Yesterday, we received our update from Tiffin regarding where we stood on the waiting list to get into a repair bay at their factory in Red Bay Alabama. Two weeks ago, when we were placed on the waiting list, we were 27th. Based on this most recent update, we were now number 2. Whoo Hoo!.
We called to make arraignments to drive up to Red Bay from our campground near Aberdeen, MS. We discovered that the Tiffin folks are not the most organized since getting into a repair bay is not well coordinated with getting into their “campground”. This is a big deal because one needs a place to park one’s bus during the night while the bus is getting worked on during the day. Tiffin’s “campground” holds over 90 buses and it was packed full.
In Tiffin’s defense, they are currently swamped with people like us, trying to get in. Apparently, the demand for RV buses has exploded in the last couple of years. To meet this demand, Tiffin has increased its production. We have been told that Tiffin is now building around 3000 units each year.
To make a long story short, after many calls to different people, we were finally told that if we were on site by 7 AM, we would be moved into a repair bay and that bay would be exclusively ours until the various issues we wanted addressed were completed. We were also told that the “campground” office could not guarantee a site to park our bus each night, but if we were there at 7 AM, we would be in the front of the line to get in.
Armed with this information, Mary Margaret and I got up this morning at 4 AM, bundled up LeuC, and by 5 AM started down the road, heading for Red Bay, which was about an hour and half away. I should note that as we hooked up our little Fiat behind LeuC, Mary Margaret noticed that LeuC’s tail lights were not working. Grrrr! Here we were about to drive 70 miles in the pitch-black darkness of night without taillights. Fortunately, the taillights of our little Fiat worked so that cars and trucks traveling behind us would know when we were braking or when our turn lights were blinking. Whew!
It was quite an adventure driving down the narrow, two lane windy roads of rural Mississippi. Driving in darkness, I did not have the usual visual clues that I use during the day to keep LeuC inside the lane markers. During the day, I can use our two side mirrors to watch how close our wheels are to the lane markers and when a vehicle is coming toward us in the opposite direction, I can ease over to the right to maximize the separation distance between us and the vehicle coming toward us as he passes. This is especially important if the other vehicle is a truck with big mirrors hanging out from his cab.
However, since it was pitch black out, I could not see the lane markers in my mirrors. I had to guess at how far over to the right I was, using only the right-side lane markers that I could see out in front of me. Driving a car, this is not a very difficult thing to do but that is not true driving a 40-foot-long bus. Your eyes are about 8 feet above the road and the bus is so much wider than a car that you do not have much room to play with before you are on the shoulder or off the road. I think I adjusted to this new driving environment pretty well but it was a new experience.
To make this adventure even more so, I missed a turn and ended up on a very narrow side road with a sign that said “Road Ends”. Gulp! Our Google Maps app showed that the road curved ahead and would connect to another road that would take us back to our route but that ended up not being correct. We ended up stopped in the middle of nowhere, in the pitch-black darkness on a one lane road where we could not turn around, looking at mounds of dirt placed across the road, blocking our way. Double gulp!
We ended having to unhitch our little Fiat and I tried to slowly back LeuC up without running off the one lane road, down into gullies running along each side of our one lane road. To compound the problem, I could not see a thing because LeuC’s tail lights and backup lights were not working. We ended up having Mary Margaret slowing drive our little Fiat right behind me so I could follow her taillights in our rear facing camera monitor. It was a bit harrowing but we finally passed a dirt driveway that allowed us to turn around and continue on our journey. Whew!
We ended up arriving at the Tiffin factory at 7:02 AM. We were told that we were in luck, as the “campground” had a site for us and were directed to site #77.
We then went into the repair bay office and were told to sit tight and they would get us into a bay as soon as one opened up.
We received a call around 10 AM and moved LeuC into bay #35. Here we met Greg and Jeremy, who would be in charge of addressing our list of issues. Based on our discussions, it looks like we will be here a week or more. We shall see.