Tag Archives: Flagstaff

Flagstaff Ale Trail

This weekend I had the chance to meet Geoff, one of the creators of the Flagstaff Ale Trail.  As we have written about before, Flagstaff is a craft beer hot spot and there are several breweries and tap houses within an easy walk of each other.  Get a hotel room downtown, acclimate to the high altitude, and you’ll be set for a weekend of tastings!  Well, Jeff capitalized on this unique drinking scene by creating a signature pint glass and paper passport that are sold as a package and then get you discounts at each of the breweries.

I had the chance to hold one of the “silipints” that comes in the passport package.  They are flexible, made of silicon, and unbreakable.  Unbreakable is cool, but it’s even more novel that they bounce (without beer of course)!

The Flagstaff Ale Trail has been hugely successful already.  It feels like it’s always been here.  I think that must be the measure of a great business idea, that people quickly come to recognize the product or service as something that belongs.  How long will it be before Flagstaff can’t imagine itself without an Ale Trail!

When Jay gets home we will have to hit the trail and get our passport stamped.

Earth Day


Dorothy (who we met last fall on a volunteer trip) was the invasive weed expert for the Earth Day volunteer project at Grand Canyon Trust

Some days I just love living in Flagstaff.  Flagstaff is a town where people are passionate about the environment and about coming together to do good work.  Today is Earth Day, which meant that for Flagstaff, it is the culmination of Earth Week.  All week long there were events to celebrate the environment, including an alternative transportation parade, blackout on campus, stream clean up, invasive weed pull, and a fair downtown (just to name a few).

CREC (another AmeriCorps program) hosted a table at the Earth Day fair that Gideon organized

Especially exciting for me was seeing how many of these efforts were led by AmeriCorps members.

AmeriCorps member Katie coordinated two Espirit de Corps events for Earth Day

The big, city sponsored fair yesterday was organized by an AmeriCorps member, Gideon.  He literally worked until he dropped, having rolled his ankle during the fair set up.  Luckily he’ll be ok, and was able to sit down for the fair and be wowed by how successful the event was.  It was a beautiful day and it seemed like all of Flagstaff was out celebrating the land we live in.

AmeriCorps member Lindsay leads the invasive weed pull event at Grand Canyon Trust

Before visiting the fair I had a chance to participate in the invasive weed pull event organized by Lindsay and Katie.  It was such a fun group of people to work with and I enjoyed being outside getting my hands dirty as I got to know the other volunteers.

Happy Earth Day!

Working for AmeriCorps Youth in Action

As of today I have spent two months in my new job as Program Coordinator for the AmeriCorps Youth in Action Program at Northern Arizona University.  On the road I occasionally missed work.  I know that sounds like heresy, but it’s true.  I missed the opportunity to work on a project or program with other people in order to make a difference in people’s lives.  Working in a community garden or preparing meals at SAME Cafe, Jay and I made a direct impact and it felt awesome.  Serving meals to people who are hungry is important and meaningful work.  That said, when you have the opportunity to look at the whole picture and reduce the line at the door, that is truly meaningful.  I missed that.  I missed getting around a table with other people who wanted to create lasting change and figure out creative solutions to social problems.  

In my current position I lead a team who coordinates approximately 60 AmeriCorps members, serving at 28 different organizations in Coconino County.  By designing training for our members, providing them with support to be successful at their sites, and by improving our systems to improve the experience of members in our program, I hope to have a lasting impact on the community.  Our AmeriCorps members are doing a variety of different jobs, from thinning the forest to reduce the threat of fire to educating children about the environment.  The work that they do on a daily basis has far reaching effects and the potential for lasting change.  It is my job to help them be successful.  When I hear a site representative talk about how much they have accomplished thanks to the AmeriCorps member, I am so happy to be back at work.

This week we brought eight new AmeriCorps members on board.  To officially become a member they recited the AmeriCorps pledge.  As AmeriCorps alum, I felt renewed purpose in my work as I listened to the chorus of optimistic young people taking this pledge together:

I will get things done for America -
to make our people safer,
smarter, and healthier.

I will bring Americans together 
to strengthen our communities.

Faced with apathy, 
I will take action.

Faced with conflict, 
I will seek common ground.

Faced with adversity, 
I will persevere.

I will carry this commitment 
with me this year and beyond.

I am an AmeriCorps member, 
and I will get things done.

Photo Review: Winter’s Last Hurrah, Flagstaff

This weekend we were hit with a spring snow storm that shut down the interstates and canceled my work for a day.  Since I was fighting a cold I enjoyed the excuse to rest inside, but finally went out for a walk late this afternoon to capture the winter scene before it melts.

On Air: A Unique Volunteer Opportunity

This past Wednesday I had the chance to volunteer in a very unique and meaningful way at Sun Sounds of Arizona.  I read the local newspaper live on the radio.  The radio is broadcast to listeners all over northern Arizona.  People sign up as a listener because they have disability (such as vision loss) which prevents them from being able to read.  As I read the articles I thought about men and women sitting next to their radios, like in the days before television, listening intently to get the latest news.

Where the volunteer readers read at Sun Sounds

Where the volunteer readers read at Sun Sounds

Some volunteer readers struggle to remember that there is actually a person out there depending on them to read the news.  From 2006-2007 I worked as the Sun Sounds Marketing and Outreach Coordinator.  It was my job to deliver radio receivers to listeners, meet with listeners, and get feedback from listeners about the programming.  For me, I am not just talking into a microphone in a studio, I am sitting next to Mary and Joe on a couch in their living room speaking directly to them.

Where the readers prepare the paper

Where the readers prepare the paper

There are radio reading services in every state, and reading for them as a volunteer is a really great way to serve your community.  The ideal reader has a clear speaking voice, a great grasp of vocabulary, and is comfortable speaking for up to two hours with short breaks.  Most of the Sun Sounds programs are done live, but there are a few that are recorded which takes a bit of the pressure off if you make a mistake or need to cough.  The other woman I was reading the news with had been a volunteer reader for 20 years!

view from the board operator's booth

view from the board operator's booth

I appreciated this opportunity to share my reading talents and hope to do so again soon.

Viola Awards

Two weekends ago we volunteered at the annual arts award gala in Flagstaff for the second year in a road.  At last year’s Viola Awards, we were just passing through Flagstaff and managed to get connected to this awesome event through our mutual friend Elizabeth Vogler.  A fun surprise this year was that it was almost the same group of volunteers from last year.  We all knew the drill and the silent auction ran smoothly.  The gala was bigger and better than last year with a packed house and great performances between the awards categories.  Of course one of the highlights for me was people watching, seeing the arts community come out in their finest “small town formal”.

For more photos from the event, check out the photographer’s website.

Volunteers at 2012 Viola Awards

Us and our fellow volunteers at the 2012 Viola Awards

Volunteers at 2012 Viola Awards

Us with our fellow volunteers - Photo by Tulasi Devi

Week 5: Time Flies When You Aren’t Moving

This is part of the contrast between life on the road and life at home that I have never understood.  We are already on Week 5 and time has started to just fly by. I go to write this review and can’t even remember what happened in the last week.  It used to be that I would be shocked that so much had happened since my last week in review post.  I mean next week will already be our one year anniversary of the accident in Death Valley!

sharon riding in sedona

Volunteering:  Sharon volunteered for Riordan Mansion (6.5 hours) and Jay and Sharon volunteered at the Viola Awards benefiting Flagstaff Cultural Partners (5.5 hours)

Beer of the Week: no new brews this week

Something New:  On Friday, Sharon displayed her photos at her first art show!

Highlight of Being in One Place:  Being able to ride your favorite trails more than once!

Product of the week: 

Video of the Week:

My First Art Show


The large painting in the middle was done by Robert Dyer, all of the photos on the brown wall are mine.

“She’s the artist”.  I overheard that a few times Friday night and smiled every time.  On Friday evening I had the opportunity to show my photography to the general public for the first time.  Actually, since I use a digital camera this was one of the first times I had even had prints made and framed them.  It was a really uplifting experience to see my work up on the wall and to speak to people in the community about it.  Since all of the photos were from our trip, it was also a great way to start a conversation about travel and volunteering.

The photos will stay up for the rest of the month at the Friends of Flagstaff’s Future office, above Flagstaff Brewery, 16 E. Route 66, Suite 204.  They are open on weekday afternoons.  You can call and check if the office is open: 928-556-8663.


The photos after I matted and/or framed them.

I ended up putting 19 pieces into the show, which was titled “Visions of Grand Canyon and the southwest”.  Friends of Flagstaff’s Future is a great local organization involved in community change.  If I sell any of my work there, they will receive 10% of the proceeds.  I’m glad to have my work associated with their office and really enjoyed getting to know their staff member, Cynthia (a fellow AmeriCorps Alum).


I displayed 19 pieces on two walls and one table so it was hard to get a picture of everything.

We had a good crowd for a cold evening (it was below freezing and windy outside).  The office was small and for a few hours we were nicely crowded.  I spoke to other photographers, a native american man who had explored Canyon de Chelly and was very interested in my Spider Rock photo, and other travelers who enjoyed the story of our road trip.  At the end of the evening we were treated to a visit by a large wolf!  Friends of Flagstaff’s Future is supporting the Wolf Recovery Project and we got to meet the man behind the wolf outfit as he stopped in for a snack.


I decided to frame some pieces, only mat others, and mounted a few pieces on foam core. This allows me to offer a range of price points and see what folks are most interested in.

I would like to thank two people who really supported me in this effort.  April Saylor is my new coworker who is also a photographer and works at a gallery downtown.  She gave me feedback and helped me determine how to price my work.  Jay was also incredibly supportive, encouraging me, helping me get the show set up, and staying with me throughout the art walk.  Thank you both!

Finding My Passion: Interpretation

view of Riordan Mansion from the back from the visitors center

view of Riordan Mansion from the back from the visitors center


Yesterday I had the opportunity to guide tours of Riordan Mansion for the first time in a few years.  I was on and it felt amazing.  Have you ever had a job (unpaid or paid) that you are really good at and really love?  When you are doing that job, you feel like your best self, like you are fulfilling your potential.  Well, that is how I feel when I guide a tour at Riordan Mansion.


Riordan Mansion

The front archway at Riordan Mansion

The tours are an hour long and you as the tour guide are leading up to 15 people through every room of east side of the mansion.  Along the way you are delivering the facts and weaving together an overall theme.  While telling your story you also have to keep a close eye on the group, looking for signs of boredom, fatigue, or rule breaking.  As the tour guide it is your sole responsibility to protect the resource and interpret it for the general public.  I love it.  


Kathy Farretta and Sharon

An old picture from my early days of guiding tours with then Park Ranger, Kathy Farretta (now Kathy is a volunteer at Riordan since they lost their state park funding)

When I ended my first tour yesterday, 7 out of 9 guests came up to me afterwards to tell me that it was a fabulous tour and they loved it.  I measure my success in a few ways, 1) the number of questions I get on a tour, 2) the feedback I receive at the end of the tour, 3) how long people linger after the tour, 4) donations that I receive after the tour (we do not accept tips, but I will take a “tip” and put it in the donation box).  


path leading to the back of Riordan Mansion

path leading to the back of Riordan Mansion

I love finding ways to make my tour engaging, help my guests follow the rules (no touching, stay on the red carpet, and no photos during the tour), and construct a narrative that will motivate the guests to act.  At Riordan Mansion we do not just parrot a history book about the artifacts and the family.  It is our goal as tour guides to actually transform our guests thinking, to get them thinking about how and why the town was founded, about how they participate in preserving the past, and help them see that they can be like the Riordans, building their own community back home.  If it was just about rattling off dates and places I would be terrible at this job.


inside Riordan Mansion Visitor Center

inside Riordan Mansion Visitor Center

So, if you come through Flagstaff, you should obviously take a tour of Riordan Mansion.  Right now they are open 5 days a week, Thursday through Monday, 10:30 am – 5:00 pm with tours on the hour.  You can reserve a tour by calling (928) 779-4395.  If you want to have me as your tour guide, just comment on this post or send an email and we can work out a time.

If you’re not in Flagstaff, I encourage you to learn about your local historic sites and the opportunities to visit or to volunteer.

Wing Ding Fundraiser – Community Support for River Rafting Guides


remembering Whale

Last night we had the opportunity to volunteer for an annual fundraiser for The Whale Foundation.  Not to be confused with a bunch of environmentalists that are chanting “Save the Whales”, this group is actually about supporting the mental and physical health of the Grand Canyon river guiding community.  It all got started in the late 90’s after a well loved guide, nicknamed Whale, took his own life.  Guiding the Grand Canyon, while an amazing way to make a living, can be a very difficult profession.  It is hard on a person physically, mentally, and hard on their family.  So now the Whale Foundation sponsors health fairs and connects guides to the resources they need.  And through this annual fundraiser they also connect guides to one another and to the larger community that supports them.


If the crowd at last night’s event was any indication, the river guides have a lot of community support.  At one point I was feeling claustrophobic because there were so many people and so much energy in the room.  It was also the largest silent auction I had ever witnessed, with donations coming from artists, big companies, individuals, and local businesses.  I was inspired to bid and ended up winning a 10 day pass for the local climbing gym!


What I loved about last night was reconnecting to old friends and meeting new people.  There was another volunteer, Ariel, who coined the term “competitive volunteering” to describe the way she and I approached the silent auction.  We were two of several volunteers and the crowd was being so civilized that we were not hit by the expected rush and therefore we didn’t have a lot to keep us busy.  Ariel and I competed to find auction winners who needed to complete their paperwork, elbowing one another to get to someone first.  Periodically I would give up on that assignment and just find other things to do, picking up around the main room and exasperating Ariel with the way I managed to keep busy.


When it slowed down I had a chance to get to know Ariel better.  Not surprisingly she is a river rafting guide in the Grand Canyon.  In the off season, she and her husband live in Colorado on a plot of land that they managed to buy but haven’t yet built a house on.  We compared notes about being essentially unemployed and houseless.  For them that means living in a shipping container as they build the foundation for their home.  A shipping container at 9,000 feet in Colorado is basically a walk in freezer in the winter and I bowed down to her toughness.  Of course, she tackles the rapids of the mighty Colorado for a living, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.

From what I could see, the fundraiser was a huge success.  We were glad to have been a part of this event and hope we can support the organization in the future.