By JULIE SHERWOOD
NAPLES - Lou Smiley hasn't always been on the move. But since
he gave up a permanent home more than 20 years ago for a life
on the road, he hasn't wanted anything else.
"This is my home,"
said Smiley, 74, who rolled into Naples last week in his 1945
Flxible Clipper coach. Towing his 1960 Volvo, Smiley, a vintage-car
mechanic, pulled into the parking lot of the laundromat behind
Bob & Irv's Shursave grocery store."I decided to do
some laundry, " said Smiley. But while maneuvering the 33-foot-long former Greyhound bus around the parking lot, Smiley broke the drive shaft.
. He didn't
seem too upset about it.
His nonchalance no doubt comes
from being an accomplished mechanic - who else would depend for
housing and transportation on a bus made when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president? - but also from a disposition warmed by spending his winters at an abandoned military base in the desert of southern California.
"The beauty of his lifestyle is
not having a schedule" he confided. As soon as he installs a
part he ordered from a shop in Rochester he'll be on his way,
Smiley came to visit friends
in Naples - Maryann Sweikart and her husband, Pete O'Biso - after
attending a bikers' rally in Ohio. His next stop is Syracuse,
where he'll visit some other friends.
"He likes hanging around
and puttering here and there," said Sweikart, who met Smiley
in the mid-1990s in Mesa, Ariz. Her old Honda Civic needed work,
and Smiley was there to do it.
"I got friends wherever
I go," said Smiley, whose wife, Pamela, is traveling separately
in her own 1971 Lazy Daze van. For years, they lived in Rockland
County, northwest of New York City, in a rented house. In 1982,
when their landlord decided to sell, they wanted to find a cheaper
lifestyle. Then an old Winnebago turned up for sale for $5,000,
and they decided to give it whirl.
"We've been in every state," said Smiley, who operates his mechanic's shop in the winter from a 1968 International step van.
In 1997, while traveling through
southern Virginia in a 1940 Yellow Coach, he spotted a rusty
1945 Flxible Clipper coach off in the trees.
"It was pretty trashed out," said Smiley. He nonetheless bought it and fixed it up, and it has been home ever since.
The rig and its occupant have created a lot of curiosity, said Bob & Irv's owner Rick Rennoldson.
"Guys come in and say, 'Now, what year is that?'" remarked Rennoldson.
Smiley, says, " he sounds
like an interesting fellow."