For people who own a Tiffin motorhome, a trip to Red Bay, Alabama, where the company is headquartered, is like a right of passage. Owners travel there to get warranty and repair work done at the Tiffin Service Center or one of the many local businesses owned and operated by former employees. The town is kind of a one-stop shop for all things Tiffin.
What we’d noticed in our conversations with various Tiffin owners, however, was that few of them had many positive things to say about their visits to Red Bay. While everyone seemed to agree that the people who live and work there are very nice, the impression we got was that Red Bay itself was a very small town in the middle of nowhere with very few options for things to do.
And it turns out, that impression was correct.
And to be clear, this isn’t about Red Bay’s status as a small town. We’ve been to plenty of little towns in out-of-the-way places that we thoroughly enjoyed and would absolutely recommend to others. From great scenery (Winthrop, WA), to fascinating history (Lone Pine, CA), to charming surroundings (Mackinac Island, MI), to creative art (Truth or Consequences, NM), to one-of-a-kind organizations (Kanab, UT), we’ve found all kinds of reasons to love all kinds of tiny towns.
But Red Bay doesn’t really offer any of those things. The scenery is pretty unremarkable and the list of unique things to see and do is limited.
The list of “standard” things to do is limited, too.
There are no movie theaters, no bowling alleys, no mini golf places, no bookstores, no cafes, and no nice downtown areas to stroll and browse.
Making matters worse, Red Bay is dry – alcohol is not sold in stores or restaurants.
And yes, I know, people can have fun without drinking. But alcohol fuels a lot of entertainment related businesses and when you take it out of the mix, it leaves a gaping hole.
In other words, you don’t have to drink beer to appreciate the fun of visiting a brewery, playing cornhole, and sitting around a fire pit with your friends. And folks who drink nothing stronger than Diet Coke can still appreciate watching a football game on a TV at a sports pub. And you don’t have to like wine to enjoy a nice restaurant with a pretty patio on a warm sunny day.
Anyone can enjoy any of these places without having a drop of booze. But when booze isn’t permitted, these places often don’t exist.
And so it is with Red Bay – the town’s handful of restaurants are fine for having a quick meal, but they’re not the kind of places people linger, and there are no establishments that encourage people to just come in and socialize.
Honestly, what was so striking to me was just how much of a missed opportunity the whole place is.
The fact is, most economically depressed towns are economically depressed for a reason – they’re in an isolated area where no one passes through, or there are no strong local industries, or a natural disaster or economic downturn has set them back.
Red Bay doesn’t have any of those problems. In fact, it should be an absolute boom town – especially given the last decade when RV travel has exploded in popularity.
This is just one row of motorhomes at the Tiffin Service Center while we were in town. The place was absolutely packed with (bored) people waiting to get work done.
You don’t have to “build it so they will come.” They’re already here!!
And I get it – maybe the people of Red Bay like it the way it is. Fine. But I’m just saying, if some local resident was like: “I would like to make a bajillion bucks,” he could totally make a bajillion bucks. All he’d need to do is get the alcohol laws repealed, open a brewery, set up a menu involving burgers and duck fat fries, hire some local musicians to perform a couple nights a week, and then recruit some youngsters to transport the wheelbarrows full of cash the brewery would be making from the bar to the bank.
Wheelbarrows, people. Wheel. Barrows.
Sadly, of course, as I am reminded again and again, no one cares what I think, and the result is we got marooned in this beer-less, burger-less, duck fat fries-less town for way longer than we wanted. And that all comes down to Tiffin.
Time for a new subheading…
Tiffin – Doing Things the Old Fashioned Way – Even When the Old Fashioned Way No Longer Makes Sense
Anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time knows that I have nothing but good things to say about our motorhome. It has been a solid and reliable home on wheels that has never stranded us and has provided us exactly what we hoped for many years now. And I’ve had nothing but good things to say about Tiffin as a company – they’ve stood behind their product, resolved the few issues we’ve had, and, provided excellent customer service.
But the actual experience of visiting Red Bay to get work done left a lot to be desired, and while many die-hard Tiffin fans will defend the company to the death, I think there’s value in being honest about things that could improve. Just because something “has always been done that way” doesn’t mean it should continue to be done that way forever. And that’s the whole thing about Tiffin – it operates exactly as it always has – for better and for worse.
On the good side, they stand behind their product and excel at customer service. Bob Tiffin, the owner of the company, is famous for actually picking up his phone and talking to the irate owners who call to gripe about whatever they’re mad at. Word is, he’s unfailingly nice and will bend over backwards to help make things right.
On the bad side, they insist on handling their business the same way they did 50 years ago – no matter how much their business has grown. In real terms, that means they take customers first come, first served – so your visit to this little beer-less, burger-less, duck fat fries-less town may last a couple days or a couple weeks. You won’t know until you’re there and your best source of information is a crowdsourced Facebook page where people share their current wait times.
Of course, all of this may change soon because Tiffin was recently bought out by a huge company, so perhaps the new owners will modernize things, but for us, we were stuck in the 1985 version. You know, the one where you register for your service by filling out a bunch of paperwork. With a pen. Like in the olden days.
Then, after they take your papers they send you off to go find somewhere to park while you wait for your service.
There are a couple “campgrounds” sprinkled around town – most of which are just tiny, unstaffed, first come/first served gravel parking lots with hook-ups that cost $25-$30 per night. (If your motorhome is less than a year old you can stay on Tiffin’s lot for free. Everyone else has to find a commercial site.)
Fortunately, about 3 years ago, someone had the bright idea of opening an actual campground in town! Heyyyyyy! There’s an idea! A campground!! With grass and a pond and a dog park and a store and a restaurant!
A place where people will happily shell out $60 per night to stay in a decent place with some actual amenities. WOW! Why did no one think of that before??
Seriously. Why did no one think of that before??
Tiffin has been in Red Bay for FIFTY years and it wasn’t until 3 years ago that someone decided to build an actual campground. And that campground was busy the entire time we were there. And we were there in February – low season.
And that’s my whole point. The opportunities for a town like this are endless. And yet…
Anyway, when you check in at the Tiffin Service Center to get on the wait list, the person at the front desk gives you a piece of paper to stick on your windshield. Then, every day, a Tiffin employee drives around town looking for those pieces of paper stuck on windshields. This is how they figure out where the new arrivals are staying. Once they find you, they knock on your door so they can go over what you need to have done and try to give you an approximate wait time. Then, at some point, your phone rings and someone at Tiffin tells you to bring your motorhome over to their service bay (‘right now’) to get your work done.
Now, could all of these things be done easily and efficiently with an online system? Could customers pre-register, make an appointment, reserve a site, and update their information online – reducing all of this unnecessary paperwork, and employees driving around town looking for new people, and customers sitting around waiting for their phone to ring and having to rush over to the Service Center?
Yes. They could.
Tiffin could just drag themselves into the 21st century and improve this entire process if they wanted to.
But hey! What has anyone ever accomplished by prioritizing efficiency to improve their customers’ experience?
Barney Goes to Red Bay
So, if this place is such a headache, why did we go there? Well, it goes back to what I said above. Tiffin is a good company that stands by its product.
Our motorhome came with Flexsteel furniture. Unfortunately, for several years, Flexsteel used a defective type of upholstery that eventually breaks down and falls apart. Like this:
It’s been a common, industry-wide problem for many years now.
When I emailed Tiffin to let them know we were seeing this issue, they offered to send us replacement covers to install on our own or, if we were willing to come to Red Bay, they would replace the upholstery for us for free. Since we wanted to have our carpeting re-done anyway, and we had a couple other mechanical issues we wanted to have addressed, we decided to just go to Red Bay and get everything done at once.
We arrived on a Sunday, checked in at the Tiffin Service Center to get on the waitlist, and went to our campground. On Monday, the drive-around-looking-for-new-people guy found us and told us the wait for regular work was 3-4 days, but that our upholstery work would be done by a different section of the company and we would have to check in with them separately.
So, on Tuesday we headed over to the furniture department to touch base with them. We waltzed right into the warehouse because this is Red Bay and no one cares what you do…
…and wandered around until we found the furniture division where we saw our name written on a white board below several others. (The white board is the high tech system they use to keep track of who’s waiting for what work.)
The manager of the furniture shop said he might be able to get us in at the end of that week. He said he would call when he got a better handle on their schedule.
On Thursday, we had an appointment with MSRV, one of the more popular outside vendors, to get our carpets replaced and to fix a couple minor interior items. They were great – quick, efficient, and they did high quality work.
The very next day, we were happy to get a call from the Tiffin Service Center telling us to pack up and come on over for our non-furniture repair items. I tossed the dog in the car while Kevin drove the motorhome to Tiffin. As instructed, he parked in a designated waiting area, plugged in, and then waited for another call in which they would tell him which specific bay to go to.
A few minutes later, he got a call telling him to drive over to Bay #8. I watched as he drove into the bay and assumed it would be just a minute before he came outside.
However, a couple minutes later Kevin texted me: “They’re going on their lunch break, so I have to wait until they’re back to talk to them, and if I leave the garage, I may get locked out, so I’m just gonna sit here.”
We had been warned by folks at our campground that nothing, and I mean nothing, comes between Tiffin employees and their lunch breaks. All of which is fine, but we wondered why they didn’t just tell us to drive over to the repair center after lunch? Wouldn’t that have made more sense?
Yes, it would have made more sense.
But in Red Bay, no one cares what makes sense.
Eventually, they got back from lunch, and started work on the list of things that needed attention – the driver’s seat electronics which would fail intermittently, and a problematic driver’s door power window.
However, after nearly two hours they called to tell us the seat electronics were all in good working order and they didn’t have the right motor to fix the window. Apparently, after taking the door apart to look at the motor, it took them almost two hours to send someone over to check inventory for possible replacement motors. Assuming that’s true, I, apparently, have more capability to check the inventory at DSW shoe store from my home computer than a Tiffin employee has to see his company’s inventory from his work station. If it’s not true, they just slow rolled our appointment so they wouldn’t have to take in another customer after us and they could call it a day (quitting time is 3:00 p.m.)
Even better, when we got home, Kevin noticed the door was now misaligned, so he took it apart and fixed it.
Later, he ordered the correct window motor and fixed that problem too.
So the whole thing was a gigantic waste of time.
And so ended week 1.
The next week begins and I start my daily ritual of staring at my phone willing the furniture guy to call.
He does not call.
In between staring-at-my-phone sessions, I walk around the campground and take note of our neighbor’s windshield solar cover. It is awesome.
This reminds me of another windshield cover I saw several years earlier in Kentucky:
It, too, was awesome.
I try to figure out which one is more awesome, but I cannot make a decision. Badass monochromatic murder-cat, or adorable colorful snuggle-floof?? Who can say which is better? Certainly not me. I just wish we’d gotten a cool one of Thor. #missedopportunity
Anyway, all this (completely pointless) deep analysis of camper decorations reminds me of the many campsite signs we’ve seen during our travels, many of which feature the last name of the people staying in the site… And since I have an unreasonable amount of time to kill, I spend several hours digging through my old photos looking for this gem:
Who knows? Maybe he liked camping…
In any case, while Red Bay may be slowly sucking the life out of us, the good news is the weather has been downright SPLENDID:
but also this:
Additionally, somewhere along the way, Kevin scratches his eyelid which somehow gets infected, necessitating a trip to the local walk-in medical care center for some antibiotics.
As day after day passes with no call from the furniture guy, we start to feel desperate. We begin celebrating even the tiniest of victories, like discovering these absolutely delicious frosted brownies at the local Big Star Supermarket.
Seriously – I’m not being sarcastic. These things were LEGIT!
Sadly, the Big Star is located directly across the street from a huge dog food plant.
Pro-Tip: If you’ve gone your whole life having never smelled dog food being made, consider yourself lucky and steer clear of Red Bay.
As the weather continues its positively delightful trend:
we begin thinking about our propane supply. Our electric heat only works to about 40 degrees. Below that, we rely on our propane, which provides a much higher quality heat, but we burn through it quickly.
Fortunately, in the middle of Red Bay, Alabama, the town that Tiffin built, where hundreds of motorhome owners camp on any given day of the year, and where it routinely gets very cold, there will be plenty of propane to go around, right? I mean, clearly, whomever designed Red Bay Acres Campground just 3 years earlier will have installed a giant propane tank, and there are probably numerous mobile propane distributors who service these campgrounds, right?
Can you see where this is going? Of course, you can.
Yup… No propane tank at the campground and no mobile dealers. According to folks on Facebook, there’s a tank behind some hardware store in Belmont, Mississippi – 20 minutes down the road.
Why???? Why is this town so utterly unprepared to deal with the clientele who show up all day, every day?
Fortunately, Thor is a highly perceptive dog who knows exactly how to make every situation better.
Question for a dog: “95% of the dog park is grass. 5% is mud. Your parents have just spent a pile of money to replace the carpet in the RV. It’s 40 degrees out. What do you do?”
But it gets better…
In an attempt to clean him off before he wrecks our brand new carpets, we wash him off with a garden hose. Thor, who loves swimming but hates getting wet, fights us tooth and nail as we try to rinse him off. That results in me getting soaked. That night, I notice my feet are terribly red and inflamed. Some quick googling reveals that I have a case of Chilblains – a condition where your skin becomes inflamed from being exposed to cold and damp. So now, I’m cold, bored, and my feet feel like they’re on fire.
Fortunately, just as we’re about to give up all hope of ever getting out of Red Bay in one piece, the furniture guy calls!!
It’s Friday and he says they can pick up the driver and passenger seats that afternoon and start working on them.
And they do!
Somewhere during this time, we get to go out for lunch with Bill and Beth – nice folks who happened to be marooned in Red Bay at the same time we were. And our old buddy, Jon, is at Red Bay Acres for a couple days too… so we get to see him.
Things are really looking up and we reward ourselves with a celebratory tray of delicious Big Star frosted brownies:
All goes well and by the end of the day on Monday of week 3, the furniture folks return us beautifully reupholstered chairs:
which don’t last 3 minutes before:
But we don’t even care because now we’re really cookin as they pick up the first half of our couch…
and then the second!
And then, just like that, at the end of the third week of our incarceration, the jail guards toss us the keys and tell us to get gone.
New upholstery, new carpets, and everything looks great…
We hightail it through Alabama,
Tennessee, where we spend the night at a very convenient, very affordable Love’s campsite:
and all of southern Virginia…
…before finally making it back to Washington
where Thor promptly barfs on the carpet.
Next up: Our recon trip to Lisbon!
If Portugal doesn’t work out I suggest that you run for mayor of Red Bay. Or even just the head of the chamber of commerce! Every single point you made was completely correct but also obvious. There is a huge market waiting to be served there — it’s remarkable that no one has been motivated to offer lodging, dining, or entertainment options for the captive audience of Tiffin owners. In any case I commend you guys for making it through the process with your humor intact. My head would have exploded after about a week. But I’m sure the upgrades are going to be worth it when you get into the sales process. New carpet has to be a HUGE plus in a used motorhome.
I think a lot of this comes down to the explosion of RV travel in the past 10 years. Before that, I imagine people would show up for service, wait a day or maybe two, and then be on their way, so there was probably little incentive for the town to build out infrastructure and entertainment options. And who knows? Perhaps the whole market will collapse again, but for the here and now, RV manufacturers can’t keep up with demand for new units and they certainly can’t keep up with demand for repairs on existing units, and as long as that remains the case, there are going to be a lot of bored people sitting around places like Red Bay. It is insane that no one is taking advantage of that.
As for Barney, we’re sure hoping this will all be worth it in the end. He undoubtedly looks a lot better today than when we took him in for service. The upholstery itself was a huge negative, much less the carpet. Fingers crossed he’ll find a new family quickly.
You made an interesting point about dry towns, I never really thought about it that way but I think you hit the nail on the head … yup you should definitely give up Portugal and run for mayor of Red Bay 🙂 But seriously OMG what an ordeal!!
And I know it was not nearly as funny for you as it was for hubby and I but thanks to Thor for the absolutely hilarious blog end.
LOL. I cannot see, hear, or write the word “barf” without giggling. It’s my inner 6 year old, I guess. I’m glad I’m not the only one. 🙂
GEEZ! – Thanks for mentioning the small towns that made a name for themselves as tourist destinations. Red Bay could easily capitalize, since it already is a captive destination town.
Tiffin certainly makes great motorhomes and stands by them, but what an awful customer experience. I thought you might be taking a bit freedom in describing Red Bay, so I looked them up. You’re take is spot on! Altho I did find they have a 9-hone disc golf course, but not where to buy a disc. Does Amazon deliver there?
Haha… I promise, I cannot make this stuff up.
I actually did not know about the disc golf course. I know there’s a regular golf course in the next town over, but we’re not golfers and it was February, so that wouldn’t have worked anyway. But good for them on the disc golf. That’s progress!
As for Amazon, I’m sure they would. My guess is it might not be 2-day delivery, but I am sure you could get stuff eventually. And since no one ever gets to leave, what’s the rush? LOL…
???? okay, your last sentence made me laugh right out loud. Which is good, because Thor in the mud made me twitchy. You should have gotten a pallet of those brownies, they look delightful!! Sorry about the chilblains. I’ve had them for years. They are a b…..
Sometimes I think Thor was put on this earth to make you twitchy. 🙂
Sorry you have to deal with Chilblains. If I never have that again, it will be good by me. That was not fun.
And yes, if they made larger containers of those brownies, we definitely would have grabbed them. They were de-lish!
OMG — I have to stop reading your posts when I’m having my first cup of coffee. Sorry for your travails but I LOVE how you make such salient points and give us all a very good morning read, complete with ‘dog barf on new carpet’ (which everyone with dogs understands.) Portugal must be looking better and better each day (well, almost, once all the paperwork gets done?) But, i am extremely curious about the temperatures you reported (not in July, right?) We all understand if you’re just a tiny few months behind in blog posts …after all, YOU’RE Moving!!! CindyP
Ya know, I almost added a sentence in there about how dogs always throw up on carpets, but I figured all the dog owners would already understand. I’ve yet to meet a dog who didn’t consider it his life’s goal to puke on every carpet he could find. It is TRULY remarkable. 🙂
As for Portugal, it definitely gets hot there in the Summer, but not like what they’ve been seeing this summer. This is a crazy heat wave just like our crazy “heat dome” a couple weeks ago. It just happens every couple years. I’m sure it will be more common going forward because of climate change, but normally, Lisbon sees temps in the mid 80s in July.
As for the blog, I am terribly behind, but hope to get caught up soon. (LOL. Just kidding. That’s never going to happen. 🙂 )
Oh boy, there are so many comments I could make on little things they could do to liven the town and improve service but they would be for nought.
Glad you made it through that painful ordeal and are rolling again. Hopefully that is the last time you see that town!
I am a big proponent of never saying never, but I can say with absolute certainty that I am never going back to Red Bay again.
As a 2007 Phaeton owner with tons of work to be done we are NOT Even considering going to Red Bay hell. But your account was very perceptive and funny.
Thanks! The nice thing is there are plenty of good service providers around the country now, so you really can avoid it. Hell, absent the upholstery issue, we never would have gone at all.
??? OMG this is HILARIOUS!!! From your absolutely perfect blog title to the last sentence. But I know it was not funny at all while you were living it. The whole scenario of your Tiffin experience and your description of the town of Red Bay has a distinct Twilight Zone vibe. I know at some point I would have thrown an epic hissy fit, but then I would have been even madder because clearly, it wouldn’t have done any good. Three weeks in Red Bay.. That is just insane. And the highlight of your time there was purple-frosted brownies. I’m so glad you guys are on the other side of that nightmare.
I mean, the purple frosted brownies were SERIOUSLY delicious though. I’m just sayin. 🙂
You’re completely right about the twilight zone. It feels like you’ve just stepped back in time and are in a completely different reality. The funny thing is, we heard that the Tiffin family members don’t even live in Red Bay. They all live in various places like Muscle Shoals and Florence, where there are things to do.
That tells you something.
I would spend time typing out how sorry I am for you, but I’m laughing too hard. This might be funnier than the Yelp post!!!
Aw thanks, Shelby! I like that my misery will at least bring some happiness to my friends. LOL 🙂
You nailed it! I’m never going there again. We’ve been twice….first time for 3 weeks or so. It isn’t just the Tiffin Company that works the old fashioned way….ask me how I know! The second time was in and out in 5 days! I think it was a record. But for the record, all of our work was done by post Tiffin companies…we love MSRV Solutions. Especially grumpy Carl. Thanks for the memories and the laughs this morning. Oh, oh! One more thing. Red Bay Acres….do you think that maybe they should have built a laundry facility? Duh! With a beer bar? Duh!
I KNOW!!! RBA was just crazy. So well done, but then they just skipped really important features that are standard for most every campground. I swear, every time I looked over at that beautiful restaurant with the large deck, all I could think was “how cool would it be if that place was a bar?” They could have TVs inside to entertain folks during colder months and have lots of outdoor seating to let people enjoy the pond in warmer months. But no. “No fun for you!! And no propane or laundry either!”
We loved MSRV too, and yes, had quite the discussion with Grumpy Carl. He’s a trip!
I think Thor’s final “comment” summed up your experience perfectly!
Maybe I should have just posted a picture of it instead of writing all these words???
I can understand wanting to do things the “old fashion” way but nit at the expense of customer service. Lack of quality work and customer service seems to negate the reasons for not automating. Obviously they are struggling with keeping up with the popularity of RV life.
Three weeks is a long time to hang around for the end result which you could have done at home. How do people with jobs deal with this?
It was like you were being held prisoner. I assume you couldn’t go on any excursions while waited because you could be called in at any time. Wow.
And getting Chilblains! What a nightmare. I’ll never go out in the cold barefoot again.
I believe if you’re having major work done, there’s a way you can leave your RV at Tiffin, so for people who have a house, I think some will just drive down, drop it off, and then wait until it’s ready, but for people with less extensive repair jobs, or for full-timers like us, you just have to wait around. As for doing excursions, had we known we were going to waste that entire second week sitting around, we honestly would have driven up to Memphis or Nashville for the week, but since we had no idea how long it was going to take, we just got stuck. And yeah, Chilblains… I never heard of it before, but now that I’ve experienced it, I’ll be happy to never deal with it again.
I can’t decide if Red Bay is hell on Earth or just purgatory. Either way, you deserve a medal for surviving it. And if Portugal doesn’t work out, consider moving to Red Bay and running for mayor. With your list of ideas, you’re a shoo in!
LOL. I think my mayoral platform would basically be: ‘Bring on the booze.”
Opening statement at the debate: “I mean, did Jesus turn water into milk? No, he did not. He turned it into wine. I rest my case.”
These folks will DEFINITELY vote for me!
LOL! I can relate to this post so well! That’s one part of our RVing we don’t miss AT.ALL. I’ll miss all the Thor photos when you move to Lisbon. Although if Thor wants to stay in the US…. We got plenty of space…. Just saying.
I know you don’t miss Red Bay at all. I cannot even comprehend how you didn’t lose your minds after all the time you spent there.
As for Thor, I promise, the photos are NOT going to stop when we move to Lisbon. Living with a dog who has that much ability to create chaos means life will never be boring.
PS: He told me to tell you he misses you too!
When it rains it pours. Cliché, but when it happens in a place like Red Bay, it probably feels even more true and desperate. I’m glad you eventually got everything done. The upholstered seats look awesome. I love your way of writing about things going wrong (it’s luckily the afterwards perspective after it’s all done and over with) – funny and sarcastic. And I adore the photo of Thor lying near Kevin’s lap. Maya sometimes does this as well. So cute!
Thanks, Liesbet. It is undoubtedly more fun to write about things like this after the fact than during. I realize it’s all “first world problems” but it’s miserable nonetheless. Writing about it while it’s going on would probably seem whiny. Seeing the humor in it after the fact can at least make it somewhat entertaining.
And yes, for all his faults, Thor is one hell of a cuddly dog. I can totally see Maya being the same way. Love it!
Your posts are at their best when things are at their worst for you, so this presents a conundrum. Do I wish only for sunshine and happiness going forward, or…? You see what I’m saying here. If you could embrace suffering for my entertainment, that would be great!
I do not know how you guys could stand Tiffin’s “system.” It wasn’t a highlight of our travels at the Newmar facility in Nappanee IN by any stretch, but holy buckets, they had it all over Tiffin in that regard, and most of their workers are AMISH (i.e. they cannot drive the motorhomes.) I am as mystified as you about WHY they operate the way they do. I’m also curious as are others as to why you’ve chosen Portugal over making your millions in Red Bay. Obviously, THOR likes Red Bay. Has it in for carpet, but loves Bami! I’ll bet you those millions that neither of us has that the big, new owner of the Tiffin brand (who is that, anyhow?) will change the face of little old Red Bay, Alabama. Roll Tide!
Chilblains suck, and I suggest you never get them again.
Ah, it’s ok to wish for turmoil. It does make for more entertaining blog posts. I mean, really, who wants to read about sunshine and puppies all day? Give us some good disasters, debacles, and trainwrecks to read about!!
As for Thor, he was very appreciative of the dog park at our campground and he made some great friends there, but once the rain and snow set in, he was less enthralled. And outside the dog park, there weren’t many safe places to walk and wander. There are no sidewalks and we ran into several unleashed, untagged dogs walking around, so I think life in Red Bay would be pretty limited for Thor, too.
As for the new owners of Tiffin, it’s Thor Industries – the same company that bought Jayco, Airstream, Heartland, Entegra, and Keystone in recent years. I’m not sure what their plans are over the long term. I’ve already seen complaints among Tiffin owners about shortened warranties and less quality control, but I’m not sure if that’s them or Tiffin itself, being overwhelmed with all the folks showing up in Red Bay for work.
And yes, agreed: Chilblains was no fun. At all.
Ugh! At least you have the capacity to look at it “post process” and make the rest of us laugh out loud. In this day and age, it amazes me there are dry counties anywhere. Or that a customer service center still exist using pen and paper (and a high tech whiteboard). Hope you are making Portugal headway and enjoying Washington.
Thanks, Laura. It is, indeed, shocking that there are still dry counties and giant companies who don’t make use of the amazing technology now available. It’s all ‘charming’ until you’re stuck in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere with no end in sight.
Portugal planning is coming along – it’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” though, so we just do what we can when we can and try to keep the sleepless nights to a minimum. Hope everything is good with you two!
OMG, I feel your pain (because my trailer company is almost that old-fashioned…) but I also howled with laughter reading this. Which I needed because I finally hit a campground with zero cell reception during the day (it was great last night but I got work to today so, of course, I’m sitting in a McDonalds, slowly eating my fries and drinking my diet coke while I listen to some old-timer locals discuss the weekend’s yard sale hauls. Lord help me…). Of many favorite lines, I think this one nails it the best:
“I, apparently, have more capability to check the inventory at DSW shoe store from my home computer than a Tiffin employee has to see his company’s inventory from his work station.”
Ugh… I tell you – one of the biggest things we are looking forward to with “settled life” is consistent, reliable internet. It is so incredibly frustrating that it’s still an issue in so many places. Talk about being stuck in the past… I hope (and expect) the campground’s views are worth it, though!
We love Red Bay.
The dining choices are superb. On Trip advisor, the Red Bay Yacht Club is the #1 restaurant. The Number 2 restaurant is the food counter at Piggly Wigley. I like Piggly Wigley’s fried Chicken with vegetable combo because they count Banana Pudding as a vegetable.
#4 is Swamp Johns, which is a restaurant in the back of a Gas Station. The reviews say it is filthy and the Fried Catfish is good.
One correction to your post. In Alabama, the break at 11:00 is for dinner. From what I understand, they do not have a lunch time.
At the end of our Annual Red Bay trips, we are always well rested and happy with our repaired coach. Red Bay does a better job then any where else we have gone, and usually at a much lower cost.
Glad you are still posting.
Wait. Do you think they really think a banana is a vegetable? Honestly, nothing would surprise me at this point.
And yes – the early starts. OMG. Why????
So much why….
But yes – you are correct. There’s a reason people still go there. The work quality is great and the prices are excellent. If they’d just fix some of the rest of this stuff, it would, I daresay, be an enjoyable place to visit each year!
Thank thank thank for the Red Bay tail…I will keep this blog forever and forward it to my friends who question “why doesn’t Mary (spouse) go with you to Red Bay?” ???. You hit the nail on the head with this perfect description of Tiffin’s process and the Red Bay shuffle ????. We’ve been to RB way too many times…more to come I’m sure ?♂️
Ya know, when we saw our friend, Jon, he was without his wife…. Turns out, she too made the very reasonable decision to say “Oh hell no… have fun with that” to her beloved. LOL. Mary is clearly very smart to stay far away. Haha.
BTW, if you ever need work done and you’re in the northeast, we’ve had good luck with Connecticut Motorcars. They do almost all Tiffin work and when we needed stuff taken care of under our warranty, they handled everything directly with Tiffin, no problem. For non covered work, their prices are pretty high, though. Still… it’s not Red Bay.
I don’t know where to start: “No Booze City, No Booze City” (to the tune of No Name City) and the Baptists– who haven’t a clue how to run anything well – run cities all over the deep south – or, why RV manufacturers in the US are situated in Tornado Alley. Like you say, “makes no sense.”
Thor Industries owns Airstream as well. Airstream is located in Jackson Center, OH and the town would be almost nonexistent without the plant. Airstream owners visit Jackson Center by the thousands every year and there is no real established campground. You can stay in a free lot with full hook-ups on the company property, but it is in not a developed campground – and, like Tiffin, you can be there for weeks. I’ve often wondered why a local entrepreneur doesn’t build a luxury campground with services in one of the corn fields near the Airstream factory.
These RV manufacturing towns seem to depend on the self-reliance of RV owners and don’t think of us as customers. If we go ape over grocery store brownies (I know that brand is good – most of my family is from Alabama) just imagine what else we’d throw money at.
The lunch-time is also sacred at Airstream, and the staff is wonderful, kind and thoughtful. Small town charm is largely due to the customs and politeness people are raised with … ok, the Baptist are good at something but they have not a clue about business. My dad’s small town in a gorgeous area of Mississippi is actually proud that they have no public attractions like bike trails, public pools, water parks or coffee shops and being a dry county seems to seal the deal. Booze opens a pandora’s box of fun stuff and prosperity that they just can’t tolerate in those parts.
And yet, Alabama is full of great mechanics. My dad is one of those guys. Alabama is one of the best states to break down on the road. I have many stories about good ol’ boys – Black and white, pulling up with a trunk full of tools and getting people up and running and accepting nothing other than handshake.
Great Post! And, Oh! Thanks for reminding us about Winthrop and Kanab! Somehow those places escaped our list.
Safe & Happy Travels!
Yep, you totally get it. Great mechanics, kind people, but holy crap… why is no one taking advantage of this situation? And since when are public works bad? Who doesn’t like parks and pools and bike trails? I get not wanting to pay for it, but not wanting it at all? What the hell?
I didn’t realize Airstream’s facility was located in a similar blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town. I guess it probably just comes down to maximizing labor and minimizing costs. Interestingly enough, when talking to a former Tiffin employee about all this, I asked why Tiffin didn’t invest more in Red Bay. He laughed and said “Oh they don’t live there. None of them live here.” It turns out, he was right. All the Tiffin family members live in places like Florence and Muscle Shoals – they drive an hour to and from work each day in order to live in other, more developed cities. He also told us that Tiffin employees max out their salaries within a year or two. So the guy who’s worked there for 3 years is making the same money as the guy who’s been working there for 20 years. It’s like a how-to guidebook on how to make a local economy stagnate.
Terrible. All of it.
Totally agree with Sue!! Thor definitely gave his opinion. Everything looks wonderful but what hell you went through. Ugh!
Look, I totally get and appreciate Thor giving his opinion, and his opinion was completely reasonable and justified. I just wish he’d “give his opinion” on the easy-to-clean tile rather than the nightmare-to-clean carpet. Is that so much to ask????
Thanks for the funny (as always) and honest post about Red Bay. We are planning longer trips in a class A or Super C (if we sell our class B) and looking at the usual companies including Tiffin and Newmar. Reading accounts like yours with the “first come first served”… I just can’t imagine doing that even while full timing… that reason alone would push me to a scheduled service at Newmar. Maybe it will change with the new owners but why in this era would anyone bother with the old method?
Also I am very very interested in the Portugal plans you have. We are in our early 50s and wonder how hard it would be to move there and getting a work visa for me. Do you need to be sponsored by a company or just be employable? I am an accountant and could technically work for any company so I am interested to follow your experience. Also do you get healthcare insurance there too?
If Newmar’s repair services are better, it’s certainly a check in their column, but you should know that there are well regarded Tiffin authorized service centers that do good work and can keep you out of Red Bay. We managed to go 6 years without ever visiting, and absent the issues with the upholstery, we never would have gone at all, so it’s something to consider, but it’s just one factor in the larger calculus.
As for Portugal, there are several different types of visas you can get. https://www.portugal.com/travel/guide-to-portuguese-visas-types-of-portugal-visas/ We are seeking a D7 by showing we make enough income off our investments to be able to support ourselves while living there. It’s a pretty low required amount – just 8,000 euros for a single or 12,000 Euros for a couple. (That doesn’t mean you can comfortably live in Portugal on 8,000/12,000 euros per year, but it’s the amount of passive income they want to see.)
Some people get that same type of visa by showing they are remote workers or freelancers who can generate enough income to support themselves, so finding a company in the U.S. that will allow you to work overseas would probably be your best bet. You should know, however, that the government tightens up requirements regularly, so the best option is to generate passive income – rental homes, investments, pensions, etc. That’s what they really like to see. (Their main goal is making sure you are spending money in their economy and not becoming a ward of the state)
As for insurance, once we’re residents, we’ll technically be able to take part in the national healthcare system, but we will have private health insurance that will cover us in the private system. Everything – medical care and medical insurance – costs a tiny fractions of what it costs in the U.S., so it’s one of the most appealing factors.
I have to laugh at everything as so much of this is exactly true. Red Bay is definitely an experience – but what makes it great are the people you meet, the stories that are told, and just sharing tips and tricks for your Tiffin. We stayed at the Service Center and we call it the “Tiffin Parade” each day as the Tiffins rolled out from service for the day with their faithful tow vehicle slowly behind. We had happy hours just to watch them roll by…yes Happy Hours….you have to make beer/wine runs and you always ask your neighbor if they need anything too.
Yep, we met several very nice people at our campground and it was easy to chat given that we all had so much in common, and one of our neighbors even mentioned that he visits the town at the same time every year just so he can catch up with various friends. That’s definitely the way to do it! Happy travels to you!
AH, dry towns/counties one of the many ‘fun’ things about the south. Funny how they never mention that fact on their tourism website. I just don’t get why they still exist. Yes, back in the day when travel was by horse you could cut down on alcohol consumption. Now it just drives sales tax revenue to another place.
I don’t know how you dealt with the Tiffin service ‘system.’ I would have gone nuts. The upholstery does look very nice. We’ve only had to go in for coach service overnight once. I highly recommend NIRC. They really get full timers, we stayed overnight prior at their place (with power) before our appointment and they got us out in the time they estimated.
I’m excited to learn about your recon trip. We were there for 2 weeks in the middle of March and got rained on quite a bit. Lisbon is too big of a city for us but, I imagine you all would like it coming from DC area.
I’ve been inspired by you and Joodie and am researching setting up a blog (I did have one for my travel agency and for the charity I volunteered for but, those were different animals).
I completely agree. I have no idea why these towns still exist. Especially when there’s a town 20 minutes down the road that sells alcohol. Like you said, they really are just giving up tax money to their neighbors. None of it makes sense.
Having work done really is one of the most stressful things about fulltime RV travel. It’s even worse when you have a dog, since so many places won’t allow them. There have been multiple times over the last couple years that we just drove around in the car and tried to find a park or a coffee shop with outdoor seating to kill time. We will not miss that aspect of RV life at all.
As for blogs, I’m a huge proponent of them. Absent this site, we never would have met most of the people we’ve hung out with on the road, and we would have completely forgotten half the things we did. It’s just such a great way of capturing your memories and connecting with other folks. I hope you’ll start one – and send me the link!!