Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hoover, Alabama

Monday morning we were checked out of Camp Red Bay and getting our air/moisture separator gizmo changed at Bay Diesel by 8:00.  We were out of there and getting propane by about 8:45 and on our way to Custom RV in Vina, which is about 5 miles or so out of Red Bay.  This is a shop owned by a former Tiffin factory employee and he works on all types of RV’s, but obviously considering his location and background, his customers are predominately Tiffin coach owners.  Last fall he installed our supplemental braking system for the car, and we wanted to have it checked and adjusted.  Good thing we did, he found a tiny hole in the air line that connects the motorhome to the car.  He had that replaced and we were on our way to the Birmingham area around 9:30.

We made a stop to fill up with diesel and continued our travel day.  We pulled into the Hoover RV Park and were set up and relaxing by 2:00.  Hoover RV Park is adjacent to the Regions Park Baseball Stadium; it used to be called the Hoover Met and is the home of the Birmingham Barons baseball team.  The RV Park is basically a parking lot managed by the City of Hoover with hook-ups.  There isn’t even an office to check in, just a self-serve kiosk where you use their provided envelopes to pay for your site.  There are no restrooms, laundry, activity center, just a parking lot. However, the City does include wifi and cable TV in their camping fee which is around $28 per night.  We like it here because it is quiet, usually not very crowded, surrounded by woods with lots of room to walk, yet close to all the city amenities.  It’s also patrolled by the local police.

Our friends Carol and Steve live about 7 miles from here, and invited us to their home for dinner Monday evening.  It was great to get caught up with them since our last visit.  Steve grilled the best filet I think I’ve ever tasted and Carol made a wonderful salad and baked sweet potatoes.

Yesterday we got caught up with a lot of our shopping needs, groceries and vitamins and all that sort of stuff.  It took us all day with stops at 3 stores – Sam’s Club, Walmart and Publix, but I think we’re set for a day or two!

This morning Carol picked us up and drove us up to Homewood for a Penzey’s Spice Store fix.  Of course we needed a lunch stop, so we went to a local Barbeque, Saw’s:

Where we enjoyed some very, very good pork!

Just a couple of doors down from Saws is Dreamcakes, a cupcake store, you know we couldn’t pass that up:

After we were completely stuffed, we made a quick stop at the Galleria so Carol could pick up a birthday present for one of her granddaughters.  We made a quick run through Macy’s and then she brought us back home.

In between all of this activity, we’ve been watching the news on Hurricane Isaac.  Our thoughts are with everyone being affected by this storm!    I noticed that the Weather Channel reporter stationed at Orange Beach, Alabama, was standing at a spot that might have been where we took the picture I posted in my last blog, but it was hard to tell for sure because it certainly didn’t look quite the same during that storm. 

We'll stick around here for a couple of weeks, make sure everything is OK with the Castle (so far, so good), and let things settle down on the coast before we make our way to Summerdale.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What's Next?

Yesterday we were called into the mechanics bay about mid-morning.  They looked over all the things we wanted them to and, thankfully, everything looks good, so we have hopefully found and corrected all of the damage that occurred when the jack broke.  The mechanic did find a gizmo that has to do with water separation needs to be replaced, but they don’t do that here, so we will stop by Bay Diesel Monday morning to have that taken care of.

Jim stopped by the tile bay, and they said to come on over at noon, so our broken tile was replaced by mid-afternoon.  That completed all of the items on our list for the Tiffin Service folks.  We stopped by the office so they could add up the invoice.  It was not as bad as it could have been, but still costly.  However, we do have a special fund we keep up just for repairs – made a pretty big dent in that fund.

So, what’s next for us?  We have been discussing several different possibilities, but so far we think we’re going with Plan B.  That is, we will check out of the Red Bay Service Campground early Monday morning, get the gizmo changed out at Bay Diesel, have our propane tank filled and then stop by Custom RV and have an adjustment made on our “Air Force One” supplemental braking system for the car, and then drive down to Hoover, Alabama, just outside of Birmingham.

Of course, we are watching the progress of Tropical Storm Isaac pretty carefully.  The last news we saw indicated that it could be a bit rainy and windy in the Birmingham area by Thursday.  We’ll wait that out, spend a little time getting things reorganized in the Castle and visit friends in the area.

Then we think we’ll roll on down to the Rainbow Plantation at Summerdale for a few months of budget recovery.  We have in mind a few afternoons sitting in our lawn chairs, looking at this view:

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Yes, things are happening and we are getting our Castle fixed up.  Yesterday we had our new leveling jack system installed and some structural welding and reinforcement done.  The technician who worked with us gave us a tutorial on the new jacks, and we think they are going to be a lot better for us.  He also explained that for several years, the materials and engineering for the structural support of the coaches was not really adequate and they’ve had quite a few coaches that needed this reinforcement.

Today we went back into a regular repair bay and the techs did a lot of adjusting on our slides and compartment doors.  They also replaced a piece of trim that was slightly damaged last year when the new slide floor was installed.  We still need to have the mechanics check our air system and ride height.  Then the last item on the list is replacing a cracked floor tile.  

We are hoping to be back on the road soon!

Meanwhile, we’ve been staying busy.  Yesterday, while the welders and techs were working on the Castle, we took the dogs and drove up to Florence, Alabama for a quick stop at Bed, Bath and Beyond to replenish our coffee supply.  After a stop for lunch at Chick-fil-A and a stop for Jim to pick up something or other at Home Depot we were back in Red Bay by early afternoon.  Sylvia and Glenn came over for happy hour and the four of us went to the local pizza place for salad and pizza for dinner.

Then it was back to our level, stable Castle for a little TV and a good night's sleep.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

More History in Corinth, Mississippi

This morning Dortha and Mark checked out of the Allegro Campground after getting their work completed yesterday.  It was great to see them for a few days, and after hugs and handshakes we wished them safe travels and promised to see them “down the road”.  Sylvia and Glenn decided they would visit their son near Huntsville this weekend, so we were left on our own today.  We thought about visiting our friend Carol who lives near Birmingham, but decided we’d save that visit until another day.

Instead, we made a 50 mile drive over to Corinth, Mississippi to do some more historical exploring.  Today’s visit covered the Civil War battlefield at Corinth, as well as some of the town’s historical sites.

Corinth, founded in 1853, was first named Cross City because of the confluence of two main rail lines, the Mobile & Ohio, and the Memphis & Charleston.  During the Civil War, Corinth became a very important strategic location for both sides of the conflict.  In the spring of 1862, the Confederate Army prepared for their surprise attack on Shiloh while camped at Corinth.  Following the battle of Shiloh, the Union Army occupied Corinth.  At that time, Corinth was also a major location for the many wounded and ill soldiers on both sides.

We toured the museum housed in the old railroad station.  In the museum are collections relating to the history of Corinth as well as the Civil War.  One of the rooms in the museum is dedicated to Coca-Cola.  In 1906 a franchise bottling plant was opened in Corinth.

We picked up a CD at the museum that guided us around town to several important homes that were used as headquarters for Civil War Generals. 

We took a break from exploring to have a lunch at the oldest family-owned drugstore and soda fountain in Mississippi.  It was originally started by a returning Civil War veteran, Dr. Borroum, and is still run by his descendants.

After lunch we continued our tour around town, ending up at the Corinth Battlefield and Civil War Interpretative Center.  There are a couple of very notable things about this center, first, as we walked up the sidewalk to the door of the center, we noticed these bronzed artifacts embedded in the sidewalk and surrounding grass. 

 Then, in the courtyard is this water feature:

Each of the granite blocks along the waterway is  engraved with the name of a battle location or significant event in the war. 

  At each end of the pool are these engraved obelisks:

We looked at the exhibits and watched the videos about both the Battles of Shiloh and Corinth, which, according to some scholars, indicated a turning point in the conflict, although the war lasted 2 and a half more years afterward.  Even though we didn’t get to complete our planned journey to Gettysburg and Bull Run this summer, I’ve gained a much deeper and broader understanding of this pivotal conflict in our history.  Growing up in the West as I did, the history of the Civil War was not something that struck a chord with me like it did so many of my friends who grew up in the South.  I feel like I’m just now catching up with so much understanding and knowledge.

After our visit to the Interpretative Center, we dropped our tour CD back off at the museum and headed back to the campground for a quiet evening. 

I feel the need to respond to one more comment about waiting for service here at the Tiffin Facility, so bear with me.  I don’t plan to elaborate past this, I really think in previous posts I’ve expressed our thoughts and opinions pretty thoroughly and you’re all probably tired of reading about it – you can skip the rest of this post and I promise you won’t hurt my feelings!   Chuck and Anneke commented that “there must be a better way “ to provide service.  To me, “better” is a relative term.  I’ll be the first to say that the Tiffin experience is not for everyone.  We do know people who have been generally fed up with the way Tiffin handles this service facility and unhappy with the quality of the service and/or product.  But again, let me emphasize that the way Jim and I do things here is our choice.  Tiffin is a family run organization in a small town in Northern Alabama, not a big manufacturing conglomerate with a board of directors. I don’t have exact statistics about how many rigs come and go every week, but at any given time, there are always close to 100 rigs in the campground, plus 50 -60 rigs that owners bring and leave for service.  Tiffin makes a few appointments for each day; the rest of us are walk-ins.  There are 3 levels of service here.  First is the 2-hour on site service, which is new since our last visit.  If you opt for that, a crew comes to your rig at the campground and makes the fixes you need, as long as they aren’t major.  The next level is the 3-hour express bay.  Many items can be handled at that level, and people are typically here for a few days and, providing no other issues are found, those folks are on their way.  Finally, for more extensive needs, there are the regular bays.  When we check in to the campground, we’re asked if we have a service appointment.  Since we are walk-ins, we fill out paperwork that includes a list of repairs we think we need.  There is a man who comes to our rig to discuss the list and we determine together the level of service needed.  Norris always asks us what our timeline is.  If there are pressing reasons to be out of here within a certain timeframe,  they do make an attempt to fit people in.  Usually, like now, we’re not pressed for time so can wait our turn.   We’ve come here about once a year since we bought this coach in 2008.  Nearly every issue we’ve had has been related to some kind of manufacturing issue.  At the time our coach was built, Tiffin was building 13 rigs a day, probably too many for this facility.  Some of the materials they used have proven to be less than acceptable, so Tiffin is covering the repairs, even though we’re long out of warranty.  We choose to come here, like many other people, because we’re treated the way customers ought to be treated everywhere, but usually aren’t.  I talk to people here every day that tell me the same thing.  Yes, it’s kind of a pain to wait a couple of weeks to get service, but once we get into a bay, we feel we’re treated fairly, every issue we bring up is looked at, and fixed.  We’re not rushed in and rushed out; we’re treated with respect.  Yes indeed, we can and do call Bob Tiffin on occasion, and he listens to us and responds to our issues.  We’ve expressed our opinions and concerns, and we’ve also thanked him for providing the level of customer service that he does.   The last time Jim talked to him, he mentioned some friends of ours who had a Fleetwood motorhome, and waited for a long time for “Mr. Fleetwood” to call them back.  Bob got a good chuckle at that.  Even though we make comments about having to wait around here, we really don’t mind all that much.  It’s absolutely worth it to us, but remember, that’s just us.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Red Bay Chronicles, Friday, August 17

Another workweek is coming to an end in beautiful Red Bay, Alabama.  Yes, we’re still here, still waiting for our number to come up to #1 to get into a repair bay.  Maybe Monday…

Meanwhile, we’ve researched our options and have decided to replace the entire jack system with the new type from Atwood.  I can’t really explain the technical differences between the old and new, except that the old ones don’t have any way to keep them from over-extending and breaking.  The new ones supposedly have something that stops them before they get to that point.  We believe the cost of the entire new system, which will include new wiring and controls as well as 4 jacks, will be well worth it and may not be that much higher than replacing 2 individual jacks.  It’s on order and may be in this afternoon.

I’ve been doing some much needed cupboard cleaning this week.  I’ve dropped off quite a few items into the recycle box here, where people can pick up things they might like, as well as contribute things they no longer want.  I’ve also contributed a few books to the laundry room library.  Yesterday I even got ambitious and cleaned the bedroom carpet.

Glenn and Sylvia arrived a couple of days ago, so we’ve been enjoying visiting with them.  The first evening when they arrived, we went to the local steak house with them and Dortha and Mark.  Last night Jim grilled chicken for the group, I made a salad and Dortha and Sylvia contributed sides and dessert.  Tonight, Sylvia is preparing fish tacos!

The biggest event of our week happened yesterday. Our precious granddaughter, Elyse, started her college career when her parents and siblings took her to Colorado State University at Fort Collins. I borrowed this picture from her mom’s Facebook post.  From left to right are Kellie, Cameron, Elyse, and Calib:

We're so proud of all our grandkids and wish each of them success!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Red Bay Chronicles, Sunday, August 12

Since my last entry on Wednesday, the only news on the Castle is that the truck with the jacks on it finally did arrive Friday morning.  We’re optimistic that they will be able to work us in sometime in the next couple of days to have the new jack(s) installed.  We’ll both feel a lot better if we can be more stable while we wait for additional repairs.

Meanwhile, we’ve been keeping busy doing small projects and catching up with Dortha and Mark.  On Thursday, we went with them to Tupelo where we did some window shopping at Best Buy, and bought a few things at Sam’s Club.  We topped off the day with a good barbeque at The Rib Shack in Tupelo.

Friday evening we all went to dinner at Mr. J’s, the local pizza restaurant – the pizza is definitely some of the best we’ve had anywhere, and the salad was just as good.

Yesterday we put together a fish fry.  Jim got out his burner and dutch oven for the event, and we had a delicious dinner.  No pictures of the dinner, we were hungry by the time it was ready and ate it all too fast .

Today we took a drive about 60 miles to the Shiloh Civil War Battlefield at the National Military Park in Shiloh, Tennessee.  When we started planning this summer’s travels, we talked about visiting several Civil War sites.  Jim mentioned Shiloh,  and neither of us realized we’ve been so close to it every time we’ve come to Red Bay.  It was an extremely interesting and moving experience to visit this historic site.

Dortha, Jim and Mark check our some of the 600 cannon on the site:

Jim took this picture of a small diorama located in the visitor's center museum.  This scene depicts the part of the battle called The Hornet's Nest:

There were over 23,000 dead, injured or missing as a result of the battle at Shiloh.  This is a view in the National Cemetery located there:

Many, many of the graves have this designation:

The cemetery overlooks the Tennessee River:

This is one of the 200 monuments located in the 4200 acre National Military Park:

The original log Methodist Meeting Hall known as Shiloh where the battle was fought:

More of the cannon:

We went through the museum at the visitor's center, watched the film presentation, which was very well done, and very informative about the April 6 - 7, 1862 battle.  We walked around the cemetery, visited the book store for our National Park stamps, and then spent the rest of the time on the driving tour.

After all of that, we were hungry.  We stopped at a Mexican restaurant in Iuka, MS, on the way back to Camp Red Bay.

The campground cleared out Friday evening and yesterday,  here is Dorth and Mark's Phaeton across the street from us:

Their row was pretty empty yesterday, along with the row behind them.  We think there were easily over 30 empty sites.

Of course, it’s starting to fill up again this evening.  Looks like another busy week ahead at Camp Red Bay!