Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Red Bay, AL

As I arrived in Red Bay, Alabama, my first reaction was "wow". That's a deflated wow with a lower-case "w". I immediately thought of all the places we drove by crossing California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi; we couldn't stop to see anything in order that we reach Red Bay and allow ourselves enough time to get the RV fixed to make our August 5th Baltimore deadline. A lot of lost opportunities the past few days.

Our one stop on this cross country journey was to be Red Bay, Alabama. Whenever I visit a new place, my mind immediately starts imagining what it would be like to live there. With Red Bay, my anxiety level shot up with an internal voice yelling, "Run for the hills"! Then I realized, "Wait, I am in the hills"...

Red Bay is the opposite of Silicon Valley or NYC or Chicago. This is small town USA, population 3,500, where 90% of the radio stations are Christian-based and the local financial institution is the Community Spirit Bank.

Once we arrived at the Tiffin campground (aka gravel parking lot), it was immediately apparent that we'd be here a few days, and that was if we were lucky. There were easily over 100+ Tiffins parked waiting for service, with license plates originating from all over the country.

As I was taking this photo a man quipped, "Better get a good shot because when you are still here 3 weeks from now there'll be a whole new groups of rigs." (The sarcasm was not lost on me.)
Tiffin has 49 service bays available.

So many Tiffins coming through here was bringing into question, for me, the quality of these RVs. My growing skepticism was fed by the questionnaire that the service desk handed Vince to complete; it had room for 60 line items of fixes. I felt we were underachievers with only 19 problems to report. (If only we had included the faulty blinds; that would have made it an even 20.)

Resigning to the fact that we'd be stuck in Red Bay for at least 4-5 days, I decided to proactively research the community and try to understand what it offers.

I started with a tour of the Tiffin factory. I learned that Bob Tiffin started Tiffin Motor Homes in 1972 which today employs about 1,200 people. That's 1/3rd of the town, making the continued success of Tiffin critical to keeping this community going. This is a town where the topic of "jobs" resonates.

The Tiffin production line was very interesting on many levels. About 90% of the raw materials are sourced and components made in the immediate area. The exception being that the windows are imported from Turkey. I was surprised that photographs were allowed to be taken so I took several.

All the wood is cut on site.
The interiors are custom made.
Sarah enjoyed her factory tour head set and glasses.
Assembling the house on top of the chassis.
Water tanks: Fresh water on top. Gray and black water below.
High-end flooring cut on site.
Ready to add the slides. (Hope they work!)
Fancy ceiling detail.
About 2-3 miles of wiring goes into each RV.
The kids sitting in a 1976 Tiffin Allegro. The interior represents the period well.

After the tour, we went out to the Cypress Cove Farm on Mud Creek Road. It's essentially a Tupelo swamp with Cypress trees and apparently is a good place for bird watching. It's rife with insects and it was only about 10 minutes before Sarah got bit by something leaving a huge welt on her leg.

Sarah looking for birds and bugs.
Paul claiming the island.

Red Bay is in a part of the country where the hybrid car is still a novelty. While waiting in my idling Prius for Vince to return parts at the hardware store, I noticed a man signal to me, pointing to his ear. I rolled down the window and he asked, "Is your motor running?" I responded, "Yes". He and his wife were astonished (as they couldn't hear anything). He asked if it was true that the car can get 50 miles to the gallon and I affirmed the rumor was correct. These two were blown away and it was funny for me because I see so many Priuses on the road. They asked how much I paid for it and if parts were expensive; I didn't mention that I was about to order a new fuel tank at a cost of $915…gasp.

Having been cooped up in the car and RV for so many days, we decided to check out the Rattlesnake Saloon, for dinner, which is deemed the "watering hole under the rock"...and it is. Very fun and great live music. I noted beer is only served after 5pm and began to clue in that this is a pretty dry area we're visiting. I also observed there were women with babies present who were not yet old enough to drink (i.e., a red "x" on their hand courtesy of the id check).

Even if you are 20-30 miles away from this place, it's well worth the trip.
Super acoustics under that rock.

On Sunday, I felt the kids needed to get some physical activity (code for a lot of bickering taking place) and so we set out for the Red Bay Family Water Park. It's comprised of essentially 4 small swimming pools, one of which has 2 water slides. I'm certain the pool with the slides wouldn't be allowed in most parts of the country; those who know how to skim across the water's surface can scoot across and slam into the outer wall of the pool. This becomes a contest for the adept sliders. Who can surf across the water and slam into the wall?

James, followed by Paul, coming down the slide. Sarah cheering them on as they pass by.
Despite efforts to make the chin bandage stick, it fell off within 15 minutes. Hope I applied enough sun screen to that scar to keep it protected...

I thought the adult pool was a hoot; only about 25x15 ft, it's not long enough for laps and there isn't much adults can do in it but sit.

The Family Water Park has a wading pool for grown ups.

While Vince and I watched the kids, I checked out the concession stand and found the Pickle Sickle for 25 cents. These folks aren't wasting anything.

Pickle Sickle = Frozen dill pickle juice.
Vince had to try the Pickle Sickle.

It was recommended that we take a look at Coon Dog Cemetery, in Tuscumbia, a resting place for hunting dogs. We were told it was "way out in the sticks". (Huh? I thought we were already out in the sticks.) It ranks #5 of things to see in the area, if that gives you a clue of how little there is going on here. Note that recommendation #3, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, is closed due to lack of funding.

Check out the sign; looks like someone's been hunting.

Many of the graves had pennies and other coins left behind. Googling why people leave coins, I found out that it can either be a symbol for someone visiting the grave site or it can mean that someone made a wish, left the coin, and hopes the deceased will help make the wish come true (something similar to tossing a coin in a fountain).

All the graves had flowers (artificial).
A dog dish was left at this site and a dog's collar was left on another grave marker.

For dinner, we went to the Cardinal Drive-In, a nod to the 1950s, where you place your order from the car.  It's the first time I've seen "a cup of cheese" on the menu.

I'd like to order a cup of cheese, please, with a heart attack on the side.

With the abundance of heavy food in this area: Batter-fried pickles, fried green tomatoes (yum), biscuits and gravy, grits, hush puppies, fried catfish, etc, it wasn't surprising to see this sign at the only gas station in town.

Could it be diabetes? It will be if I stay here much longer.

On Monday, we decided to drive up to tourist attraction #1, Ivy Green, the house in Tuscumbia where Helen Keller was born. Helen's story is pretty remarkable and it was worth the trip even though the tour was very light and lasted about 12 minutes. With the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, the blind and deaf Helen learned to communicate, read and write, ultimately graduating from Radcliffe College and writing 13 books.

At day 5 in Red Bay, practically any outing is worth the effort.

On Tuesday, LandShark finally was called into a Tiffin service bay. Hurray! The good news: The forward port slide was fixed, the front heater was fixed and several other items on our master list were repaired. The bad news: A part in our rear starboard slide was identified as being cracked which could wreak havoc when exposed to a lot of wet weather. Do we feel confident about the UK having a dry spell this winter? Nope. Thus Vince arranged for Tiffin Service to make the repair on Wednesday with painting on Thursday.

Meanwhile, I went to the Joe Bishop Toyota Service department in Tuscumbia to get a new fuel tank installed into my Prius. It was a 3-hour project. The good news: There was wifi and I could finally finish this blog entry. The bad news: I was subjected to CNN and a lot of FUD; cable news is really painful.

We're now left with 3 days to drive from Red Bay to Baltimore with no buffer. This is beginning to feel a bit like "The Great Race". Will we make it?

1 comment:

  1. wow... just wow.

    Good thing you had the original buffer to allow you to have the extended stop in Red Bay. It almost sounds like the Tiffin quality assurance issues are designed to drive tourism in the town.

    Looks like it's only 12-13 hours of driving from Red Bay to Baltimore. Hopefully you'll still make it there by Monday.

    Good luck!