Nikki Yeager

So many adventures, so little time!

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Yay for Nikki Yeager's Blog! Here you'll find a mix of funny anecdotes, NYC stories and art info! I try to update as regularly as possible and keep it interesting so you'll enjoy every minute of it! Comments make me incredibly happy (just keep it in mind), so keep on reading and come back often :)

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One wild ride to Mt. Rushmore

Posted by Nikki Yeager on April 21, 2015 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)

This awesome CouchSurfer hosted me and Daniel for a few nights in Rapid City, SD and thanks to her, we got the FULL Mt. Rushmore experience. Crazy roads and all. 


The night before seeing a bunch of faces carved into the broadside of a random SD mountain, she pulled out an old school, paper map and pointed out some roads. "You want to drive on Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road. And this wildlife loop, there's a ton of buffalo over there.". 


So we did what anyone should do when given advice by a CouchSurfer - we followed her directions blindly. 


We hopped in our tiny little car and started out from Rapid City following the route below. 


Don't question the map, just follow it.


We headed down to the Crazy Horse Memorial first and, being cheapskate travelers, we found a great place on the side of the freeway to stop and snap a few photos. Unlike Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial is privately owned, which means it's expensive, and although we'd love to support the cause, we were on a super tight traveling budget. So we stole a view from the freeway and then continued bumping along the road to Custer, SD where we stopped for a pie. Which ended up being a donut when we realized that like all other NW/Midwest cities, Custer was more a less a ghost town in the winter/spring.


And then things got interesting.


If you look at the map, you'll see a little circle below Harney Peak. That's this little thing called Needles Eye Tunnel and it's basically the craziest little tunnel/road you'll ever see in your life. When you enter Custer State park, you start driving down an impossibly thin, winding road past different trailheads and rock formations. Then, without any warning, you're smack dab in the middle of a bunch of sandy colored rocks jutting up from the earth like big middle fingers... and all the way to one side is a one-way tunnel on a two way road. Which means you better resist the urge to close your eyes and instead toot your horn a few times before barrelling through the miniscule opening, all the while hoping any cars approaching from the opposite direction are just as weirded out by the concept, and therefore just as slow to enter. 



Have fun with that. 


On we went to the wildlife loop. A big, meandering, circle-ish path in the middle of the park that's ridden with wild animals. Buffalo herds wander across the road, prairie dogs poke their heads up to say hello, pronghorns (good thing we learned what these were ahead of time!) dot the street and apparently moose make a fairly regular appearance. Unfortunately for us, we didn't see any of those, but we did see plenty of other animals along the way. Just like our trip to Yellowstone, we lucked out as to the time of year and spent the majority of the drive alone with the wilderness, only passing a few other cars along the way.... which meant we could stop and chat with as many roadside animals as we wanted. 



Hello, white-butted pronghorn. 



What's up, prairie dogs?


A quick goodbye to the buffalo and off we went to Iron Mountain Road, the most insane, hairbrained idea for a road that's ever been brought into reality. Imagine this: some nutso named Norbeck realizes Mt Rushmore is about to be one of the largest tourist destinations in the world. He then takes it upon himself to think up a roller-coaster-esque road through the undeveloped mountains and heading up to the monument itself, offering beautiful views and a harrowing driving experience. He explains this vision to his architect, Gideon. Gideon gets a maniacal smile on his face (or so I'm guessing) and says "Bring me dyanamite and I'll build you a road". 


So they blew holes all along the mountain until they had a curving, flat-ish path that was just wide enough for two small vehicles when paved. Which leads us to what we have now: Iron Mountain Road. 


One of 3 fabulously named "pigtails" that make up just a tiny portion of this amusement-park-like road.


As you're driving down the winding road, trying your best to stay under 40 miles an hour while you're heading more or less straight down a mountain, you come across 3 additional one-way tunnels which we approached the same way we handled the first on on Needles Highway -- with fear and hesitation. 


Thankfully, no one else was heading our way, so we could stop and snap some pictures in each tunnel which included beautifully framed views of Mt. Rushmore. 



This photo of Wildlife Loop Road is courtesy of TripAdvisor.. because we sort of suck at taking pics.


On and on the 17 mile road goes until finally you're spit out into the parking lot of the monument itself. And voila! We were at our destination, after travelling the most ridiculous road I've ever seen. 




And this Mountain Goat was there to greet us upon arrival. Always a lovely way to end a road trip. 




Just a regular ol' hoedown.

Posted by Nikki Yeager on April 14, 2015 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

We didn't expect Dickinson, ND to be one of our favorite stops on this trip. It was more of an obligation than anything... it was the only city that was reasonably close to our driving path in North Dakota and actually showed up on a map. And had several CouchSurfers. And a hotel in town... just in case. 


We thought it'd be farms and grasslands as far as the eye could see. 


And don't get me wrong, it was. 



Cows, oil and wheat. That's all folks.


But it was also one of the most unique stays we've had on this trip, thanks to a random family who took in two random CouchSurfers. Apparently our host from CouchSurfing.org was having his house remodeled so about 30 minutes before we arrived, he announced to his good friends that - surprise! - they'd be having a weird traveling couple with a pregnant lady staying with them for the night. Thankfully for us, they obliged and when we showed up they were nothing but welcoming (we didn't learn about the whole being-dropped-on-their-doorstep thing until much later). 


The husband was a chiropractor in town and they had a whole gaggle of children living in their beautiful home. By CouchSurfing standards, it was a complete anomoly. We had our own bedroom, they offered us beer and snacks, they weren't random hobo-travelers themselves (although we do love those traveller-hosts!) and they had a huge plot of land all to themselves.


Anywho, this awesome family took us out to two of the best venues I could imagine. First, a rancher's bar with slabs of steak served on hightop tables and cheap beer to wash it all down. Second, a crazy, dancing bar with a whole bunch of country folk getting down in a wonderfully choreographed way. Basically, we got to see both sides of Dickinson. 


Apparently, that sleepy little farm town was recently overrun by oil workers looking for high paying jobs. With those new residents came insanely inflated real estate prices, extreme diversity and a huge population boom (comparitively speaking). Because there was so much work available in oil and gas, a totally new population was imported. And the reviews from local residents were mixed. 


However, we got to see the change in action, which was awesome. 


The first bar we went to had a 20-something girl singing covers of country songs with a few bandmates. The walls were covered with people's signatures in sharpie and a group of ten or so 60-something ranchers sat at a large circular table wearing blue jeans and overalls. Each persons' hands covered in a kind of gritty dirt-shadow that's completely foreign to city folk. Their bellies were slightly round and even when cheering for the band between songs, they stayed steely eyed and seemingly serious. They were how I imagine hardcore farm folk. If a cow were to walk into that bar and give birth, they'd all know what to do. And they wouldn't even be surprised.


The second bar, however, had a mix of 20-35 year olds in plaid shirts and slightly snug denim. No overalls in sight. Sure, the majority of the faces were still fairly homogenous, but a few varieties of skin color appeared if you scanned the crowd long enough. The https://www.facebook.com/outlawsippinband" target="_blank">band playing had a singer who just recorded an album in Nashville, a fiddle player that brought down the house and an assortment of impressive back up instruments. Drunk guys and wasted girls coupled up and did a little diddy called the jitterbug so fast I though their legs would fly off their bodies and go whizzing around the room.


Seriously, this coordinated, movie-like dance is something that Dickinson residents seem to grow up doing. They come out of the womb and get both a hoe and a dance lesson. And darn if it didn't make me jealous. 




We watched the couples swing round and round, spinning and throwing each other while the band picked up the pace song after song. 


There were married gay couples, men who spoke second languages and a whole group  of young people that just didn't seem to give a darn. And it seemed to me the epitome of what everyone in that small town had been describing.


Jitterbugging the night away in front of me was the inevitable: change.


And it was amazing to get an insider look at how one small town has managed both it's history and it's changing past. In one night we got an insider glimpse I never would have expected, and it was all the things I always want CouchSurfing to be. With a couple who aren't even on the website.

The whole park to ourselves.

Posted by Nikki Yeager on April 11, 2015 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

I pulled on my fourth layer of clothing and secured my helmet over my ear warmers. It was chilly, but bearable. The sun was determined to beat out the clouds and was doing an admirable job at warming my out-of-use muscles. 


I threw one leg over the bicycle and slowly lifted my other up to the pedals, adjusting my nearly 7 month pregnant belly all the while. As soon as I got across the street, the only sound was me and my pedaling, as me and my husband (always a few feet in front or behind me) entered Yellowstone. 




We passed the entrance gate, which was unmanned and closed for motorized traffic, and continued steadily on down the deserted road. A few other bikers came meandering along in the opposite direction, but quickly fell into the distance as we pedaled forward. 


The silence was all encompassing. Complete. 


It was beautiful. 


I haven't been wrapped in complete and utter non-noise for...years? When we stopped pedaling, even the birds were quiet, a brief moment of total quiet as they readjusted to the humans in their domain. Nothing but the sound of our breaths escaped into the trees, and even that was dampened quickly. 


It was awe-inspiring. 


I hopped back onto my bicycle and continued forward, carefully listening for any footsteps or crunching coming from the surrounding trees. We didn't have bear spray with us and were hoping our occasional chatter and good line of vision down the road would be sufficient. Thankfully, it was. 


To the left, the thick evergreen coverage fell away to a river, and then, slowly, to a peak after peak of mountainous terrain. We didn't need to stop, because the scene went on forever. Uninterrupted natural beauty going infinitely into the distance. 


And we were the only two absorbing the view. 




We were standing in the fourth most visited national park in the country, and we were standing there alone. All of Yellowstone was ours. 


And it was magical. 

BINGO! I collected all the animals in Yellowstone

Posted by Nikki Yeager on April 9, 2015 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

When I found out the majority of the roads would still be closed for spring in Yellowstone National Park during our trip, I was pretty darn disappointed.I wanted to see geysers! I wanted to see Old Faithful! Isn't that what Yellowstone is?!


Turns out, that's just a tiny little feature of Yellowstone. We still had plenty of roads open to explore on bike, foot and car. And throughout the trip, we collected animals... more than I ever imagined. I kept a mental list and checked them off one by one. Unfortunately, we never saw a bear (boo), but we did see more than I ever imagined.


1. Bison/Buffalo: 

Cool fact: Bison and Buffalo are the same thing (or so says the internet). They're actually bison but the early settlers named them buffalo because the animals looks so much like African/Asian buffalo that the name stuck. 


Anyways, I'm convinced  that we saw at least a quarter of the 2,000 bison living in Yellowstone. We seriously couldn't throw a stone without hitting one in the face (don't worry, we didn't do that). At some points, we were within 5 feet of those big, hairy mammals  because they just don't seem to care about cars. After all, they could probably sit on our little Nissan rental car and kill us if they really wanted to. But they don't... they just want to hang out and eat grass. And be gigantic. 



Not very good at hide-and-seek.


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And no fear of cars.


2. Elk

We spent a good portion of our drive through the North Rd. in the park asking each other "What are those big, deer-like thingamajigs?!"


As we drove, herds of these giant, deer-relatives just stood around grazing on the side of the street and after calling out my window a few times "WHO ARE YOU?", and getting no reply from those mystery creatures, we decided we'd have to rely on google later on. 


Turns out, they were elk. Interesting tidbit about elk: they lose their antlers every winter and regrow them in the Spring. Since we were visiting during the spring time, most of the elk we saw only had tiny, semi-fuzzy horns rather than full fledged antlers. Which explains -- sort of -- why I couldn't identify them.



You know, just hanging out.


3. Pronghorns

Now this one tripped us up for a long time. I finally had to search the Yellowstone website for a list of possible animals before I stumbled on a name for this guy. The pronghorn. We were on the road admiring a group of grazing, yet-to-be-identified elk when we noticed some party crashers who didn't quite belong. They were much smaller than their elk brethren and much.. whiter. They had big fluffy white butts and bright white neck stripes. Were they baby elk? Were they funny looking deer? We just didn't know.


Whhheewwweee! Look at that Pronghorn tail!


It turns out, they were pronghorns! Apparently there are about 200-350 of these antelope-cousins in the park and we were lucky enough to see a group of them (pretending to be elk) about 5 seconds before leaving the park. Lucky timing for us since one of the big, papa elk realized the intruders were encroaching on his territory after just a few minutes and chased the great pretenders away into the distance, never to be seen again... at least not by us. 


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It's an animal party! 


4. Bald Eagle 

I saw this guy just swoop over our car. I move about as fast as a 200 year old woman with no fingers when trying to operate a camera, so I missed him. But it was still awesome.


5. Big horn sheep 

Right outside of Big Sky on our way to Yellowstone we saw a BIG, big horn sheep. Like most of the animals we saw, he was just chillin', having a good ol' meal on the side of the road. Upon further inspection, we found his buddy just a few feet up the mountain doing the same thing. We didn't get a picture, but we did almost cause an accident by slowing down too much to get a good view. So there's that. 


6. Domestic Animals 

And here's a shoutout to all the "normal" animals we've seen along the way: Cows (and baby cows!), horses, deer, sheep, llamas and dogs. Even the average guys deserve some love.  

Give me a big bronze moose statue and I'll be happy all day.

Posted by Nikki Yeager on April 7, 2015 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

I'm an easy girl to please. Give me a big bronze moose statue and I'll be happy all day. Maybe all week. 


On my quest to see all 50 states (excluding Alaska) before having a baby, I'm road-tripping through the NW, staying on couches and working in cafes. So far, I've knocked out OR and, yesterday, ID. 


Let me just say, after my dissappointment in Portland, OR, I was thrilled with Couer D'Alene ID. I couldn't get enough of the license plates -- Famous Potatos! -- and got a kick out of the fact I could walk right past the public library into the woods for a pretty hefty 2 mile hike around a mini-mountain. 


But my favorite part was Mudgy, a big, brown, metal moose. We saw her for the first time while walking along the water and snapped a quick photo without thinking much about it. 




A little bit further into town, we stumbled across another nearly identical moose and took a quick photo. During which some crazy friendly strangers came up and offered to take our picture with the statue. It turns out, she's part of the most adorable art installation I've ever seen! There are 5 Mudgys around the city with little Millie-the-mouse statues perched on her antlers. Next to each one is a short story book excerpt about how Mudgy is looking for Millie but Millie is hiding on her head. The story progresses as you wander around the city looking for the rest of the cute, bronze moose statues until Millie finally crawls between Mudgy's eyes and announces herself. 


Pretty much, the best thing a city has done. Ever. :) 


I've never been happier with the random street art in the city.. turns out, all it takes to make me smile is a giant moose and a tiny, sneaky, storybook mouse. 

Portland: Land of the Not-So-Weird

Posted by Nikki Yeager on April 6, 2015 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

When I imagine Portland, I imagine a sea of handlebar moustaches, random unicycles, slightly socially awkward young people who act like the characters I can never quite understand on Portlandia and Suessical style bicycle contraptions (I once saw an article on a Portland native who drove around her 6 kids on a bicycle she rigged up with wagons and extra seats).


So I was expecting weird. I wanted the people to make me feel odd.. like I didn't really fit in. After all, the motto is everywhere: Keep Portland Weird.



The only problem was that when I arrived, the only thing weird about Portland was how normal it seemed. 


It was a cool city with a lot to do, a food scene that rivals that of NYC and a whole bunch of young people. They even have donuts shaped on penises... on purpose! It seemed to me like it wasn't so much weird, as a product of my generation. More specifically, the more liberal, typically educated portion of my generation.


People cared about recycling and microbrews. They seemed to prefer locally made items to those imported from other cities, states or countries. The coffee was good, there were plenty of cheap food options and multiple movie theaters with 5 dollar movies and full meals served to your seat. Public transportation was reliable and there was a "tiny house" hotel, which is really the epitome of my generation's recent move to inner cities and love of walking culture rather than driving. When I looked at our hotel's products and the majority of soaps/toilettries available in public locations, they were the same brands we use at home - eco-friendly, chemical free, used-to-be-hippie-brands.  


There were also a lot of homeless people. And, sadly, a lot of people who adopted the less desirable traits of my generation. People who believed in aid (from parents, from the government, from stangers) over working. People who had never had a job, who refused to work outside of their field to make enough money to rent an apartment. People who were mentally and physically capable, but lacking any.. what's the word? ... grit? 


But was that weird? No. It was the same culture, both positive and negative, I experience when hanging out with my peers. We bicycle, we buy organic, we recycle. Many of us also have a hard time with motivation and take a longer time than any other point in history to blossom into full fledged adults. This is who we are, this is today's young. 


I felt like Portland was created by 20-30 year olds and it took on the personality of that age group. The values our generation(s) believe in, the viewpoints, the work ethic, the "weirdness" when compared to generations past. But for a town of youngsters, I couldn't find anything I thought was truly weird. I never even did a double take. And although I loved the city, I left feeling somewhat let down. 


Because if Portland didn't deliver on the weird scale, is there anywhere left that would? 

Interesting facts about Tijuana

Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 31, 2015 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

I was amazed after our visit to Tijuana last weekend at just how local the city has become. We stayed from Friday - Sunday and probably ran into eight or ten other Americans the entire time. The whole thing confused me, so I did some looking into the history and found this great article on the NYT website about the rebirth of Tijuana. I found taht a lot of the observations in the article rung true during our visit: Once a solely tourist town for drunk Americans, it's become a budding city for local Mexicans to earn higher wages, participate in the art scene and live their lives. The main tourist strip, Av. Revolucion, was mostly crowded with Spanish speaking partiers Saturday night and although the souvenier shops remain, there don't seem to be any Americans to frequent them. 


Anyways, in light of that, I decided to post some other things that surprised me abut this itneresting little town. 


1. Apparently Ceasar Salad was invented in Tijuana at a place called Ceasar's Restaurant, which is mostly frequented by what appeared to be upper class Mexicans. I thought this was hilarious because I've eaten a "Mexican Ceasar Salad" with tortilla strips on more than one occasion and it turns out that EVERY Ceasar Salad I've ever had was Mexican! 



2. The Italian mob rocked out in Tijuana. Ceasar's Restaurant is an Italian restaurant. So is the Praga cafe across the stree and Giuseppe's down the road a bit. Apparently, during Prohibition, Tijuana was booming with Italian mob guys who wanted to drink, party and enjoy their lives just south of the boarder. 


3. The San Ysidro/Tijuana boarder is considered the busiest land boarder crossing in the world with an estimated 300,000 crossings a day! 



4. You don't need a passport, visa or anything else to enter Mexico. You just needs legs, because all you have to do is literally walk across the sidewalk and BAM you're in Mexico.

Tijuana: Just like Mexico, fancy that!

Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 30, 2015 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

We went to Tijuana last weekend.. because if we're in San Diego, we might as well go over the boarder! Where else can you take a trolley for 40 minutes, get out and simply walk across the boarder (no one even checks your passport!) right into another country??After being harrassed at the Canadian boarder multiple times in the past, I honestly thought we did something wrong when we got into Mexico so easily. But no, they just don't care who the heck comes into that country! Which is sort of awesome. 


Anyways, we walked across and then headed to our hotel in Tijuana, assuming we'd spend the majority of the weekend in an incredibly touristy and only vaguely Mexican city. Keep in mind, my perception of Tijuana comes from people I know who travelled there in the early 2000s or before. While I was hoping for a local, authentic experience, I was banking on souvenier shops and English speakers. 


However, that seems to be a Tijuana long past. Because not only were we the only gringos crossing the boarder, but we were two of about eight total Americans we saw the entire weekend.


While wandering the streets trying to find our hotel, Daniel turned to me and asked, "Does this seem... foreign to you?"

I  looked at him in the blazing, 90 degree sun and couldn't help but smile, "I guess we're in Mexico."


And it seems we were.


The streets meandered through the city with names like Blvd. Gral Rodolfo Sanchez Taboada and Via Rapida Jose Fimbres Morena, although about a quarter of the intersections lacked signage. As we went from one poorly marked road to the next, Daniel and I grasped hands and darted across major roads, hoping the cars would come to a stop for us like they did for the other pedestrians who stepped, without warning, from street corners. As we passed restaurants and shopping centers, we were amazed how few people approached us hawking goods or asking for donations. Taxis on the other hand, stopped every five seconds and honked their horns shouting "Taxi??" as they slowed down to pass. 


After a good hour of wandering, and getting lost several times, we finally stumbled across our hotel (completely on accident) and checked in. We'd booked online after the CouchSurfer we were supposed to stay with came down with a nasty bug and, hoping to keep to our budget, found a place for $25/night. Because when I travel, I travel.


Now, I wasn't expecting much more than a bug free room -- possibly dirty -- with a shower and a bed. And that was fine with me. 


Daniel, on the other hand, was a little freaked out. 


We stumbled through a primarily Spanish check in process (thank God Daniel has crazy good language skills) and climbed up the flight of stairs to our room. Our room was exactly what I expected - a bed and a shower. The bathroom was pretty much the same quality of a shared bathroom at a campgroup and the bed was bug free but dressed with sheets that had "RENTED. NEVER SOLD. MEXICO HOSPITAL" printed in big blue writing.


It was everything I'd wanted and more from traveling to another country!


And from that point forward, I knew our trip would be worthwhile. 

The police are different here... possibly better? Possibly worse?

Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 29, 2015 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I'm in San Diego avoiding the last of the cold and I've noticed one big difference between SoCal and NYC: the police. I'm not sure if I've just gotten used to overly aggressive police officers, or if these Californian cops are actually whimpy. The fact that I find their behavior weirdly passive makes me question how police are supposed to behave .. am I used to something extreme? Or are the people here just really brazen when it comes to pushing limits with cops? 


It all started when I was jogging down the street (well, running while pregnant is more of a fast waddle/speed walk than a true jog, but you get the picture) and came across a presumably homeless man who had set up residence in front of a swanky resort in Carlsbad, CA. He had a tarp for shelter, a pretty impressive book collection scattered around him and a terrible attitude.


There were two police officers standing near him, calmly insisting he had to leave while he SCREAMED back that he had "EVERY RIGHT TO BE HERE! THIS IS A FREE COUNTRY! I'M A WRITER AND I CAN SIT WHERE I WANT!".


The cops just continued gently pressing him for information: "That's interesting you're a writer. What do you write? .... by the way, we heard that you might be harrassing passerby"


The guy just sat, cemented to the ground, shouting back while the lead police officer carried on the conversation, a citation pad in hand. 


Now call me crazy, but where I'm from, screaming at a police officer after a few minutes will get you put in a cop car, and possibly a jail cell, quicker than you can finish your angry rant. 


But I carried on with my jog and went heaving and huffing down the street without thinking about it too much. 


On my way back, the guy and the cops were still there. Still talking. 


As I passed by, a family with two young children walked past while the man let out a string of curse words that was impressive by any swearing standard.


The mom quietly explained that the kids should ignore those "bad words" to which the man directed all his anger at the family and started the screaming again: "YOU F****NG B**CH! THIS IS WHY YOUR KIDS ARE GOING TO GROW UP TO BE STUPID D*BAGS! YOU CAN'T SHELTER THOSE A****LES FROM EVERYTHING! YOU'RE A TERRIBLE MOTHER! THAT'S WHAT's WRONG WITH SOCIETY! A LITTLE F****ING SWEARING AND YOU HIDE YOUR SH**HEAD KIDS FROM THE WORLD!"


He was clearly aggressive. He was scaring the family, was potentially a physical threat to that mom or those kids. And still, the police calmly wrote on their pad (hopefully a ticket) and didn't engage further. 


To which my initial reaction was to think - why aren't you people doing anything to get this man off of this hotel's property and out of these peoples' faces?!?! It made me mad. It confused me, it was so against all bahavior I see in NY where you should immediately apologize and show respect when pulled over or confronted by a cop. Otherwise, things usually don't end well. 


But then I began to question my own standards. The man may have been a threat, but he wasn't physically violent (yet). The man was certainly unpleasant, but was his presence violating any laws? Sure, he was yelling at the police officers, but why do I think speaking back to an officer of the law is an automatic sentence? Is that normal? Is that legal? 


Now I just don't know what to think. I know that I feel that shouty man was in the wrong. And I wanted him to be taken away. But after thinking about it, I'm also afraid that I've come to accept a completely unfair standard of treatment by police officers because our 30+ thousand cops can be a bit aggressive in NY. 


What do you all think? I think the whole thought of it makes my head hurt. 

Pregnancy is weird.

Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 27, 2015 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

So this pregnancy thing. I'm not sure how I feel about it. 

Actually, that's a lie.

I know how I feel about it, and I feel kinda crappy. It sucks. It's uncomfortable and it's downright weird. I have some alien moving around inside me, stretching my belly out so far I'm amazed I haven't toppled over yet. The scary part is that I still have 3.5 more months to go and stuff keeps getting weirder. 


Here's what I mean: 


1. I have to wear my husband's underwear. 
Yup, you heard it, ladies! My legs are now so much chubbier around my thighs that I get some serious chaffing from walking. Or sitting down. Or sleeping. Basically, the inside of my thighs has no skin left no matter what level of activity (or non-activity!) I engage in. So I've resorted to wearing Daniel's boxer-briefs because they at least cover the danger zone... like big, cotton, bandages of heaven wrapped around my thighs. To summarize, my undergarments are the sexiest things ever. 


But seriously, they're not. I'm wearing men's underwear, people!  


2. My stomach moves. On it's own. 
Ok, ok, I know active babies are healthy babies and it's so gosh darn miraculous that I'm growing a human being inside me. But nobody warns pre-pregnant ladies that one day you'll find yourself walking down the street and all of a sudden your entire belly will start... dancing. On it's own, without any help from you. It'll wave to strangers in public and sway from right to left like a pendulum before bed. Limbs will poke out periodically where there should be no limbs (a hand pushing out my belly button? Ridiculous!) and when you try to spoon your partner, your belly might protest by kicking him in the back. It seems that my belly has become a hazard to me and those around me; it should come with a warning sign like yards with guard dogs, "Beware: Hyperactive baby inside. He kicks!"... and maybe a fence. Because I really don't like people invading my personal space these days anyways. 


3. My brain is on vacation. 
I can't see the entirety of my legs anymore, so shaving them has become a bit of a tricky. But that's totally fine, because I usually straight up forget that I have legs in the first place! For me, pregnancy has been 9 months of temporary Alzheimer's. I walk into a room and I can't remember why I'm there. I start asking someone a question and I forget what I'm asking. I've even started to passionately argue a point and midway through my diatribe, I've completely lost track of the topic, stopped mid-sentence and sat there dumbfounded.


So here's to hoping that this weird "mommy brain" thing is short lived! Otherwise, I'm pretty sure I'll be forgetting that baby all over Manhattan... In fact, at this rate, I might even forget that I have a baby!


2014 in review.. I'll give it a B+

Posted by Nikki Yeager on December 31, 2014 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

I have this philosophy that we all have a finite amount of time on this earth, and when mine is up I want to move on knowing I did everything I possibly could within the amount of time given. Which is why I try to give myself an honest review of the last 12 months every time the new year comes as a way to keep myself in check and make sure I'm not slipping on enjoyment. At first, I was going to give myself a solid C.. if this was high school and I was doling out grades for life performance. 


After an organizational audit of my photos for the last year (and lots of hours spent moving photos into nice organized little file folders on Google Drive), I decided to lighten up and give myself a respectable B.

Actually, a B plus. :) 


Here's why:


Travel: Daniel and I finally got a chance to do some wandering together which was nice considering I'm always a little sad he's spent all of his life exploring no further than the East Coast. Thanks to my sister's move to Hawaii, we made it all the way to the Pacific to see her and her newly chosen home-state. Then we also hit up Colorado, Long Beach, Las Vegas and Providence, RI. While only HI and RI were new states for me, I have to say it's a nice change to have a travel companion. 


That being said, I still fit in a fair amount of solo travel for work. I got to knock off Missouri and Minnesota from my "50 states" bucket list thanks to randomly located tradeshows. 


Work: Speaking of work related travel, it's been nearly one year since my mom and I quit our jobs to gamble on our company, EHR Tutor. 11 months since quitting-day and we're doing well enough that no one has starved. At least not yet. 


Rediscovering an old love: OK, this one isn't about some sordid fling with an old high school romance (I mean come on guys, I'm married!). It's about how me and Daniel have rediscovered a hobby we both love (which is a welcome departure from our previous wedding related hobby-- swing dancing). After climbing every ridge we could find and trekking all over Oahu and the Big Island during our Hawaii trip, we decided we might just be the type of people who like to hike. More specifically, the type of people who like to climb. Bring on the rock scrambles and mountain hikes!


Exploring NY: There's a point in every NYC dweller's life when you've explored the majority of this city... or at least your home borough. Once I hit that point, I started branching out. Which was extremely convenient considering Daniel and I have become pseudo-outdoorsman. It turns out NY state has great hiking and adorable little towns nestled between the trails just an hour outside of Harlem. We got a chance to roam the streets of Cold Springs, climb up Breakneck Ridge, spend our 1 year anniversary at the Dia museum in Beacon and visit numerous other towns. I've learned so much about my state and the diversity in this one little part of the world. 


Finding home: This year was also the year that I finally found home. By that, I mean I moved into an apartment I'm going to be in long enough that I can make it into a little nest. For the first time in my life. I've built a breakfast bar, organized like crazy and bought decorations. I've painted walls and took all of my memory items out of boxes. This is now my chosen home in my chosen city of my chosen state. 

 

Filling home with new things.. and people: Oh, and this year I got knocked up. On purpose. So yippee to that! 


That being said, I can pretty much garauntee a big, eventful, baby-filled 2015. 

10k at 10 weeks

Posted by Nikki Yeager on December 30, 2014 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

A while back I made a bucket list of all the things I wanted to do before having a baby. The idea was to accomplish everything before getting pregnant so I had a little bit more life under my belt, before, you know, growing a life under my belt. 


Well, you know that saying "If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans"? 


He's chuckling now because I'm 12 weeks pregnant and just starting to work through my list. But something as little as a fetus isn't going to stop me from moving forward with my plans! So I'm running around like crazy trying to get in as much "me" while I can. Running around, and just plain running. 


For Number 3 on the list, I did the seemingly impossible (for me). I ran further than I ever thought I would. And while it may not be impressive to your average runner, I've never pushed myself past 4.5 miles in my life. It's just... boring. Mind numbingly dull. In fact, I once had this delusional thought that I'd train for a marathon and then quickly realized that around 4 miles I got so tired of being by myself with nothing to do but put one foot in front of the other, that I  gave up within a month out of sheer mental exhaustion.


However, I wanted to be able to say that I ran an accepted long distance at some point in my life. Just in case my future child gets my running gene, I want to be able to know that I could have kicked that little kid's butt in my prime.;) 


So I set my sights on a 10K. Six point two miles of non-stop movement. That's one entire loop around Central Park. In the winter. While 10 weeks pregnant. 


The day of, I didn't tell anyone it was the day I was planning on knocking off Number 3 on my bucket list; I just put on my shoes and a lot of winter layers before quietly slipping outside just like I would for any other run. I didn't have faith that I could make it, so I wanted to make sure no one else was counting on me to finish. 


And then I ran. 


And ran, and ran and ran. 


And ran some more. 


I went past the small dogs walking on 110th street and dodged strollers on the Upper East Side. I crisscrossed from one side of the street to the other as I passed The Met and then found myself pulling off my gloves as the sun broke through and warmed the air. I ran past the tourists in their winter coats and the locals jogging past me in the opposite direction. Because I spend so much time in my apartment while working from home, I had a chance to soak in everything I love about New York. I had a chance to remember how beautiful the city is. 


Which made me forget that I'd already run over half way and I was - surprisingly - going strong. 


Then I hit 59th and realized I'd started my run a little too late in the day. The south side of Central Park was already filled with tourists, Christmas stands and holiday shopping. I stuttered in my steps and had to jump back and forth between people on the sidewalk, dodging horse poop on the street and street vendors on the sidewalk. Instead of running, I was playing a weird life-size game of Frogger. Around 7th Ave I was able to cut through the park and spend a bit of time comparing myself to other joggers (most going faster than me.. but hey! I'm pregnant!) and then popped out on Central Park West. 


At that point it was just another 30 blocks. An easily attainable distance. 29. 27. 25. A mile. 


And when I hit that last five blocks, I knew I'd make it. I didn't even care that I couldn't feel my ungloved hands anymore and the sun had disappeared long ago. I didn't mind that I was in danger of peeing my pants (thank you, progesterone) or that my legs were complete jello... I was just five blocks from my goal. Four blocks. 


Three blocks. 


Two blocks. 


One block. 


..... done. 


I forced my legs to stop jogging and resume a normal pace. As my blood returned to the rest of my body, so did a huge wave of endorphins. A few people wandered past me in the opposite direction as I threw my head back and grinned at the sky. I might have looked like a crazy, heaving, weirdo, but I felt like I was Hercules... or at least one of his friends. I was a 10 week pregnant demi-god who had tamed the sidewalk with her beating legs. 


And during a time when most women decide to slow down, I sped up. For 6.2 miles.


And I don't think I'll ever slow down again. 

Losing our minds and losing our way

Posted by Nikki Yeager on December 10, 2014 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (0)

In my quest to see all 50 states, I've been making quite a few pit stops to states I've never seen. While it's a bit late to write about it, my last trip involved a surprisingly long car ride to one of the smallest little states in the country: Rhode Island. 


Strangely, I haven't been to any of the small states until now. Rhode Island.. Delaware.. New Hampshire. They're just so little I forget they're there! 


Anywho, me and Daniel made the trip for no reason other than to cross another location of my list (and because it was a long weekend before Veteran's Day so, basically, we had no choice but to take a vacation!). When we got to Providence we took a long, winding walk through Roger Williams Park which is like a slightly more outdoorsy version of Central Park. We warmed up in the greenhouse, took a look at some birds and stopped in a museum. By 10am we'd already walked about 3 miles in the freezing cold. But we were determined to see all that tiny little state has to offer. 


So we stopped at an Armenian food festival - obviously - and then hauled our full bellies to downtown Providence. We specifically wanted to visit Providence that weekend because it was the last Fire Water celebration of the year and they were doing a special ceremony for Veterans. The start time for lighting the river on fire was sometime around sun-down so we had plenty of time to meander the streets, visit RISD and stop by Brown University. 



As the sun started to creep lower in the sky, we made our way to the Rhode Island State House as the ceremony began. Because Daniel is from NYC originally, he has a difficult time understanding the military (as so many New Yorkers do). This is a city of debate, policy and finance. The people here will talk about war and fighting and far flung countries all day long, but they rarely know a soul who was lost to a cause or policy debated in bars and newspapers. It's not the fault of the people who are unaware, it's just a way of life. A bit of happy ignorance in Manhattan.


Anyways, everyone who came out for Fire Water was a family member of a veteran and just gosh darn friendly. Which means as the veterans, policy makers and family members lined up at the State House to light a torch on fire, they chatted about family members serving or lost in the military. Part of me felt a huge sense of satisfaction knowing that my husband was being immersed in a culture I've tried so hard to explain to him. 



The family members with torches marched down to the water basin as military bands played tune after tune. Around the water basin (which fed into the river), all the participants made a torch-blazing circle of fire. As the music came to a crescendo, two canoe-like boats came around the bend carrying more torches and WHOOOSH! Up went the fire! Down the river and throughout the basin, they lit huge bonfires constructed on the water. Sure, they may not have lit the entire river on fire... but there was light and there was definitely heat. 


It was glorious. 


And I think it broke our brains. 


Because when we left for our hotel that night with two dead phones and nearly frost bitten feet, I managed to navigate our way to the Hilton just as the need for sleep started to kick in. The only problem? When we went to check in, the nice concierge kindly let me know that we had no reservation at the Hilton. So I had to sit in the lobby of the hotel with my frozen toes and my phone charging in a corner, waiting for just a tiny bit of battery so I could pull up my confirmation. 


Turns out, we were scheduled to stay at the Radisson. 


So we took our embarrased selves back on the road to the proper hotel. But when we took off again, it was a trip filled with one wrong turn after the other. We finally found ourselves hovering over my blinking, 5% charged phone studying a map in a shopping lot parking lot. After righting our internal compasses, Daniel turned to me and asked "Which way do we go"? 


I pointed forward to the road, "We have to turn left here". 


So he started the car, hit the gas and....


CHHHHRRKKKKK 


We scraped the bottom of our car as we casually drove right over the curb of the parking lot onto the busy street. 


Because that's just how we roll. Curbs are for sissies. 


And Water Fire dazzled the sense right out of our heads. 

Nakey girls on stage

Posted by Nikki Yeager on October 21, 2014 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Last weekend I did something crazy.... I packed my bags and went to Vegas! 


It was my husband's idea. We were going to CA for a conference, but neither he nor I have been to Sin City as adults. And let's face it, when we visited with our families as teenagers, there wasn't much "sin" to be had. So we threw together an odd assortment of activities to get in all of our jollies while there: hiking red rock canyon, exploring the desert, chowing down on all-you-can eat buffets, wandering along Fremont street and seeing naked girls.


You know, because that's what Vegas is about. Naked girls.


Before you get all hot and bothered, this isn't a story about escorts and brothels. It's not about three way sex or a bouquet of vaginas. At least not directly.


We did something much more tame. We went to a little show on the Strip. A show with no prejudice or discrimination. A show set in a world where age, beauty and gender are nothing but words. A performance with amazingly skilled performers... that did nothing but make me feel amazingly philosophical. 


A little show called Zumanity. 


I signed up for the experience expecting to see something spectacular and maybe a little sexy. I've always admired the sheer power of the men and women who grace Cirque Du Soleil stages. Topless or not, I love what those human beings can do with themselves and the props they're given. 


Needless to say, I didn't go into the night looking for an epiphany or a kumbaya/feel good experience. I just wanted glitz and glammer and maybe some ta-tas. So when we sat down and watched a few performers warm the audience up, I was suprised. There were two very large (and very beautiful!) women flirting loudly with the men - and women - in the crowd. They cracked jokes and comically smooshed their voluptuous back ends into unsuspecting guests' faces. Between the full-body fishnets and tiny black undies, I think they had less clothing combined than I did if you just counted my undergarments. And those big-boobed, big-bellied, big-butted women brought down the house. Nobody snickered, nobody judged. Because those were two ladies who had comedic power dripping from their scantily clad bodies. They rocked the stage.. a stage reserved for the best of the best when it comes to performers. And in that moment they weren't bodies. They were talent and comedy and sex. That was all.


The first act started with an introduction by the host ... a suspiciously masculine woman who definitely did not have the body of a super model. But she was the host. The main person on stage. The leader. She was chosen from all the skinny, pretty young things to be the queen of the stage, and she certainly knew how to hold court. 


And that's when I started to wonder ... did Circque Du Soleil intentionally use their stunning popularity to show just how silly people's perceptions are? Was this show really about glamor and glitz or was it actually about something much deeper? 


The acts rolled on with a pair of girls falling in love while falling into a huge, water filled martini glass. It was an act that would have made parents guffaw and teenagers queue up their most venomous remarks where I grew up. But in that theatre, everyone jumped to applaud the nearly nude couple and their underwater gymnastics. Surprisingly, the same reaction was to be had when a ridiculously acrobatic set of male performers locked lips before walking off the stage with a female performer ... a nod to polyamorous relationships in the form of dance?


We saw every race, weight, height, age and appearance. We saw little people and obese women, implied threesomes, foursomes and orgies. We saw men on men, women on women, black with white, dominant females dancing between whips while skinny men spun obediently on hula hoops. There were six-pack abs spinning from ropes and sunken bellies under exposed, contorted rib cages. There were boobs that hung low and ones that you had to squint just to find. There were little bulges, big bulges, pale skin, dark skin, wrinkled skin. It was amazing because the talent was the top-notch talent that is always brought by one of the most fabulous productions in the US, but the talent broke through any box that's ever existed. It was solely talent. Not just looks.


And instead of being slightly turned on, I felt slightly turned up. I became attuned to how beautiful it all was. I saw the audience respond positively to things that would have been booed off the stage in a previous decade. Claps came where gasps would have been before. And at the end of the show, the theater stood to applaud the performance, not fully realizing they had seen all the things acted out that they were taught to disdain. 


I went home that night feeling liberated. Enlightened. Relieved. 


I may have gone to see something risque, but instead I saw a glimpse of the world I want my children to grow up in. A world in which there is no "normal" and beauty isn't just in the eye of the beholder.. it's in every human being we see. Topless or not.


Climbing a mountain. Literally, not figuratively.

Posted by Nikki Yeager on October 10, 2014 at 8:40 PM Comments comments (0)

A while back when I was in Hawaii visiting my sister, she decided to take me to explore all the ups and downs of the Hawaiian terrain. Which apparently involved climbing down mountain sides on lava rocks. 


Off one of the trails outside of Waikiki, there's a well worn path that takes you past a chain fence warning visitors they are no longer on the path. In Hawaii, signs of warning and/or trespassing are like speed limits: ignored by 99% of the population. 


So I followed my sister over the cliff. 


Seriously, it was a cliff, that had enough texture in the lava rock to slowly climb down towards the ocean. And climb we did. 


Step by step, I hopped and skidded and eased myself from one section of the path to the next. It was a bumpy, uneasy road at first, but as we moved forward I could feel my feet finding their way and eagerly used my hands to help me drop from one rock to the next, always careful not to pitch forward or fall backwards. I eventually found my rhythym and clambored down the mountain while looking straight out to sea. The waves got continuously closer as the original path fell away. 


We chatted for a while but fell silent during the tricky parts, and the silence allowed me to become one with my body. I felt the same confidence in my legs and my arms, my muscles and tendons, heart and lungs, that I used to feel when running. During that climb I knew my body like I did as a gymnast in middle school or during track workouts in high school. I was back in the gym with toned arms and flexible limbs. I knew where my feet were before they landed and could feel every move of my body before it happened. It was the kind of oneness with my body that meditation strives for. 


The sun beat down on me as we descended and slowly reached our destination. All of a sudden my desk-work body morphed into what it was once - unbearably young and undeniably athletic. Sure, when we finally got to the tide pools at the bottom of the cliff and stripped to our bikinis I was still the same girl who has to truly sturggle to complete 15 pushups and has spent the last 2 years primarily on my slightly cushy bum from 9-5. But during that climb I was who I once was. 


And I loved every minute of it. Which is why I intend to get that girl back no matter how many early morning runs or gym sessions it takes. Because there's nothing more delightful than doing something truly, physically challenging, and succeeding wildly. 


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