP’ when it came back in. They had to jack up the front edge and attach it higher (you can see the wood that is pushing up the center in the picture below).

Slide Repair

Slide Repair

The repairs continued for a couple of hours on Monday.  When they started our repairs we would told that our RV has the ‘roof rail’ problem. The roofs on Tiffin motorhomes are molded fiberglass. The rails are the curved part of the roof that comes around and connects with the sidewalls. There have been problems with stress cracks developing that can leak if they get big enough. Tiffin has been cutting the rails out and replaces them with molded aluminum.  Tuesday our RV went under the saw to have the rails replaced.  

The picture in the upper left shows some of the stress cracks, the upper right shows the roof with the rails removed. The lower left shows the forming of a 40 foot long aluminum rail. The lower right is the installed rail before caucking and painting.


Roof Rail Repair

Roof Rail Repair

Today we got the rails painted – a whole day process – more waiting.

 We have one item left on the list – replacing a window that has condensation between the panes. If that gets done early enough we get to pay our bill and leave after living the Red Bay Experience for a couple of weeks.


Appointment Time

It is finally Friday. We got up at 6 to make sure we had everything ready for our appointment at 7am. The folks here work 7-3 or 4 so they can get off in time for their kids after school events and/or time to go hunting. It’s a different kind of place here. The grocery stores close at 8 pm and most of the town is rolled up by 9. So we have reset our schedule to be on “their” time so it is not as annoying when the neighboring rigs fire up their 450 HP Diesel engines at 6:30 am.

So we got up and rolled over to Bay 10, our designated bay. We met Chad and went over our list of things to be done. He wondered off to talk to all the others that would need to help with different aspects of our project.

The first thing he tackled were the wires that somehow got trapped under one of the walls when the rig was being put together. He got them stuck back under and then moved on to the screw that stuck up through the carpet in the bedroom. Next the awning for the bedroom slide was replaced. He worked on the bedroom slide we have had problems with and added rollers. We discovered that the one bedroom slide we have had issues with is actually an Electric slide (oh the jokes I could make) instead of a hydraulic slide. We were slightly relieved because our good friends Char and Forrest have had problems with their hydraulic slides lately and I was concerned we might have a similar issue. All 3 of our other slides are hydraulic.

Another repair guy came by to consult about the shower door and said he wasn’t sure if they had one of the doors since nearly every shower is different on every model. He was quite impressed by the plexi-glass door we had jury-rigged. He came back a little while later and said they had procured a door for us and would be by later to get it set in. The next item on the list was checking the bottom of the one slide for something Bill noticed. I don’t know and don’t want to know what was wrong. Heh

Then came the driver’s side slide. The first time we put it out it didn’t POP like it had been doing (of course) so I ran it out and knew as it settled in it would POP later. Now a few months ago we were packing up to go and when we started to run that slide in it POPPED. It sounded like something was catching but we had no idea what. Each time we moved we would watch the slide go in and couldn’t for the life of us see what was catching. It got to the point where every time I pulled the slide in my whole body would tense waiting for the POP and my shoulders have been the worse for it. About the 4th time it did it I decided I had to find some way to avoid it until we could get to Red Bay. When I would put the slide out I started to put it out only 95% of the way and then it wouldn’t do it when we retracted it.  After most of the other things were done I asked him if we wanted to try the slide again. Well when I told Chad what it was doing he told me some popping and cracking noises are normal. Then as he stood there and POP his eyes widened and he jumped. Well it’s not supposed to do THAT.

I retreated outside while they started looking at it because they kept running it out and back in POP and again POP. I was standing 20 feet from the RV and POP. I jumped and apparently squeaked loud enough to get a couple other people’s attention so they went in to see what that was. Three different guys came looking and I ran away. I went in the waiting room and waited. After a while the curiosity killed the cat and I came looking. They had pulled the wood trim off the slide and while I was standing there they wanted to show me what it was. POP and I was gone again. LOL

Lunch happened and then they came back and got it all fixed up. The slide was going out so far that the ceiling portion of the slide would catch. They had to pull the metal trim that holds the slide together off jack up the roof and put it back together. One more check off the list.

The shower door was next and that was done without much fuss. On to the odd whirling noise in the a/c and the foggy windows and the Sirius radio. Then we will be done. Doubting we will get done today but most of it will be. Whew. I can’t wait to be done so we can make our way south to see my niece oh and everyone else and Disney. Grin

Pictures to come.

Red Bay, Alabama and Tiffin Motorcoach

Red Bay, Alabama is a fascinating little place (emphasis on Little). The campground here at Tiffin’s repair center is in constant motion. About 6:30 am the diesel engines start to rev. The repair crews start at 7am and you have to be lined up in front of your bay when the garage doors open. Then all day long they move in and out.

We arrived in Red Bay last Wednesday a week and a half before our appointment. You may ask why we got here so early. Well Monday morning when we were preparing to move the coach south we were moving the slide in and heard a POP. Then shortly after we noticed the water pump was not shutting off. The hose we have had so many problems with officially bit the big one. We knew we were not going to be able to fix it this time so we headed straight in bypassing many of the places we had planned to stop. We stopped only twice and had 2 very long days of driving. Bill was able to shut the water off to just the hot water so we could still flush the toilet but we decided to come on in.


When we arrived on Wednesday the campground was full but we got into one of their electric sites for the night. The next morning they had a full hook up site for us (but since we couldn’t use our water anyway it didn’t matter much). We moved into site 53 and met the neighbors. Everyone at the park here owns a Tiffin Motorcoach. They range from tiny little 30-foot C Classes to giant mammoth sized Zephyrs. Everyone here also is here for repairs of some sort or another. One couple needed to have tiles replaced. Another has woodwork being done. People are having satellites installed or refrigerators replaced.


In our case besides the hose we need a few repairs. An RV is just like a house in many ways. You have typical repairs that have to be done when things wear out. The thing is RVs are also like Vehicles so there are those types of things too. Oil changes, filter changes, new batteries. The difference is my MH (motorhome) has 8 batteries instead of just one. Also my tires are much bigger so they cost 3 to 10 times what normal car tires cost and there are 6 of them. We have a list we have been compiling. We have awnings to be replaced. We need blinds repaired. We need slides oiled and adjusted. We need electrical things adjusted. So instead of leaving and coming back later in the week we decided to stay and really get a feel for how things work.


Bill has spent a lot of his time walking through the bays. Sometimes I complain about some of the things we have wrong with our RV and I can feel a little overwhelmed. Well this feeling goes away very quickly for me when I walk into the bays and see the people that blew half the electronics in their coach when there was a power surge and they did not have a surge protector.

So many stories.

BBQ Again

So it has been a while since we have had good BBQ. We began in Florida in April and headed up the coast. We had the wonderful mustard bbq in South Carolina and some more decent bbq in North Carolina but when we reach Virginia we began to have a few issues. The bbq in Virginia was heavily loaded with cinnamon, which I was unhappy about. We had so many other options for food that we just stayed away from bbq for a while but then in Boston I got the hankering so we looked up a place in our BBQ book. It was far less than appealing. Bill liked his ribs but my pork and brisket came in half an inch of grease, which I might have been able to work around if the sauce had been any good but it wasn’t.


After that we just gave up. Well 8 days ago we left Maine and started south. I knew that soon I would have good bbq. Well 2 days ago we had a hot water pipe break so we cancelled the next two weeks of plans and headed due south.

Today after driving a full 400 miles (over 8 hours) we got to one of the most beautiful parks we have ever stayed in.

We are east of Nashville, Tennessee in Crossville for the night and I knew once I crossed the Mason-Dixon line I was going to have to find some bbq. We got the RV set up and headed out. The lady in the office suggested Big Boys BBQ or Lefty’s. We saw on Google that Big Boys had a 4 star rating so off we went. I ordered the pulled pork sandwich with beans and potato salad and a sweet tea. Bill got the ribs with beans and cole slaw. I then noticed they serve banana pudding, a specialty at good southern bbq joints so I ordered some to go. The bbq was very good. Not the best we ever had but very good. The sauces were both excellent.

Just had the banana pudding and now I know why they sell it in gallon sized containers (no I got half a pint). It had fresh banana slices (full slices!) and full nilla wafers. So lovely! It’s good to be south again!