Thursday, February 25, 2010

Back in shirt sleeves

We are at the Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson, parked just off the end of runway 3 at Tucson International (map). The Tohono O'odham Nation actually runs two casinos in Tucson, both named Desert Diamond, and we've previously stayed at the other one. This one is closer to town and thus to our route.

We arrived Tuesday afternoon, and, following directions in both our casino camping guides, proceeded to the designated RV parking area at the southeast corner of the property. This being Tucson in February, and with the generous parking policy here of seven days, the designated lot was packed. While we were sitting there surveying the lot for a good spot, a security officer rode over on a bicycle, exactly as the guides said would happen. Even though I knew we could get Odyssey into any of several spots in the lot, he decided we'd need more room, and led us over to this spot in a completely different lot.

We had one neighbor Tuesday night, but otherwise have had the whole lot to ourselves. It's a great spot, with a couple of saguaros and chollas out our window, a great view of the airport, and a short walk to the casino and hotel. 3 is a short general aviation runway, lightly used; the heavy jets take off and land in a completely different direction. The most noise we've heard is Nogales highway just a few feet from us, and the occasional train on the tracks immediately across the street. This whole casino is brand new, having been completed in 2008 (Google's satellite view still shows the old casino, where the parking lot now sits), and we had a nice meal Tuesday night for less than $9 apiece in the buffet. There is also a steak house and two bars, as well as a small tribal museum.

The pleasant weather along with a full two days of downtime presented an excellent opportunity to get some projects done. Shortly after we arrived I changed the air compressor oil. So far it seems, subjectively at least, that the lighter oil is helping the hard starting at night, where it is still getting down to the 30s. The old oil also had a lot of entrained particulates, so it needed changing, and I am guessing that we're not all that far now from having to rebuild the cylinder. We are hard on our compressors; this is the fourth one since we hit the road, and I've already replaced several parts on it.

Both scooters were due for engine oil changes, and I got that done yesterday, along with cleaning the oil screens and air filters. My bike also needed its final drive oil replaced. While I was looking up procedures to refresh my memory, I discovered that my spark plug should have been replaced 1,000 km ago -- oops. I'll have to pick one up in the next few days.

I've also been calling around trying to find a new nozzle for our Webasto boiler. No one here seems to stock them, and I even ended up talking to the manufacturer, Danfoss, who gave me the name of a national distributor that can drop-ship them to me. The boiler is quitting occasionally and then needs to be reset. I suspect this is just a dirty flame sensor, but I don't want to tear it all apart without a fresh nozzle in hand, which is overdue for replacement.

Lately the generator has been auto-starting when we are only down less than 300 amp-hours. When they were new, our 920 amp-hour battery bank would give us 600-700 amp hours before the voltage dropped to auto-start levels. I suspect we are nearing the end of life on this set, which we've used hard for nearly three years. When the genny auto-started yesterday morning, I decided to equalize the batteries; often, this will improve the performance enough to squeeze some more cycles out of them. That had the generator running for a good three hours, even though we did not otherwise need it. We'll see today how far they drop before the genny kicks back on.

Louise spent yesterday deep-cleaning the house, which sorely needed it. As part of that she cleared a bunch of ancient and expired items out of the larder. We ate in last night, to finish up the fresh items in the fridge, in anticipation of three days of provided meals at our meeting. We have one remaining cleaning task, which is to wash the outside of the bus. It's filthy, and in consideration of our co-workers as well as the management of the nice hotel at which we'll be parked, we'd like to look a bit less like the Joads when we arrive. We'll try to find an empty parking lot somewhere along the 20 mile route to the hotel where we can pull out the pressure washer and get it done.

Yesterday I came across two links on the bus conversion bulletin boards that I thought I share with you. First is this site dedicated to a low underpass in North Carolina that has wreaked havoc with any number of tall vehicles. We do have nightmares about this, although they never involve a bridge so well marked (there's even a pair of flashing lights, fer cryin' out loud). The second is this eBay item, one of the artifacts of the recent implosion of Country Coach. While I don't expect anyone to buy this an build an RV on it, it is a steal for anyone who needs a brand new Cummins/Allison power train, and you'd get six new Alcoas and Goodyear 670-RV tires to boot, not to mention plenty of new items to part out such as brakes, wheel bearings, etc.. In fact, someone with an older Country Coach with worn chassis and suspension items could save a bundle with this: you'd get your whole purchase price back by selling the power train. Plus, it's already in Eugene, where there is no shortage of shops to do the work.

In a few minutes we will pack up to head to our meeting. I expect we will be extremely busy between now and when it ends on Sunday afternoon, so I may not post again here until then. Our boss recently tweeted that we will "... focus on people management in our technology field." Good thing, that -- we technologists have notoriously bad people skills. (Speak for yourself. -Louise)


  1. Having lived in the Durham, NC area for some few years now, I've seen several incidents at that low bridge, including two with my own eyes. Once, someone tried to drive a pickup-body U-Haul under it and got stuck, wedged under the bridge. They had to deflate the tires and drive it out on the rims to free it.


  2. Re: Volunteering.

    Wow. Seems like it's a bit of a tough gig, considering one gives one's free time, and in your case, considerable skills, only to be admonished for "not getting along"??
    Pretty sure the bile would have been rising fairly quickly in my throat if it were me sitting in the meeting getting dumped on for my "people skills", or lack thereof.
    Probably best if I were to not put into print the type of explanation I might have given for my departure...and any activities they might wish to consider doing with "themselves"....
    Don't think I would have even stayed to the end....
    Then again, I've said it before, you have more patience than I.

    Keep it between the ditches.



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