Weathering the Storm on our Way to Red Bay
Traveling the country we have run into all kinds of weather from 114º heat to torrential rains & flooding to 6″ of snow. One concern was always what we would do in severe weather. As we headed out from the Rally in Perry, GA we drove into one of the many spring weather systems that the south is famous for with flash flooding and tornado warnings.
We had a stopover planned back at the Oxford Campground in Anniston, AL and we arrived before the sky opened up and the rains began to pour. When we pulled in the campground manager, Cathy Ferrell, took great care to inform us of the upcoming bad weather, pointed out that the storm shelter was in the office building and bathroom, and confirmed we knew the code to enter. Her exceptional care of her campers was greatly appreciated. As we waited for the worst of the weather to get to us we were able to make a quick trip to the grocery to restock after the rally, prepare dinner, eat, and then we closed up the coach, pulling in the slides to protect it from the expected high winds. When the tornado siren sounded we grabbed our Go Bag and headed for the office. We waited out the storm, watching the TV in the office, with Cathy and the few other campers that decided to seek shelter. The worst of the storm passed just 14 miles north of us with tornadoes that hit Jacksonville, AL and the Jacksonville State University. It was a long night but we learned a very valuable lesson … ALWAYS check to see where the storm shelters are as you are passing through tornado ally!
(This video is a tad long at almost 7 min. but for those who miss southern thunderstorms and love impressive lightening displays – Enjoy!)
The next day we proceeded on our pilgrimage to the Tiffin Service Center in Red Bay, AL. Each company has it’s own way of dealing with their clientele and at first glance you would think Tiffin’s process was antiquated. Can’t make appointments???? What’s with that? It was time for the snowbirds to head north so it is one of the busiest times of the year at the center but as it turns out their system is most beneficial to those seeking service on their RV’s. You may have to get a queue number, then wait in line – and for some that was weeks! – till it is your turn in a service bay but once you are there the level of service is incredible and you get your techs for as long as you need them.
We were really lucky that we bumped into the couple back in Memphis that told us we didn’t have to wait at the service center for our number to come up but that we could wait elsewhere. This was fortunate as Red Bay is a small rural town with very little to entertain you for weeks on end while camped in their parking lot campground. We made a lot of changes to our plans but in the end it worked out perfectly. We got our queue number on the way to the Rally then our 2 1/2 week wait to get called passed while we were entertained, educated, and socialized in Perry. When we did arrive back in Red Bay our queue number had gone from 28 to 1. We were first on the list to get in a service bay the next day.
As with any new vehicle we had a long list of repairs and warranty work we needed to have completed – everything from replacing a broken A/C unit to fixing our slide outs to reworking some of the woodwork inside. Our list of 40 items (from very small to some not so small) was efficiently handled by our techs Marion and Michael. They were incredibly patient, knowledgeable, experienced, and ingenious when it came to solving problems. They spent two and a half days fixing everything they could in the regular servi
ce bay and then after the weekend we were able to check in at the cabinet bay only to find we had a 2 to 3 day wait to get in to have the work done on the bathroom wall which was coming loose and a few other minor woodworking issues. Two days later we got the call to be in the cabinet bay at 6 am. Since they were so backed up they were bringing in the techs extra hours to handle the backlog of snowbirds. The cabinet guy had our wall fixed in a day and next up was the paint shop. We have an area around a headlight that needs repainting but the wait for the paint shop was going to be another 2 weeks so we decided to hold off on that work until our next trip south as we needed to get to PA rather quickly. (More on that later)
One of the other great things about how Tiffin manages their service center is that you can stay with the tech and they will teach you everything you need to know about your coach. Jonathan was able to stay with them each day and learned how to repair and maintain all of the systems on Shadowfax. Joanna on the other hand was only called upon when it was more of a design question so she spent her days waiting in the customer lounge chatting with others who where waiting and putting together puzzles.
Over the weekend while we were waiting for the cabinet shop we walked around town, did laundry, and drove an hour over to Florence, AL to go to the closest Target and Publix. Once we knew we would have a longer wait, on Monday we took a tour of the Tiffin Factory. Again, we were really surprised by how Tiffin allows you to be up close and personal with the company. The tour was directly on the production floor where we could see coaches being built from sheets of cherry wood being built into cabinets to finished coaches heading over to be painted.
Our second free day while waiting we decided to drive over to Huntsville to see the US Space and Rocket Center. This is an amazing museum and space camp. Jonathan was reliving his dream of being an astronaut (he did apply while in the Navy) and even Joanna really enjoyed herself.
After we finished up in the cabinet shop we had one more morning with Marion and Michael as they replaced a window in the door that was leaking then the next day we packed up and headed north.
Three years ago when we had started looking for the “adult coach”, as we like to call Shadowfax, we had heard about Tiffin’s excellent quality and service and it was a major reason for us choosing this coach. With the issues we had started having we were beginning to question that decision but after our two weeks at the service center we are now convinced Tiffin’s reputation is well deserved. We will have to come back in a few months (hopefully after all of the snowbirds have gone north and the queue is much shorter) to have the painting done and a headlight replaced but this time we know how the system works and we are looking forward to a short stay in the little town in northwest AL.
Now we have headed north …. more on that next time!