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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Enjoying some awesome latte’s

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Beautiful, Trendy Downtown!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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

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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!

Las Vegas- Part I

I had never been the type of girl who dreamt about going to Las Vegas. In fact, we decided to go to Vegas, more or less, because it was on our route anyways. I noticed though that as we got closer the excitement grew. After sleeping in cheap hotels, on a cot in a church and dorm-style bunkbeds I was looking forward to a little luxury (i.e. a real bathroom in the same room as the bedroom). We spent a night recharging in Barstow, California after leaving LA. We had to do one last touristy thing before we left LA though.

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Hollywood Walk of Fame

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These are our “excited” faces because we were Vegas bound!

The drive from Barstow to Las Vegas was about 2 hours long and went by quickly. It was pretty neat driving past the Mojave Desert and it made for a pretty picture.

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Mojave Desert, California

We stayed at Treasure Island after it was recommended by a couple friends. We got a screamer deal too, a king size bed with a view of the Las Vegas strip for less then $100 per night!

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18 floors up at Treasure Island Resort and Casino

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Not a bad view 🙂

Once we got settled into our room it was time to find some food. We didn’t have to venture far to find some stellar food at the Treasure Island Buffet. It would have been $35 per person but we scored a “buy one get one free” deal when we booked out hotel. I opted to try a little bit of everything: southern food, Greek (a first), Sushi (eww, another first) and some amazing desserts. Jake had more of a…focused palate. Meat. And potatoes and mac. And more meat.

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Jake and his steaks (honestly, he must have had at least 5 of them)

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About to try real sushi…it was gross. A fishy tasting California roll and some eel sushi!

We decided to walk around the strip for a little while to kill some time until our Cirque Du Soleil show, Mystère started. We happened to arrive before the Sirens of TI show started. The first half of the show I was not impressed. The dancers were super sexual and scantly clad- I understand it is Vegas but probably a quarter of the audience were children. The show got better though when the two ships began to “fire” at one another and it ended with a spectacular sinking of a ship and fireworks.

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Sinking of the ship

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Awesome fireworks post show

We were very excited to watch our first Cirque Du Soleil show. With out hotel package we also got 2 for 1 tickets to Mystère. Honestly, I watched the show and I’m not entirely certain what it was about. I think the theme is like “French carnival.” As we were looking for our seats in the first balcony area we were offered to be moved to the front row! The seats and view were incredible. As soon as the lights dimmed it was as if we were transported to another world. The only word I can think of to describe it was magical. There were various acts including acrobats, aerialists, two brothers that have a “strong man” hand to hand act (incredible!), aerial tissu (dancing on a piece of fabric hanging from the ceiling and doing various tricks) and a giant baby that kept showing up throughout the show which was surprisingly funny!

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No photos allowed inside 😦

The show let out after 11pm and we decided to be party poopers and head to bed, completely exhausted but overwhelmingly happy. Stay tuned to hear how we spent our second day in Vegas!

-Valerie

Dream Center (Los Angeles)

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Dream Center (building use to be Queen of Angels Hospital)

Philippians 2:1-4
If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Last summer Jake volunteered at the Dream Center for a week, located in downtown Los Angeles, CA. And we was very eager for me to be able I join him this year. The Dream Center is an organization that was founded 20 years ago by pastor Matthew Barnett. His vision was to create a non-denominational church that would minister to drug addicts, unwed mothers, runaways, ethnic minorities, high school dropouts, at-risk youth and the homeless. Essentially, the “undesirable” population. He did not want another church that only wanted to witness to people about God’s love but a church and ministry that would SHOW God’s love. He wanted a church that actually CARED about people and wanted to help them create a better life, and in that way they would be able to see what Christ’s love is about.

The building itself use to be a hospital, Queen of Angels Hospital. It is located on 8.8 acres and has nearly 400,000 square feet. The building houses staff, short term mission volunteers, homeless and people going through their discipleship program. The discipleship program is a Christ-based rehabilitation program. They take people of the streets, help them get through the process of detoxing and getting off drugs. They teach them how to develop a relationship with Christ, get their GED, find a job, etc. They find any barrier that may be present and they show them how to overcome it.

Jake and I joined 12 other people from our church in Longview, WA to spend 5 days witnessing and serving at the Dream Center. It was an amazing and eye-opening experience. As a short-term volunteer we were able to help in a variety of ministries. The ministries varied from helping people move their furniture into a new apartment, bring food and supplies into peoples home who were at risk for having their children taken into Child Protective Services because they did not have the basic essentials to care for their children. Because of donations and the Dream Center the children were able to stay at home with their family and the Dream Center will continue to be involved in that families life.

One of my favorites was the Helping Hands clothing ministry. The room was set up like the Goodwill clothing section, racks and racks of clothing, shoes, belts, etc. The doors opened at 0830 but people began lining up before 0530 so they could have first pick. Women and children were allowed to pick any five pieces per person, all for free of course. Men were only allowed 3 items because there are fewer donations of men clothing. It was so humbling to be able to help with this ministry and to see the joy and smiles on the women and childrens faces when they were able to get some new (used) clothes. It definitely made me more aware of the things I take for granted.

I was able to help with the food truck ministry twice. We sorted food into smaller bags and were able to pass out essential food items to people in different neighborhoods. The lines of people would vary from 70 to 250+. We also worked with Kidz Jam; we played with the kids while their parents waited in line at the food truck. I had a lot of fun at this one, I played baseball with a little boy who was about 7. Well, I apparently played baseball with twins. I didn’t realize this until later after I had spent most of the day calling them the same name!

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Apple juice and 2 loaves of bread

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Bags of (6) tomatoes and frozen potatoes

Another ministry we worked with was “Under the Bridge.” They go out every day to provide a warm meal to the homeless population. We went to McArthur Park and another location which was close to Skid Row. The people we provided meals to were beyond greatful.

Another ministry that I really enjoyed was Adopt a Block. A new Dream Center was created in Long Beach, CA last year. The neighborhood is one of the poorest in the area and has a high population of Hispanics. It was a pretty fun day; we got play freeze tag with kids and let some feisty little girls paint our fingernails

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My rainbow nails (and they were scented too! lol)

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Jake couldn’t say no to a feisty 11 year old girl

It feels like there is so much I am missing and I don’t have the words or skills to adequately describe how amazing this organization is. I have never physically worked harder as I did during those days. Each day was exciting and busy and I felt like I was truly making a difference. It will be a week that I will never forget.

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