After just a few days upon arriving in Naples, we were exploring the base by foot (when we could manage to stay awake, that is!) We got as far as the Navy Exchange (department store) and Commissary (Grocery store) in one direction and a playground in the other. I wasn't really sure even how much of the base we had covered until I had a conversation with another mom at said playground.
We talked about running.
Me: "Oh, you run? Where do you run here?"
Mom: "I just run the perimeter of the base."
Me: "Can you go all the way around? How long is that?"
Mom: "Just under three miles."
Those words started to burn in my head. "Just....Three...Miles" All the sudden I started to feel claustrophobic. I had the same feeling before, on Oahu, when I drove the whole island in an afternoon. Island Fever! Get me off this island! With our car in transit, we just HAD to find transportation off this island. Quickly!
So the search for our Naples Beater began.
When you PCS to a foreign country, the military usually picks up the tab to ship one POV (Personally Owned Vehicle) from the US. Any additional vehicles count against the weight of your HHG (Household Goods). So most everyone ships one car and picks up a "beater" when they arrive. We had our Volvo XC90 in route, but it wasn't scheduled to arrive for weeks.
The base has a "Lemon Lot". What is that? A collection of over-priced hunks of junk that are truly the sailors and soldiers ripping each other off. Especially if they are trying to sell something with an automatic transmission! Most cars are european and manual transmission. Many don't have air conditioning or other conveniences that the Americans can't live without. Lucky for us we can both drive a stick shift, so finding a beater was going to be easier for us...at least we thought.
We walked past the Lemon Lot several times a day. Each time, we poked our heads in and looked at their asking prices with disbelief. We arrived in Naples at the very beginning of the moving season, so quite frankly there were slim pickings at the lot. There are also other resources like naplesallhands.com which is a craigslist-like site for Naples, but we didn't find anything there either.
With our emotions running high and sleep deprivation we were starting to think we'd have to settle for something we truly didn't want. But then one day at the food court, we looked at a bulletin board and saw a decent looking car for sale. A Renault Scenic, 1998, with 4 doors, manual transmission, AC and diesel. We took down the number as a possibility.
Later we were in another building and we see the same car posted again. This time, the 1200 Euro price tag was scratched out and 1000 was written above it. Yes! A motivated seller! You see, the closer you get to leaving, the more motivated sellers get and the less they will settle for on their cars!
We decided to call then and there (and take the poster off the wall so no one else would call). The car belonged to a Spanish Officer working at NATO and he agreed to meet us that afternoon to show us the car.
Words cannot describe how we felt when we saw this little car. This officer had been the original owner of this car, and he took immaculate care of it. He described all that the car had to offer and that it was designed by a woman who was a mother and the details showed that. The back seat is actually three independent seats that can fold down, flip up or be completely removed. The back seat passengers have airline style trays that flip up on the back of the front seats. The center seats fold down into a tray two children can use. The usefulness goes on and on. Plenty of cargo space, hidden compartments in the floorboards, etc. This was a true gem. We offered him 900 Euro and he accepted as he already was leaving Italy with two new cars and could not take this one back. SCORE!
We've been driving our beater for almost two months now, and its fabulous! Our first weekend here we drove it to Sorrento for a day trip. It commutes with one of us daily and the gas mileage is awesome! We definitely scored a diamond in the rough with this car.
Now our Volvo is here as well, and we are still waiting on the Harley Davidson to arrive (Heritage Softail Classic) with our Household goods, but we are off the island and although I'm still on base almost every day this summer for swimming lessons and gymnastics classes, we couldn't be happier to be mobile.
Sadly we met many people who do not ever leave the base. Some have lived off base and had a bad experience. Some are just fearful of the unknown, and others still are say, "Just doing my time until this tour is over!" It saddens me that so many fear to leave the base. I have had an amazing experience in less than two months. Even just admitting in Italian that I speak mostly English softens the heart of the Napoletano and provokes them to going the extra mile for us with help. If you try, they will try harder. I'll save driving for another blogpost, as it really deserves extra attention, but even their crazy ways start to make sense once you take the time to understand them. Getting out there and doing it as soon as possible was the best way to help me feel more comfortable. I drive now and more often than not, I leave the navigation system at home! It takes time, but it's totally do-able and totally worth it!