Hey, Spike! finds tiny homes rolling up big time
February 18, 2017
Robert "Sickfish" Sickler is a talented, cool guy riding a rising wave of needed economic ingenuity — tiny homes. Little homes, whether on wheels or foundations, are trending right now. Some folks already have one, others are studying the concept, and there are developments in the works.
Salida will be the home of 200 rental units if Sprout Tiny Homes' planning bears fruit. The firm's production facility is in La Junta, downriver on the Arkansas.
Over in Aspen the ski corp bought six units at about $100,000 each. It's Aspen, so they are over the top.
A few years ago in Buena Vista, South Main developer and visionary Jed Selby grabbed some "Katrina Cottages" to place downtown to meet worker housing.
Sickfish, who just turned 49, knows the territory and the market, having spent a lot of time on The Summit.
"I landed in Summit County 22 years ago when the motor blew in my van," he says. "I was on my way to Alaska. I got a job at a pizza joint in Dillon that I later wound up owning (Wild Bill's). Three years ago, when my wife and I separated, I made it to Alaska. I lived in a bush village for a spell, then made my way back to Leadville via Montana and Wyoming."
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Now Sickfish lives over by Leadville, up Buckeye Gulch, at just a tad under 11,000 feet above sea level.
"My good friend Joey Caiafa owns the seven acres we co-habituate, hence the name, 'Camp Caiafa,' coined by the architect of the primary dwelling to be erected at this site in the spring," he explains. "We have a 'bathhouse' common cabin, which has been tied into the modern septic in place for the primary house to be built in the spring. I have my tiny house there, and we have erected a tepee."
He named the business Hot Rod Housing when a friend offered the remark after seeing Robert's little trailer.
"I re-did a teardrop camper that I wrapped in copper, rolled, hammered seams, hammered gutters and an elk skull with a brake light in its nose," he says. "I just like building spaces for people to live and camp and have fun in, whatever the size. It should be custom — not 'off-the-shelf,' so to speak."
As for the tiny home movement, Sickfish says he likes it "taken in the context of mobility and freedom and as a starter house, or an auxiliary dwelling on one's own property."
"I build my stuff to go down the road, not to be driven, then parked in one place for a lifetime," he says before offering a cautious note. "I think tiny house communities run the risk of becoming very cluttered places as people expand beyond their confines. Living in a small space requires reducing and being organized. Not everyone can pull that off."
Not all his works are just plain residential. Ski industry insiders may have seen the Weston Snowboards traveling headquarters demo room, which Robert describes this way: "The concept is that of Mason Davey. He became busy as the brand took off and he brought me in to finish the build. My touches are all over it. He was awesome to work with, and I think together we put out a hell of a build. Stay tuned for a possible sequel."
So, where's a nickname like "Sickfish" come from?
"Several of my friends and I, in our college years, had large fish tanks. We all had various species of South American Cichlids. My name is Sickler, so one of my buddies started calling me Cichlid. This evolved into 'Sickfish.' I have the mountain bike I used to ride in the late '80s/'90s, an old Cannondale 24. It's painted four shades of neon fish scales and bears the moniker 'Sickfish' on the top tube. In some parts of the eastern U.S., I am known only as 'Fish.'"
Where Back East?
"I spent my formative years in State College, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State, the finest university I ever dropped out of," he said. "I was shooting for a broadcast communications degree. I just got a job as a DJ instead. Moving to the Central Rockies in the mid-'90s, I found working construction and slinging food and drinks to be a more lucrative venture."
That adaptability to just about anything has his efforts ranging from the mobile tiny homes — on- or off-grid — to shipping container residences, yurts, tepees, even furniture.
A snowboarder, Nordic skier, boater, mountain biker, hiker and adventurer, Robert has run the Grand Canyon's Colorado River twice.
"On both occasions I was fortunate to be accompanying Professor Rod Nash. On one I carried the film equipment and assisted on a film that went on to win the Banff Film Festival," he reflects.
Sickfish admits to being a "social mutant."
"The list of people I can actually hang out with is dwindling, and I cannot hold a conversation longer than a chairlift ride."
But he is quick to say he's appreciative.
"No part of this extraordinary life would be possible without my extraordinary group of friends. I realize this and I feel grateful and very fortunate. Thank you," he says.
For those with similar talents who may wish to join in the ready-for-anything, Sickfish will listen. Email him at email@example.com.
Miles F. Porter IV, nicknamed "Spike," a Coloradan since 1949, is an Army veteran, former hardrock miner, graduate of Adams State College, and a local since 1982. An award-winning investigative reporter, he and wife Mary E. Staby owned newspapers here for 20 years. Email your social info to firstname.lastname@example.org
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