The Long, Long (Awaited) Trailer

As I write this post, I’m comfortably seated in my new office.

My new office also happens to be our new home away from home. Behold, our 13’ 1965 (we think) Santa Fe trailer!

Sorry for the rear end photo…our driveway isn’t quite wide enough to allow for a full side shot. Here’s the front.

We’ve been thinking about getting a trailer for a couple years, but couldn’t make the commitment. Did we want a newer Airstream? Um, way too expensive. How about a vintage Airstream? Most needed too much work…and were still pretty dang expensive. A couple Shasta/canned ham type trailers came and went on Craigslist, but we couldn’t decide whether a lack of bathroom facilities was a deal breaker.

Did I mention we’re getting married in October, and our wedding will be an outdoor camping weekend? I think the notion of spending the wedding night in a cramped and probably cold tent finally gave us the motivation we needed to just pick one already.

It doesn’t have a bathroom, but it does have a turquoise range, sink, and icebox. Most of the places we plan to camp offer shower facilities, anyway.

The previous, previous owner (if that makes sense) did a lot of remodeling, including painting, electrical rewiring, and installing custom retro upholstery and curtains.

It could still use a few small fixes here and there, but most importantly, it’s ready to roll for our annual summer camping trip next month.

I’m already stocked up on chili-in-a-can and s’more supplies…let’s get this show on the road!

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Dolly’s House

Creek Street, a row of piling-perched buildings in Ketchikan, Alaska, was once an infamous red light district where local men could go for a good time. Today, it’s where tourists go to buy stuffed grizzly bears and smoked salmon.

So when a “prostitute” soliciting $5 tours of Dolly’s House caught our attention, we figured we’d go for it. Sure, a brothel tour sounded gimmicky, but at least it would get us out of the gift shops.

It turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. Not only was Dolly’s House a window into the life of a particularly interesting prostitute, it was also a look into a nearly intact early 20th Century home.

Being from California, I tend to link legal prostitution with the Wild West. But unlike in the rest of the states, brothels operated legally in Alaska until 1953, and Dolly Arthur – the owner and madam of this home – lived here up until she died in the 70s. So everything was surprisingly well-preserved – especially the kitchen. Apparently she was a great cook.

Cooking wasn’t all she was good at. Prostitution was a lucrative business, at least for Dolly, who was able to pay off her mortgage just two weeks after purchasing her home in 1919 – and at just 26 years old.

But what really helped seal her success was timing. Prohibition went into effect just months after she moved in. Men waiting in her parlor could drink all the bootleg liquor they wanted – at 50 cents per teaspoon.

The booze was passed underneath the house at high tide, and received via the trap door in the bottom left of the above photo. To the right is a hidden bar. See the ceramic dog? Despite the seedy nature of her business, Dolly had some pretty tame hobbies. She collected dog statuettes (she loved animals) and books (reading and writing were her passions).

Oh, and she also collected flags.

And hats.

Maybe most fascinating were the bathrooms. I did not know that round-tanked toilets existed.

But even more bizarre was the downstairs bathroom Dolly had fashioned especially for gentleman callers (because guys should always have their own separate bathroom).

Gotta love the contrast between the dainty wallpaper and the pee-stained metal. But then, contrast was kind of a theme of the tour. On the one hand, you’re peering into a cozy vintage home. On the other hand, you’re paying for a glimpse at a profession that, despite being romanticized, could be pretty gruesome.

Still, it was the best 5 bucks I’ve spent in awhile.

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Northern Exposure

I learned lots of important things on my first cruise.

One, that I am not cut out for cruising. A week of buffet food, surprise expenses, broken shower drains, and claustrophobia was a week too much for me.

Two, that the cruise industry has turned Alaskan port cities into unending blocks of jewelry stores and souvenir shops selling things you could just as easily buy at the airport.

Three, that when you look beyond the cruise ships and tourist traps, the far north landscape is breathtakingly beautiful. And many residents enjoy views of the craggy cloud-covered peaks, rushing waterfalls, and soaring eagles just outside the windows of their cute little bungalows.

That’s right, while I figured our photos would mostly feature the great outdoors, the architecture turned out to be pretty cool, too. These photos were taken in Juneau.

Note the canoe ready to go in the front yard.

The hills are so steep that staircases are often used as side streets.

I love the terraced garden behind this house. See the evil cruise ship lurking in the background?

When we got to Skagway, the sun started to peek out from the clouds for the first time on the trip.

This house had a playhouse mini-me.

In Ketchikan, we were even able to tour one of Alaska’s best preserved historic homes. Here’s a little teaser.

For the rest of the photos, check out my upcoming post on Dolly’s House!

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