The End of Winter

Kirkwood

As the snow melts away from a surprise April storm and the last of the Tahoe resorts close for the season, I can’t help but think about all the amazing days I had on the mountains this year. While locals look at me in disbelief when I say I had a fantastic season, I’m quite serious about what a great season this was for me. In the midst of Sierra’s worst snowpack since the 1970s, I managed to thoroughly enjoy myself.

Fresh air and crisp skies

As a first time season passholder, I honestly had no idea what life would be like having such easy access to the mountains. Would I get tired of the crowds and be a grumpy, picky local who only went for pure, fresh powder days? Would I know anyone to ski with? Would I get tired of skiing by myself? Would I get bored of the same runs? Would I be able to improve over the season?

Snowy trees at Sierra-at-Tahoe

Of those questions, the one I was most worried about was skiing by myself. At the start of the season I knew no one here, and my only reference for skiing solo was from a few years ago when I went to Heavenly during a business trip. I didn’t enjoy it at all. I hated riding the lifts all day by myself and not knowing anyone. But, turns out… I really enjoyed hitting the mountain myself. The beauty of having the pass really shined here. Once I was tired or had enough for the day, I could go home whenever I wanted without worrying about not getting my day’s value in. Ski for a few hours, have a beer, and call it a day.

Fresh powder day at Kirkwood

Not long into the season, I started meeting fellow skiers through a few Meetup groups. Spending the weekends with these friends on the mountain started turning into a weekly ritual, much like bike riding was in Dallas. We started planning our weekends on Monday and looking forward to the snow all week. Having friends of various ability to ride with helped me improve my skills, until by the end of the season I started noticing a significant improvement in my abilities. What a blast it was to share the season with so many new friends.

Throughout most of the season, I’d be getting up to the mountain by 9 or 10am… but the last few weekends at Heavenly, I discovered the bliss of the first chair and fresh groomed runs. Runs that I thought I knew were totally different and absolutely amazing. You should have seen the grin on my face after rushing down a perfectly clean groomed run!

Fresh corduroy, just for me!

The views from the tops of the runs of Lake Tahoe continue to take my breath away. I took hundreds of photos, yet none capture the beauty quite right. Every time I was on the mountain, I was so happy and excited. The rush of taking runs and the beauty all around is simply unbeatable.

The Heavenly Tram

 

For my last day on the mountain, I decided to attempt something I’d been hearing others do… three sports in one day. As I was coming down the Gondola from a fun couple of hours at Heavenly, I put plans into motion and pulled off mountain biking and kayaking all in the same day. What a great way to transition into a Tahoe summer!

 

All in all, this season was everything I’d hoped for when I moved here. It’s fitting that I’m publishing this a year after I announced I was leaving Dallas. The move has been rewarding in many ways, and I’m glad every day that I put in the effort to make it happen.

I’m already looking forward to next season.

deployCamp is GO

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UPDATE: Unfortunately, we have decided to cancel the conference. Read more on the blog.

Today, Andy Robinson and I are beyond excited to announce that our labor of love is finally public news. deployCamp is ready for launch.

We’ve been working on this for months and are still getting all the pieces together. If you’ve been following me for a bit, you may have seen my frustrations at the lack of open dialogue in my industry. I often feel like I’m working on a desert island with tools that Google isn’t aware exists. Welp, in the spirit of changing things for the better, Andy and I have been putting our heads together and figuring out what to do about it. Our solution? Have a giant meetup!

Over the past few months I’ve spent all my spare time reading about successful conferences, reading venue contract details, thinking about speakers, and working through a million details with Andy. I’m sure we have a lot left to figure out.

You can read more about our motivation and what we’re thinking on the site. I’m super excited about the whole deal and hope that we can find other engineers out there willing to give up a few days to join our conference. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from me here, but in the meantime… please check out the site.

Alibi Ale Works

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Tahoe’s craft beer scene has been one of the oddest parts of my move. It’s no secret that I love good brews, and I was deeply spoiled in Dallas with Strangeways. I assumed since Tahoe is so near to the massive west coast craft beer scene that it would have a similar selection and availability of the Bay Area. While we certainly can get some great items (I helped finish off a keg of Pliney the other day at a nearby pub), there seems to be just a standard set of taps that everyone carries and that’s it.

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As far as actual local breweries goes, I can count on one hand. And the ones that are actually good….. ahem.

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That’s why when I found out that a couple of enthusiastic home brewers were starting up a real craft brewery (not a brew pub!) in Incline Village, I jumped to find out if they were any good. On my first visit, they poured me a couple of samples that were quite delicious… and I was hooked. Over the past few months I’ve put in a couple of hours of volunteer manual labor in (pallet splitting and linoleum stripping!) and got to know Rich and Kevin a bit.

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Now, finally they opened up the tap room and have some extended holiday hours.

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After my visit today, my suspicions were confirmed–Alibi is going to be a superb addition to Tahoe as a high quality local craft beer house. In the next few months they’ll start rolling with distribution and kegs to area restaurants. Until then, the comfortable and beautifully fitted tap room is the best way to sample the brews and take a growler (or two) home. Plus, you get the added bonus of touring the shop and likely meeting Kevin or Rich (who both seem to live there!).

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Today they had a number of great beers to choose from — not a bad one in the bunch. I got samplers of each: a White IPA, a regular IPA, a Saison with pomegranete, a Dark Strong Saison, a Coffee Porter on nitro, and a standard Porter. Kevin really likes saisons and experimenting with the flavors, so I suspect there will always be at least a couple of saisons around.

For tap room hours and new brews happening, check out their Facebook page. Their website seems to be in a little bit of a flux right now (I get the new site on my phone, but not on my PC). Alibi’s address is 204 East Enterprise, Incline Village, Nevada.

First Snow Day

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Finally.

After weeks of anticipation and watching weather reports (and a Thanksgiving holiday blackout on my pass), I got my ski gear together and hit the slopes. While the mountains aren’t fully open yet (not enough snow & high temperatures), there was enough for me to decide it was time to go.

This is my first season to own a pair of skis and to have a pass. In the past I had not been really fond of skiing by myself, but this weekend I loved it. The combined freedom of living right next to the Heavenly gondola, having a pass, and being by myself was beautiful. On Saturday I was able to ski for a few hours before the crowds started showing up, and headed out just as the lift lines started to grow exponentially. The crowds were thinner on Sunday and I took my time to enjoy a few more runs.

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By pure chance, on one of my last lift rides of the day, “L” by Tycho came on my rdio. Suddenly the perfect soundtrack was playing  as I was watching the sun make shadows across the glittering snow.

 

Really looking forward to this season of snow and hanging out on the mountain. What a life change.

Ordinary Bricks

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“We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick.”

I was watching my Facebook stream today to see if anyone would mention the brilliant eloquence at the end of Tim Cook’s letter. But, nobody that I noticed did. I’ve been pondering on his phrase “this is my brick”. I love it. That theme of laboring away at placing bricks into a path fits so well with the “ordinary” Christian life that I’ve been thinking about lately. Being a bright, hot star that burns out in a few minutes is not the life most of us lead; putting the steady, humble effort in day after day is the real challenge. I think I’ll be pondering Cook’s last line for a long time.

Bikecamping to Star Lake

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Even though I’ve only been in the Tahoe area for a few months now, I really wanted to get a bikecamping trip in before winter set in. After discussing various routes with folks on the Tahoe mountain bike group and chatting with Gary at Sierra Ski and Cycle, the Tahoe Rim Trail to Star Lake looked like the best option for a weekend trip with minimal driving. Star Lake is very close to South Lake Tahoe, so we’d never be far away from the city in case we had issue; but yet we’d still be up in the mountains. Then, coming back down from Star Lake we had a couple of route options, and they all dropped us back to neighborhood roads that would easily take us home.

With a weekend free and overnight temperatures still above freezing, my friend Kyle and I decided to take the rare opportunity and go for it. We drove Kyle’s truck with our gear to Stagecoach, then started our ascent. We were excited and ready to get out there, but after the first 20 minutes…. I’ll be honest, I thought we really got ourselves in over our heads. Instead of pedaling, we were spending a lot of time hiking our bikes. Hikers were starting pass us! This wasn’t what I was hoping for! But the weather was great and there weren’t many people on the trails, so we kept on. I’m glad we did. The Rim Trail weaved us between peaks to give us spectacular views of Carson Valley, Heavenly Valley, and, of course, Lake Tahoe.

Climb to Star Lake

Six hours later…. we had climbed 2200 feet in just 9 miles. The views along the climb were simply spectacular. We crossed paths with hikers and mountain bikers along the way, but nobody else was bikecamping. Folks were very encouraging as they saw us loaded up and pushing/pulling/carrying our bikes along the trail. The majority of this trail was definitely not made for mountain biking. But it was worth it. We stopped at an overlook of Carson Valley for some afternoon snacks and just marveled at how far up we were.

As we rounded the last bit of the trail and saw Star Lake, I was thrilled, exhausted, and hungry. There were two groups of hikers already at the lake and had taken a couple spots closest to the trails. Kyle had quite a bit more energy than me, so he scrambled around the lake to find us a fantastic camp spot. We had enough time to gather some firewood (the ban had just been lifted the week before!) and get our hammocks set up before dark started coming on. Kyle’s friend Gunner hiked to meet us up with two of his friends, so we had a good little group ready to camp.

The stars that night were fantastic. For the first time, I had a glimpse at the milky way. Star Lake was so calm and peaceful that we could see stars reflect in the water. The moon didn’t show itself until late that night, well after we were asleep.

As the fire crackled and popped, we passed around salami, cheese, and whiskey, and talked about our hopes for the ski season. Nobody was in a rush to end the night, and I’m pretty sure every drop of that whiskey was properly enjoyed.

After dreaming of bears sniffing us in our sleep, we all roused with the morning breeze crossing the lake. We slowly made some coffee and breakfast and watched the sun light up the forest.

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Now it was time for the way back. Since Star Lake sits at 9,100 feet and South Lake Tahoe is at 6,200 feet, we were both pretty excited about letting gravity bring us home instead of our legs. Thankfully, that’s exactly how it worked out…. instead of the 9 miles in 6 hours that it took us to get to Star Lake, we did 10 miles home in just 1.5 hours. The trails down were a blast, and definitely could be ridden faster if we were more familiar with them and didn’t have a lot of extra bulk on our bikes.

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All the way home we were treated to gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe. We had a couple of creek crossings as well… one toward the end almost had me all in the water.

We finished the day off with a celebratory beer and greasy burger Big Daddy’s. No flats, no injuries, and no bears. A perfect weekend on the bike.

Even in the hardest parts of the trip… when I thought my lungs and legs were literally just going to stop working, I kept thinking, this is why I want to be here. This is what my move has been about: being able to take a weekend adventure high up in the mountains with some great friends and away from normal life. Breathing in the beautifully clean air and watching the stars migrate across the sky. These are the adventures that refresh my soul; even when I’m hurting and aching and my lungs are burning for oxygen.

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P.S. If you’re looking to do some of this route, check out this blog on some of the tricky details and some good pictures of the obstacles along the Rim Trail. I was too busy trying to get over the obstacles to stop for a photo.

A step toward open

In one of my first blog posts on this current incarnation of this blog, I lamented a bit on how the manufacturing world is so far behind with modern programming and having a public community:

Over the last decade while I’ve been building factories, I’ve been reading all the web development and iOS/Mac blogs. Ruby on Rails has sprung up, MVC-style platforms are abundant, and everyone has learned Objective-C.

I feel like I missed the bandwagon. Off over here in the strange sideshow of manufacturing. Sure, every factory in America runs Wonderware or Rockwell software…but there’s no StackExchange for manufacturing software, and there’s barely any mention of these technologies on Twitter or ADN. In short, there’s not really any public community.

Rusty Programmer, July 2013

Andy Robinson (aka Archestranaut) seemed to be having similar thoughts and started a little project called aaOpenSource on GitHub. I recently decided to jump into this project and contribute some code myself. After a little thinking, I decided this could be a good opportunity to start creating the public community I would like to see in my work life. So, I asked Andy if we could setup a real website and start trying to bring together folks who are interested in building an open source community in manufacturing.

The result? aaOpenSource.org.

aaOpenSource

 

You can read about my hopes for launch on the blog there. Next week, Andy and I will both be at the Wonderware user conference in Orlando, and are hoping to find more like-minded folks to join our project. It’s a tiny start, but it’s something.

Riding the dirt

 

Sidewinder

Today I learned three important lessons about mountain biking:

  1. Get off the saddle for most maneuvers such as turns and jumps. The bike goes where it needs to go.
  2. Keep elbows out to help prevent shaky front wheel syndrome. :-)
  3. Altitude sure sucks the oxygen out of your lungs. Enjoyed many break stops to stop the burning sensation.

 

Fountain Place Road

Had a great time on my first Sierra mountain bike trail. We picked a pretty popular, but relatively easy, trail. I’m glad we did because I needed the adjustment. I loved it and know why people get addicted to this. The adrenaline rush after a successful series of maneuvers is pretty fantastic.

 

Fountain Place Road

Somehow I ended up with a great neighbor who has ridden off road his whole life and is a knowledgable, caring teacher. He noted a few things mid-ride that immediately improved the experience. Plus, he waited very patiently for me up all the hills while I caught my breath.

Can’t wait for the next ride. But I’m pretty exhausted at the moment.

Speaking In

Mr Anderson

Mr. Anderson thinks that everything inside of him is worthless and embarrassing…Well, I think you’re wrong. I think you have something inside of you that is worth a great deal.

The scene continues as Mr Keating, played by Robin Williams, pushes Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) out of his comfort zone and speaks encouragement and life into this young man.

Since Robin Williams death, I’ve been wanting to go back and watch some of his best work. This scene in Dead Poets Society in particular really struck me as I was rewatching this classic movie.

I can count on one hand the number of times anyone so intently and honestly told me they believed in me. Recently I’ve made it a point to stop to tell close friends that I really believe in them. Those are rare and important opportunities to be seized. A close friend or respected leader’s gentle push and insightful words of encouragement can mean the world.

I love you, Dallas

Goodnight, Dallas

Having never lived in any place that was considered a top-ten in anything desirable (unless you have a thing for traffic james, obesity, or pollution), I’ve not been one to dwell on the negatives of the place I call home. Far better to find–or create–the good and bring people along for the ride. Every city has good aspects…some cities just hide it a bit harder than others.

Kings of Adventure on the TRE

Kings of Adventure on the TRE

I moved to the Dallas area after graduating LeTourneau in 2004. I’ve lived in Plano, Richardson, Arlington, and, now, East Dallas. I love my area greatly, and I love the people here even more.  I love biking all over Dallas. Exploring the city by bike is sheer joy–especially late summer nights. I love the slowly growing coffee scene. I deeply love the church and community I’ve been involved in. I love seeing the quality of life getting better and better. I love how we’re not pretentious about where we live and just enjoy it as it is. I love summer sunsets at White Rock Lake. I love how there are people all over the city working hard to making their neighborhoods better. I love how Deep Ellum is coming back to life with great food and music. I love all the dog friendly patios.  I love how the craft beer scene has exploded over the past few years. I love bulk pick up! I love getting to know a city and bumping into people I know all over town.

Richardson Scavenger Hunt

Richardson Scavenger Hunt

But, our time together is ending.

I have a rare opportunity with the job I currently have to move anywhere in the Continental US, as long as there is decent Internet and a good airport. I’ve long dreamed of moving to Lake Tahoe, and now’s my chance. Tahoe is a gorgeous, magical place with mountains, sky, and a giant lake all coming together in one dramatic spot. In the summer, there’s mountain bike riding (real mountains!), hiking, camping, road cycling (anyone up for a 73 mile ride around the lake?) and water sports. In the winter, there’s too many ski resorts to count…with majestic views of the lake from the top of every ski lift.

Hiking in Lake Tahoe (2004)

Hiking in Lake Tahoe (2004)

I’m currently in the process of getting my house ready to sell. My goal is to get it on the market in mid-summer. The housing market in Dallas has been great lately, so hopefully it will sell quickly and I’ll make my way west. I’m using this as an opportunity to downsize my belongings and go as minimal as possible. I’m excited about this changing in seasons and what new opportunities are ahead. I’m seizing this moment to do something that few people have the chance to do–pick up and start fresh wherever I want.

 

Camping in Desolation Wilderness in 2004

Camping in Desolation Wilderness (2004)

By the way, feel free to come visit me in Tahoe! The guest futon is open anytime. Southwest & American fly to Reno, which is just a short drive up to Tahoe. I already have my season ski passes!

Skiing at Squaw Valley (2004)

Skiing at Squaw Valley (2004)

 

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