Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Neoplan meet-up

We are at the Casino Del Sol on the western edge of Tucson (map). We knew they were RV-friendly, as we've stayed here before, and we'd already worn out our welcome at the closer and nicer Desert Diamond, which has a seven-night limit.

We ended up staying at The Shelter until past 5:00 on Sunday. When we first wandered in, there were only four folks from the scooter contingent in the bar, notwithstanding the fact that the closing party supposedly started half an hour earlier, and no scoots were in the lot. That's because the weather had turned nasty, and many folks ditched the afternoon ride altogether, while those who did it were hunkered down someplace on the route, waiting for clearer skies.

Nevertheless, we ordered a couple of happy-hour pints and settled in to see if anyone else would show up. As luck would have it, just as we were about to give up, people started wandering in past 3, and a couple we had befriended on Saturday, Pami and Guy, sat with us. We ended up shooting the breeze for nearly two hours before deciding we had better get rolling if we wanted to park someplace in the daylight. We took our leave of the half-dozen or so scooterists still in the joint, and ran out to the bus in the pouring rain.

Other than the slightly closer Elks lodge, which was a big unknown owing to its description in the guide as a small dirt lot (we did not want to be parking in the mud, given the torrential downpour), and the aforementioned Desert Diamond, this was the closest guaranteed free parking. We headed straight here, not wanting to deal with finding anything else. We had a nice dinner at their Mexican-themed venue, having already tried the high-end Italian place on our last visit. No free slot play or $211 jackpot on this visit, though.

Late that evening I received a message from fellow Neoplan owners Peter and Gabi, whom we know from the Bus Conversions bulletin board. They were in Yuma and heading home to Alamagordo, and inquired if we might be available for a quick visit, as Tucson is right on the way. We're always happy to meet other Neoplan owners, and we'd already conversed some on the board, so we suggested they come by sometime after we'd had enough coffee to be human.

And so it was that late yesterday morning they came rolling up in their converted Neoplan AN400 transit bus, toting a flatbed trailer with an old Mercedes on it. We later learned the Mercedes was the reason for the Yuma trip; they were retrieving it for a friend who had purchased it, sight-unseen I assume. Gabi and Peter are German, and so Neoplan was a familiar name to them. Little did they know when they purchased this coach that the AN440 was a strictly American model, built here in the US with almost exclusively domestic parts.

They have done a great job of converting it into a usable motor home on a limited budget. As foreign nationals here on limited visas, they are trying to limit their unrecoverable investments in material goods in the US, at least unless and until they can obtain more permanent status in this country. A wise move, we think. Peter has converted the rig to run on waste vegetable oil (WVO), which he purifies himself after collecting it from a variety of establishments with which he has agreements. We envy their ability to travel extensively at a much, much lower per-mile cost than us.

We really hit it off, being mostly of the same uber-geek mold with the same weird penchant for travel and non-traditional lifestyle. We ended up talking through lunch, our standard fare served in the penthouse, and well into late afternoon. Being due back in Alamagordo tonight, however, they decided they needed to get rolling and put some more miles under their wheels. We were sorry they could not stay for dinner. Before they left, though, Peter, who is an expert on diesels and a fuel injection specialist by trade, listened to our Detroit start up cold and watched the puff of white smoke that has been worrying me. I was relieved when he announced that this amount was completely normal. We agreed that we would try to reconnect somewhere in New Mexico if we ended up going to Albuquerque later this month.

Unfortunately, we learned this morning that Louise's Red Cross meeting may, instead, be held in Milwaukee. We knew that Albuquerque was only a guess, just as Orlando had been for the meeting we just finished two weeks ago here in Tucson, and so we did not actually make any definitive plans for it. I am a little disappointed, but it does not really make sense for us to roll some 650 miles, round trip, "out of our way" to Albuquerque just to attend the FMCA rally, when we need to be in California in another month. (If the Red Cross meeting had actually materialized there, our expense would have been offset somewhat by mileage reimbursement in lieu of airfare.)

We'll miss seeing our friends Jim and Pat, and probably some others, as well as the chance to reconnect with Gabi and Peter. But, as always, we know there will be other opportunities further down the road. The couple of things I had hoped to procure at the rally, including replacement chair swivels and maybe some LED replacement bulbs, will also have to wait.

Today's project, postponed from yesterday on account of bad weather, was to have been repairing the variator on Louise's scooter. After much discussion, we had decided to tackle this ourselves first, and fall back on the services of a shop only if necessary. However, the weather is still pretty chilly today, with a 30% chance of rain, and so we have decided instead to move along. Our friends Tom and Kathleen are still in Casa Grande, at the SKP co-op there, and we'd like to visit a bit on our way to Phoenix, so we'll be heading that way this afternoon. Some of the other thing's I'd like to do in Tucson, such as the Titan Missile Museum and BioSphere-2, will have to wait for another visit.


  1. Here you go Neoplan owners, let's see if you could do this trick:


  2. Yes, I can do that with my bus, which has exactly the same steering and suspension geometry as the one pictured. However, Louise has told me I am not allowed to run the tags off the road like that :)

    We've discussed this video previously on the bus conversion board:


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