I have a little document on my computer I keep called The Kyle Project and in it I have a little section called Priorities:
Somehow nowhere in that list is publish Seasons of Kyle on time, which is why you’re getting this installment so late. So late… it might be considered a whole season late.
Happy Winter Solstice!
It’s been a while.
One of the reasons I never ended up sending out a Summer installment was that to be honest, it was a pretty kickass summer. I was able to spend a lot of time outside, on the road, and on my bike… which left me little desire to sit down behind the computer and crank out newsletters. That’s probably a good thing? It’s a good thing!
Last time we left off, primary framing was complete and we’d just started rough-ins (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and low-voltage). Since then, the house has been fully dried in — meaning all the windows, doors are installed, the seams in the zip system have been sealed, the roof is on, and the exterior insulation and rain screens have been installed.
That’s good! It means they were able to pour the garage slab and set up a secure workshop inside the garage and keep working full-speed on the interior all winter.
The backyard and surrounding ground has now been stuffed full of pipes and wires. Throughout the backyard is a trench filled with loops of plastic piping that will host the geothermal heat pump’s heat exchange fluid. You know how a regular air conditioner sits outside and blows air across its coolant pipes? Maybe you don’t, but that’s how it works. These are the same idea — coolant pipes — but buried five feet underground where the temperature is extremely stable. That stability allows for a far more efficient heat exchange, which in turns makes for a far more efficient heating/cooling system. For the nerds, geothermal heat pumps usually result in an energy savings of roughly 50-70% compared to air source heat pumps.
This geothermal heat pump is either going to be the best or the worst thing about our house. It’ll provide the in-floor heating, the air conditioning, the hot water in our taps, and most of the hot water for our hot tub. If it works, it’s going to be magical. If it doesn’t…
All of the BMPs (Best Management Principles) have been installed — which is a terrible phrase the TRPA uses for rock armoring, drains, retention basins, and culverts to make sure water goes where it’s designed and that runoff won’t cause erosion. Normal people call it “drainage.” How to deal with runoff in the basin is defined by a thousand rules that mostly add up to two things: don’t let water drip from height onto soil, and deal with all water that falls on the site on site.
Inside the house, the framing is stuffed full of all manners of pipes an wires crossing each other. Well-built modern houses are a puzzle of these mechanical necessities interacting with structural members. Building plans that show where the pipes go are easy to draw — but quite a bit harder to implement when faced with a steel I-beam. For our house, we have: drain (waste) pipes, water pipes, fire sprinkler pipes, air source, air return, electrical, and low-voltage (ethernet & speaker wire). That’s a lot to squeeze in!
Another thing popping up throughout the house are all kinds of prototypes for details throughout the house — exterior wall insulation, in-floor insulation, and drywall/trim. These serve a couple of purposes — one to verify what we (the owners) want, and two to show future tradesmen how it’s supposed to look as they finish off the rest of the house.
The trim style we’ve chosen to go with is called museum trim — it uses a reglet (a little inset groove) to separate the trim from the drywall, allowing for flush baseboards and a very nice detail that slightly emphasizes the window/door trim. It’ll be a huge pain in the ass to implement. But it’s gonna be real slick.
We’ve come a long way! This time last year, we had a big concrete swimming pool (our basement).
Now we have the basics of a house! Almost time to spend the whole summer doing finishes… Estimated move-in is still sometime next Winter.
Last year we bought a gas station. Well — not exactly — it hasn’t been a gas station for a few decades now. But, it still looks like an old gas station.
It’s an old building with a lot of problems and a lot of complications. But it also sits at one of the most visible corners in all of South Lake lake (right at the Y). Over the past year we’ve been working with an architect to work through all the regulatory hoops to be able to redevelop the property into a cafe/bar with an emphasis on designing the space for people, bikes, and not-just-bikes. I’m pretty terrified and excited about the whole thing.
It probably won’t look like the above (I made this back when we were thinking about buying the property), but hopefully you get the idea. Use the exterior space for people, food trucks, and micro-businesses. Focus on pedestrians, scooters, bike parking, and other fun micro-mobility transport. Instead of.. you know, more parking.
It’s been interesting and a bit unsurprising to learn about the numerous steps and barriers involved to redevelop a (small!) commercial property. It’s an expensive litany of consultants, architects, engineers, and property taxes just to get to the point where we can submit our plans to the planning commission and get permission to actually design the building. It’s no coincidence that most property developers are giant faceless corporations with billions in development budgets and offices full of lawyers. The system is optimized for them. And that’s always felt like a huge bummer to me to me.
I want to live in a town where people who live here own the real estate. I want to live in a town where locals own and run their businesses. I want to live in a town where every building isn’t a national franchise. And I want to live in a town where people get out of their cars and onto their feet, bikes, scooters, onewheels, golf carts, minicars, buses, and everything in between. I don’t feel like this is a crazy idea! It’s crazy that we’ve come to accept the opposite!
It’ll be quite a few years before this thing really gets going. We still have some big hurdles to cross. But so far it’s been an interesting learning experience and a great way to connect with the people who actually make our city happen. City governments and planning commissions can be messy and complicated, but they are also the key to change. And we need change to survive the future. A lot of it. I want to figure out how to make it happen.
It’s been a good year of exploring new places, visiting old friends, and catching up with family I haven’t seen in a long time. Over the past six months I’ve spent time in:
Much of that time was with my mountain bike. All told, Strava tells me I rode my bike 110 days this year over the course of 1,222 miles climbing 94,749ft of elevation. Not bad! I rode all kinds of new trails this year — much of them in South Lake — but also throughout the Southwest and even Pisgah, NC for my first MTB race!
Mountain biking has been a great vehicle for adventure for me — giving me new destinations and something to do other than sitting around the campfire drinking whiskey. In late September, I packed up the 4Runner and headed out on a solo trip of my own design. For me that means a couple of important places on a map and big question marks in between.
One of the places I really waned to check out was Sedona, AZ. I’d first heard of Sedona through various mountain biking YouTube channels, but they really didn’t do the town justice. Sure, the whole town is painfully beautiful — but one thing that makes Sedona so special is just how many trails there are in town (hiking and biking) and how accessible they are. No 3,000ft epics. There are dozens of smaller trails going up and down a few hundred feet in elevation, all connected with nicely built bike paths separated from the road and free shuttles carrying people between them.
My time in Sedona really made me appreciate what a good tourism authority can do for a town, and how much Tahoe’s is lacking.
The other pin on my map was Durango, CO — primarily to see a good friend who moved there a few years ago, but also because I’d heard a lot of good things about the place. I’d actually never been to Southern Colorado at all, and I sort of fell in love. Great clouds, good mountains, and a charming little downtown.
Oh, and Pagosa Springs? I had no idea such a place could exist. I’ve seen some large hot springs in my life, but never a whole stretch of river with hot spring waterfalls. What a weird and cool little town.
This trip was my first go at sleeping in my 4Runner itself and it was pretty… fine! At least for a solo trip. I’m definitely interested in getting some kind of sleeping platform for the next adventure. I’ve always had an eye on the Goose Gear setups, but never pulled the trigger since I have to drive several hours to a dealer just to get the process started. Sigh. In any case — shifting boxes around and sleeping on the almost lay flat bed wasn’t exactly ideal, but it was comforting to be able to sleep right next to my bike. Part of me is attracted to those big silly adventure vans — secure parking of bikes inside is really nice. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to commit to driving such a large vehicle around. The 4Runner is the perfect size for adventure. It may not be the perfect rock crawler or comfiest sleeping quarters, but it can go pretty much anywhere and carry everything I need along for the ride.
After a couple weeks at home, Jess & I drove down to Palm Springs for a flurry of other travel. At the end of October, we went out to Vegas for the When We Were Young Festival… aka that big emo festival. It was… a ton of fun? It felt like half the bands from my teenage years were there. Finally, the culture is pandering to me! Yes! Yes!!
In all seriousness — it was great to see some of my teenage favorites like Underoath, Senses Fail, The Used, AFI, My Chemical Romance and the highlight for me — a spectacular set from Thursday. A lot of the bands were genuinely appreciative to be there and see how many people showed up (and holy crap — there were a lot of people).
Except for Bright Eyes. He was not appreciative to be there. No one likes a sore drunk on stage.
It was also a great excuse to spend some time with a bunch of friends I hadn’t seen in years and have some extravagant dinners. If you haven’t been in a long time, Vegas has become sort of a weird foodie capital with a ton of really great restaurants in the past few decades. That’s good by me! Gambling is sort of boring to me, which I guess is probably a good thing.
We spent another short stint in Palm Springs, finally checking out the Tram up to San Jacinto. 90˚F down in the valley, snow-covered rocks up on the peak. If you’re ever in Palm Springs, you should check it out. Add one more item to why Palm Springs feels impossible.
After that, we packed our bikes into some travel bags and flew off to Brevard, NC to meet up with Jess’ brother and do the Couch Potato mountain bike race in the Pisgah National Forest. It was fun! But also exceptionally difficult. Despite the marketing of the race (The Couch Potato is an annual MTB race with a short enough course to make it doable from ‘off the couch’.), it was actually about 5 hours of grueling expert level terrain with almost double the elevation they claimed. I’ve found this is pretty standard in the MTB community — lying about elevation and difficulty. The sport is hard enough as is! Why lie?
Sigh. Some day I’ll get past that weird machismo culture. It’s really fun if you can get past it!
After the race, we took a little road trip up North — through Asheville to Durham, staying in Richmond, and ending up just outside of DC. It was a great way to meet up with some cousins I hadn’t seen in a long time and see one of an old friend along the way.
After a quick Thanksgiving with friends in Palm Springs, we left on one last trip… Sedona! Again! This time I took Jess with me for a belated birthday trip.
Needless to say, after that last flurry of travel, I’m happy to be home back in the Sierra and its comforting blanket of snow.
The past few years have been a lot. The problem is I don’t really know what the past few years even really means anymore. Is it since Covid? Since my dad getting sick? Since GitHub getting acquired? Since the Caldor fire? Alex Steffen writes about climate change at The Snap Forward, and he talks a lot about the idea of living in discontinuity:
My most succinct working definition of a “discontinuity” is a watershed moment, one where past experience loses its value as a guide to decision making about the future.
Man. That’s it.
I am getting better at dealing with it — at charting a course through unknown waters free of expectations. But it has made dealing with people very difficult the past few years — because half the population seems to believe they just need a little help and then things will get back to normal.
It reminds me of when I was working at an agency — the schedule was always going to open up once this project was done. We just needed to come together, do one big push, and get it out the door. Then we’d be able to relax. But you know? Somehow after that project was done, there was another one that needed another big push. I worked there for four years, and there was never a single break in the storm. It was a black hole of time — no matter how many hours I put in, we were still in the same place.
I can’t help people who choose to live in a fantasy. It’s something I’m working on. Working on noticing when people are trying to suck me into their own little black holes, offer help when I know I can be useful, and stepping back to focus on myself when I can’t help. I know it makes a lot of people think I’m letting them down, being selfish, or not showing up when they need it. That’s something I have to get used to.
Remember that list of priorities I started off with?
I make these lists because they help me and my anxious brain make sense of where I’m spending my time. I have a bad tendency to reflexively respond to the energy around me — to get entangled in other people’s emergencies. That’s not a great thing when half the world is in a constant emergency trying to return to some kind of normal that doesn’t exist. It leaves me empty and other people in the exact same place as they started.
So I make my lists. And maybe next year those priorities I have written down might match the priorities I live a little better.
I’ll leave you with one more list, this time from yung pueblo:
lessons from 2022 to bring into 2023:
your growth comes first
be intentional with your time
forcing things does not work
being kind supports your peace
hang out with revitalizing people
let consistency help your flourishing
remember the progress you have made
slow things down when your mood is low
people pleasing hurts your mental health
seeking perfection hinders your progress
you cannot make everyone understand you
See ya in 2023,