Not About Cycling

I have worked on and off as an editor at Fine Homebuilding magazine for many years, and was a reader from the first issue back in 1981. I still contribute to the magazine regularly and I’m ineffably grateful for the opportunity. It changed the course of my life, from where I live to the work I do to the friends I’ve made. When I was a young man struggling to learn the trade, and then to build a home for my family, I found a brotherhood of craft in the pages of the magazine that didn’t exist on the tract-home sites where I worked. As I became a part of Fine Homebuilding and met its editors and writers, it became clear that that community was real.

The magazine has evolved, of course, and I was a part of that. The early issues’ zeitgeist has changed over time. In the day, the stories in the magazine elevated the romantic side of building. There was a sense that building one’s own home, not just by writing checks, but by grit, by sweating, bleeding, and dripping snot, was a high-level expression of being human.

That sense seems largely gone from the magazine, for reasons good and bad. Mainly, I think that the world has moved on from those back-to-the-land hippy days when Fine Homebuilding occasionally published essays about the struggles involved in making your own shelter. To survive, the magazine had to change, to focus on high-end construction, cutting-edge design, and green building.

The early zeitgeist still exists within a certain community, however, if less so in the magazine. I miss that, but again, the world has changed. Home building was simpler In the early 1980s than it is today. A talented, enthusiastic layman could buy a piece of land then and craft a house.

I grew up among people like that. More than a few of us built our own homes. That drive seems rare today.

About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 5 bikes but my go-to rides are a 2016 GT Grade gravel and commuter bike and a 2016 Specialized 650b hardtail mountain bike. Additionally, I have a 2000-something carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a 1990-something Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike and which now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 1985 Ross Mount Hood MTB. All but the 650b have Brooks saddles. I work from home now, but used to commute 32 miles round trip to work by bike year round. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I've been an editor at Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, and Professional Deck Builder magazines. Currently, I manage construction events at the JLC Live and Remodeling Show trade shows. Additionally, my wife and I run Transylvania Guest House, an Airbnb. Find us on Instagram. Come stay with us and I'll show you some great cycling.
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