We veered away from the beauty of the Natchez Trace Parkway to make the obligatory stop that every Tiffin owner has to make: the trip to Red Bay, Alabama, home of Tiffin Motorhomes.
Yes, this is Meriwether’s birthplace. For those new to the blog, Meriwether is the name of our 2004 40′ Diesel Tiffin Motorhome, named after Meriwether Lewis. Even though we had only owned Meriwether for less than three months, there was a certain nostalgia in making the journey to where he was built. That and we needed some work done.
The city of Red Bay is located in the northwest corner of Alabama and has a total area of 9.9 square miles. It’s a tiny town with a population of 3,374 people as of the 2000 Census. It’s the kind of town where I walked into the post office to check on a package we were waiting for, and the lady behind the desk was not an official postal employee. I’d honestly never seen anything like it before in my life. She smiled politely and explained that she was “just helping out,” as she fumbled around looking for postcard stamps.
To the casual visitor, there simply isn’t much there. Like many other small towns in America, you’ll find a McDonald’s, Subway, and a handful of gas stations and grocery stores. If you were just driving through, you’d probably blink and miss it.
But Red Bay is actually rich in history and well documented by the local museum. There is also a famous saloon nearby, which is built into a cave. And, of course, you’ll find the Tiffin Motorhomes headquarters. More on these highlights in a moment.
Our first stop was the Tiffin Motorhomes Service Campground.
Tiffin Motorhomes Service Campground in Red Bay, Alabama
To say this is a park or campground is an overstatement. From the mouth of the desk clerk at the front office, “This isn’t a campground; it’s a service center.”
That about sums it up.
A huge concrete and gravel parking lot with water, electricity and sewer connections. No picnic tables, no pads, no frills. Get in, get your work done, and be on your way. There is no reservation system. It’s a first-come, first-served operation. And there are Tiffin Motorhomes RVs as far as the eye can see…
It basically works like this: you check in, get a number (they are mostly all pull-through sites with a handful of back-ins) and you park. Then you stay in your rig from 7 AM to 3 PM every week day. At some undisclosed random time, someone comes by and goes over your list of needed repairs, so they can be entered in the system.
Then you are put “on the list” and you wait until called. During your wait time, a Tiffin representative will stop by and check the silicone seals on the slides of your rig. They’ll also check to see whether you have the known “Wet Bay” issue.
Honestly, I wasn’t impressed with the initial technician who came by to assess our issues. He had the personality of a rusty nail. Combine that with the lack of communication from Tiffin to us about when we could expect to be serviced, and you can imagine it was pretty frustrating. Having said that, those were the only two negative issues during our time there. Everything else went fairly smoothly.
Needless to say, there’s something unsettling about not having a clue as to when you will be seen. The front desk told us we couldn’t go into the service area, so we followed their direction and didn’t go in to ask what was going on. Only later, after the work was done, did we find out that we could’ve gone in and asked.
Lesson learned. If you go to the Tiffin Motorhomes Service Campground, it’s ok to go into the service office and ask about your expected wait time.
When it’s finally your turn (in our case, four business days later), they call you, you go into a bay and the work gets done. The cool thing is that you can stay with your rig and watch the technicians, ask them questions as they work, and learn! We went with an “Express Bay,” which was two Tiffin technicians for three hours. We got our money’s worth for sure. These guys were capable, knowledgeable, helpful and kind.
To our dismay, we were advised that we had the Wet Bay issue. This is basically an issue where the floor underneath the tanks rots because of the flooring originally chosen for the coach. It’s a known problem with the Tiffin line during certain years. The good news is that Tiffin Motorhomes said they would fix our wet bay free of labor costs, but we still had to pay for parts because our rig was older than 8 years (otherwise it would have been free).
So we got that taken care of the next day, as you can see in the photos below. It took two men four hours. Our cost was minimal, and Tiffin also discounted our camping costs for the week because we had this issue. As I’ve said, Tiffin Motorhomes is known for their customer service. Though I wish they had fixed it for free, they did what they could within their regulations to make our stay and repairs more affordable.
Though getting repairs done is never fun, life is what you make of it. So while we were in Red Bay, we did what we do best…EXPLORE!!!
Three Must-See Places in Red Bay, Alabama
When life gives you repairs, go sightseeing. Before ever going to Red Bay, I’d become friends with a Tiffin employee named Mark Richardson who turned me on to some of the local places worth checking out. Mark is a genuine guy and a delight to know. He wasn’t acting on behalf of Tiffin when he gave me these recommendations. He was just being a friend.
Among Mark’s recommendations were the Red Bay Museum, Rattlesnake Saloon and, of course, Tiffin Motorhomes headquarters. Following his suggestions, we visited all three. Let me say up front that they were all worth the visit.
1. The Red Bay Museum: Located at 110 Fourth St SE Red Bay, Alabama 35582, the Red Bay Museum is not to be missed. It was perhaps my favorite stop of our entire Red Bay trip. Mr. Scotty Kennedy and his team prepared for years, gathering artifacts for the museum with help from townspeople. In 2004, the building on main street was secured to display the items.
If you can get a tour from Scotty himself, you’ll be amazed by the rich history of the city of Red Bay, Alabama. I didn’t think I was going to be impressed. I was dead wrong. It is much larger than it looks from the outside, and exhibits take you back in time to the old soda fountain, the old church, the old bank, and more. Most of the items on display are originals. It’s incredibly impressive and a definite must-see!
2. The Rattlesnake Saloon: Located at 1292 Mt Mills Rd Tuscumbia, AL 35674, this bar is under a bluff, in a cave and only accessible by a 4×4 truck. Yep. This is the Rattlesnake Saloon.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a 4×4. There is a parking lot at the top and a shuttle that picks you up and takes you down to the saloon. It’s about 30 minutes from Red Bay, but definitely worth the drive. They are only open Thursday-Saturday from February to November, and through Sunday from April to September. Beer is served only after 5 PM. But they do have a full food menu of fun stuff to try, including what is supposedly one of the best burgers in the state. When we went on a Thursday night, there was karaoke. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard an Alabama boy sing country music at the top of his lungs in a cave. Quite the experience.
3. Tiffin Motorhomes World Headquarters: Located at 105 2nd Street NW Red Bay, Alabama 35582, this may be the mecca of the RV industry. I highly recommend you take the factory tour. It’s fascinating to see how these rigs are built. The tour starts with a short video presentation. Then each tour member is given a radio, so they can hear the guide above the noise.
The tour walks you straight through the Tiffin Motorhomes plant and it’s really intense. You’ll be walking amongst the workers as they build coaches. You can’t get more up close and personal than this. The tour is free, and worth the time spent. Take it!
Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love comments on the article, and I’m happy to help answer anything I can.