Beautiful, hip, elevated & wet: Flagstaff. <3

IMG_2175

On the road from Las Vegas to Flagstaff, AZ

After spending two nights in Las Vegas and stopping at the Hoover Dam we continued on to beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona. This was both of our first times in Arizona and we had a preconceived that the entire state was desert. We were surprised to find that Flagstaff was cool, mountainous and green. We spent 3 nights at the KOA in Willams, AZ. Our accomadations-although better than staying in a tent during a monsoon-were a big step down from our strip view in Vegas.

IMG_2178

IMG_2177

Although it was not the worst place we stayed on the trip it was by far the most uncomfortable beds

This Kampground of America location was about 20 minutes west of Flagstaff in the smaller town of Williams. I can’t say that we spent much time in Williams, except to eat at a gross diner and take some awesome pics by their Route 66 sign! One of my biggest regrets was not visiting Bearizona, a self-drive through wildlife park. I visited something similar in Winston, Oregon and I know both Jake and I would have enjoyed it.

IMG_2185IMG_2182

Getting Sick

Flagstaff, a town of approximately 66,000 and home to Northern Arizona University, was our base for 5 days and 4 nights. Other than the Dream Center it was our longest time in one place. I had heard about some people experiencing Altitude Sickness while visitin cities, such as Denver, which are at a high altitude. It never occurred to me that Flagstaff was 7,300 feet high. Which is about 7,100 feet higher than I am use to living! I would be talking with Jake and everything was fine and suddenly my head would bob forward and I would feel like I was on the verge of passing out. I was constantly short of breath and would get winded walking short distances. I am a person who takes great pleasure in food, but the entire time we were in Flagstaff and the surrounding areas, the thought of food would make my stomach roll. Jake had some shortness of breath and nausea too.Since I am an RN I had an idea about what was happening to me (especially after good ole Google confirmed my fears!) but I didn’t want to waste time visiting and Emergency Room or leave Flagstaff early so I tried to adapt and stick it out. We limited our activity, took naps, drank a lot of water and tried to practice deep breathing. I never passed out, if I had then we would have visited the hospital. It all worked out for the best, and by the time we reached Boise a few days after leaving Arizona I felt back to my normal self.

Downtown Flagstaff

Our favorite part of Flagstaff was, easily, downtown. The University is located nearby so the area is full of hip cafe’s, bars, organic/whole food shops, restaurants, etc. During the monsoon rainfall one day, we spent a couple hours re-charging at Rendezvous Coffeeshop/Martini Bar. After checking out at the KOA we spent or last night in Flagstaff at the Hotel Monte Vista which is connected to the bar/coffeeshop.

IMG_2186

Enjoying some awesome latte’s

IMG_2198

Beautiful, Trendy Downtown!

IMG_2319

Not too bad for $70/night in downtown!

For budget travelers, there are two hostels in town, but we found the Hotel Monte Vista to be just as affordable. Granted, we did not get a shower or toilet in our room, for $30 less per night compared to other hotels it was worth it!

After dinner one night we found a group performing in the town square. Honestly, I would like to consider myself a cultured person…but this was just weird. I feel bad saying that because I’m sure they all put a lot of time in to it, but I really just didn’t understand or connect with it. It was suppose to be some sort of rendition of a Native American dance but we had to leave after a few minutes because it was so bizarre! There were people rolling on the ground with their stilts on and dancing in circles and climbing things…I didn’t get it. I wish I would have snapped a video but I was just so engrossed in the dance!

IMG_2265 IMG_2264

We found one of our most favorite places to eat while in Flagstaff (we loved it so much we came back two nights in a row!). The Lumbaryard Brewing Company use to be a lumbaryard but was converted into a brewery and American/BBQ Restuarant. The food was PHENOMENAL. We had to go back the 2nd night mainly so Jake could get another helping of their mac n’ cheese! Their drinks were well priced, as well as late night appetizers. Plain and simple- GO if you are in the area!

IMG_2335

My Sangria next to Jake’s whiskey sour…mine is on the left 😉

We had decided to walk the couple blocks to the Brewery (while it was beautiful and sunny)…and we ended up practically running back to our hotel during a monsoon! I have never been in rain so hard and heavy before! Thankfully I had worn flip-flops because there was a couple inches of standing water just on the sidewalk.

IMG_2326

After the walk back. We were seriously soaked and freezing. Jake was kind enough to let me borrow his hat at least!

IMG_2324

I wish I would have taken more pictures of Flagstaff because it is so beautiful. We in fact enjoyed it so much that we checked out the hospital (for me) and University (for Jake). I don’t think it’s the right time in our lives to move anywhere but it is a place we would definitely consider! It made a great base for taking day trips to the Grand Canyon and Native Ruins to the south. It’s well worth spending a few days!

Hoover Dam

177

30 miles from the heart of Las Vegas lies the Hoover Dam. It is situated on Lake Mead, the largest reservoir (per volume) in the United States. When the Reservoir is full, at it’s deepest it can reach up to 1,200 feet deep which is just astonishing! I was surprised to see advertisements for scuba diving lessons on the drive to Hoover Dam but apparently it is a common activity, you can expect to spend $50-$100 for an introductory course at Lake Mead.

175

The Hoover dam lies on the border of Arizona and Nevada so it was kind of interesting to see two giant clocks on either side of the dam representing the different time zones. The dam itself was so beautiful. It is incredible to think about how man was able to build something so big and so strong (even in the crazy heat! It was at least 105F when we visited!).

145

Lake Mead

178

726 feet up!!

156

The Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (AKA the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge)

164

This was before we were dripping in sweat. (TMI? It was July. In the desert.)

166

Love this monument! There was a big beautiful American flag at the top

We decided to do the Power Plant Tour which was $11 per person. It is not recommended for people which claustrophobia, which I never thought I had…until I took a 70 second elevator ride 530 feet into a big dam. I (being the doom and gloom person my husband knows I can be) thought of all the worst scenarios that could happen. I was waiting for someones pacemaker to stop working (not recommended for the tour), an earthquake to happen or the electricity to suddenly stop (are there even stairs?!). I became really anxious about half way through the tour and was pretty excited when it was over. All in all, it was a nice reprieve from the heat inside the air conditioned building (except deep down where it was fairly warm) and it was interesting to learn the history of the Hoover Dam. It is definitely a must visit if you are in the area.

IMG_2168

Not what I expected the inside of the dam to look like!

172

My Advice:

1. Try to get there early, especially in summer. It is SO HOT!

2. Park on the side with the visitors center. It is a long walk across the dam, especially when done in the middle of the day. Our one water bottle was hot water by the time we got to the other side.

3. You can’t get to Arizona from the Arizona side of the bridge. If there are no parking spots by the visitor center you have to drive across the dam to the Arizona side but to leave you must go back and drive over the Bypass bridge. Learned that the hard way!

4. Bring enough water. 1 is not enough for 2 people. We ended up splurging on $2 12oz water bottles in the store because we did not plan very well.

Las Vegas, Part II

It’s been awhile since I last blogged. Honestly, I had some post-trip blues. Every time I did something part of my of my daily life I would get this achy feeling in my soul, thinking, “I would rather be traveling.”  After the post-trip blues resolved I discovered that my PC with all my pictures on it from the trip had crashed. We finally got around to having it fixed, so here I am!

Las Vegas, Part II. I feel like I have nothing revolutionary to say. After 2 days in Vegas we hardly scratched the surface. But by reading this post I hope you can get some ideas at least of what to maybe not do in Vegas! 😉

What not to do:

1. Bring quarters with you to Vegas. I feel like I did research on Vegas but I felt silly when we got there with $40 in quarters to realize that all of the machines do not take change. They can take dollar bills but to “cash out” your earnings (*cough cough* or the money remaining after your losses) they give you a receipt to bring to a machine and that will give you the money. Maybe this is a no-brainer but it sure fooled us! So unless you are planning on visiting Freemont Street and some of the older casinos I would leave your change in your piggy bank.

IMG_2095

By only playing the penny machines and betting $0.03 per bet I left the slot machines with more money in my pocket 😉

2. Buy tickets ahead of time. Unless you expect that the show may sell out (i.e. it’s a special show or a weekend) I would wait until you are in Vegas to buy tickets. When I priced tickets to Blue Man’s group I was astonished to see that they would be more than $100 per ticket for decent seats. We ended up scoring 2 tickets for $40 (they came with a price though!—> see #3).

IMG_2110

Blue Man Group at Monte Carlo

3. Don’t see a timeshare for cheap Blue Man group tickets and a free dinner at the Venetian…unless you have a lot of time to spare and TONS of patience! More on this later!

4. Do not walk from one end of the Las Vegas strip to the other wearing “cute” sandals. You may end up with blisters on your feet. Just sayin’. Your hotel may look like it’s close…BUT IT IS NOT. Especially when some street crossings require you to go inside of one casino, walk a bit, take an escalator, walk some more, take another escalator and 5 minutes later you are on the other side of the street. I have to say, walking the strip was one of my favorite parts- being able to visit all the different casinos and see the different decor. However, my feet hurt SO bad by the time we got to the hotel and I was exhausted and dehydrated I’m sure for walking in the heat and humidity for an hour and half during the hottest part of the day.

IMG_2114

The beautiful Eiffel Tower at Paris

IMG_2103

From the bridge between the Venetian and Treasure Island

IMG_2102

Fresh and ready at the start of the day!

5. Try not to take a taxi, unless you can split the fare. A taxi ride at 11pm would have cost us $25 from the Bellagio to Treasure Island, but we were able to split the fare with 4 other riders in a van and spent $10. Next time we go to Vegas we are going to better take advantage of the free or low cost trams that go from casino to casino. We only took it once but it was quick and efficient.

So, on to our second day. We had a quick and expensive breakfast of Starbucks and then waited for our “2 hour” timeshare presentation. The promoters had found us at the Sirens of TI show the night before and convinced us to see a 2 hours timeshare presentation and we would get 2 tickets to Blue Mans group and dinner at the Venetian. They targeted us because we were married and stated that we owned a home. These promoters are easy to spot, as they will find you anywhere that there is a crowd on the strip. Note though–> It didn’t appear that they were very interested in non-married people because they aren’t their prime target for timeshares. There were multiple packages to choose from (such as free Mystere tickets + $40 cash back) but that is the one we liked.  We had to pay $50 up front and would get our gifts and $10 cash back at the end of the presentation. The van picked us up at 10:20, 2o minutes after they were suppose to. We ended up at a new timeshare resort at the end (or beginning?) of the Las Vegas Strip. We sat for about half an hour waiting for our names to be called before a kind couple asked us if we had filled out the form. Uh, no? Half an hour later we finally got started on the presentation part. This apparently was where the “2 hours” started. The first hour we wasted meant nothing. The presentation was convincing and made us feel like we wanted to buy one until we heard the price and started asking questions. Our representative was nice enough (a woman from Bulgaria) and with her words she said she didn’t want to pressure us, but she most certainly did with her actions when she invited her boss over to talk with us. I honestly have never felt so angry at a person I had just met. We told him we weren’t interested at this time due to finances, etc. and really just wanted the tickets. He continued to offer us lower offers though and basically said that we lacked common sense to pass up this “phenomenal deal.” Oh, but wait! “what if we lowered the price to this? Or this? Still no? Do you not understand what an amazing financial decision this is? If you pass it up it would be a terrible decision for your future,” etc., etc. Jake saw how angry I was getting with my red face and clenched fists and eventually said, “you’re pushing too hard, buddy.” He eventually stopped but not after making us feel like complete imbeciles and completely disgusted with their company. We were sure to give him a less than favorable review. 😉

All in all we sent about 4 hours on the whole timeshare deal. Granted, they fed us yummy “free” sandwiches and lemonade and we left with a better knowledge about what a timeshare means (still not convinced it’s a great deal). When it’s all said and done though I’m still not sure if it was all worth it. We got to see a phenomenal show (never actually made it to dinner at the Venetian) for $40 which is something that we could never have done otherwise-but we ended up having to spend half of our day listening to a boring presentation to do it. I think for us it probably worked out okay this trip, in the future though we will not spend our valuable time listening to boring presentations or being harassed by over-zealous salesman.

We got some pretty stellar seats- we were sitting in row D, seats that currently go for $135 A PIECE if you book online. The show was so worth it in the end. It was honestly one of the funnest hour and a half (ish) of my life! The blue men were SO talented! Both musically and comedically. They didn’t say a word the entire show but they conveyed so much with their facial expressions and gestures. If you don’t know what it is about here is a cool video (make sure you watch it at least until 2:15 in-that’s when it gets REALLY fun!!!)

IMG_2139 IMG_2143 IMG_2127

After the show we walked down to the Bellagio to watch the show, it was the only thing on our Vegas “to do list” that we actually did! It was so beautiful and definitely a must do when in Vegas! So here is a few lovely photos and video to end this post! Next time I will talk about our tour of the Hoover Dam in Nevada!

IMG_2145

129

140