Letters From a Bus
Our bus and one remaining truck the morning after the rainstorm. 06/28/07
July 2007: Homeward Bound
2nd entry for July
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We Stay in Red Bay for Repairs and Improvements

Red Bay, AL, Day Seventeen at Allegro Campground

Monday, July 16, 2007 — Day 62 — Two months in our Allegro Bus

Originally, we came to Red Bay to see how they make the Tiffin Motor Homes and to meet Bob Tiffin who started this company.  He is famous for his customer service and availability— his wish to keep all of his customers happy and pleased.  On our way here we experienced loss of cruise control and windshield wipers.  By the time we arrived at the Allegro Campground, we knew that we also needed service and we were given a service number when we checked in.  Our first issue, the smart wheel, (on Spartan warranty) was fixed during the week of the July fourth holiday.

Shortly after we arrived, we discovered we had an oil leak on the tag axle.  This also applied to the Spartan Chassis warranty.  In addition, Tiffin has agreed, on warranty, to change around the ’07 Allegro closets for those who ask.  The change provides extra closet space.  These items were handled this past week after everyone returned from vacation.

Meanwhile, we had more than enough idle time to talk to other Allegro owners and discover all the nifty custom changes that they were having done by Tiffin guys who work on the side.  Our wish list of custom upgrades grew and grew.  We contacted the right people, engaged their services and these things were accomplished with remarkable alacrity during our second week in the camp.

Immediately after work, on Monday at 3:00 pm, Charles Coburn dropped by to discuss our woodworking cabinet plans.  We laid out a long and ambitious list of upgrades for him — but nothing fazes Mr. Coburn.  He said he’d try to get it all finished for us by Saturday.  He told us to meet him the next day at the Customer Counter where we would order the materials. 

On Tuesday at 6:25 am the Diamond Shield guys showed up.  Ten minutes later they left because it was suddenly pouring rain.  We were disappointed but they came back at noon and were able to do the job.  By permission, they work on site where their customers are parked.  The Diamond Shield is designed to protect the front cap of the bus from rocks kicked up that put nicks in the paint while driving.  Tiffin applies a 3M type of seal but it doesn’t work as well.  The Diamond Shield is a plastic sheet stretched over the cap and then some magical process seals it to make an invisible and very hard shield.  Dennis doesn’t want to see nicks on the exterior of his beautiful new home.   

A plastic-looking material is smoothed over the cap (photo of our neighbors's bus last week.) Workers smooth on the shield while critics loiter.
Kibbitzing continues until workers are finished. They apply a new Allegro Bus logo and peel off the wrapping.
Later in the afternoon we walked into the inner hallway of the Tiffin Bays where service is done on the various Tiffin buses.   Charles met us and together we put in our materials order.  We paid Tiffin for the materials.  Later, we paid Charles for his work on the side.  All of this activity is known and approved by Tiffin.  Before Charles left work on Tuesday and Wednesday, he came by to ask Dennis to keep him company while he picked up the materials from Tiffin.  As the customer purchasing the supplies, Dennis had to receive them and give them to Charles who took the wood and hardware home to his shop where he built the cabinets we required.  We also walked over to the upholstery area and found Trevor who had built the storage box/ottoman for Mary.  (See last week.) We ordered one just like it. 
Dennis waits to meet Charles at the Customer Counter where they order materials. The counter faces office windows and is located in the center between Bays 1 through 10 (above) and Bays 11 through 20 on the opposite end.

On Wednesday we put in our slides and drove the bus a few miles away to arrive at Bay Diesel and A/C by 7:00 am.  They have permission to do warranty work for Spartan and they have many tag axle leaks to fix.  Evidently, Spartan used bearings that are foreign made.  They are replaced with American bearings. 

While we waited for this repair on our bus we took the dogs and drove to the small neighboring town of Belmont.  Other than McDonald's and Jack's there is nowhere in Red Bay to go out and have breakfast.  We heard there was a place in Belmont.  We discovered Spark's Restaurant and ordered a breakfast that was passable.  It was a cool, rainy morning so the dogs were comfortable in the car. Isn’t it ironic that a small town country restaurant must used a whipped spread instead of butter and a non-dairy creamer instead of half ‘n half?  Apparently, these inexpensive cafes can no longer afford to offer their customers real dairy products.

Elsa sips weak coffee flavored with Coffemate and waits for canned orange juice . The framed photos are a synopsis of town history: High School, Funeral Home, Train Depot, Main St., Court House, Theater, Factory, Hotel, and Cotton Gin.
In the evening, Trevor surprised us by appearing with our completed ottoman.  With leather to match our couch (antler) it looks fabulous.  Now I can put my legs up when I sit on the couch and we can store a throw or other oddball things inside it.  I love it.
Trevor shows us his combination storage box and ottoman. The leather matches our couch. Elsa is very pleased.
Once again, early on Thursday, we unhooked and drove the bus to put it in Tiffin Bay 25 where we were scheduled to have our closet changed.  On the right side, the fuses that faced out towards the room took up valuable closet space.  With the remodel, the fuses face inside the closet but you gain an extra 12” of closet rod space.  This was due to take half a day or more so with the dogs we took off for a day in Tupelo, MS.  Our closet guy, Tim, said he would put the bus back in our site and hook it up and turn on the A/C so that when we returned we would have a cool bus.

We turned the day into an excuse to eat out, shop and catch up on grooming services.  Unfortunately the sun was out (no rain clouds) and it was very hot so we couldn’t leave the dogs in the car.  We did so first thing in the morning when we first arrived and had breakfast at I-Hop.  After that, I found a place in the mall to have my nails done while Dennis walked the dogs or sat in the car with the A/C running.  I had an appointment at PETsMart to get both dogs groomed at 1:30 but this created some waiting time. 

We decided to go back to the Natchez Trace Trail and walk the dogs on a shady trail under the trees.  This killed an hour but — big mistake.  The dogs white hair visibly showed dozens of ticks.  They both wear tick collars so I don’t think tick hitchhikers stay or bite them but they do jump aboard and then they can be carried into our car or the bus.  Dennis is going to have to wear a couple of tick collars as anklets because they like him just fine. I had a brush and we tried to clean them up before we put them back in the car.  Not a good thing to do before delivering them to a groomer — who told us she found many!

We walked about a mile each way along side a bean field, by an abandoned bridge, through woods, across a railroad track and up to the Natchez Trace Parkway. Elsa rests in the shade with the dogs. We picked up lots of ticks!

We left the dogs at PETsMART and went to Charley’s for an early dinner, even though we didn’t feel hungry after our breakfast.  We had to find a way to kill time in a relaxing A/C atmosphere.  After dinner we walked around the inside of the mall.  This was fortunate because I did find some hiking sandals (Teva) to replace my too-loose sandals or my too-hot jogging shoes. 

It took a very long time for the dogs to be finished and we didn’t return to the camp until early evening.  The dogs were very quiet and subdued.  Tasha at Beaugay’s in Los Altos has only always groomed Rudi and I have always stood at the grooming table with her while holding Rudi.  They had to be left alone in kennels and endure a very through combing and bathing for some four hours.  They went to sleep immediately in the car and were glad to be back in the bus.  Our bus was in place as promised.  Much to our relief, Charles had been able to come in and remove Dennis’s computer desk.  He took it to his shop to build the slide top and change the orientation of the drawers relative to the desktop. 

Fuses facing in gives Dennis a shelf for his shoes and more closet rack space for clothes.
We were happy to do nothing on Friday and rest up from our Tupelo outing.  Life goes on as usual in the Allegro Campground.  We take the dogs for walks and visit the cattle where Rudi and Margot dream of wrangling some little heifer.  We visit with other Tiffin owners.  Everyone takes to the runway in the cool of the evening.  It is like a parade in the town square of a small town.  We clean and straighten up our little home.  We  marvel at the Alabama cloudbursts. 
Who's going to get who?
On Monday, July 9th, at 5:52 AM we saw this sunrise. That evening at 5:15 PM we had a downpour of rain.
Parked at the end of the runway, this couple has a perfect view down the runway. We call them the Traffic Controllers. My farmer friend gave me permission to take his photo. The other day I wouldn't take my 45 cents in change. I said he was providing a service. Later he knocked on my door and gave me a cucumber. He knows Dennis likes them.
Saturday morning we unhooked and drove from the Tiffin side of the runway, off site, to the part of the runway not owned by Tiffin.  Here it is legal for Tiffin guys to work on Tiffin busses as side jobs.  Charles met us there and began a marathon day of trying to install everything that we ordered.
Motorhomes parked off site on the runway receive custom treatments. The truck-bus motorhome on the right is unusual looking. I think it is called a Dynamax.

What did we order?

1. Dennis has a desk with a top that slides towards him and the drawers are conveniently pointed towards the living room.

Drawers reoriented
Dennis has a Cheshire cat smile at his new desk.
2. I have a dining table/desk with new expanded cabinets and a wider counter along the window.  We did this so that drawers could be put in over the cupboard doors.  Now I have someplace to store my little things like pens and post-its.
Before - there is space above the short cupboard doors for drawers.
Frames will be placed in front of the cupboards to extend depth.
Doors removed from the cupboards.
Left: Frame attached and original cupboard cut down. Now there is room for a binder to stand. Above: Doors attached and drawers ready to be put in.
Drawer slides are installed.
Drawers in and the top is being glued to receive Corian counter.
Above: Charles and Dennis bring in the Corian counter.
I looked at the original cupboard and said, "Why can't it be wider and have drawers? There's room for them above the doors." Charles saw what I wanted. We discussed the details and then he figured out how to do it. Now it is perfect.

My new counter is 5" wider. Now I have 13" of useable width and I have 2 drawers and higher interior cupboard dimensions (same doors).

3. We have taller cupboard space under the sink by replacing the short cupboard doors with taller ones (removing the little slant drawer above the short cupboard doors).  There is room to put in a taller trash bin.  A sliding drawer is installed so you can pull everything out of the long, narrow cupboard under the sink. It will be easier to find items stored.
Charles brings the box and installs it. We must wait to receive the Tiffin order for taller doors. Those will replace the small doors and the little tip-out drawer-bin above that holds sponges.
4. We redesigned the kitchen cupboard doors that face the slide so that when the slide in pulled in, it is still possible to open one of the doors to get at the contents of the cupboard.  This was done by inserting a divider and moving the doors out so that one is wide enough to the right to avoid the slide. (The slide is the kitchen counter and facial with trim on the left. It moves forward towards the right and the facial covers the cupboard doors.)
Before - slide (when "In") extends in front of right door.
Charles installs a divider.
Left door moves left.
Right door moves right.
5. We have the DirectTVPlus box placed on a new shelf cupboard under the TV.  A hinged door can be left open while we watch TV and can be shut to block out the annoying blue light when we go to sleep.  It was crammed into the cupboard next to the TV and was too large so that it was pushed on a slant.  Now that cupboard is free for other storage.
Charles built a shelf for the DirectTV.
The DirectTV box was in the cupboard to the right of the TV. It didn't fit well.
Hinged door can flip up to hide box.
6. We have a shelf with a hinge top installed behind the couch — level with the bottom of the window.  If you pull up the hinge top, you can store things behind the couch.  We will put an upholstered cushion on the shelf to bring it up to the level of the back of the couch.  This will be a pleasant place for the dogs to lay and look out the window.  Right now Margot attempts to do this but she has to straddle the top of the couch.
7. I have a little cubby next to my passenger chair where I can put my glasses cases, pen, car keys, and what have you.  It’s the little things that make the difference.  Everytime we travel, I am bugged because the box provided by Tiffin holds large maps and books and a cup but there is nowhere to stow other small things.  The pullout desk in front of me is cumbersome: things slide around or I need to close it to get out.  I need to grab things quickly.  This little box is perfect!
My seat by the exit door has a place to hold maps and a cup or mug. There are toggle switches for a map light, etc. but no place to put a pen or glasses.
Charles built a box to hold my things.
My little cubby doesn't interfere with a coffee mug or pulling out maps.
8. I have robe hooks from which to hang my robe in the bedroom and my purse in the living room.  Tiffin did not think about the needs of a woman passenger.  Where to put my purse while I’m sitting in the passenger seat on a travel day?  Where to put it when we are in camp?  It’s always in the way lying on the couch or on the desk counter or in a chair.  Now it has a place.  Also there are hooks placed around the bus to hold hats and dog halters, etc.  Very, very handy. 
We had six extra robe hooks installed to hold hiking purse, dog halters, hats, etc.

There was a lot of heavy rain on Saturday.  At lunch time Charles made a run home to collect the desk for Dennis.  We ventured out to try lunch at Swamp John’s, a restaurant just outside of Red Bay in a converted gas station.  This turned out to be great fun and quite good food.  Our waitress was very friendly and helpful.  We finally got up the nerve to try fried catfish and we each ordered the dinner plate.  Dennis got a baked potato and a salad with his.  I got coleslaw (with mayonnaise not vinegar — the two choices) and onion rings.  Our plates arrived with an extra item — little brown, deep-fried, round things that looked like satellites.

“What is this?” I asked, pointing.

Our waitress stuttered.  “Haven’t you ever seen hush puppies before?”

Well no.  But I thought they were very good.  The catfish, dipped in cornbread batter and deep fried seemed similar to fish and chips but the batter is different (and better) for fish and chips.  It was very dry. I commented that it might be good with malt vinegar instead of tartar sauce.  The waitress said that it is often eaten with lemon juice and she brought me some (in envelopes).  The catfish itself, a filet, (farm raised) seemed like any white fish.  It was mild.

Swamp John's is a small cafe inside an old gasoline station. The walls were painted with murals. It began to pour rain while we ate, so Dennis was a gentleman and ran for the car. He could drive right under the gas station canopy to pick me up (but I got wet doing the key lock on the door of our bus).

We knew we would gain many wonderful new conveniences that Charles would install on Saturday.  What we didn’t anticipate was the pleasure of his company.  We hung out with him all day and because Charles is a sociable fellow, we talked the entire time he was working. 

Charles makes no bones about being a “redneck” Alabama boy (his term).  He lives out in the country and he owns guns and dogs and he loves to hunt.  He talks the way they all did on the Andy Griffith show in the town of Mayberry.  But he is no backwoods dummy. His way of expressing himself is great fun — vibrant and full of life.  I kept trying to imitate his accent.

Charles is a terrific storyteller.  He called us “treehuggers” and we copped to that and we had great fun comparing our ways of life.  Charles is a good family man, a son, a father and a husband.  He knows who he is, and he’s got a plan for his life and a good college savings account started for his little boy.  He’s a hard worker and he’s honest and sincere.  Best of all, he has a terrific sense of humor.  We really enjoyed our day with him.

Charles Coburn: while he works he tells stories or expresses his philosophy.
To us: "Better make it fit right. You all might want to show it someone."
To a worker: "If you're gonna do it, do it right. That's my opinion on the situation. You go loafer. I'll take care of it."
Stories: "She tickled the fog out of me."
"Well he come up and, I god, he made me madder than soup. I flew ignorant on him — bad ignorant."
Charles said to me, "You've heard of 'wi-gi-di-gi' haven't you?" I hadn't and he put it in a sentence.
"You brought your truck with you, did you?"
That's Dennis and me reflected in the mirror, laughing, with Charles in the foreground.
All day I tried to say "aw-ite" (all right). He said I have a long ways to go. I am over pronouncing it.
Elsa Walton, Allegro Campground, Red Bay, AL, Monday, July 16, 2007