Before we left Hollywood, we had another RAK to commit.
I scoured Craigslist for hours one morning and planned out some future RAKing, one of which was an “Adopt-A-Family” of sorts that was taking place near us in Hollywood. While the requests for specific items were fulfilled already, there was a need for some extra items to give to families who may have missed the deadline on the specific requests or to simply just to help to fill up some stockings. They gave a list of items requested, so we shopped for a while to fulfill their needs (teenage girl type items – bags, makeup, accessories, perfume and toys for all ages) and then headed to one of the drop off locations, which was actually a wrapping party put on by Friends and Helpers, which was also the organization that was collecting and distributing the items.
There were so many people there. I’m going to estimate that there were around 200 volunteers helping to organize and wrap gifts. It was so inspiring and we were tempted to stay, but had to head out if we wanted to get to Joshua Tree in time to hike in the daylight. We also may not have been able to find a seat, because it was that populated.
Our visit to Vegas was pretty spectacular, but we are okay with not going back for a while. I feel as though Vegas is something that you experience once in a great while, not once a year. Anyways, before we hit up the larger than life land that is Las Vegas, we made a stop at Joshua Tree, where we hiked a 6.2 mile trail called the Lost Horse Mine, which actually took us to (wait for it) the Lost Horse Mine! It was a different landscape than we had previously experienced and it was also nice to get out of the car and stretch out legs. After our hike, we made a few more PB&Js and were on our way to Las Vegas – we also listened to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on audio book to prepare ourselves for the spectacle we were about to stumble upon.
|Dr. Suess lookin' trees.|
We arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday night and stayed at a resort off of the strip for the night. We had big plans to take a nap at 8pm, wake up late night and grab some food, which was far cheaper from midnight to 6am and do a little gambling. Instead, we ended up sleeping until 10am. So yes, our first night in Vegas was us going to bed at 8pm. Just livin’ it up. That day, however, we had big plans for our next RAK.
As I mentioned, I had gone on a Craigslist spree. While looking for places or people to help out in Las Vegas, I stumbled upon a call for help from a low-income elderly persons living facility. The Craigslist post asked for anyone who was interested in helping to purchase some Christmas gifts for the low income or disabled elderly residents living there, who would not otherwise receive gifts, to call the phone number listed. I called right away and after a game of phone-tag, I got in touch with the woman organizing this gifting, Diana. Diana let me know a few things: 1. None of the residents knew she was putting out an ask for gifts. 2. She was a resident herself. 3. The items that the residents would most like for Christmas were shampoo, conditioner, other toiletries, some washing detergent, and perhaps some snacks like chips or popcorn or chocolate. There are around sixty residents living there and Diana let us know that anything we would be able to contribute would be a huge help.
|The goods we donated!|
So, we did some shopping in L.A. and arrived at the living facility with more than ten shopping bags full of the items requested, plus some gift bags to put all of it in. Diana met us at the lobby and was blown away. She told us numerous times that she was only expecting one bag of a few items and that this was going to make the holidays so much better for everyone. She then took us inside and told us a bit more about the facility and the people who lived there.
The living facility, Coronado Drive Apartments, is a prototype for how low-income elderly living facilities should look, since most of the other facilities are run down, moldy, filled with bugs, the list goes on and on. President Obama worked with the Governor and the state to create the apartments, which have only been around for two years. While the living facility is new and kept very nice, there is little money to be found to help the residents or create any sort of activities or special meals because the apartment complex is federally funded…aka no money from the State. There is also little help from any other organizations and they do not receive hardly any sorts of donations because the apartments are so new and don’t really look like they are in need of any extra funding.
Many of the residents living there have absolutely no extra money to spend on anything that is not a requirement for living. In fact, in order to live at this apartment complex, a person’s income level must be severely low. Diana mentioned that one of the residents moved here because she fell ill because of her frail figure and spent a few months in the hospital, which led to her apartment evicting her because she could not pay the rent. She spent six months on the streets before moving into Coronado Drive Apartments, which accepted her as a resident because of the low-income requirement.
Diana became a resident here after she was asked to transfer from her old low-income apartment complex, where she led all of the activities and improved the entertainment to such a great degree that the city presented her with an award. The hope was that with Diana living here, she could create a wonderful entertainment and activity schedule for the complex. Sadly, it has not been very successful because of, you guessed it, lack of funds. Still, she tries her hardest to keep up the morale of the other residents by doing things like cooking them a large meal once a week and only charging $1.00 from each resident to “cover costs,” which does not really cover much of the costs at all. Diana would rather all the residents be able to enjoy a nice hot meal once a week for $1.00 then charge more and have only some of them able to afford the meal.
Diana is an amazing person. She is one of those individuals where right when you meet them, you can just tell that they’re genuinely concerned for the well-being of others. We should also note that she loves the Temptations – one of the highlights of her life was being gifted a ticket to see them a few months ago, where the nice couple in front of her happened to know one of the singers and got her backstage to meet them. We’re glad that someone as kindhearted as Diana was able to meet her idols.
After delivering some Christmas cheer, we headed to our next destination and hotel for the next two nights, The Mirage. I may have already mentioned this, but my parents purchased us a night at the Mirage and tickets to the Cirque Du Soleil Beatles LOVE show (we paid for the second night – our Christmas gift to ourselves). The hotel was beautiful and even after we toured a few others, we stand by our decision that it was our favorite on the strip. We went to our room, which had an amazing view of the volcano that erupts once and hour each night as well as the rest of the strip, and got fancied up for the evening. Once we were all dressed-up, we headed downstairs to do a bit of gambling.
After losing some money, it was time for us to get in line for Beatles LOVE. We grabbed some popcorn (our dinner) and took our fantastic seats for the show. We then sat in awe for the next two hours as the spectacle before us blew our minds. It was so so SO good. When it was over, we just sat there…as did most people around us. One man sitting in the row behind us laughed because he was so enthralled with the show that he forgot to drink his giant beer. Anyways, THANK YOU MOM AND DAD. It was the best gift ever.
After that superb experience, we grabbed our coats and walked up and down the strip, checking out the lights and architecture that was put into this place. Holy cow, Las Vegas is ridiculous. The lights, the themed buildings, everything is just so … intense. I kept repeating “This is a loooootttt.” Because it was – it was a ton to take in and we loved being able to experience all that is the Strip. When we got back to our hotel, we headed to our room and prepared for Las Vegas day two.
Day two started with a massage for which I had purchased a Groupon (the site is quickly becoming my best friend). After that relaxing experience, we got some room-service pizza for lunch (Dan had snagged us $25 in room credit since they gave us a Queen bed instead of the King that had been booked), took a quick nap and then headed to a few different hotels to do a bit more gambling, which resulted in losing a bit more money, and then we headed to dinner at Dal Toro Ristorante (another groupon find). Dinner was absolutely delicious. Despite the fact that a glass of Blue Moon was $6.50, we really enjoyed our meal.
We decided to get to bed early so that we would not spend more money and we could wake up at a reasonable hour to hit the road. Right now we are on our way to the Grand Canyon, which neither of us have been to before! We have a RAK planned for our stop there and we can’t wait to tell you about it!
Also, we hit $6,000 and have driven over 6,000 miles! Hooray for milestones! Help us hit our next one by donating here.