Finally Getting to the Tiny House Jamboree

I must apologize to everyone who let me into their Tiny House for photos, and granted interviews, etc. Things have taken longer than I’d planned. There was an abundance of material from THJ, and I’m finally getting a handle on it all. Thanks for your patience.

I’ve been interested in Tiny Houses for a couple of years, now. For many, they represent a new kind of American Dream. Holding the promise of Financial Freedom and Maximum Personalization, their allure is self-revealing. The majority are built Green and Sustainable, which makes them even more attractive. With costs ranging from under $20,000 (DIY), to $85,000, Tiny Homes present a way to have the things you want in a home, on a smaller scale, with a much lower price tag than a traditional house.

 Interior of a Tiny House from 84 Lumber. They’re getting into the market in a big way, offering Tiny House kits, that can be assembled, then moved to your location, or built on-site.

Those of you who know me, will understand why I was excited to get my Media Pass for this event. It meant I could arrive early, stay late, and generally hobnob with the people who are making things happen.

On Thursday afternoon, before the Friday opening, the scene was kaleidoscopic. Food trucks were arriving, golf carts buzzed around the place, big trucks hauled in their Tiny House payloads. Like a kaleidoscope, there was color and action everywhere, and it was difficult to know where to focus.

By evening, most people had their THs in place, and staged for visitors.

On Friday, visitors began to show up early. One couple I spoke with owns land in Southern Colorado, and was thinking about a pair of Tinies, to use as guest houses. Others were looking for affordable retirement homes. Almost everyone is enamored of the mobility of a THOW (Tiny House on Wheels). To them, lower upkeep costs and higher mobility translate to extended independence, expanded location options, and more liquid funds.


Tiny Houses are not without drawbacks, however. Some municipalities are reluctant to accept them, referring to zoning laws and restrictions that may or may not apply. RV parks can be troublesome, as well, not knowing how to treat Tinies.

Before you get to that point, though, there is the question of moving your Tiny. Weighing in between 13,000 and 20,000 pounds, you’ll need a half-ton truck, or larger, to haul it around.

Whether your TH is on wheels, or on a foundation, there’s also the issue of how to insure it. As far as I know, only a few companies offer applicable policies, and many of them are not pursuing the market.


Byron Fears, of SimBLISSity, with friends.

Overall, I’d say the Tiny House Jamboree was well worth the visit. With a large slate of speakers, and a very impressive turnout of builders and other vendors, there was a lot of information available. What impressed me most, though, was the feeling of community that one got.

While it may be tempting to stereotype these folks, it would be a mistake. Certainly, some of them are on a subsistence budget, choosing to live tiny and own something, instead of paying rent to a landlord. Others, though, hold higher paying positions, and have made the choice for any number of reasons. They may want to sock money away for tuition, international travel, or retirement. In the end, the reasons are usually fairly similar. They dont want to be tied to a 30 year mortgage, or to a particular place. They feel that, over time, the money they save will be well worth the sacrifice in space.


A theme that echoed through all of the conversations was, Try before you buy. If you’re thinking about building, or purchasing a Tiny House, you really should stay in one for a while. Air BnB has listings for Tinies, you might also check Facebook groups, and MeetUp.

To summarize, here are some takeaways from the Tiny House Jamboree. For the right person, a Tiny House can offer many opportunities, including possible financial gain, and freedom to move. They arent, however, devoid of problems. You need to do your homework, to see if Tiny Living is for you.

For more images, keep an eye on the YouTube channel at VagabondStew. There will be a slideshow, very soon.


YouTube resources – Living Big in a Tiny House, relaxshacksDOTcom, Life Inside A Box

Facebook – Tiny House People is a closed group, so you’ll have to request membership. It’s the best TH group that I know of.

Television – HGTV’s Tiny House, Big Living, FYI’s Tiny House Nation

There are also a few documentaries that might be good for you. The first is a film titled, Tiny. It was the spark that got me interested in the Tiny House movement. The other is Small Is Beautiful. Again, I dont know where you can find it. You’ll have to check Netflix, Hulu, or whatever, to see if it’s available.

There’s a short film on Vimeo, titled, Living Small

YouTube hosts We the Tiny House People.

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Keep your Dream on…

My Favorite New Discovery

As a kind of photojournalist, one of my goals is to provide my readers with the best photos I can. There’s always something to shoot, but to make the best image takes more work than to simply take a snapshot.

So, you might imagine how exciting it was for me to find out that my Roku has a channel called, The Great Courses Plus . At the low cost of a FREE 30 Day Trial, I have been able to study with some of the finest photographers from National Geographic Magazine. I’ve binged on Fundamentals of Photography I & II, The Art of Travel Photography (click here), and Masters of Photography (here).

Both of the Fundamentals courses, and Art of Travel Photography, are taught by Joel Sartore, who is known internationally, not only for his NatGeo work, but also for his efforts to make people aware of the vanishing species around the world, and the role of zoos in the preservation effort.

Masters of Photography is a series of lectures by Joel, and other NatGeo photographers. Although it is less technically educational, these photographers share their individual thoughts, ethics, and philosophies about what it takes to be a “good” photographer. They all are humble, and very approachable, as they present their works, and the stories behind them.

While this may seem like a sales pitch, the truth is, I just like to share a good thing when I find it. At a cost of FREE for 30 Days, and just $19.99 after that, this channel is one of the greatest bargains I’ve ever found. (Currently, I’m studying the history of King Arthur.) If you enjoy learning, this will be a boon to you.

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South Broadway on a Thursday Afternoon

South Broadway is the unofficial antique district of Denver. For several blocks, you’ll find antique shops along both sides of the street, appealing to all tastes and interests. A couple of friends are working on a project, and were looking for ideas. I decided to tag along and see what kind of interesting photos I might wind up with. Here are the ones that I liked best. Enjoy. (Click to enlarge and read the captions.)


Colorado Dragon Boat Festival


Sloan’s Lake is a pretty little park, in the midst of an upscale, 1930s neighborhood, on the western edge of Denver’s city limit. The homes are mostly custom brick dwellings, with lovely appointments and fairly large yards. (Dont get me started on the Scrape Off mentality that pervades.) Prices run from $800,000 to about $1,200,000.

The origins of the lake are somewhat mysterious. No one seems to know exactly how or when it appeared. Reports say that it didnt exist before the 1860s. Then, sometime between 1860 and 1866, the lake emerged, seemingly from nowhere. There is one report that says a farmer, named Sloan, dug a well on his property, which overfilled and flooded the area. In any case, a lake exists there now, and it’s generally calm, which makes it good for boating.

If you’d like to see some behind the scenes video, click over to VagabondStew on YouTube. I was “in the pits” while it was going on. Please, share it with friends, and Subscribe!

While I’ve never found any account of how or why Dragon Boats were developed, the origins of Dragon Boat racing go back more than two thousand years, and are as mysterious as the origin of the lake. There are differing stories of death and tragedy, but I wont delve into them, because I’m not an expert. For more information, here’s a link to one site that might interest you.

Whatever you choose to believe about them, it all makes for a pretty exciting way to spend a day by the water. The Colorado Dragon Boat Festival is reportedly the largest in the country. Vendors come from all over the state, along with any kind of food truck you might ask for. Performances represent many facets of Asian life and culture, including dance, martial arts, and lots of music.


If you havent gone, and you’re interested in this kind of thing, or just want to look around at all the beautiful goods, you should make it point to go next year. The races run all day, and you can hear the announcer throughout the park. Shop around. Take in a show. Grab some delicious food from one or two of the trucks. Make a day of it. You wont be disappointed.

I dont know what was so interesting to this pilot, but he was buzzing around the place all day!


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Opening up…

When telling people about VagabondStew, I always say that it’s about sharing stories. We are connected by stories. They may be celebrations, or struggles, but stories are the threads that stitch the fabric of humanity together. With that in mind, I’ve been trying to strike a way to share the story of my most recent trip to visit my parents and siblings.

I’m fifty-eight, soon to be fifty-nine. My parents are not young, and the truth is, they are not well. Dad is now in the midst of his third bout with lung cancer. Mom has had a pacemaker for several years, and she takes breathing treatments several times a day.

My brother and sister both live there, as well, and are able to handle most things that come up. They’re both over fifty, and have problems of their own. Their kids are growing up, and grandkids are coming along.

We dont see each other often. I live in Denver, and the rest of my family make their homes in Oklahoma. For some time, I’d had a deep feeling that I needed to get down there and see them. So, I packed up the Stew Wagon and made the trip, a few weeks ago.

I traveled the back roads, from Denver, down through Limon and Lamar, Colorado. Then I crossed Kansas, going through Dodge City and Kingman, then on into Oklahoma. The route is longer than the one people usually use, taking I-70 across to Salina, Kansas, then south on 135. I chose it for the scenic value. The major highways are fast, but boring.

Mom opened her door to greet me, at about 9:30 on Friday morning. She looked well, overall. (She’s in good shape, for the shape she’s in.) We sat down at the table in her little apartment, and had coffee together. That’s what we do. Over the two days I was there, we had a lot of coffee, and talked about a lot of things. I am very grateful for that.

I wont go deeply into the rest of my time there. It was the typical family stuff; food, stories, listening to my brother talk.

Sunday morning, Dad and I went to breakfast. He’d been very quiet through all the family stuff, and stayed that way as he ate his French Toast. We’ve always been very open with one another, but this weekend, he was almost stoic. Sitting across the table from him, I tried to open things up, but he just didnt want to talk much. It was hard.

At first, I felt that the trip was a drawn out, waste of time and energy, but I know that isnt true. Everyone was glad to see me, and I suppose the novelty of it was a welcome distraction, but I didnt contribute anything to their situation. I’m like one of the Players from Hamlet, in and out, with a few laughs and some new stories, but only involved at the edges.

Four weeks later, I’m in a sort of mental and emotional vacuum; wondering what my role is.