The Red Bay Adventure

We’ve now had Qubie for 18 months! That seems both longer and shorter in different ways. I feel both like we’ve had her forever and that we just got her. Odd how that works.

Anyway, we had a few issues that we’d documented over our first year of ownership that we wanted covered under warranty. Nothing major (like the fresh water tank we had replaced earlier), thankfully, but a few things.

  • Minor water leaks (!) when the kitchen slide or bedroom slide are out. Those were my biggest things. Water leaks can wreak havoc. At least these were limited to puddles on the floor, and only when the slides were open (meaning we’re in her and can clean it up).
  • The top of the entry door leaks when I wash it.
  • The rear passenger slide didn’t fit well in the hole, meaning some trim screws went into nothing.
  • Trying to fix those screws myself, I gouged a wonderful 2″ scratch into the paint :(.
  • A few fit and finish things with cabinets.
  • The new cable/antenna switch they sent me to replace a defective one didn’t fit in the mounting hole.
  • Some floor tiles were damaged from the slide rollers.

Again, nothing extreme. But I wanted them addressed so that Qubie was as good as she could be.

“Why do you have to drive all the way to Red Bay, AL to get your RV worked on?”

Tiffin provides a factory service center in Red Bay Alabama. They’ll do everything, you just have to get there. This seems weird to most car owners. We’re used to having a vast selection of decent service providers. And there are some good service providers for RVs. I took mine to a little place nearby when I had my fresh water tank replaced and they did a great job, and even did it under warranty. The water tank was one thing: a single issue with a simple resolution. They were able to get directly reimbursed from Tiffin for the warranty work since it was straightforward and the effort and parts were well understood.

But with a list of items, especially with some “exploration” involved, I just think it’d be better having the “pros” do it.

(For another discussion, the dealer service network is less than stellar. My closest Tiffin dealer is 2 hours away and has around 1-star for service from every possible review site and an F from the BBB. They also, as a rule, tend to ignore anyone who doesn’t buy their RV from them.)

Fitting in a 1300 mile trip

The Tiffin Service Center is 660 miles from home. In Qubie, that’s 2 medium days for 4 days of total travel. The way service works there is first-come, first-served. No appointments. Tiffin used to provide appointments but, as always, a small number of people ruined it for everyone by either booking appointments that they then didn’t show for or booking appointments at premium times “just in case they need it” and cancelling at the last minute. No more appointments.

I’d hoped (and heard noises to the effect) that because I was getting warranty work done I’d have some priority going into the service bays. I was expecting to get into a bay in a few days, have a few days of work, then get home for a total of maybe two  or two and a half weeks of “away” time.

The wonderful Tiffin Service Center campground

I could work from the RV, of course. I had a mobile hotspot, packed my monitor, and had things worked out pretty well. My girls are in school, obviously. My biggest goal was to not disturb our actual vacation time, say, over the summer, with a trip to beautiful Red Bay Alabama where we’d be essentially in a parking lot for 2 weeks.

I’d gotten the idea that the service center campground was going to be filling up — and therefore the lines backing up — soon due to some changes, so I talked to the girls and decided to just do it. I left on February 18th, stopped just outside Atlanta, and got the rest of the way Sunday the 19th.

Let the waiting begin

Since it was my first time I was a little confused right off the bat. I got in quite early, about 11:00am. But this is Sunday. So I get to the office to checkin and I’m looking at the board that has the after-hours sites available. It’s empty! No sites! I’m looking at all the bulletin boards to try to figure out what to do and finally see some small print that says the campground office is open from something to something daily. Huh? I go to the door and, sure enough, it’s open. Some very nice people welcome me and assign me to a site. I just never thought they’d be open on Sunday!

Red Bay hotspot

So, I got set up, got situated, took a quick look around and headed to the hottest spot in town, the Piggly Wiggly for some groceries. (It’s a bit of an inside joke, at least to me. There are very, very few things to do in Red Bay, and very few places to eat. One of the most talked about lunch spot is the Piggly Wiggly. They have a small counter in the back where you can get pretty good southern fare, then sit in a small dining area. It’s so quaint!)

Then I settled in to wait. I was told to expect a visit from a service guy in the morning to go over my list. Sure enough, at like 7:05am I got a knock on the door.

“You got a leak?”

He had my list in hand, and the entry door was on the first page. I explained as best I could.

“How big of a hurry are you in?”

Well, I’m not in leisure mode if that’s what you’re asking. That’s one thing about Red Bay you’ll hear from everyone. “It works at a different pace in Red Bay, you just have to sit back and enjoy it.” That may be fine if you’re retired — and after talking with Cat we decided it really wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have a couple of weeks to read, watch movies, do whatever while we waited — but as a working stiff with girls to see back home, I can’t just sit there forever.

“If you choose an express bay I can get you in tomorrow or maybe Wednesday. That’ll get you two techs for three hours for a total of six man hours of work. Otherwise, for regular bays, you’re looking at a week and half to two weeks before I can get you in.”

Remember my hope that since it was warranty work it’d get prioritized? No. If I’d still been within my first year of ownership I could get priority, where every other coach they pull into a regular bay is one of the first year coaches. But not mine.

Now what?

Let’s say it took two weeks to get into a regular bay. Then, how long to get the work done? I had regular bay work as well as a visit to the chassis shop and the body shop. It could be four weeks before it’s all done. I was really at a loss as to what I should do.

I then learned that I could leave the service center — with Qubie — and not lose my place in line. Ugh. That’s not much better. Sure, I’d be home, but schlepping Qubie back and forth for an extra 1300 miles on top of the original is no picnic. I then talked to a local campground where I could leave Qubie and come back when they were ready for me. So I could take the trip back in Subie and save some wear on myself and Qubie.

That’s basically what I’d decided to do when another option was dropped on me.

“You could leave her in the Outback.”

Okay, what’s that? For newer coaches, the Outback option lets you leave the coach with Tiffin and put her in the Outback queue. It’s a different line entirely with different service bays. The wait was about a week. When it’s her turn, they pull her into the service bay and do all the work after calling me to go over the list I want done. They send her to the chassis shop and body shop afterward if needed and once she’s inspected to make sure they’re done doing the things I wanted, they call me to come get her. Frankly, for working stiffs, that’s about perfect. The only real drawback is not being there to ensure the right things get done correctly… that’ll come into play for me.

Qubie in the Outback, right before I leave her

So, I hurriedly re-winterized Qubie, since there’s no power provided for Outback coaches, packed up all my stuff into Subie, moved Qubie into the Outback space and drove home. All the way home in one whack, over ten hours worth, getting home at about 11pm. (I survived only by listening to comedy routines on Spotify. I would have fallen asleep otherwise.)

(One thing that actually worked out in our favor is that Cat got the flu that week that I came home after dropping off Qubie. If I’d still been in Red Bay, intent on waiting out the service, I would have been in a pickle. There’s no way I could have stayed and not gone home to help her. So all of this worked out almost perfectly in hindsight.)

A different kind of waiting

Now it was a wait to see when she’d get worked on.

Not long! I left her on Monday. On Friday the 24th I got a call from a service tech. They’d pulled her in the previous day to start looking at things! I discussed all the issues with the tech, and they got to work. Obviously I don’t have a lot of insight into how things went while they worked on her.

I got another call on March 1st that they were almost through with everything they do in the bays.

On March 3rd she went into the chassis shop to look at the lean. That model has a tendency to lean to the passenger side and Qubie is no exception. Unfortunately, she didn’t lean enough to be able to get a correction since the correction would likely send her the other way instead of center her. So that was that.

On March 7th I got a call from the body shop where they’d fix my scratch, and then the following day, a Wednesday, I got word that she was done and waiting for final inspection. That’s when I made an executive decision. I can’t — and don’t want to –leave her in the Outback indefinitely. So, Thursday morning I’d get up and get going early so I could get to Red Bay that evening. That way I could check her out Thursday night and, if anything wasn’t fixed to my satisfaction, I could have it addressed Friday before heading back home over the weekend. Sounds like a perfect plan!

Liberating Qubie

Qubie outside the service center waiting for me

My travel day went almost perfectly. My gamble paid off when I got a call from Tiffin at about 1:30pm that Qubie was finished and ready to pick up.

“Perfect, I’m about 3 hours away from Red Bay anyway. Please have her in a spot for me so I can spend the night and head out tomorrow.”

I got to the Tiffin Service Center at around 5:40pm. I checked in at the office and was told where I could find Qubie. There she was! I did a quick walk around — the body shop guys are magicians, I can’t tell even where the scratch was and it was deep — and then went to set her up. Long story short, they had to move me to another site because the water wasn’t on in the place they had her. But soon I was set up and ready for a rest.

I got supremely lucky that night. Remember, one of my biggest things I wanted fixed was some water leaks. Thankfully for this situation a winter squall came howling in, blowing wind and hard rain most of the night. It made for simply terrible sleep but a great test of the leak fixes!

Unfortunately, the bedroom leak wasn’t fixed. Lovely.

In the morning I went to the office and told them of this. The service guy was a bit put out.

“So we had quite a blow last night, rain blowing in sideways, right? Well, we can’t make these things into fishbowls but we can certainly improve things. Bring your coach around to bay 12.”

So I tore up camp and drove into bay 12. In a humorous, completely expected turn of events they checked for leaks and “fixed” the wrong side of the slide when they originally did the work. I had written this as the description:

Driver rear bedroom slide water leak at bottom when open and raining.

“Driver” gets you to the right side, “bedroom” gets you to the right slide on that side, and I had assumed “rear” would get you to the rearmost part of the slide. That’s where the problem is. But they didn’t read it that way. It’s one of those simple things where if I was there I could have said “it leaks right there” and pointed at the right place. But I wasn’t there.

Now starts almost 6 hours of trial and error. Apply silicon sealant, wait for it to get at least a bit dry, then have some guy stand outside with a hose spraying the side of the slide while the tech eyeballs the leak with a flashlight.

I had a bit of time crunch. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a problem. Even if they took all day and I couldn’t leave Friday, I should be just fine traveling Saturday and Sunday, right? Yes. Normally. Unfortunately for me the east coast was forecast for snow early Sunday morning. Knowing how unpredictable our winter weather can be, I wanted to be home by early evening Saturday so I didn’t get stuck midway somewhere in winter weather.

Eventually, I decided to feel where the guy was trying to fix this leak, both out of curiously and so I could address it later if he was unable. Sadly, by running my fingers along I could actually feel a sizable hole where the water was almost certainly entering. What?! Where the hell is this guy sealing if this hole is right there? I told the guy and he agreed and got to work sealing that. Frustrating! If I’d done that 6 hours previously I wouldn’t have sat there for half the day.

So, that was that. I went into the office, paid for my part of the bill — which ended up being just the body shop work — and set about getting out of Red Bay. I got Subie hooked up and pulled out of town at about 2:45pm.

The rest of the trip home was pretty uneventful, though hitting Atlanta after dark was no joy, especially in traffic. But I got to my overnight stay campground, had a good night, spent the morning cleaning up everything and re-re-winterizing, then packing everything into Subie and made it the rest of the way with no issues.

My road warriors after a total of 2600 miles of adventure

Now Qubie is resting in her normal storage space and we’re anxiously waiting for our first trip of the spring. Can’t wait!


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