There is no reasoning with Hurricane Season

Squalls out on the gulf stream, Big storm commin’ soon Passed out in my hammock God, I slept till way past noon

–       Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season

wp-1474219007950.jpgLiving in South Florida, you learn a lot about the world. First, you are not as brave as you think you are when you realize that roaches can fly. Second, no place, no matter how far you travel is as humid as South Florida. Third, Adobe season makes everything better. And last, there is no reasoning with hurricane season.

Hurricane Season, which begins on June 1 and goes through Thanksgiving, is something that most Floridians anticipate, much like the North anticipates the fall season. Except there is no hurricane season double grande lattes at your local Starbucks. Now there would be a flavor of coffee; dirt, sweet, mixed in with bugs and mugginess to create such a delightful flavor. I am going to stick with my pumpkin latte, thank you.

Hurricanes might be the big storm, but throughout those months when the Atlantic Ocean is brewing her deadliest, we Floridians get a sample of appetizers to snack on. Meaning the weather during these months is a little unpredictable.  Think if Mother Nature went off her meds for schizophrenia, sociopath, and split personality while she was going through PMS and menopause at the same time, and you get a glimpse of what the weather is like during hurricane season.

One minute it is monsooning and the next it is a bright day. You can watch a storm stroll down the street, and every day is a 50 percent chance of rain. Mixed in with the fact that South Florida is the lightning capital of the world and you get hurricane seasons.

I have lived most of my life here, and except for a college and a breath stint when I first got out, Florida has been my home. So by now, you would think I have some understanding of this crazy time of the year, when making outdoor plans is a gamble. But the truth is, I still haven’t figured it out.

About three weeks ago, we were supposed to be hit by a tropical storm, so like any Floridian, I rushed out to get my supplies, unplug everything, and wait in total darkness for the storm to hit. This one decided to take a detour and hit the northwestern part of the state, leaving us alone except for a bunch of thunderstorms, and a supposed tornado.

Not much to talk about. But after spending two days of doing the unplug everything and re-plugging everything every 20 minutes, not going out, but board out of your mind, it makes one think how anyone wants to live in these conditions.

But after living through two of deadliest hurricanes, a bunch of not so deadly category 2s, countless tropical storm and one storm of the century (Hurricane Andrew), you don’t take the warning lightly.

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Andrew coming from a visit

 

Thankfully, we just had installed hurricane impact windows, or I would have been living with having to board up the place too.

And you can always tell when it is hurricane season, because first off, your local Publix always has at least one display of hurricane supplies, second you will see the houses that are completely boarded up, but people are still living in it. We have a tendency that once the shutters go up, they stay up during the whole stormy season even if nothing else happens. And three, we stock up on alcohol. You need something to get you through being boarded up with your family, with no electricity. And usually, about 9 months after the big one hits, you will see an increase in the populations. Again, you need something to take away the boredom.

With all the craziness of hurricane season, you might wonder why anyone would want to live here. The truth is…we just get used to them, like alligators they are here to stay.

To most Floridians, anything below a category 3 is a day off from work and the chance to host a hurricane party. We moan and groan when the meteorologists find another system out in the Atlantic, and talk about our generators. But for the most part, hurricane season is something that most Floridians don’t notice, much like the autumn up north.

 

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The views of sunrise and sunset from my back yard

There is one good aspect about the Florida hurricane season, is that we get some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

So in the end, I guess the Jimmy Buffet Song, Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season, is true.

There’s white caps on the ocean

And I’m watchin’ for water spouts

It’s time to close the shutters

It’s time to go inside

In a week I’ll be in gay par-ey

Hell that’s a mighty long airplane ride

 

 

Bloggers, Unplugged

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We’re going to NEED a bigger boat!

I stared down into the pool-blue water wondering if this was going to be the end of me. A couple of feet away a dorsal fin skimmed the water before returning to the depths. I was supposed to catch a flight home later today, and I wonder if work would take the excuse of dying as a reason for not showing up.

Somehow I doubt it.

“Are you sure about this,” I asked my best friend.

“I’m sure,” she said. The look wasn’t convincing.

“You know a bunch of Marines back out of this.”

“Marines are chickens,” she laughed not meaning it.  

“Well, at least I’ll have a good story about how I died once I get into heaven.”

 I willingly and knowingly jumped into the chum water with a bunch of sharks. And I also paid about $100 for this experience.

I took a final look, adjusted my mask and scissor dove into the water to meet the creatures of the deep.

When Aimee had picked me up at the Honolulu Airport at 8 pm a week ago. She excitedly told me that she had made reservations for us to go shark diving with a bunch of Marines, my jet-lagged brained thought this would be cool.

Now I am not too sure about it.

Halfway through the week, when the Marines started to back out, I should have thought this over.

But it was too late now. We were two miles from North Shore and I had already paid for this.

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I opened my eyes to see hundreds of bubbles rushed past me to escape what was coming up from below. Raising from the abyss, was at least 20 sand and white tip sharks. Each one of them comes close to see what this strange device that has entered their world and if it is edible.

They aren’t that big, maybe 4ft, but they still sent my heart racing and the adrenaline flowing each time one of them gets close enough to pet.

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Smiley the tiger shark

On the boat (the cage wasn’t far from it), the captain yelled for us to see this. Out of garbage bag that had been sitting close to him, he produced a giant tail of sword fish he had caught yesterday and threw it into the water.

A couple of seconds later, I could hear the Jaws theme music play as a 12-foot female tiger shark rose from the abyss, ignoring us and headed towards the fin.

“Hey boss, Smiley’s here,” yelled our guide who was bobbing inside the cage with us. His job was to make sure we don’t try to pet the sharks and takes the occasional picture of us with our cameras. Turns out sharks don’t like being petted.

“Smiley,” you named a shark, Smiley,” I said. He pointed to a smiley face tattoo/scar on the right side, just below the dorsal fin. Wondered what the story was behind that scar was.

10398381_1119143346893_7086229_nSmiley, the tiger shark, was happily chewing on the tail, as a couple of sand sharks tried to grab it from her. At some point, she decided to stretch out underneath the boat… and holy crap, she was bigger than the boat.

Turns out Smiley loves sail fish tail and usually waits just below the ability to see line, just to see if the crew had brought her one. She only makes an appearance if she gets her favorite treat.

“They get to know the boats,” said our guide. “We don’t have to chum the water, they show up before we even start,” he said. “They know the vibrations and come.”

“Yet you still chum it,” I said, thinking how excited the captain was about the sail fish tail. Not that I was too crazy about swimming in the water with fish guts.

 “Respect,” our guide told us. “The ancient Hawaiian believed that sharks were the guardians, they protected them. If you were a warrior and died protecting the chief, then you would be reborn as a shark. It’s all about respect, they come visit us, we should bring them presents.”

10398381_1119143306892_4131961_nUnder the water, we are up to 30 of them, and for some reason my body is not getting the adrenaline pump as before. I am calm and peaceful as I watched them play tag in the water. Maybe the afraid has turned into fascination because they aren’t here because they want to eat me, they are just as curious about us as we are of them.

About 30 minutes go by before we get back into the boat, the cage is lifted out of the water, and the motors start. By then most of the sharks, including Smiley have returned to the great abyss. We head back, Aimee talks about shrimp carts and food. We can’t decide between shrimp or dumplings.

The wind is blowing and a rainbow stretches across the land. What a way to end an incredible visit, and as a reminder of the Aloha spirit, the gods not only let the warriors of the past visit us, but gave us a beautiful rainbow.

10398381_1119142266866_2869394_nWhat amazes me the most is the respect. Even though our captain and guide are natives Hawaii (or have some connections), and they make their money off of letting tourist have a not so cheap thrill. They still see these creatures as guardians and not cold-blooded killers. To them, they bring the fish guts and a favorite treat, not to get the attention for the tourist (there were only two of us), but because they respect them enough to bring gifts.

I have other stories from that amazing week out there, but going shark diving (as crazy as it sounds) was epic.

Fear Factor
Aloha.

 To see more of my Hawaiian Adventure
Fishing

 

 

 

 

$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

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.

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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