Over the years I’ve been fortunate to stay in touch with many of my Tampa Plant High School classmates, even coincidentally running into some of them in very unlikely locations including Berlin, Paris and London, many years after graduation.
Some I have known since grade school have gone on to become musicians (Stephen Stills), astronauts (Sam Durrance), the first female mayor of Tampa (Sandy Warshaw), a belly dancer, teachers, electricians, newspaper editors and reporters, authors, actors, actresses, preachers, professors, business executives, housewives, airline pilots, mechanics, salesmen, carpenters, soldiers, and more. Stephen, Sam, Sandy and the others all have fascinating stories but one that appeals to me is Rosalind (Roz) Latimer, a very pretty, perky blonde, who I last saw when she was performing in front of a packed crowd of fans at Plant’s Dad’s Stadium as head majorette and member of the precision dance team, Danceros, during football halftime shows.
Not long ago a former classmate sent me an email telling me that Roz – now Mrs. Roy Simpson – is living a fascinating life, traveling through North America, recording her adventures as she and her husband ride in RV luxury to spots ranging from historical and warm to scenic and chilly, a lifestyle they decided upon some 14 years ago.
Roz says they didn’t make the decision hastily, researching for three years before making the move.
“In 2001 we sold our home, told our two sons to take what they wanted, sold or gave away most of our ‘stuff,’ and put some artwork, family photos and other special things we wanted to keep in a 5′ x 8′ climate controlled storage unit.” she recalls. “We downsized from 2,800 square-feet to a 40-foot diesel pusher of 325 square feet when the slides are extended.” Family and friends were not too surprised as the adventurous couple also owned their own hot air balloon for 14 years.
“We thought we would travel for about a year to see where we wanted to settle for our retirement. But it was so much fun we continued the ‘full-time’ RV lifestyle.
“We have traveled in the coach to all 48 lower states but have also been in Alaska and Hawaii. We’ve seen 48 state capitols. We spent seven weeks in the Canadian Maritimes, going all the way to New Finland.” This summer they went to British Columbia & Alberta.
“We have logged about 116,000 miles on the coach (4,000 so far this summer) and probably twice that on the tow car. We go from point A to point B in the coach, then do our sightseeing in our car.”
She says typical household chores such as laundry and cooking are not a problem. “I can cook dinner in the crock pot while “tooling” down the road or do a load of laundry. We only drive about 250 miles a day, from about 10 am to 2 or 3 pm. Get to the RV park & take a walk or enjoy the pool. There is no hurry.”
“Make no mistake – this is not camping,” she emphasizes. “Our coach has all the comforts of home: two TV’s, French door refrigerator, lots of storage and a washer-dryer”.
They meet up with their two sons and grandchildren as often as possible. “Our older son has our grandchildren and the younger one does IronMan triathlons and being single he usually meets us someplace every year,” she says. “We take our coach to most all his Tri events. Sometimes it’s the headquarters for his supporters during the grueling event. The grands, four and nine, go on an outing or trip with us each year. Our grandson requested Gettysburg a few years ago. They love spending time in the “bus” as they call it.”
In 2008 they decided to put roots down — kind of — making Ocala in a Del Webb community nearby their home base. “I had to come back to my birth state.,” explains Roz. “Now we take short trips in the coach during the winter and extended trips every summer and will continue until one of us is physically or mentally unable.”
In October the happy wanderers will celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary.
I had no idea what my classmates would chose to do after graduation and am always intrigued when I hear their stories as we’ve come almost full circle now, as most of us are in retirement. I’m glad I’ve stayed in touch with so many and am looking forward to hearing many more fascinating life stories.
Best Sub South Of Kings Bay: If you want to experience the best sub sandwich anywhere around, do what I do and mix and match with Publix and Tony’s Brick Oven Pizzeria, which is “sandwiched” between the grocery store and Peterbrooke Chocolatier on Sadler in the Island Walk Shopping Center. Publix has a terrific baked-on-premises multigrain roll, which I head over to its deli department and buy for $1.89, then I go next door, hand it to Mark Keller, Tony’s congenial pizza maker, pasta cooker, sandwich maven and all-around do everything guy, and ask him to put his cold Italian sub ingredients in it. You don’t get a discount for bringing in your own roll, and you have to decide to either take the fries that come with the sandwich or order a salad for three bucks extra, but it is more than worth it for not only the best sub on the island, but possibly the best in the southeastern US and it can all be had for less than 10 bucks including the Publix roll and fries. Enjoy a bargain two buck draft beer while you’re waiting. Call Tony’s at 904/ 277-7661.
Best Burger Bastions: Feedback on last week’s “Fat man from space (FMFS) best island burgers” brought out a rash of public and private opinions with a number of local folks suggesting to the Fat Man From Space and me that we’ve missed the burger boat by not mentioning the “bar burger” at Baxter’s. Neither the FMFS or I have tasted Baxter’s burger, but we have it on our “too do” lists in the near future and will provide you our feedback as soon as we compare notes. Also a recent memo from the FMFS adds the following: “I may not have mentioned, but I’m also almost the Official Unofficial Amelia Island Barbecue Judge, not to be mistaken for one of those fancy certifications you get from those showoff accredited organizations. There’s been some kind of delay with the paperwork at FMFS Central, but it’s coming. I do need to branch out more in the county though. Indeed, one must in order to find enough places. BBQ is more elusive on the island than burgers and some of the best stuff is often hidden behind catering operations as you mentioned. We hoi polloi must often content ourselves to gaze longingly at rows of pork-laden chafing dishes behind the velvet ropes of catered events we weren’t invited to, which can make comparison of islanders’ BBQ skill tough to assess comprehensively.” So folks, in the not too distant future the Spacey Fat Man and I will provide what I think will be a thin list of the area’s best BBQ joints. That will be followed by pizza, a topic sure to ruffle some tomato sauce stained feathers as the war between thin and thick crust will be bitterly fought. Chains, where the pizza tastes like the container it comes in, will not be included.
Trip Insurance? Reader, island-resident-not-the-governor-or-a-relative, Rick Scott, says the cancellation policy by the Norwegian Cruise Line, which I chided last week because it refused to refund a family’s $4,000 after discovering their child had cancer, is no different than most, including even condo rentals. He suggest travelers purchase cancellation insurance that is designed for exactly this scenario.”The parents obviously made the conscious decision to save a few bucks by not purchasing this insurance for their trip and essentially decided take the risk upon themselves,” says Mr. Scott. “Travel providers make their policies crystal clear and recommend the purchase of insurance. It’s a little unfair to beat them up when their customers consciously choose NOT to protect themselves. This sort of thing happens all the time, so I think the bad PR the cruise line is getting is unfortunate and wrong. They’ve done nothing wrong. The wrong was the customer failing to buy the insurance.” Rick may be right technically, but when it comes to appearances and compassion, the Norwegian Cruise Line’s is sinking in a sea of bad PR and I, for one, will never set foot on another one of their ships.
Mingling With The “Common Folks:” I keep reading and hearing about how 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is weighing in on the side of “working class people” and the “middle class” and how she and other party muckity mucks can relate to them but I’ve yet to see where she or anyone else in her party has defined those terms. If her understanding of “working class” and “middle class” is based on her actions, then I think we may be miles apart. For example, Ms. Clinton received a $250,000 fee, and demanded and received round trip transportation on a $39 million, 16-passenger Gulfstream G450 and the Presidential Suite in her luxury hotel all for her total 90-minute visit, which included her talk to the University of Las Vegas Foundation, according to documents obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal through the state public records law. And she doesn’t travel alone, relying on an entourage of a couple of “travel aides,” and a couple of advance staffers who check out her speech site in the days leading up to her appearance. According to her contract, Clinton will remain at the event no longer than 90 minutes; will pose for no more than 50 photos with no more than 100 people; and won’t allow any press coverage or video – or audio-taping of her speech. The only record allowed will be made by a stenographer whose transcription will be given only to Clinton. The stenographer’s $1,250 bill, however, will go to the UNLV Foundation. The foundation, meanwhile, is prohibited from advertising the event on radio, TV or billboards. Mail and website ads are allowed, although Clinton staffers must approve in writing any promotional material. What in the world does this woman have to say that would be of the least bit of interest or benefit to students or the school’s foundation that would be worth this kind of lavish spending? And how can she pretend to “relate” to the “working” or “middle class” unless in her bubble world she thinks that’s how they also survive. The size of her fee has come under fire from critics who question the large expense in an era when students are hard-pressed to cover tuition and leave school saddled with massive debt. UNLV student leaders have sent a letter to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, which collects the $225,000 fee, asking that Hillary Clinton donate all or part of the money back to the university. They’ve received no reply.
Both Left & Right Agree On This: Fox News Commentator Bill O’Reilly ruffles a lot of feathers but last week both the right and left agreed with him when he said the following on his Talking Points segment: “We have to wipe out ISIS. They’re not going to stop murdering innocent people. We have to get them. That’s it. And there’s nobody else on the planet that’s going to do it.” I agree with Mr. O’Reilly, and maybe Obama should send a note to the Pentagon and the CIA saying: “I’m going to play golf the next couple of years so you fellows take over.”
Mean Green: It’s not just wind turbines chopping up thousands of birds; it turns out that solar plants can whack ’em in large quantities too. The Associated Press reports that the massive, state-of-the-art Ivanpah Solar energy plant in the Mojave Desert is killing about 28,000 birds a year. Birds entering the reflected rays ignite in midair and turn into a smoke plume; the locals apparently refer to the incinerated birds as “streamers.” Federal investigators reported a “streamer” every two minutes. Source – Georgia Public Policy Foundation.
Okie Pension Plan OK: The city of Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach may want to take a look at the public pension formula worked out by the politicos in Oklahoma. “In a move that must be applauded, lawmakers chose to reform Oklahoma’s broken and debt-ridden state employee pension system and adopt a defined contribution plan for all new non-hazard duty hires. The changes will result in a retirement plan for state employees that keeps promises to those who have accrued benefits while capping accumulation of new obligations and establishing a firm debt-elimination plan. The new structure, which is difficult for politicians to manipulate, results in a plan that employees and taxpayers can trust.” – Michael C. Carnuccio, president, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.