grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Saturday, February 9, 2008

01-06FEB08 - Red Bay, AL & Laurel, MS

Friday morning, 01FEB, Norris stopped by the RV to go over our worklist to see if the Tiffin RV service facility could accommodate us since once again we did not have an appointment. (To read who Norris is, and why it is a good idea to take your RV back to the factory for repairs, see our BLOG for 16-19DEC07.) We had four things on our list: fix refrigerator, fix dashboard AC (which is separate from the “house” AC units), find leak on one cargo hold, and fix small fiberglass body damage; the biggie being the refrigerator. Norris told us we would get a three hour “emergency” repair slot, but probably not today, more likely Monday; which turned out to be the case.

After looking at maps and guide books Friday night we decided to go sight seeing in Florence, AL, on Saturday. Florence is located on the Tennessee River in an area called the quad cities (Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia in order of size). Someone who knows something about rock & roll might recognize the name Muscle Shoals. Turns out this was the location for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises (FAME) Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, responsible for some of the best recordings from the Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Aretha, Eric Clapton, Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd, etc. And a sound that is still known as the Muscle Shoals sound. Unfortunately the original FAME studio was torn down and the studio is now in a nondescript building in Muscle Shoals. And although there are supposedly plans to build something recognizing this region's contributions to country music, rock and roll, and the blues; nothing has happened yet. Too bad!

Upon our arrival in Florence we parked and commenced our usual “walk about”. It is obvious that town has worked steadily to spruce up downtown. Almost all the buildings have their fronts nicely fixed up, even if half of them are empty. Sidewalks are inlaid with brick dividers, have small covered areas with benches for resting, and are lined with old fashioned lamp posts. For lunch we stumbled across a very small hole-in-the-wall diner called Trowbridges. Within minutes of taking our seats, every seat was taken by locals and a lined had formed. They are famous for their cheese & pimento spread, and their pineapple/orange ice cream (or is it orange/pineapple?). Dan went with the cheese & pimento spread sandwich (surprisingly good) and the pineapple/orange shake (very good); Corrie went with the chicken salad sandwich (also very good) and most of Dan's shake (just kidding).

Next stop was Pope’s Tavern, which sadly is a museum not a tavern, so we skipped it. On the way out of town we stopped at one of the only Usonian houses built in the south by Frank Lloyd Wright, called the Rosenbaum House. Usonian houses were supposed to be small, economical, houses built for the middle class after WWII. We have been fans of his designs for years, even getting books on his houses from the library. Because of our “knowledge” about the man and his designs, we thought the entry price was a little high and were going to skip it. But we ponied up the money and found it worth it. Documentaries and/or books can not show the level of detail in these supposedly economical houses. Wright’s design even included every piece of furniture, and amazingly the Rosenbaums kept every piece. The Rosenbaum’s had four boys and quickly requested that Wright design an addition, something he almost never did. One thing the parents did in the addition, which we found very strange, was place all the boys (now teenagers) in one common bedroom/play room, where they slept in bunks? One of the people on our tour, who supposedly knew something about the boys, said they all had “problems” and left town at eighteen, never to return. Note: the original kitchen was five feet by five feet!

Sunday we awoke to raining and miserable weather. Luckily the two volunteers who run the “RV camp” office got permission to open the service facility waiting room for the Super Bowl. This room is normally only open during business hours, Mon to Fri. This was very nice because there is no cable, and TV reception is poor. Everyone prepared a hors de vor and started assembling at 1630. One problem quickly became evident – someone had claimed the remote and wouldn’t let go. And this person was going to watch the Super Bowl but wasn’t interested in the pre-show. In fact, this individual would mad’ingly channel surf during commercials oblivious to everyone else in the room. Corrie was plotting bodily harm, when thankfully someone else gained control of the remote, and we settled on the Super Bowl channel without channel surfing. An enjoyable time was had by all, and for once the game lived up to its hype.

Monday morning at 0700 we were sitting outside service bay 10, waiting for the big roller door to open. Dan likens the early morning movement of the RVs from their campsites to the service bays to the way dairy cows wander-in to the milking barn at the same time every morning (usually without any action by the farmer). Here at the factory the RVs start firing up their engines at 0645 and make the short drive to the assigned service bay, and wait for the mechanic to open the roller door, whereupon they drive in and the door closes behind them. At about 1515 the doors open and the RVs back out to make that short drive back to their assigned campsite. So for about eight hours it looks like the campground is empty. Once again, having the factory work on the RV proved its worth. We had two guys work on the AC for two hours, and two guys worked on the water leak for one hour. Total cost was $150, with no charge for parts, and both problems were found and solved.

Unfortunately, it was determined that the refrigerator needed replacing (this took one hour of technician time and there was no charge). Turns out replacing the refrigerator and fixing the body would take a few days, and meant more waiting in the campground because we had arrived without an appointment. But fortunately there are many symbiotic businesses that have sprung up around the Tiffin factory that make good money doing the jobs the factory can’t get to right away. For example, right across the road is McKinney RV. Apparently, Mr McKinney used to be associated with Mr Tiffin but decided to start his own business selling Class A and trailers, servicing RVs, and dealing in used RV parts.

Turns out Mr McKinney could replace our refrigerator first thing Tuesday morning for same cost as Tiffin (he actually got the refrigerator from the Tiffin parts department). So we contacted our after market warranty company to see what they would cover. As was the case with our drive shaft repair AUG07 in Minot, ND, their service was poor. They would not pay for new unit, they would ship us a repaired unit in a couple of days and pay minimal cost for labor, and the warranty would be far less than a new unit. We told them to send the equivalent amount of money (not much) and we would pay difference for new unit. Since McKinney had removed window to remove old unit and bring in new unit, we asked if he had used furniture made out of that extinct animal – the Naugahyde? Our furniture is cloth and does not clean easily. We were thinking of re-upholstering our furniture, but all the cushions are sewn to the frames! Turns out McKinney has hundreds of pieces of used furniture in a vast warehouse. He had a Naugahyde chair but no couch, so we bought the chair and will keep looking for the couch. For more on the Naugas, check out:

That left our small fiberglass body repair to be done. Turns out Mr McKinney knows a Tiffin body repair person who works after hours doing body work (can you say his son?). So we agreed to do the work after hours if Tiffin could not get to us during the rest of the day. They could not, and at 1600 Dan drove the RV to another repair facility, where two of the McKinney clan had the job done in two hours, again for a very reasonable cost. Upon returning to the Tiffin campground, Dan learned that the factory had decided to leave the waiting room open all night because tornadoes were forecasted until 0400 in the morning. Corrie decided to go to the waiting room along with several others and wait it out while watching the weather channel. Dan and Gumbo decided to go to bed in the RV, counting on the sirens to wake them in time to run for shelter. Red Bay, AL, was spared but small tornadoes did touch town briefly 50 miles away.

Wednesday morning, the 6th, we decided to drive only half way back to Houma. We decided this for several reasons: the drive is seven hours, ok in a car, a little too long in an RV; our house was sold, so nothing to check on; and we had missed all of Mardi Gras. We picked a RV park in Laurel, MS, to stop. The RV park was ok, but for the money we should have dry camped in the Wal–mart parking lot. I-59 has one of the worse “S” curves on an interstate we have ever seen. The speed limit is 40, and that might be too high! And to drive the point home, the state police and/or sheriff usually have speed traps at both ends. If you ever have to drive this stretch of road, be warned! The rest of the drive was no problem and we made it back to Houma to take up our new residence in the Civic Center parking lot.