From Texas-sized 2 Tiny House For Three
It’s been two weeks and two days since about 40,000 people descended upon the Western Museum of Mining & Industry in Colorado Springs for the very first Tiny House Jamboree, and so many attendees have posted amazingly detailed blow-by-blows of the whole affair replete with photo diaries and tales of meeting the famous faces of the #tinyhousetribe along the way. Some of the best posts were from newer members of that very tribe, such as Ariel of Fy Nyth, who I met too-briefly and literally in passing while chasing R.A.D out of the Tiny House Chattanooga display house as she was coming in. If you’ve wanted to see photos from the many different tiny houses that were on display, I’ve yet to find a better post than her’s here on her blog.
I, too, had started a detailed accounting post of our time in the Springs to regale you with, but I never did get back to finish it having been distracted first by the event itself and later with the actual building of our house back here in Texas. With so much time having eclipsed since the event and with so many other amazing posts on the subject already in circulation on social media, I’m instead going to focus on our personal trip to Colorado in general for that weekend. After all, we weren’t just there for the Jam; we were there to tour our future home and my future workplace!
If you follow us on FB or Instagram, I’m sure you noticed we had some travel snafus related to our truck. I could write an entire dissertation on that event alone (and I nearly did before deciding to save it for another time), but know that the fix was simple: a nut had backed out in the steering wheel that connects the wheel itself to the actual steering linkage of the truck, and had it disconnected entirely we’d likely have lost complete control of the vehicle. Yikes! Anyway, a slow, cautious crawl into Amarillo at 0100 and a 3hr back-and-forth call the next morning with Chrysler and every Dodge shop within 200mi of Amarillo later, we were in a $605/wk rental car (airport rental fees – yeesh!) headed to the Springs. We got a call around 4pm that the truck was ready, which was about the time we were crossing into Colorado. Needless to say, they had to babysit the truck until Monday, and we rocked it out in a Chevy Cruze all weekend.
We didn’t arrive early enough on Thursday to make the volunteer orientation (something we’d been trying hard to do and was THE reason we left late evening on the 5th… c’est la vie!), so we instead found dinner and crashed early at our little motel. Friday morning we got off to a slow start, and the lines to get into the Jam were already quite long when we arrived around 10am. I had yet to receive clearance to put full weight on my broken foot, so I was using my knee scooter and schlepping a single forearm crutch along with me for added stability. Let me tell you what: that sandy, rocky, gravel covered hill leading to the Museum grounds from the Bass Pro Shop parking lot was BRUTAL with that scooter, but I took my time and made it. Actually, down wasn’t so bad as up, but the fact it was about 15 degrees warmer when we left the first time made that much more uncomfortable. Anyway, the first person we ran into was Angie Alcorn of Tiny House America, event coordinator extraordinaire and all-around kick ass lady. We’d been trading emails for a few months about the Jam, our vow renewal, our offer to volunteer, and just chatting in general, so it was amazing to finally meet her. She and Bobby had lived in the Dallas area not too long ago, too, and I’m always happy in particular to meet fellow Texans, even non-natives like her. Warms my heart see Texans of all stripes being gung-ho about tiny houses. 🙂 And speaking of fellow Texans, Wendy of Our Tiny House View, also a local DFW tiny house family already living in their THOW, found me and said hello. She and her hubby, Jamie, were similarly in town not just for the Jamboree, and I’m sending them tons of positive vibes for their hopeful next tiny house adventure! Check out the pic Jamie took of Wendy and me, and see their FB page for more on their tiny house life!
Anyway, our first order of business was to find Gary and Donna’s Tiny House Systems booth to say hello and discuss what we needed to do for them on Sunday when we watched the booth while Gary gave his speech on mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in tiny houses. Gary designed our M-E-P system for us, and helping him out with his booth was the least we could do to say thank you. Plus, we hadn’t even had the chance to chat by phone at that point, so it was nice to finally meet the man behind the e-mails! Incidentally, if you are building a DIY tiny house and have any reservations about the plumbing or electrical systems you’ll need, I can’t recommend Gary highly enough! Even the amazing Dee Williams didn’t put plumbing in her tiny house because she didn’t want to mess with it, but Gary can help make it all make sense. Truly – his services were probably the most cost effective purchase of our whole house, and I’m not saying that because he paid or even asked me to. He did neither of those things, and I stand by my recommendation 100%.
After we said hello to them, the boys wandered off to check out a few tiny houses (I think they saw hOMe first, and sadly I never made it into that one – the lines were crazy even on Friday!) and I started looking for Annie and her Tiny House Teas home. It wasn’t until much later after I shot Annie an email wondering where the heck she was (Angie had told us Friday morning that they’d had to rearrange the layout of the whole event quite a bit already and expected more adjustments as the crowds grew) that I found out she’d made it to the event but had to turn back for some administrative complications I can’t speak to. Needless to say I was disappointed to miss meeting her and thanking her in person for the yummy tea samples she’s sent along with my orders, but I’m certain we’ll meet sometime on our travels with our own tiny house. If you’re a tea drinker, do check out her wares – I think I bought her out of my favorite variety, but the Red Cloak Tea is definitely worth trying!
While I was taking a break in front of the THS booth (have to rest my good foot and my right knee from time to time, especially when scooting around on all that uneven gravel – I got quite a workout!), and man in a wide brimmed hat whose mutton-chopped face was vaguely familiar wandered over. While I’m somewhat ashamed to admit I didn’t immediately recognize the amazing Greg Parham of Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses – especially considering how I often lust over his houses, like his Boulder design and the sweet off-shoot he built as an Airbnb rental in Austin, TX – it made me glad I had t-shirts made for us to wear in lieu of brining our tiny house with us. In fact, I met lots of cool folks (shoutout to Danielle of BigTinyYellowHouse, Kiva and Jake of Tiny Nest Project, Dani of The Tiny House That Grandma Built, Michelle of My Empty Nest, Baylie and Bjorn of Tiny House Growing Family, and Kim Kasl of Bless This Tiny House to name just a few) as a result of our shirts. Anyway, Greg is an amazing architect who designs and builds equally amazing tiny houses both of his own in-house design and in conjunction with his clients’ visions. While I consider him one of the members of tiny house royalty of sorts, it was wonderful to have such a down-to-earth conversation with someone I admire professionally. We had a good chat about everything from his past and future designs and builds to our plans to one day have a tiny house B&B of sorts, and it was wonderful to hear his ideas. And I won’t lie – I’m partial to fellow Texans, especially those involved in the tiny house movement. It’s always exciting to me to find folks who are breaking free from the “Everything’s Bigger In…” attitude of my home state (and the rest of our country) when it comes to houses and material possessions, really. Just makes me smile is all. 🙂
We ate some BBQ from the seller parked next to the THS booth before we headed out to put the little man down for a nap. I want to say something like “Jeff’s BBQ” was the name, but I can’t recall. Anyway, the boys loved it (I passed – my big breakfast had me still full), and I got a bit lightheaded as we crept back up that hill-o-doom on our way to the car. We were still hoping to renew our vows that evening, but a late-sleeping R.A.D, a still-busy Jamboree staff, and a little miscommunication about our requested date left us standing at the Mini Chapel altar with no one to administer the ceremony. C’est la vie – we were pretty wiped out by then ourselves, and we had a big day ahead of us for Saturday anyway! We ended our night with a fun time watching R.A.D get down with his bad self to the tunes of Grass It Up while dancing and playing the provided instruments with a lovely lady aptly named Melody. He latched onto a little wooden grasshopper shaped guiro that was missing its stick and spent a solid half hour running around the crowd showing it off to anyone who’d take the time to pay him any mind. It’s times like those that make me want to be in a tiny house community of some form – co-housing, an RV park, or even via a B&B we might own – so R.A.D can feel safe enough to run around and play with all the like-minded, good hearted folks who stayed late at the Jamboree to hear the music. It’s amazing to me how varied the interests and lifestyles of folks who love tiny houses tend to be, and yet we can all appreciate the tiny life and the freedoms that come with it. It was heartwarming to watch R.A.D and all the children milling about the crowds, hopping, skipping, and dancing to the music. Even some other adults joined in, too! It was quite an ending to a pretty amazing first night of the Jamboree!
As I’ve mentioned before, the company I work for is opening a joint-venture mini hospital in Westminster, CO. It’s more or less the same model I work for here in Texas (the building is anyway), but this one will have a nice little surgical center addition on the upper floor. As construction often goes (and don’t we know it with our THOW, too!), they are suffering from delays that have pushed back the opening from October first further into the month. Though I now don’t have a firm start date, the physical location isn’t changing of course. As such, we wanted to drive up that way to go check it out. We’d driven through the general area last May when we went to pick up our Barn Raiser in Colorado Springs, but I didn’t have anything other than the name of the city to go by at that time. I wasn’t at all surprised to see a near mirror image of the building I currently work in since I knew the same basic blueprint was being used, but I will say they were more behind than I expected from what we could see from the exterior. That’s made for some interesting challenges and even some lost funds from having to make cancellations here and there, but thems the breaks!
Honestly, though, it’s a blessing in disguise for us personally. Before this setback, I was going to have to travel to Colorado for a whole month on my own, rent a room from a lovely family in Boulder through Airbnb, drive an expensive rental car, and be separated from my boys while Brandy really did have to finish the tiny house all on his own. No, I’m not as much help with the physical labor on many projects (especially since I’ve been stuck in non-weight-bearing status for the last two months… oi!), but me being 2 states away was certainly not going to make the remainder of the build any easier. The biggest challenge was going to be getting the tiny house weighed, inspected, and (hopefully) retitled as an RV Travel Trailer for easier mobility and insurance. That last part was my biggest fear for not physically being in Texas because I’m a much better sweet-talker than Brandy is and needed to be here to plead our case for the change. Now that I’ll more than likely still be local when that time comes, I’m much more confident we’ll get the title change we want. The county clerk I spoke with last year (who I’m hoping hasn’t dramatically changed her appearance, because I’ll recognize her face but only have her initials on one form to go off of for her name) did seem to think we could make the change happen and even gave me a list of all the documents we’d need, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling I needed to be here to do it myself since I don’t feel like I can adequately explain to Brandy everything that needs to be done in that process. Now I think we at least have more than a snowball’s chance in hades of making this work. Let the finger crossing commence!
Before we hit Westminster, though, we drove up to Loveland, CO, to visit Riverview RV Park & Campground, now part of the Cruise Inn Park system. I had been withholding the name of the RV park we’d found to stay over the winter 1) because I didn’t know if the owner, who only recently decided to allow tiny houses, was ready for a broadcast announcement of that fact and 2) because, call me a jerk if you must, but I wanted to make sure our reservation was intact and secure for ourselves. My job depends on our being able to relocate to Colorado this fall, and I needed to hear it directly from the park staff in person that we were set to go before I announced to the world the location taking us in. They don’t have a pre-paid long-term reservation system – it’s still pretty much first come, first served when they release the spots in October – and that means even now we’re technically not 100% guaranteed to have a spot. In fact, they’ve had an office manager change, so our name was nowhere to be found in their system. Cue the heartburn! Thankfully I’m an email packrat and was able to forward the email from the previous manager confirming that they do, in fact, have our name down for a spot that will fit our house and the monthly rental cost. NOW we should be on their list for the long-term spots, and I told the gal behind the desk (whose name I stupidly didn’t ask) that we’d be willing to pay for the spot starting 10/1 whether we were physically parked in it yet or not.
What made me go on and reveal the name of the park was twofold. First, we were informed that the owner of Riverview was at the Jamboree on Saturday while we were visiting his park, and we’re sad to have missed him, too! The second reason was the fact the Cruise Inn RV Parks folks were handing out a little brochure at the Jamboree with all their parks that were accepting tiny houses on wheels asterisked and giving verbal instructions to call ahead to ask any of the other parks on the list if they’d accept them as well. Since I now had hard evidence and verbal confirmation that THOWs are welcome there, I felt I should share that info for anyone interested. I can also say that the Riverview’s owner also owns Fireside Cabins and RV Park just around the corner from Riverview, and while that park is mostly working folks with a tight squeeze between the RVs currently on site, they were still willing to accept us should we need them. In fact, they were the first park we found that would take us, and only after I found out they shared an owner did I investigate Riverview for its more family-friendly site. All the ladies I’ve spoken with at both facilities have been super nice and very helpful, and while I can’t yet speak to the experience of living there, I can say that I’ve been pleased with their help and responsiveness even with the little scare at Riverview due to the manager change. Do still call and speak with their staff before you just show up in your THOW – I think you’ll have a better reception like that since it’s still a new thing to them – but we’re definitely looking forward to our stay this winter!
We made two little detours on our way back to the Springs. First, we stopped at Fallen Owl Tattoo in Lakewood (and had an artist who was from Texas and had just moved to CO – we’re invading, I swear! lol) where I added my 10th star to my chest tattoo in honor of our 10th wedding anniversary on August 5th. I’ve been collecting stars for each year we’ve been married since I surprised Brandy with a trip to New Orleans for our 4th anniversary. Even though I’ve had to get them on different days a couple times over the years, I do try to coordinate the colors with where we were for the particular anniversary. Since I already had two reds (Canada and Missouri) and two blues (Dallas-proper twice), I opted for a larger golden yellow nautical star since yellow is in the Colorado state flag. After that, we hit a really yummy pizza place called Pieology that we’d found on accident while wandering the Denver area aimlessly last May during our trip to get the Barn Raiser. Turns out it’s the only one in the state, and I had to dig up the name in my bank statements from last year to find it again. It’s that good! We even took an extra one back to the hotel to have for breakfast the next day. Yum!
Sunday we were back at the Jamboree, though I gave the boys the morning off so they could have a leisurely breakfast and I could go see the amazing Jay Shafer of Four Lights Tiny Houses speak! I’m certain someone recorded the speech for you to hear (I know Christian of Tiny House Expedition recorded it for their documentary, so that’s a start at least), but the biggest take away I got from it was that he realizes the movement has spread well beyond what it was even a few years ago (heck, even from just last May when we picked up our Barn Raiser!) and that everyone who loves the tiny house life should do their part to keep the movement from being too diluted with fly-by-night builders just looking to make a profit. My personal feeling is that folks fall for tiny houses for a plethora of reasons (including the cute factor Jay mentioned), but at the end of the day I take a very “to each his own” attitude when it comes to each person’s actual house. No one lives anyone else’s life, so their house should be a reflection of themselves and their wants and needs. I think Jay’s main point was that there’s no one size fits all way to live the tiny life (he mentioned that you could technically live tiny in 5,000sqft in some instances even with a little creativity), but if the market becomes saturated with cheap, crappy tiny houses that fall apart or are otherwise unsafe then they’re just as bad as the cheap, crappy big houses thrown together with the cheapest materials in the fastest time possible. Shelley of Tiny House Basics mentioned both in a conversation several of us were having Sunday evening and in one of her own posts about the Jamboree that she felt more connected to the tiny houses built by their owners vs. the ones brought by builders. Yes, the builder houses there were beautiful examples of the many different ways you can build a tiny house, both inside and out, but I agree with Shelley. Alexis and Christian’s house, Tiny House Expedition, while smaller than most models being shown, felt infinitely more like a home than just a tiny house on wheels despite its comparatively diminutive size. Their personalities and personal lifestyle was infused in every nook and cranny of their design, and those special touches (R.A.D particularly loved the Star Wars-themed 2nd loft for Alexis’ son) are what made their home so uniquely theirs. That said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a professional builder do all the labor to actually construct your tiny house. Just make sure if you choose that route that you select a high quality, reliable builder and make your home as uniquely yours as you can. You’ll be helping preserve the spirit of the tiny house movement even if you have to branch out a little from the original core tenets of tiny house building (minimalism, DIY, etc). 🙂
Sunday afternoon I booth-sat the Tiny House Systems booth while Gary was giving his speech on the main stage so Donna could record it. The boys were both tired, so Brandy took R.A.D back to the motel for a nap while I enjoyed some delicious tacos from the food trucks that were on site. I was joined by a lovely lady named Laura who’d driven in from Georgia to attend the Jam. I spoke with several folks, young and old, at length about our progress and how Gary’s guidance and knowledge has been invaluable to us along our journey. It was really great hearing from all the different folks who came through the THS booth, and I genuinely hope my testimonial helped folks realize the value of having a professional handle the technical stuff on your DIY build. Sure, a builder will do that work for you, but if you want to actually build your house on your own it’s definitely worth having the guidance of a professional. Sorry to sound like a constant advert, but I mean every word of it!
Laura later acted as our personal photographer for our wedding vow renewal that finally took place around 4:30pm at the Mini Chapel. Andrew Odom of Tiny r(E)volution officiated, Lina Menard of This Is The Little Life and James Taylor of The Company Store on Wheels attended, Christian of Tiny House Expedition filmed it, and Deb of Tiny Houses Means Minimizing & Tiny Living also acted as a photographer. I believe there may have been a few others in attendance as well, but those were the ones we recognized and had a chance to greet at the time (and thanks to Coles Whalen and Bobby & Angela Alcorn for stopping by after to congratulate us, too!). It’s hard to believe we’ve spent 10 years married to one another, been through all that we have, made our wonderful little munchkin, and still don’t want to kill each other! lol We have just enough in common to get along and share in each other’s interests, and yet our personalities are so opposite as to perfectly balance one another. I’m glad we ended up at the same nightclub on the same night both being ignored by the folks we each were there with (his friends; my 2nd date), because our mutual boredom and proximity to each other on a shared bench were the secret ingredients that got us talking to one another. Nine months later we were married! We again wore our wedding “afterparty shirts” (we went back to that club with our friends after the ceremony to celebrate at the place we met) for the vow renewal, and Andrew gave a great little tiny house-related service in honor of this next chapter of our lives that included a slightly updated version of our original wedding vows. Yup, a decade later, we still have a marriage of equals, and we are definitely looking forward to our new tiny life!
And that about sums it all up. Phew! Still with me here?! Below are a few extra photos from the vow renewal shindig, and you can see the rest of our Jamboree photos on our FB album here. Enjoy, and thanks again to everyone who said hello to us over the three-day weekend!! It was wonderful meeting everyone, and I really wish I had a better memory with names to thank you all personally. We hope to see you all again sometime in the near future, and thank you again for following us on our own journey to tiny house living! <3, Meg