As hard as I try to find the pleasant and positive sides of life on the roll, they remain further away and fewer between the mundane, day to day struggles of a life made more complicated by living in a 350 square foot, minimally airtight/watertight, rectangular box. The incessant repairs, inside dust so thick you can write in covering the inside regardless of how much I clean, lack of room to easily move about and the frustrations of waking up to a plethora of troublesome situations more often than not, is beyond tiresome. Believing our adventure would have good outweighing bad had started the box rolling. Now, chronicling our experience is all that is left of my determination to continue.
That being said, the good is just around the corner. Our December started off happily in Texas with several dining dates arranged between us, family and friends, and the cheerful prospect of our upcoming family vacation. Only being minimally settled at the Conroe KOA for a few weeks, we pulled it all in and set off for Florida.
Our travels to Florida were as direct as a weeklong travel could be, stopping one overnight at the Fort Walton Elks Lodge in time to view an amazing ocean sunset.
New Orleans Elks Lodge was our overnight for an unnerving stay perched on the edge of uncomfortable. I love New Orleans and have thoroughly enjoyed our dozens of visits over the last 30 years but there are some areas best left undiscovered. Although in a questionable area, it did meet several of our requirements. It had low cost electrical hookup, was flat cement and was close to major grocers. We were but a few blocks from Whole Foods Market allowing us to stockpile homeopathic remedies and specialty snacks.
After returning for the night, we slept fitfully without incident. Up early, John made a left turn down a spacious side street and came face to face with an unexpected wire strung low across the road, haphazardly connected to a pole, unnoticed until moments before LilyPad snapped it, flinging it up over our roof and bouncing along the top of the roof protrusions before settling behind us in the middle of the street. John hit the brakes, looked around and gunned the engine to exit the area, making a zigzag left then right turn quickly enough to send our floor storage crates skidding sideways into the bathroom walls. I watched for police in case we were spotted. Not sure how we could have outrun a police car in LilyPad but we might have given it a try. Later we learned it was a common practice to “borrow” cable and other utilities by illegal wire connections without adhering to proper heights and placement.
Another overnight was a stop at Beaver Lake Campground in Quincy Florida. Unusual place to land for the night but quiet and 50 amp electric hook-ups, no amenities I would consider using but these sleep stops are never destinations. There were a row of permanent mobile homes in the back area, nothing but a field with hook-ups where we parked. Before dusk we were joined by several more overnighters. Safety in numbers allowed me to sleep peacefully through the night.
We arrived at our rented villa early evening. It was to be our home for the next seven days. LilyPad was settled comfortably in overflow parking and we unpacked a weeks’ worth of liquor, food and clothes for our family vacation.
The Walt Disney World adventure was as near a vacation as I have had in the last few years. At a fraction of the cost of a luxury Disney hotel room, minus daily cleaning services, we rented a five bedroom house with three in-suite bathrooms, one for each couple. The house had a swimming pool, sauna, full size pool table and game room in the garage along with a washer/dryer, TV’s in every bedroom, a gas grill on the back porch and a fully outfitted kitchen. It sat on a quiet street in a gated community just minutes from the entrance to Walt Disney World. Expectations for an amazing family get together exceeded what actually occurred but this was Disney and our family was together so I was an immensely happy camper.
Sadly, now that I have reached my senior years, I realize that visiting Disney every year since childhood and watching the Hallmark Channel’s sugar coated “every day is perfect” and “every ending is a happy ending” does little to adequately prepare one for real life and its occasional disappointments. Reality is that not everything runs smoothly or has a happy ending. Adjusting to this fact is a far greater task with me being in my 60’s than it would have been in my 30’s. To late a lesson learned for me, hopefully not for my adult children.
Our days at Disney were enjoyable and carefree, two amazing but headstrong young women and their opinions clashed only once and all considered, it was a relaxing entertaining week. Happily, mama bear had her two cubs and papa bear all under one roof. Life, for this week, was good.
I bought three sets of Mickey Mouse ears for us ladies to wear to the parks and we all enjoyed the spectacular weather Florida provided us while we strolled around the parks throughout our week long stay.
When our week came to an end, we each packed up and departed in different directions. For us, travels home allowed us a relaxed pace. We overnighted in Florida at a well appointed Broward County park in Pembroke Pines, CB Smith Park, and side stepped a colorful local resident next morning on our way to breakfast.
Our next destination stop led us to Bellingrath Alabama and we revisited Bellingrath Gardens for their Magic Christmas in Lights 20th Anniversary.
Listed on USA Today’s List of “10 Best Public Light Displays in America” the short detour from the freeway, friendly campground and reasonable tickets made it impossible to bypass.
After watching an amazing sunset the dazzling displays of twinkles, shifting and rearranging their configurations, awed guests of all ages.
The choral performance on the South Terrace of the home gave our feet a mid-trail breather from the two hour walk.
Spread out across the 65 acres of public gardens, the displays were exceptional with extraordinary details. Being open to the public but still a privately owned entity, a crèche was set up mid way. Onlookers agreed, it was an appropriately fitting Christmas display.
The mansion was home to Walter and Bessie Bellingrath and the gardens were their creation. The estate is located on the Fowl River in Theodore, near Mobile Alabama. First opening to the public in 1932, they placed an ad in the Mobile paper, announcing that anyone who would like to see the spring Gardens could do so, free of charge. After an overwhelming response, the couple decided to keep the Gardens open year round, beginning in 1934.
Enjoying our two day tranquil sidestep from our journey home, we continued our trek, returning to the boredom of long hours on the road with the prospect of tedious everyday chores looming ahead. The next few weeks will be spent taking care of “us” as soon enough, LilyPad and her “it’s always something” must be returned to her maker in Red Bay AL for repairs. Doctors, dentists, vision checks, haircuts, KatieBug vet visits and Ribbits checkups will take over our lives for the next few months.
Because we were “banned” from our usual landing in Spring TX for having the audacity to write an honest review of our account of the damage our LilyPad, and a million dollar plus motorhome, received at the hands of their lawn crew, we settled on Conroe KOA for a month and Woodland Lakes RV on 242 for the next month. Neither are as close to the Woodlands or as nice but the cost and time expenditure of driving to Alabama for repairs was not worth letting them take an additional shot at damaging LilyPad.
Our last month before our “it’s always something” trek back to Alabama for repairs was spent at Woodland Lakes RV on 242. Once settled, the peaceful ponds inhabited by egrets, wood ducks and other waterfowl were a pleasant scene to view each day.
“Us” time is over and John has the route mapped to Red Bay Alabama. A relaxing stop in Seabrook to visit Amy and Josh and all my grand-chickens and grand-dogs at Casa De Seascape started the journey on a positive note.
Red Bay is my least favorite stop. Arguing with Tiffin repair bay supervisors and managers after work is incorrectly repaired for a second and third time is stressful. The ever-present smell of the odiferous dog food manufacturer is unpleasant, our site is crushed concrete and dust is tracked and blown inside each time the door is opened, only one restaurant worth dining for dinner within 10 miles and one grocery that has a fair selection of dry good staples. Been there and seen everything within a 2 hour radius so the days will be long and uninteresting.
Upon arrival we learned that the CVS had gone out of business, severely limiting current Red Box movie viewing. Thankfully, the small mom and pop DVD rental store hung around and still provides interesting movie choices. Tiffin friends saved us a space in the overflow area. No sites were available in our regular spot, the repair bay lot.
Settled in the dust bowl RV overflow parking, currently soaked, additional storms incoming, we had dinner with Tiffin friends Joe and Jan and drinks with past Tiffin Hosts Art and Gerri while listening to stores of extensive repairs lasting months. Feeling grateful.
A few days later we were visited by Norris, Tiffin’s scheduler, and placed on the waiting list for a repair bay. Three days following, with a 30 minute warning, we entered the repair bay and learned that the stress fracture on the bedroom slide is but one problem. Along with a faulty gear on our electric entrance step, our sixth leak will require the entire large slide roof to be removed and replaced. The original sealant was done incorrectly, the patch was done haphazardly so it leaked, buckling the inside roofing material and sending a crack down the entire length of the inside slide roof.
Oh, the joys of owning a motorhome. We are facing additional weeks here in the armpit of Alabama while we wait for the roof to be manufactured and installed. Our large slide must be retracted to keep the leaking area sealed, giving us an even further reduction in living space. Yep, love this life.
Wanting to share all of our “adventure”, I brought our camera to take pictures of Red Bay AL and Belmont MS while our wet towels and floor mats were getting a cleaning at the laundromat in Mississippi, a short drive away . We would not want y’all to miss out on seeing the area where we sit and wait for several weeks, several times each year.
Our RV site is a long narrow strip of crushed cement with hook-ups at the back. A block away is the RR tracks and abutting the tracks is Sunshine Dog Food Manufacturing.
Across the street is the local market. Good for basic dry good necessities but minimal on produce.
Across the road is Subway, the safest place to eat lunch. Bob Tiffin, owner of the company, eats lunch here often and we’ve run into him dozens of times.
A view of downtown from the Subway parking lot. It runs a few blocks down the road.
Tiffin Repair RV parking lot office, several blocks down from where we are staying. It’s our usual place unless it’s full. Bob built the RV lot and repair bays on an old airport runway.
This is Red Bay Town Center Park.
In the four years we have been coming to Red Bay, the Red Bay Hotel has been slowly and steadily renovated. It was just a brick structure when we first visited. Now it has double pane windows, a/c, new doors, floors and a secure roof.
Down the side street is the Tiffin RV Welcome Center where you can take a tour of the plant or visit Bob in his office. Been there and done that too. After three times, booth loose their novelty.
The best restaurant around is in Belmont Mississippi, 15 minutes away. Besides being the only real restaurant in the area, Costa Oaxaquena has an impressive menu and great food.
Across the street is the Belmont Hotel, circa 1924, another hotel being renovated by an elderly gentleman. It’s guests are permanent and we often see them walking across the road to eat at Costa.
Belmont has the best junk store in the area. Silver Dollar Discount is jammed with “stuff” and we visit several times each stay. Can’t say we have ever been to anything like it in our adult lives. The fun part is never knowing what might pop up on their shelves.
And the most unique grocery store title goes to Belmont ACE Piggly Wiggly. It’s a combo grocery/hardware store. John loves shopping at the ACE Piggly Wiggly.
Our closest laundromat is in Belmont. John has to do the wash because of the strong perfumed smell inside. At least that’s the reason I give him. We only use it for washing rugs and floor cleaning towels and with all the rain, we’ve accumulated several piles.
And the prettiest part of the area is the Belmont cemetery when the Cleveland Pear trees bloom.
So there you have it folks…our life and times in the Tiffin repair city of Red Bay AL. Next route we take will be back home to Texas before we leave in April for another season in New England.