When Family Comes to Town

First of all, I would like to formally apologize for the small hiatus I took. The past two weeks have been so incredibly hectic and filled with adventure that I did not have a second to myself to sit down and write about it! Second, I would like to apologize for how general all of the following information is going to be. Squeezing a week of activities into one post is not easy. Bear with me.

My cousin Nick, who goes to school at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, had Spring Break during the second week of March. Originally, his big Spring Break plans included a couples’ trip to Disneyworld in Florida… Until he was no longer a part of a couple, so there was little appeal to join along with two other pairs for a romantic, Disney-filled week. That was where I came in. In the past four years since I’ve been in college, Nick has never seen Flagstaff. Realistically, is there a better time to party in a new college town than right after you’ve gotten out of a relationship and you’re on Spring Break? We concluded that the answer to that question was a big, fat no. (Sorry, mom!)

We go way back. I was so excited to see him.

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He flew out to Arizona on Saturday night. My boyfriend Austin and I picked him up and drove straight to Old Town Scottsdale from the airport to begin a week of much needed debauchery. It was the night of a big UFC fight (I don’t even remember who was fighting because that’s how little I care about UFC), and every bar had their music turned off and all of their TVs programmed to the fight’s channel. I swear to God, Americans are barbarians. The bars were packed shoulder to shoulder and there was a high amount of steroid-induced testosterone pumping through the air. We ended up at Boondock’s. I generally don’t like Old Town Scottsdale. People from my neck of the woods refer to it as “Snobsdale” because the people who live in Scottsdale are wealthy and love to flaunt it. Going to a sports bar there requires high heels, a tight dress, and full hair and makeup. Don’t even get me started on the high end clubs. Boondock’s is different, though. It has a spacious interior with a laid back vibe featuring vinyl seated booths, wicker chairs, and raw brick walls. The patio is huge and has a giant TV, an outdoor bar, and a variety of spaces designated for drinking games. There, we played cornhole, danced to some 90’s mashups (for example, they combined Pitbull with the Backstreet Boys… Like, what?!), and swapped who would buy rounds with our group of friends until Nick turned to me and said “I really want a taco.”

Those are literally magic words for me.

In Arizona, Mexican food is in high demand and is highly supplied as a result (that’s how economics works, right?). In Virginia, their definition of Mexican food is as follows:

Mexican food (n)

/mɛksəkən fud/

  1. Chipotle.

Syn: Taco Bell Ant: Popeyes

Please excuse me while I gag on the idea of only having access to Chipotle and Taco Bell whenever I craved something cheesy, beany, greasy, and delicious. All those restaurants taste like is sadness and freezer burn. End rant.

Anywaaay, we found ourselves outside of a tiny taco shack that had tacos for under three dollars, which is a win. He scarfed that down and then we trekked back to my car and started the journey back home. We didn’t make it very far before I felt my stomach growl and realized my foolish mistake of not getting food at the taco stand, which truthfully is a rookie move. I pulled into a Filiberto’s (Arizona’s version of Mexican fast food) and ordered myself a bean and cheese burrito, Nick a carne asada taco, and Austin a California burrito. Five minutes later, we were all fat and happy and back on the road.

The next day was Sunday. Nick and I drove up the mountain to Flagstaff that afternoon and spent the evening eating (you guessed it) more Mexican food while I finished homework assignments that I procrastinated. I’m a senior, it’s what I do best at this point. We both were tired from the drive, so we called it a night pretty early in order to get enough sleep for the next day’s promise: the Grand Canyon.

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I have seen the Grand Canyon four times now, but Nick never had the pleasure. Since it’s only an hour-ish drive from Flagstaff, I figured that we should seize the moment and take advantage of his short time by going to places that he had never seen. So, as planned, we woke up Monday morning and excitedly headed out on the first of a few adventures.

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We walked along the South Rim on the Trail of Time, which is something I never had the opportunity to do in the past. I love the Grand Canyon, it really is an incredible place that blows my mind every time I see it. Usually when I go to the Grand Canyon, however, my friends and I just find a spot that we like and sit there for an hour or so before we get hungry and leave. These are the luxuries Arizonians have. This trail was new for both of us, but he wasn’t quite conditioned for the altitude change and lack of Oxygen in Northern Arizona (Flagstaff is 7,000 feet above sea level) versus Virginia (Norfolk is 3 feet above sea level) and got tired about a mile into it. It was a really beautiful experience, speckled with signs giving information on the formation of the canyon, kinds of rock layers, and amount of time the Colorado River took to make the Grand Canyon what it is today. Despite our awe, we both were tuckered out and needed some food. So, we turned back, got some pizza, and went home.

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That night, we went out for mojitos at the Monte Vista hotel. Every Monday, they sell mojitos for $5, which is basically robbery for how much rummy goodness you’re getting. About fifteen minutes into the night (before I even started drinking), I fell down a flight of stairs and seriously jacked up both knees, left shin, and left ankle. It was great, I was totally not embarrassed. Despite how much it hurt to walk, I wasn’t about to ruin Nick’s vacation, so I chose to throw back a few drinks and grin through it. All was well.

This was taken seconds before I biffed it.

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The next few days were comprised of sleep for Nick, school for me, and lots more Mexican food. Tuesday night, we went bowling with my roommate/life wife Maddie. After bowling, we went to karaoke night and watched some strange looking humans gyrate and spin drunkenly to a variety of songs that were not made for gyrating and spinning.

On Wednesday, we took an adventure to Oak Creek in Sedona. Red rock is one of the most gorgeous things Arizona has to offer. Sedona is well known for its surplus of copper colored rocks, scenic hiking trails, and creeks meant for swimming in and tanning next to. My injured legs prohibited us from taking on a challenging trail, so we stuck to the most basic (though still beautiful) trail possible. After jogging after the dogs for a while, stepping in mud too many times, and sitting creek-side to bask in the sun, we both had a light film of red dust coating us and a feeling of fulfillment.

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On the trek back to the car, I saw a few newly grown prickly pears. Prickly pear cacti are everywhere in Arizona, from the Southernmost point to the Northernmost. Prickly pears taste like a strawberry and raspberry combined, with the texture of a kiwi. It’s delicious. Like many Arizona things, Nick has never had them before, so I took it upon myself to pick one. I didn’t have a knife with me. In other words, I was heinously stabbed by the hair-fine needles on the outside when I picked it.

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The worst part? It wasn’t even ripe. However, it was clear that Spring is finally in the air. The flowers and fruits were starting to bloom beautifully and the Earth smelled fresh.

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That night we went to my favorite country bar in Flagstaff, The Museum Club, for dime beer night. Yeah. You get beer for a dime. I wish I had taken pictures that night because Nick had the time of his life while learning how to two-step, meeting my friends, and drinking whiskey. The only proof I have that we were there is SnapChat videos of Nick clumsily attempting to dance and then throwing up out of the side of my car on the drive home. We were there until the lights came on and all my friends were swaying where they stood. I was sober. It was wonderful.

On Thursday, we drove back down to Phoenix so he could spend time with my grandparents, aunt and uncles, and extended relatives. We hung out for a little bit at my grandmother’s house before she asked us if we wanted to go to a Cubs Spring Training game the next day. For those of you that don’t know me, I love baseball. I like sports in general, but baseball and basketball are my two favorites. You can imagine my excitement.

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The baseball game was great. We drank beer, ate lobster tacos from the lobster truck company that was on Shark Tank, and watched grown men yell at each other for no reason. Yay, sports! That night, we went to Mill Avenue in Tempe and bounced around from Cue Club, Whiskey Row, and Blasted Barley. We got trash cans at Cue Club, celebrated some birthdays, and listened to terrible music. We got whiskey gingers at Whiskey Row, laughed once again about how horrible Nick is at dancing, and took a few shots. Between Whiskey Row and Blasted Barley, one of the girls we were with (who was celebrating her 21st birthday) was hit like a truck by the amount of alcohol people were buying her. So we paused our night to get her cleaned up, and sent some of our friends with her in the Uber ride home. After playing mom and giving away my hair tie that I had just gotten stretched enough to fit my wrist, I needed some Long Island iced teas at Blasted Barley.

Friday was our last day together, so we definitely made the most of it. It was the perfect end to our week. On the drive home, we got Filiberto’s again (I love you, Fili-B’s) and spent 90% of the drive annoying our lovely designated driver, Austin.

On Saturday, we said our goodbyes and Austin and I headed off onto our next adventure… New Orleans!

XOXO,

Haley

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