$5.00 for 15 minutes and leave the children behind

The Red Onion SaloonOnce in a while, you come across something that for all purpose doesn’t sound great but turns out to be. So on a family Alaska cruise, I saw a signed that said.

$5 for Fifteen minutes (Just like in 1898).

We had just met at the Red Onion Salon in downtown Skagway, Alaska for some refreshments when the sign caught my attention.

The Red Onion Saloon, off of 2nd and Broadway, claim to fame is that it is the oldest brothel and saloons in Alaska.

A brothel that is boasting $5 for fifteen minutes – kind of sketchy. So I do what any morally sound person would do, I took a shot of liquid courage (Gold Rush Brewery Root Beer), walked up to the bar and I slapped $5 on the counter and said sign me up!

Before you click away thinking that this is going to become rated X – what it meant was a 15-minute tour through the history of the brothel and the upstairs rooms. No girls are working are there!

The Red Onion hasn’t been a brothel in many ages, but it did find its niche as a one of kind tourist traps, saloon and a great place to meet after exploring Skagway. This place will send you back to the area of miners when Alaska was more of a frontier and less civilized.

What a Saloon looked like back in 1890s

There are a restaurant and bar, where ‘saloon’ girls will serve you American bar food and drinks. It was nothing to write home about on food quantity, but the atmosphere make-up for it. You feel like you are sitting in a wild saloon with bar fights, a lively piano, poker game, and the occasional trips upstairs to have some fun.

The building creaks and groans and the smell of polish wood and alcohol floats in the air.

Saloon Girl and Tour Guide

The tour starts on the staircase, and you get a little about the history of the building and the Red Onion Saloon. Then you head upstairs to see the rooms that the working girls would have had to conduct their business.

There are about 10 ‘cribs’ up there, small rooms that the girls would have used for business. These rooms were big enough for a bed, and not much else. The girls lived and worked in these chambers.

Our tour guide showed us the walls, which had many different layers of wallpaper. She explained to us that each of the rooms would have been decorated by the girls, very elaborately.

Included in the tour was two of the Red Onions one of a kind unique objects. One was a doll, and the other was a silver nightgown dress from the turn of the century.

Our tour guide explained that the dolls were originally behind the bar. The dolls were painted to look like the ladies who worked upstairs. If you were a lonely miner looking for some love. You would pay the bartender your $5 and choose a doll. The bartender would put the doll down, showing that the girl was unavailable because she was conducting business. You would head upstairs for your 15 minutes. Once you came back downstairs, the bartender would stand the doll up again, signaling she was open for business.The Crib

Upstairs among the antiques are also painting of ladies, done by different artists. Some of them a little risqué.

At the end of the tour (which is exactly 15 minutes), the tour guide brought us down stairs again.

I will have to admit; it was very entertaining and somewhat embarrassing, but totally worth the $5.

So next time you are in Skagway on a cruise or just passing through, stop at the Red Onion Saloon for some good old fashion moral corruption and a Shady Lady (the pizza!).

Red Onion Saloon

Red Onion Saloon Ghost

My Alaska Cruise Photos

Forbidden

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It’s A Trap– A Butterfly Trap!

 

Sometimes a trap is worth being caught

When the city that you work for is the Butterfly Capital of the World, you have to wonder…Is there that many butterflies in Coconut Creek.

Atala Butterfly
Atala Butterfly on white flowers

I have been attacked by atala coming out of work, and once in a while you see a monarch or whatever mimicking it floats by. But do we really have the largest collection of these colorful insects?

The answer might not lie in our parks and gardens, but in our very own tourist trap, Butterfly World, home of a million butterflies.

Yes, a million butterflies! Making this the largest collection of a living and dead butterflies in the world.

At $27.00 per person, one might wonder if this trap is worth getting caught in.

Hint: If you are from the area, or planning to come down more than once the season pass is worth it. At $54.00, you break even in two trips. Also check out Groupon or local stores, they sometimes have a deal for two for the price of one.

Butterfly world path

Path at butterfly world

I will admit to getting caught in this trap more than once.

Why you might ask.

To tell you the truth, it’s peaceful there. First of all, the butterflies are housed in a huge aviary, that is about two stories high and about a couple of acres wide. This makes it one of the biggest butterfly houses in the world. And not only are there butterflies, but hummingbirds, flowers, trees, and a waterfall. You can walk to the top of the waterfall and overlook the who scenic wonder. Stepping into the aviary, you feel like you have entered an enchanted garden.

Tranquil music plays while you stroll around looking at the butterflies.

The butterflies are free to move around, and some of them zoom at you, barely dodging you (the little things really can zoom). Make sure you have a fast shutter speed because they do not stop for pictures.  So as you walk through this very peaceful garden, you are surrounded by colorful butterflies, listening to very tranquil music and flowing water, you can help but feel at peace yourself.

We will spend a couple of thousands of dollars to go to a tropical paradise to get the peace that this place offers.

If you are really lucky, one of the butterflies will even land on you.

Butterflies with banana

Butterflies eating banana

Hint: Butterflies like to hang out at the feeding stations, so if you are looking for a good picture, look for a dish with bananas on it. I guarantee that you will find more than one enjoying a snack.

Along the path you can also check out the cocoons (The ones that have been collected). Last time we were there, a couple of the butterflies started to emerge from their cocoons.

Hint: Butterflies prefer warm, bright days, so make sure you visit them on a warm bright day to get the maximum effect of butterfliness.

Two passiflora

Butterfly World also has other attractions than the butterfly aviary. One of my favorite areas is what I like to call the alien garden. Different types of exotic vine flowers grow freely, and when the flowers are in full bloom, they look like they are from some alien planet.

Lorikeets

Another favorite is the Lorikeets encounter where you can meet and feed these very colorful (and loud) feather friends. Last time I was there, I got a new boyfriend, by the name of Caesar. The lady who was overseeing the encounter said that Caesar was somewhat of a ladies’ man, and sure enough as soon as another young lady enter the encounter, I was forgotten. Oh well, so much for true romance.

For a $1.00 you can feed these very friendly, intelligent and loud birds.

The last stop is only for those who are brave (or get dragged by their boyfriend). Inside a building next to the Lorikeet encounter is the bug house (yikes!)

Me with Ceasar

I have a parrot on my head

Spiders I have no problem with, scorpions I think are neat, and who doesn’t love grasshoppers, centipedes, and millipedes. There is one thinking I cannot stand.

Cockroach…. both the flying and non-flying ones.

The number one reason why Florida is not paradise. Florida has both types of cockroaches, and they are huge.

This place has hundreds of them (in a glass cage, or there will be no way in hell you would have ever gotten me in there). I can’t even type this out without getting the heebie-jeebies.

Butterfly on red flower

Zibra longing butterfly on a ixora

If you are interested or like bugs, check it out. If not, stay very, very far away…you have been warned.

The last stop is of course the gift shop. And along the usual shirts, postcards, and knickknacks, you can also purchase live lady bugs (we did).

Those lady bugs were living in my refrigerator for a week until we could release them. Turns out the maximum time to release them into the wild is at night after a rainstorm. And for some reason, our usual monsoon had taken a vacation that week.

They also have the seeds of the alien vine flowers and of course caterpillars (that you can watch turn into a butterfly before releasing them).

So there you have it, Coconut Creek’s very own tourist trap. So is this worth getting trap in.

Well, it’s no 100 foot ball of yarn…it’s better!

So next time you are driving down the Florida Turnpike and see a sign boasting over a million butterflies. Make sure you stop. You will be glad you did.

Visit Butterfly World
Visit my Flickr Butterfly World Album
Carefree

A Little Bit of Childhood Fun

IMG_1095One of the best advice another vagabond gave me was wherever you go, make sure you do something you have never done or cannot do where you live.

When you live in Florida, anything with snow, falls under that advice.

It was on a snowboarding trip a year ago that I finally got to do something that I have always wanted to do, have never done, and could not do in Florida.

I went tubing.

It was over breakfast the second morning when we were in Breckinridge, Colorado, that both my friend Aimee and I realized the one thing both of us lack from our childhood is that we both had never slid down the snow on an inner tube. But in our defense, I live in Florida, and she resides in Hawaii, so snow is not a normal thing.

With our trip at the end of ski season, most of the tubing places were closed, and we were convinced we would have to go to Walmart and buIMG_1096y one so that we can finally do it. So that morning we were planning out whole adventure, including how to convince our snowboard instructor Chris that we really, really needed to go down the mountain at least once on an inner tube.

Lucky for Chris, the inn keeper’s wife overheard the conversation and informed us that a snow park (whatever that was) down the road was still open, and one call to the center had us convinced that we could have this adventure without dragging poor Chris along. He had enough to deal with us with snowboarding.

So after the lesson, we raced about 17 minutes down the road, to the Frisco Adventure Park. During the summer it is a dirt bike park, but during the winter, it is a snow park with different attractions, including, a ski hill (for really little kids) and of course a tubing hill.

Six lanes of ups and down, twist and turning tubing hill.

So after having to sit through the safety video, with a bunch of penguins teaching us about tubing safety (which Aimee paid no attention to).  We exited a yurt and grabbed our tubes. We got up to the hill to only realize…

We were the only adults there.

IMG_1097

Yep, we were the only adults surrounded by kids ranging from age 5 to 12. Most of them looking at us as if we had lost it.

Did we give up on our dreams of tubing?

NOPE!

We grabbed those tubes, sat down and pushed off and went sliding down the slopes, laughing all the way.

Then we did it over and over again. Sliding racing, probably doing everything we weren’t supposed to do in an attempt to reclaim a part of our childhood. Why should kids have all the fun?

And the best part is that after 40 minutes the rest of the kids got bored and went searching for their electronics, leaving us with the whole “mountain” to ourselves.

One of the guides asked me once, before pushing me off, what I was doing up here (aka aren’t you a little old to be doing this). I looked down the hill, “Tubing, because would you believe it that you can’t go snow tubing in Florida.”

That earned me some respect before he pushed me off.

So on our last turn, we decided to race. I figured I had this one in the bag because I was a lot heavier than she was.

IMG_3549Needless to say, not paying attention to the safety video paid off because she won (cheated). This is still one of our biggest debates. She claims she was using her brains, knowing I would have won because I am heavier. I stick to the claim that she wasn’t following the safety penguins’ instructions.

Let’s call it what it is; it is cheating.

At the end of our hour, our faces were flushed, and our sides hurt from laughing so hard, and thankfully I had remembered to wear my butt pads that day because my butt would have been a little more bruised (I forgot to wear them the day before).

So yes, we might have been the only adult on the hill that day. But for every person who wished they could do something, but had been afraid to do it because they felt like they had grown out of it. And for all those who regretted not acting on something because they might never have the chance again. We took a back a little of our childhood. And prove you are never too old to have fun.

Plus Tubing is fun.

IMG_1094Check out Frisco Adventure Park and the City of Frisco

A Piece of Advice
Childhood Revisited

Red Eye Tour

Red Eyes and I don’t mean a Late night flight

It was a Groupon that leads to me this wild adventure, which even most Floridians have never been on.

Groupon is a place where I go when I can figure out what to do. Some of the stuff have been disastrous, and others have been good.

I am filing this one under epic.

The Groupon read something along the lines of Airboat ride at night, see gators when they are most active. I grew up with the image of gators being somewhat lazy, plus I never been on an airboat ride at night, so sign me up.

We had scheduled the first ride for Halloween, but because they had a party cancel, they moved us to the following week.

Hint: Red Eye Tours must be booked in advanced and if they don’t have enough people they will cancel it.

So the night of our tour arrived, and my boyfriend and I drove out to Sawgrass Recreation Center off of, US Highway 27 in Weston. It is as far as you can go out of civilization before being engulfed in the Everglades. The parking lot was empty except for a couple of raccoons and the occasional opossum. At this point, both he and I were wondering what we got ourselves into.

After checking in (you do have to arrive early) and filling out the “we understand that this is very, very dangerous and we might get eaten by an alligator, but if we do we will not sue” forms. It was time to head down to the dock and our awaiting airboat.

I have been on airboats before, and they usually sit higher off the water, so the occasional tourist doesn’t put his hands in the water. Also most airboats I have been on, have a cage around you, to protect you from the wildlife.

Guess what; these didn’t. We were warned before we headed out that gators are known to do two things at night, hunt and mate. That all I need to hear, that we were going out into their territory, and they will be hungry or horney or both.

Captain Jim greeted us and told us that there wasn’t much to safety instructions except hold on, don’t stand up while the boat is moving, don’t fall in, and don’t feed the alligators. Also, no petting them because they are protected and it is a lot of paperwork to fill out if we do.

Off we go.

Airboats are low water crafts that can pick up amazing speed. And when it is going at high speed, you really get to feel the wind in your face. A traditional airboat does not have any windshield; it is just you and the pilot out in nature. Airboats have great moveable capabilities, allowing them to do figure 8 and 360 turns with just a flick of the wrist.

Tonight we weren’t going as fast, mostly because once you pull away from the docks and head into the Glades, it is complete darkness, except the light from the boat. And for someone who grew up the city and can be a little terrifying.

wp-1467426339089.jpgIt didn’t take long for us to find our first two gators. There is a reason why the tour is called the Red Eye Tour – when you shine a light in a gator’s eyes at night they glow red.  And two of them were peeking out of the tall sawgrass about a couple of yards to the side of us.

The Captain stopped the boat and started to talk to us about the history of the Glades when we started to notice those red eyes were coming towards us.

We are out in the middle of a very dark and very quiet swamp, and two gators are making their way towards us.

“Now folks, this isn’t normal. Usually, I spend half the night trying to get close to them.”

In a matter of seconds, we are surrounded by two of them, and another one shows up to see what all the fuss was about.

They swim right next to the boat, and there wasn’t much separating us from them.

And before you click away thinking someone is about to get eaten, the most amazing thing happens.

Nothing.

While we stood there on 8 feet wide, 12 feet long, low to the water, no cage airboat about a couple of miles out, snapping our cell phone, nothing happened.

The gators were more interested in watching us. And we were memorized by the fact that we only stood a couple of feet away from this prehistoric predator. A couple of times one of them would move or change directions, but other than that they were happy to float and to list to the Captain talking about them.

It is at that point someone said, that they aren’t that aggressive.

“No mama,” said the Captain. “They are quite lazy; the only time they move is to feed or mate.”

All the news that you hear, and all of the stories that have been told about them, and you wonder at that moment were they being misrepresent to us. Could it be if we left them alone, they would do the same?

After a half hour of them just floating there, allowing us to take pictures, Jim decided that we got our money’s worth in seeing gators. He decided to take us for a midnight ride. Hearing the airboat blades start up, the gators went back to whatever a gator does at 9:00 pm Saturday evening.

We speed along the glades enjoy the dark, fast ride, as Jim waived the boat. We stop at another place, just to see if the Big Boy was there. Big Boy was a 12-foot bull gator (male) who usually hung out at one of the sawgrass marsh islands. He wasn’t there, but we did spot two female gators poking their noses around. They weren’t as interested in the boat as those three were, and continued to go about their business

It was time for us to head back. We went slowly this time, allowing us to enjoy the quietness of the Glades at night. Once in a while, a strange sound would echo, and Jim would tell us what it was. A gator calling for his mate, a screeching owl, a panther (that was scary) getting into a fight with another one. But out among the swamp water, sawgrass and cypress trees, watching the night sky light up with thousands of stars, you can imagine yourself back a hundred years ago in the Seminole time.

wp-1467426339082.jpgMany of times, we don’t plan for something epic to happen, it just does.  I have lived in South Florida over 32 years, and I have never been that close to a gator before. I have seen them from behind a glass window or off in the distance, but never close enough to one where I could scratch its head. And I wonder if that gator, who was floating next to the part of the boat where I was; has he or she has never been that close to a human either. I felt a connection: if we could just sit there watching each other than maybe there was hope for the human/animal world.

So this vagabond’s advice is never to turn down adventure; however you learn about it.

If you are coming to Florida anytime soon and want a truly unique experience, I would recommend taking an airboat ride. If you are in Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area and want something a little more adventurous, I would recommend the Red Eye Tour. I will have a link to the information below.

Sawgrass Recreational Park

Sawgrass Recreational Nightime Tours