RV Bodywork Repairs (And Beer) – Lakeland, FL
We’re big believers in seeking out specialized shops ( = shops specialize in exactly the kind of work you want done) for major RV repairs, especially if you own a “beastly” girl like ours.
Big rigs are just such varied and complicated machines. So you’ll find many spots that do good general work but very, very few places that can handle all the specialized stuff. The shops that try generally get over-stretched and quality drops. It’s just the nature of the “beast”. So, when we get engine work done we go to an engine place…for tires, we go to a truck tire place…for interior work we go to an interior guy…you get the idea.
I’ve written about this concept many times before, and we’ve even been burnt by it once too (the *one* time in 7 years we didn’t follow our own advice, of course). So, when we started looking around for the place that would repair the body damage on our coach, we knew exactly what we wanted -> a quality shop that specializes in RV bodywork!
We Had Help Finding Our Shop
Of course knowing what you want doesn’t always make it easy to find. Thankfully I have friends (my blog readers!!) and the magic of the internet.
When I asked on the blog for repair shop recommendations last month I got tons of good tips, including a few shops that got multiple positive recommendations (always something I like to see). A little follow-up research on rvservicereviews.com and Google narrowed down our choice to one of two places. The final phone calls & slew of nit-picky questions (How long have you been in business? What is your experience in RV bodywork? Can we stay on-site with our pets? How quickly do you estimate the work can be done? Do you deal directly with the insurance? etc.) narrowed it down to just one.
Creative Coach Collision, Repair & Design in Lakeland FL got top-notch recommendations all-around, seemed to really know their stuff and were able to answer all our questions and accommodate us on-site exactly the way we needed. Plus they could fit us into the shop on the 15th of the month and promised to get us out before Thanksgiving. We had found our spot!
We arrived the night before and our initial impressions were immediately good. Lester (the shop manager) met us on arrival, set us up with 50 Amp hookup just behind the shop and got our estimate and time-frame (about 7 days total) to us within the hour. The shop is well-known mostly through word of mouth (a positive sign) and we were surrounded by very high-end Class A’s in various degrees of refurbishment (another positive sign). Class A’s are clearly their main business, and these guys not only do external bodywork & paint, but also specialize in internal renovations. Their work looked GREAT, from what we could see on-site.
We immediately said “yes” to the repairs and settled in for the night with a very good feeling about the place.
The RV Repairs Went Flawlessly
Turns out our instincts were spot on, and the rest of our time here progressed pretty much flawlessly.
We were in the shop at 8AM the next morning and had 2 guys working on the rig that same day. By end of day one we were re-aligned, by day 2 we were ready for paint and after 6 days total (one day ahead of schedule, no less) our rig had been painted, buffed and looked better than new. They even gave us a complimentary rig wash.
On the practical side we had to move the rig twice a day (into the shop at 8AM and out of the shop at 4:45PM everyday) which involved putting everything away/slides in etc. (it gets old, believe me) and we definitely had some roadside noise to keep us company (the next-door Speedway was LOUD and trucks on the road could definitely be heard) so I can’t say it was a “peaceful” stay.
But we were given electric hookups the whole time (including anytime they were working on the rig), we were able to stay on-site with our paws (they’re super pet friendly), they made sure to position us so we could always get our slides out (made the entire stay so much more pleasant) and we had decent grassy space to walk the dog around the area (a mostly “industrial type” part of town) everyday. The guys were great to work with and really went out of their way to make sure we felt comfortable the whole time we were there.
Plus the repair looks perfect. “The Beast” was completed ahead of schedule, exactly on-budget and now boasts has a very shiny new backside. She looks even better than before the accident, truly.
Honestly, what more could we have asked for?
Wait, We’re In The Craft Beer Capital Of Florida?
Well, actually there WAS more….
We certainly didn’t chose this shop for its proximity to beer (really, truly we didn’t…I swear), but I have to admit its approval rating shot up a tad once we realized HOW MANY breweries were within 15 miles of our parking spot. Did you know Tampa/Lakeland was the brew-capital of Florida? Well, many of you probably did but I have to admit that being West-Coast based for so long, and having a mostly indifferent attitude towards FL craft beer I hadn’t realized how much this area had boomed over the past 7 years.
The beer history is quite interesting too….
Back in the day this part of Florida was mostly known for its swamp….and cigars. The first real “cigar city” was Ybor City (now as part of Tampa) and was founded as an independent town in 1885 by a group of cigar manufacturers led by Vicente Martinez-Ybor. The original population was mostly composed of Cuban and Spanish immigrants who worked in the cigar factories. Not too surprisingly the first breweries were opened by these same cigar makers as they expanded their business. Florida Brewing Company was founded in 1896 and produced over 80,000 barrels of beer a year at their peak. They no longer exist today.
Then prohibition came, then the “big beer” companies (who took over and squashed most of the small breweries) and Florida brewing kinda took a back-road. By the 1990’s although there were still breweries in state, innovation was not really happening and the craft beer scene was nowhere to be found. Most serious beer lovers considered FL a total wasteland.
Fast forward to today. Changes in the beer laws and local demand have exploded the beer scene. There are now over 40 breweries within the Tampa Bay Area with a slew more pubs and brewhouses in the surrounding area. Many of these are locally-based and have not yet hit the national radar, but there is some seriously good stuff here.
I’d say if you were forced to spend a week somewhere for RV repairs, this is really not too bad of a spot 🙂
So, We Did Some Outings & Had A Few Beers
During our time at the shop we took several day-trips to walk Polly somewhere nice (Lake Parker Park in downtown Lakeland became our absolute favorite spot) and try some of the local beer. We only managed a few spots in the end, but every place we went had an awesome selection:
Cigar City – This brewery was the very first on our “list” when we came into town. It’s been dubbed the best brewery in Florida and they’re famous for their well-bodied and innovative craft brews as well as their very sought after (and very rare) barrel-aged stouts. Plus their West Spruce Street location is 100% dog-friendly, including inside the building. We liked EVERYthing we tried here, literally all of it. From their classic Jai Alai IPA (superb) to their Tocobaga Red Ale (outstanding), their Double Barrel-Aged Imperial Pumpkin (lovely) and even their sours. We didn’t do the big $$$ splurge and buy a bottle of their barrel-aged imperial stout, but I can’t deny I was sorely tempted. Click HERE for brewery site.
- Brew Hub – This became our fav little hangout. It was only 15 mins from the shop, had a large outdoor (both shade and grass) dog-friendly area and offered a selection of top-notch brews from their own brewery as well as several of the best local breweries. The servers were very beer-knowledgeable and the on-site meatballs were delish. Paul tried several different IPA’s as well as a M.I.A Belgian Tripel (wow!) and loved them all while I fell in love with their Driver Down Imperial Red and Umatilla Barleywine. You can see what’s on tap before you go via their free app or online website.
Quite honestly I’d love to come back to Tampa to do a more extensive brew-tour. There are so many spots we didn’t get to try here -> Cycle Brewing, Angry Chair, Coopertail etc. and they all look good. Plus many of them are dog-friendly. Who knew?
With that week over I’m now happy to say our RV Repairs are DONE. Our tow bar is still being worked on and we’ve still got the car bodywork to come (that’ll take most of December, most likely), but at least one step is finished and complete. Form here we take a week of downtime to hang in an old favorite spot with some old favorite pals. Onwards we go…
Useful Posts & External Links:
- Blog Post -> 4 Tips For Handling RV Repair & Maintenance On The Road
- Creative Coach – Click HERE for their website (Note/ I have NO affiliation)
- A Brief History of FL Beer – Click HERE
- Tampa Bay Brewery Guide – Click HERE and HERE for online guides
- Tampa’s Top Dog-Friendly Restaurant & Breweries – Click HERE